The Adventurous Girl’s Guide to Sri Lanka
Welcome to Sri Lanka, an island gem in the Indian Ocean. Small (well, titchy compared to its behemoth neighbour, India), but vibrant, this is a country rich in wild landscapes, food, religion and heritage. Visit one of 26 National Parks to take the safari of a lifetime spotting elephants and buffalo, or head into one of Sri Lanka’s bustling cities to discover gorgeous Buddhist temples, ancient culture and a buzzy foodie scene. Ready to explore wild spaces? Dip a toe on pristine sandy beaches (don’t forget your surf board) or head up to the hills to hike in the cool green climate of tea country.
Take the slow road and tackle Sri Lanka on two wheels to see the very best of its lush scenery. Love Velo offer cycling trips all over the country (and indeed, the world) that let you pedal at a chilled-out pace through jungles, tea plantations and lively cities, stopping off to surf, safari and sunbathe as you go.
Not sure where to start adventuring? Selective Asia create incredible journeys across the country that make it easy to hop from heritage hotspots to national parks to that perfect beach. Go on a surf and safari coastal road trip, hop on a train to hike high in the mountains or add on a trip to the Maldives archipelago to snorkel in pristine waters.
Leave your shoes at the door of Soul and Surf Sri Lanka – you won’t wear them all week at this chilled-out surf and yoga retreat, where life is all surf, yoga, sleep, repeat. This is no boot camp, though. Despite the packed schedule, there’s plenty of time for lying in the sun or for wandering the streets of the nearby colonial city of Galle. Surfing is in the morning cool before the heat hits, so that you can relax by the pool or hop on a paddle board on the river later in the day.
Bundala, Wilpattu and Uda Walawe National Parks are brilliant bases for spotting some of the wildlife Sri Lanka has to offer, such as crocodiles, elephants, huge flocks of migrating birds and, if you’re lucky, the elusive leopard. Kandy, Galle and Jaffna are cities rich with cuisine, arts and culture – a few days in each is the perfect introduction to Sri Lanka’s heritage. When you get too hot by the coast, head up to the higher tea regions to hike through sloping landscapes, thick woodlands and verdant tea fields. Stunning Buddhist temples include Sri Dalada Maligawa, or ‘Temple of the Sacred Tooth’ situated near to the Royal Palace in Kandy, where the tooth of the Buddha is preserved; its holds great cultural and religious value.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Kandy to Ella Train: This gloriously green stretch of railway track is a favourite with travellers to Sri Lanka, and for good reason – hop on board the blue train bound to Ella, then lean out of the windows and feel the wind in your hair as you watch mountains, jungle and endless stretches of green tea fields roll by for seven hours. The train also stops at Nuwara Eliya, where you can wander around the tea plantations that the train was originally built to serve in the 1800s. Grab a seat on the right-hand-side for the most Instagrammable views. From £9 per person.
Flying to Sri Lanka: Keep an eye out for affordable flights using Flyla, who offer discounted flights for students and carbon-conscious options.
WHERE TO STAY
At the enticingly-named Inn on the Tree, rustic, eco-friendly treehouses get you up close and personal with local flora and fauna as you float above the forest floor. Minneriya National Park’s elephant herds are close by. Inn on the Tree Eco Resort from £29 per night.
Mountain views, an outdoor campfire, a garden and sun terrace, kitchen and bathroom and restaurant… what more could you ask for? Cliff Tea Glamping, near the magical Aradunu Falls, is home to idyllic -and affordable – tents equipped festooned with fairy lights where you’ll get a great night’s sleep under the stars. The Cliff Tea Glamping, from £18 per night.