The tear shaped tiny island of Sri Lanka has everything one needs for a travel itinerary. From dazzling beaches to tropical rain forests, elephant sanctuaries to wildlife parks, Buddhist caves to world heritage sites and tea plantations to mountain trekking; Sri Lanka offers abundant options to travelers. Here are 12 Must Things to know before planning Sri Lanka Holidays!
1 When to plan Sri Lanka Holidays- Yes it is complicated
Though Sri Lanka offers year round traveling opportunities, the tiny island has quite a seasonal variation with two prominent monsoon seasons a year. The South West Yala monsoon hits the island between April to August whereas the North East Maha monsoon falls between November to March. The month of April is the wettest month for the Southern beaches whereas November is the worst month across the island. So the best time to plan Sri Lanka Holidays is from December to March for the entire country except the the east coast where April to July are the best months to travel. Being close to the Equator, the climate is generally warm and humid. Plan your beach holidays after checking the weather forecast or check the weather and then select the beach!
2 E-Visa to Sri Lanka is convenient and easy
Traveling to Sri Lanka is quite easy with Sri Lanka’s relaxed visa rules and smooth e-visa process. It is even possible to make a vacation plan on a short notice. Visit ETA Sri Lanka site and apply for visa online. The ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) is sent to your email address after completing the form. Our ETA was approved within 24 hours. Carry a copy of the ETA with all the other required documents to show at the time of the arrival in the country. For detailed information and application, refer to Sri Lankan Government’s ETA website.
3 Big question – Which beach to go to!
Sri Lanka is home to some of the best beaches in the world. The ‘year round sunshine’ lures travelers from across the world to its pristine shores. The developed West Coast is lined with string of beaches and serves all kinds of travelers. Charming Southern coastline boasts some of the most gorgeous beaches. Besides the swim and surf, you can go spotting Stilt Fishermen in Koggala or go whale watching in Mirissa during Sri Lanka Holidays. After a long drawn civil war and tsunami devastation, East Coast now has opened up luring travelers to its untouched beauty. Whether it is surfing on your mind or a romantic vacation, explore the coastline depending on your mood! Mega beach resorts, boutique hotels or guest houses; there are beaches for every budget. You are bound to spoilt for choices as far as beach activities are concerned, be it sunbathing, swimming, surfing, whale watching, lazing or partying. Unawatuna, Mirissa, Nilaveli and Arugam Bay Beach are some of the most stunning beaches. Read more about Sri Lanka’s 10 best beaches.
4 Must visit places – Besides the beaches
Sri Lanka has beaches all around its coastline and all of them are fantastic. Besides the beaches, Sigiriya, Kandy and Dambulla are absolute ‘Must Visit’ places whether you are on a short or a long vacation. Most travelers stay close to the airport upon arrival and leave for Sigiriya the next morning. That way you save time getting in and out of the capital and cover one additional destination. The ideal travel itinerary would be to start from Colombo and move to Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy before heading to a beach. Sri Lanka Holidays can be also a cultural triangle tour. You can end your travel at one of the beaches on the Southern coastline. Colombo can be skipped if short on time, but If you are taking a train to move around internally,you will get an opportunity to take a peek into the Dutch influences in the capital as the train station is located in the heart of the city.
5 Hiring a taxi is the best way to travel in Sri Lanka
Intercity transportation within the country is patchy and time consuming, especially in the countryside. The rail and road connections are tricky, it may require frequent change transportation to get to a destination like Kandy or Dambulla. Unless you are an absolute budget traveler, hiring a taxi with a driver for few days is the best way to ensure ease during Sri Lanka Holidays. Hiring taxi is fairly cheap and If you are short on time, it will help you save time on travel. Taxis can be hired at the airport after arrival in Colombo. They offer drivers who speak good English. Renting a car could be tricky as the narrow roads are congested and takes longer than what it would show on GPS. You will be better equipped to negotiate with an advance research and quotes from few taxi operators before landing. We paid 24K LKR (150 USD) for a taxi for 3 days. The taxi took us from Colombo to Sigiriya, Kandy, Dambulla, finally dropping us at Unawatuna in the South on the 4th day. Once in Unawatuna, we rented a motorbike to hop on to various beaches in the South and Galle in the West. Road tripping across narrow roads in tropical countryside is a great way to see the inland and the lifestyle of locals. It was a visual delight to watch local markets where fishermen were selling fresh catch of the day.
6 Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka – A unique experience
The ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura in the North, medieval town of Kandy in the South and Polonnaruwa to the east create a cultural triangle in Sri Lanka’s central highlands. Known as Rajarata, or “The King’s Land”, the cultural triangle is where the golden age of Sinhalese civilization flourished. Visiting these towns and the hills dotted with monasteries, palaces, stupas and monumental dagobas is a great way to explore the ancient history of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya, Dambulla and Mihintale are part of the cultural triangle tour and can be accommodated for an extended Sri Lanka Holidays. The area has world’s most extraordinary collections of Buddhist art and architecture. You need 3-4 days to cover the triangle, again hiring the taxi is the best way to hop from one place to the other.
7 Sigiriya- The spectacular rock citadel
Sigiriya- The kingdom on top of the rock is the top most attraction of Sri Lanka Holidays. Despite of exorbitant entrance fees of 30 USD, it should not to be missed. Located at a height of 200 meters on top of a massive rock, the rock citadel housed the kingdom of King Kasyapa 1600 years ago. We were debating between climbing Sigiriya or go for Adam’s Peak hike and i am glad we chose to visit Sigiriya. If you have short time, consider skipping Adam’s peak but not Sigiriya. Adam’s peak offers a great hike and witnessing the sunrise from the top is breathtaking. But Sigiriya with its history, frescos, graffitis and spectacular views of the surrounding plains from the top makes it extraordinary. The highlands around Sigiriya offer short hikes whereas the quaint countryside trails are ideal for cycling around the area.
8 Dambulla Caves – 2000 years old Buddhist treasures
Rock Temple in Dambulla in Central Sri Lanka has been a place of worship for more than 2000 years. The Royal Rock Temple housing caves sits on top of a rock 160 meters above the ground, right on the noisy main road connecting the major cities of Colombo and Kandy. It is the largest and best preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. The unassuming entrance to the caves reveals the treasure it has been housing for centuries. The statues of Buddhas in various mudras and positions and wall paintings are awe inspiring and spell binding. No matter how many pictures of Dambulla caves I had seen before, the first impression left me speechless! Dambulla Caves was the best part of our Sri Lanka Holidays. Read more about Dambulla Caves- Buddhist Treasures from 1st century AD.
9 Spot stilt fishermen on Koggala beach
Riding on a motorbike along the southern coast of Sri Lanka through the towns of Koggala, Weligama and Ahangama is delightful. There is hardly any traffic on the road and serene coastal drive at dusk is liberating with the sound of crashing of waves against a perfect back drop of the setting sun! On these quiet beaches you can spot iconic stilt fishermen. They represent the touristic image of Sri Lanka Holidays, with men sitting on stilts with sticks, gazing into the water below. They go fishing usually early in the morning before sunrise or just around the sunset. The unobtrusive method is useful to catch small fish which venture close to shores, for daily consumption. Now a days most of these fishermen are not fishing but actually posing for photo ops for enthusiastic travelers. Well the photos make it worth exploring the coastline!
10 Do not miss flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine
The Pearl of the Indian Ocean is a melting pot of cultures when it comes to the food. The delectable cuisine which derives influences from the East and the West has a strong resemblance to South Indian dishes. Start your day with sumptuous breakfast of String Hoppers with chicken curry and you will not need another meal till dinner. The staple dishes of Fish Ambul Thiyal (rice and curry with the seafood) and Kottu (fried & shredded roti mixed with scrambled eggs, meat and spices) are simply delicious. Explore the abundance of seafood at beach front restaurants, it is generally cheap and prepared with spicy, tangy flavours. Succulent Lobsters and jumbo prawns with traditional accompaniments will leave you on cloud nine. Enjoy the irresistible flavors with overload of bananas, coconut and jackfruits. The finger licking food was the highlight of our Sri Lanka Holidays.
11 Travel to Sri Lanka for wildlife experiences
Despite its small size Sri Lanka boasts of one of the highest concentration of wildlife, be it birds, elephants, wild animals, marine life or butterflies. The thick rainforests in the middle of an island hosts Uda Walawe National Park which is home to exotic species of birds. The Yala West National Park in the South East is well known for harbouring leopards. The Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve in the South West is considered to have the densest vegetation in the world. The dirt trails inside the forest are perfect for long nature walks. The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is a great place to hang out with elephants. The natural reserve created to care and protect abandoned elephants. Get get up close to the elephants, interact with them, feed them or just enjoy watching them have fun in the river. The wildlife experience should be a MUST during an extended Sri Lanka Holidays.
12 Enjoy the benefits of great foreign exchange
LKR or Srilankan Rupee is the official currency of Sri Lanka. All the enterprises (hotels, tour operators, restaurants, ATM, banks) exchange at the official rate, so you do not need to carry wads of local cash. You can keep exchanging dollars or euros as and when needed. Most of the hotels accept payments in dollars with the official exchange rate. Overall Sri Lanka offers a reasonable travel where an average meal costs 10-15 USD. A sumptuous meal of seafood for two at the beach front will cost @40 USD. Beach front accommodations with white sandy beaches and blue waters are available at fraction of the cost. So take advantage of the foreign exchange rates and enjoy the sunshine during Sri Lanka Holidays.