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|Sri Lanka – a very enjoyable travel destination
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), March 14th 2011
Sri Lanka can justifiably be seen as a very beautiful and enjoyable travel destination. However, still many people still have the impression that Sri Lanka is mainly a beach destination. And that image is partly understandable, because a major part of the foreign visitors still come to Sri Lanka for a beach holiday with one of the many charter travel agencies that sold them a plane ticket and an ‘all inclusive’ room in one of the many luxurious resorts on the west or south coast of this paradise island. But Sri Lanka has so much more to offer than beaches alone. The island nation bursts with national parks, archaeological sites, great food and a very friendly population.
Off course, we also spent some days on the beaches of Sri Lanka, despite the fact that we aren’t really beach people. We went to Unawatuna and Mirissa on the south coast. Unawatuna is definitely more developed than Mirissa, but both places are absolutely worth a visit. The setting of the beaches is sublime, the water is azure blue and in the evening the beaches are dotted with small picturesque restaurants where fish and beer is served. We also brought a visit to Negombo beach, an hour by car north of Colombo. This beach town is still popular because of it proximity to both Colombo and the international airport. And that’s the only reason we can find to stay there. The beach is not paradisiacal, it is very dirty on some places and the town has the cosiness of a lamppost. A place to avoid is our opinion.
A fishermen festival in Mirissa (Southern Sri Lanka)
Sri Lanka is in our opinion also mainly a nature destination. The island is still impressing green and everywhere in the small country you will find national parks and nature reserves. Sri Lanka is also the only country left in the world where the people still live peaceful with the huge population of wild elephants. It is not a country where the wildlife is pushed back in small spots of forest, called national parks. To the contrary, the elephants roam the island and people respect the animals. They are inhabitants of the island just as the humans are, despite the fact that every year people die after having a fatal encounter with wild elephants. Also the national parks of Sri Lanka are worth a visit. Especially Yala National Park is famous for the huge number of elephants and for the chances of seeing an elusive leopard. But we also found the nearby Bundala National park also very interesting. It is mainly a water bird park, but is also a place to see the elephants.
We also looked forward to our visit to Sinharaja Forest Reserve, the last piece of old rainforest in Sri Lanka. This park is also legendary among birders because it accommodates almost all endemic bird species that can be found on the island. But it is also a great place to see plants, reptiles and insects. But come prepared, because otherwise you can become the victim of the abundant leeches that crawl over the forest floor. A package of salt can be useful to sprinkle your shoes and socks. It will prevent that the bloodsuckers will crawl from the forest floor, over your shoes, to a piece of bare skin on your leg or belly.
Many travellers who visit Sri Lanka spend a considerable amount of time in the so-called hill country. The hill country is the higher and hilly part of central Sri Lanka. It is cool because of the higher altitude and for that reason a popular destination to flee to from the hot lowlands of the country. But the hill country is also very beautiful. Especially the destinations Ella, Haputale, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy are popular among travellers. The landscape is spectacular and therefore a very popular hiking area. The hills are often covered with picturesque tea plantations and many of the tea estates can be visited. You can even take pictures of the mainly female tea pickers. But be warned, these commercial ladies will definitely ask a small fee for it. Everybody profits form the huge amount of tourist dollars that flow into the country annually.
Rural life in Sri Lanka
|Sri Lanka is a touristy country and many people try to earn some bucks from you. Accommodation isn’t really cheap and the food in typical tourist places is expensive. Many tourist restaurants have the tactic of double pricing, and they charge an extra 10% service charge (which is not the tip for the waiter) that is not charged to local people. But if you mention beforehand that you don’t want to pay the service charge, they probably agree. A good alternative is to avoid the tourist restaurants and eat in the small eateries where the local people eat. The food is still very good, fresh, often more spicy and cheap. We also advice to spend at least some days of your journey through Sri Lanka, in a less touristy area. It is the way to see also the other Sri Lanka. The facilities are often not as good as in the touristy part of the country, but you will definitely also get a different Sri Lanka experience. Children still dislocate their arms while waving to you, restaurant owners still treat you as a special guest and you do not have to bargain in shops and with rickshaw drivers, because they don’t even think about overcharging you. But the main reason to go to one of these areas is that the people are even friendlier than in other parts of the country.
Sri Lanka is a beautiful, lovely and easy travel destination. The distances are short, it isn’t very hectic and the public transport is extensive and frequent. Yes, the buses are small and overcrowded, but because of the short distances, it isn’t really a problem. It is part of the fun. You will also find hotels and families offering rooms everywhere, so Sri Lanka is also a perfect destination for travelling individually. And if you want or need your own wheels, finding an affordable car and driver isn’t that hard. We were lucky enough to spend six weeks in Sri Lanka, but we could have easily spent there a couple of months more. Sri Lanka is absolutely recommended!