Gypsy Kanchuki just got back from a trip to Sri-Lanka. Unable to handle the barrage of questions from friends and family who are keen to go there , she’s created a Primer that she can point everybody to ( handy time saving tactics). Hope this works out useful for everybody who comes looking!
A suggested 11 day itinerary for Sri-Lanka:
Day1: Land in Colombo, drive to Pinnewala Elephant orphanage. We stayed at the green land guest house http://www.greenlandguesthouse.blogspot.com/
contact details are on the website, the owners name is Assange and he can arrange for pick up from Colombo ( he charged us Slr 4500 for the pickup). Its a neat, clean and well maintained guest house.
Day 2: Check out the elephant orphanage/ elephant bathing etc. after lunch drive to Kandy ( again Assange can arrange). At Kandy we stayed at the Lake Bungalow guest house that is like a family guest house. It was okay, good vfm, you can ask for the upstairs room. No food though, and the food options in Kandy is not great 😦 . You can imagine what it was like when I say we had dinner at Pizza Hut one day! A Gypsy doing that? Sacrilege!
Day 3: Do local Kandy, including the temple of the tooth, and lake walk. My husband is describing Kandy to everybody as a “poor man’s Ooty”, I would not go far as to say that, but there is some truth in it. The lake area is what is beautiful. Some people do the botanical gardens near Kandy – supposed to be good, we didn’t do that. The dance at the cultural center in the evening is okay, not spectacular. I can honestly say that the Majuli monks ( in Assam) trump the temple drummers 🙂
Day 4: Train to Nuwara Eliya ( supposed to be very beautiful through tea-country). Somewhat like the Ooty-Conoor train ride I believe. We did not go here, but I had made bookings at the single tree guest house that I had found from Lonely Planet. http://www.go-lanka.com/Nuwara_Eliya/single_tree/single_tree_nuwara_eliya.html
It is supposed to be decent place. There are lot of smaller hikes in the area.
Day 5: Come back to Kandy, and stay overnight here/ alternately hire a car and go to Galle directly ( about 8-9 hrs). Saves you a day.
Day 6: Early morning ( 5am) take a train to Galle – 7 hrs. Reach Galle by afternoon. Stay in the fort area, plenty of hotels/homestays. We stayed at a very nice guest house called Mrs. Khalids’, owner’s name is Sabri. Ask for the sea-view upstairs room.
Day 7: Galle local, Unawatuna beach. Galle is totally arty, they host an annual Literary festival with all kinds of big-wigs. There are plenty of art shops etc in the Galle fort area. I loved the Serendipity coffee shop. We were at Galle for a day and then actually stayed at the beach in Unawatuna ( lovely) for 3 nights as Nika liked it. Lots of Europeans, food is okay here. Local food difficult to find. Can do snorkelling and ride out to the sea on glass bottomed boat. I loved it. There is a place called Jungle beach and a Peace Pagoda – one of the most beautiful sights ever, especially at sunset time! We hired a scooter here to roam around, and drove all the way down South to Mirissa beach ( a drive worth doing, the road follows the sea almost the entire length).
Day 8: Train to Anuradhapura ( 7 hrs) it starts at 5 am. Sightseeing there, and stay there. We did not do Anuradhapura.
Day 9: Hire a car, do Sigiriya and come back to Colombo. At Colombo th
ere are plenty of places to stay, again we stayed at a homestay called Ranjith’s Ambalama ( it was okay, but make sure you get a room in the main house not in the annexe). http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g293962-d664389-Reviews-Ranjit_s_Ambalama-Colombo.html
The Mt. Lavinia area is nice but after all the sea you have seen I don’t know if you’d like staying there. Better to stay in the fort area hotels, or guest houses in Bambalapittya or Kollupittya or Cinnamon Gardens ( this has a slight disadvantage are there are no eating places nearby).
Day 10: Local Colombo. Shopping at Odel ( one of the most hip, chic places I have seen, ever!), and at the more humble Fashion Store. You can find original gap clothing for 1/4th the price.
Day 11: Departure
Food: Food was a lowlight of our trip. Some we had gone with hopes of Idiappams and appams everywhere, but none can be found anywhere but in Colombo. Mostly local food means rice and curry, and local restaurants are hard to find.
Shopping: Awesome in Colombo. I should have stayed one more day here to eat and shop.
Train journeys: We found it very comfortable. Need to arrive at the station in advance to get place to sit, even though the seats are very comfortable there is no reservation.
Language: Official folks ( such as people at the train counter) can speak English, otherwise locals don’t know English. Communication is difficult because of that. Sinhalese is what is spoken widely.
In-city travelling: Autorickshaws are called tuk-tuks and are very popular.
Weather: It was raining in the hill country, umbrella comes very handy. Cooler up there, and nice weather in the coast.