11 days in Sri Lanka in August
Travel avoiding the tourist routes: the dream is not so much hidden to all of us that we define ourselves – with a small dose of pride 😉 – travellers , not tourists.
When we began to organize our trip in Sri Lanka , however, we realized that to avoid like the plague some places “tourist” would have meant lost of the stages of historical and cultural importance, which probably we would have repented.
At the end we have defined a round enough “classic” and there we are repentant for anything. If you want to know how we organized our first trip with a local guide, you will find a bit of useful info in this post.
Together with the map of our itinerary, I thought then to prepare for you a list of the most interesting places, in which some of the crowd is inevitable, but all in all negligible.
1) Yala National Park
Yala is the second largest natural park in Sri Lanka, very busy but really exciting. We spent the day in a jeep with a guide of the park to observe the beautiful animals: crocodiles, mongooses, buffaloes, and birds of many species, and, if you’re lucky, even the leopards.
If you do, bring a pair of binoculars. Generally the guides have them but one more will not be too much.
If you are visiting Yala, you’ll probably see with your own eyes the traces of the devastating tsunami of 2004 in what little remains of Patangala Rest House, a building razed to the ground by three waves that carried away the lives of 47 people.
As I write, the thing that I still makes my skin crawl thinking of the story of our guide, is that no animal is a victim of the tsunami. Before the arrival of the storms, all the animals had retreated inland, away from the danger ahead.
The cultural triangle area (centre-north)
2) the Caves of Dambulla
Passed an artificial imposing of the Golden Temple, which is the anteroom to this shrine, and the sacred temples of Dambulla located at the top of a hill. The show when he crosses the threshold of the sanctuary is striking: the caves are carved out of a granite rock high and 160 metres. Inside, frescoed walls and statues of Buddha evoke an atmosphere of quiet and peace.
The monkeys zampettano here and there, accompany the tourists that go up and down the hill, hoping to get from them a piece of mango, or maybe an ice cream.
3) Fortress of Sigiriya.
This stronghold stood on a granite monolith of over 200 meters of height, a jewel of engineering surrounded by nature.
Royal gardens, with ponds and cisterns for water harvesting, the spiral stairs that climb up to the rocca, the ancient frescoes of “Maidens of the clouds” packaged inside a crack in the rock… Finally, after having formed buttocks with more than 1200 steps, you will arrive at the top… and you will miss the breath-seriously. Below you, a view you won’t forget any time soon.
4) the Statue of Aukana Buddha
Definitely in our “top-5”, this imposing statue is 12 metres high was carved in the fifth century d.C. Stopping to contemplate her in an atmosphere soft and sweet smelling incense was a moment of great recollection and emotion.
- The statue of the Aukana
- The statue of the Aukana
- Buddha Gal Vihara nel Nirvana
- Stupa Rankoth Vehera
Polonnaruwa was the second ancient capital of Ceylon, and is one of the archaeological sites are in better condition. You can admire important buildings, both civil and sacred, the stupa, the imposing and the three magnificent statues of the Buddha of Gal Vihara.
To complete the visit to the most important historical sites, the capital, to visit Anuradhapura. This is also a place rich in cultural and historical appeal, I recommend seeing both.
Us between the two has remained in my heart Polonnaruwa… will have been for that unexpected blessing hindu. If you are curious to discover something more about Polonnaruwa, you can read this post on our visit… bike.
6) Minneriya National Park
The period from June to October is ideal for observing aquatic birds and elephants in this park: the season is dry (in contrast to the south, exposed to the south-west monsoon) and the animals congregate in search of water.
The park is very nice and well worth the visit, although it is very frequented by tourists. The only flaw in our experience was the driver of the jeep that made us do a round a little hasty to go out of the running load of other tourists.
If you happen the same thing, proportionate, well your tip.The highlands (central-south)
To She is fully immersed in the green.
Here there is the possibility to make different excursions to the foot: having a day available, one of the most interesting is the climb up Adam’s Peak, a high mountain 2243 m which is reached by a walk of about four hours.
If like us you don’t have enough time to Adam’s Peak, I recommend at least the short hike to Little Adam’s Peak. It is a walk of about an hour, it is an easy route suitable for children. You can follow a path slightly uphill between the plantations of tea, in a green wrap-around and light.
The arrival at the summit you will be greeted by an atmosphere of peace, with the mountains all around you and the flags at buddhist hung between two trees.
8) On the train up to Nuwara Eliya
To reach Nuwara Eliya from Ella we decided to catch the train to enjoy the view between the hills. The journey of about three and a half hours, is easygoing, and pleasant.
Far from the glossy photos from the instagrammers that you often see online, the rhythm of the most beautiful of the train was that of the sinhalese who have filled the slowness of the journey, singing and clapping their hands.
Children with black eyes smiling, studying our curious appearance, and the hills that ran out the window.
Since the guides are definitely generous information on this beautiful city, I prefer to give you suggestions in terms of logistics.
Housed in the center. Us, unfortunately, we have evaluated bad the choice of the hotel (we were not featured very well), and then we finished in the top of a hill outside the city, without the possibility to move on foot from there. Error.
If you are staying in Kandy during the 10-day celebration of theExhales Perahera, all of which fall in July or August, go easy because it must be beautiful.
Exhales Perahera is the largest festival in buddhist Sri Lanka, which is carried in procession the relic of the Buddha kept in the temple of Kandy (Sri Dalada Maligawa).
If you want to participate and you have a local guide and let them know in time. We, unfortunately, have we not done it, so we have only seen the fireworks in the distance from the terrace of our hotel. A real shame.
Besides the Temple the Sri Dalada Maligawa, don’t miss the royal botanical garden of Peradeniya, it’s so beautiful to seem unreal. You will feel the lilliputians walking in the midst of bamboo plants with a diameter ever seen, giant palms, ficus trees that look like sculptures populated by monkeys and squirrels that we study from on high.
After this long, ranking among history and cities and statues, I will tell you, however, which is the thing that I really loved most in this country: the nature and the animals.
The green of this island was the first thing I missed when our flight landed in Italy. I missed the pets, large and small, that inhabit not only the forests, but also the gardens and even hotels.
We have seen geki size from the tiny to the medium-large and found that… at night make even a one-squittìo.
In a beautiful hotel in Giritale we had as usher to our room a wonderful chameleon that has been photographed impassive in the face of our enthusiasm.
In the room, a sign behind the door, he advised keeping the windows closed… to prevent the mischief of monkeys.
For the street it may happen that the driver brakes brutally for not putting it under a snake that is crossing, or stop and make a U-turn, because just ahead, an elephant in a bad mood, he’s walking a little away from the main road.
Then, if you have the stomach strong, August is the perfect time to see the whales off the coast of Mirissa. The sea is terribly rough, but I know that they have been spotted several during our exit.
I unfortunately I saw only because I was very busy with a bag of red and white.
3 things to avoid
A very short list of “tourist traps” that I advise you to leave, unless you’re in the grip of an uncontrollable urge to go shopping.
1) Factory of the route between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. Nothing against the factories, organized tours, nor against the tea, but I wouldn’t place this among the things to be missed in Sri Lanka. Go over, and if you want to purchase, you can find it in many other places (half of the price that you’d pay there).
2) the Gardens of spices (area of Dambulla): if you are curious to know where they are coming from the spices in your kitchen, stop in to the gardens for a guided tour. The gardens are really beautiful and the plants will surprise you with their shapes and changing colors.
The prices that you will find in the shop attached, however, are definitely “for tourists”. If you want to buy curry, pepper, chilli and all the rest of it, go to a local market, where you can immerse yourself in an authentic atmosphere and make purchases at reasonable prices after a short negotiation. If you don’t want to haggle, go into a supermarket and have fun there.
3) batik Factory: the scenario is very similar to the previous one. The explanation of how they are painted batik is interesting, but after 10 minutes of the show, you will be gently led into a beautiful shop where you will surely find jobs of a higher quality than those of the markets, but always shop for the tourists it is.
To organize the trip
Initially I had thought to prepare for you a unique article, which also include all the practical information, some tips on clothing, food , and much more.
In the end, however, I was left with a post too long even for me that I wrote it… so I thought I’d do you a favor and split it in two.
The second part can be found in this article, in which there are all the practical information that seemed to me to be the most useful 🙂
For those who want to still read a little, and is in the mood for lists, here are 10 useful things to pack: a list of unusual things to take on a trip, and a few anecdotes to laugh.
If for Sri Lanka and instead you have any questions, write me in the comments or via email 🙂
See you soon!