A postcard from Sri Lanka
It’s always good to get an insider’s perspective so when our very own travel guru Shilpa went on a recent trip to Sri Lanka we thought it would be interesting to hear what she got up to and what you shouldn’t miss out on if you’re planning to head there too!
Truth be told, the Teardrop Island wasn't on my bucket list before this summer. I incorrectly assumed it was outflanked by India, which wasn't a screaming invitation to my pampered sensibilities. But I suppose my arm was ready to be twisted - as soon as a friend said she was visiting a surfing school there and wanted to see the rest of the country after, I'd mentally packed my bags and bought my souvenirs.
While we initially thought to drive ourselves for maximum spontaneity, it turns out that hiring a driver and a car for the full tour was the most sensible and economical option. And was it worth it. It meant we saw the full length and breadth of the small island in just two weeks, with enough beach time to return rested. Of all we saw, here are my five Sri Lanka highlights.
For such a small island, Sri Lanka packs a punch. It offers world-class beaches, bustling cities, ancient temples, lush vegetation and in the central area of the Hill County, vibrant green stretches of tea plantations. Set away from the plantation heartland of Nurwala Elia, the Dambatenne tea factory is the start of a 7.5km climb to Lipton's Seat, where colonialist Sir Thomas Lipton is said to have sat and surveyed his empire. There must have been a lot of it: at 1,970m above sea level, it bestows expansive views across much of Sri Lanka. The hairpin roads leading to it are clogged with traffic trying to get past each other, often precariously. Don't add to the madness: either hail a tuk-tuk or hike up through the stunning greenery, while watching tea-pickers at work. Be careful though - time it awfully, as we did, to end up dehydrated by the midday sun!
Minneriya National ParkWanting to get off the beaten track we took the opportunity to go elephant-spotting in Minneriya National Park. Every July to October, hundreds of elephants congregate there to drink from its lakes, meaning there's guaranteed sightings for safaris. The biggest surprise was that there were as many jeeps lined up as elephants themselves, but this didn’t detract from the amazing experience of seeing them in their natural habitat.
Kilinochchi Water Tower
En route to Jaffna - a city newly opened to and currently untouched by tourism - the A9 will take you past Kilinochchi. During the 30-year civil war it was the stronghold of the Tamil Tigers and today there are signs of the destruction it endured: abandoned houses with bullet-holed fronts and no-go landmine zones for starters. None are more chilling than the gargantuan water tower that lies fallen at the side of the road since it was blown up in 2008. In 2014 it was decided to keep it as a reminder of the war and it manages that with chilling effect. Putting the warmth and resilience of the Sri Lankan people into context, it's a must-see for all visitors.
Shame on me, thinking Galle was just a seaside tourist town with nothing more than a fort to make it special. I'd planned to detour there for lunch but on arrival I wish I could have stayed for longer. The town is steeped in its Dutch history, with buildings in its town square unlike the rest of Sri Lanka. Its cute boutiques sell clothes, gifts and jewellery and there's a good selection of restaurants and cafes too. The fort doubles as a promenade, and as it's on the west coast it's a wonderful place to amble along as the sun sets over the horizon.
Cinnamon IslandOne for the Facebook check-ins, Cinnamon Island is a short stop on a cruise of the Madu River where they make cinnamon from the inner bark of the trees that populate it. As Sri Lanka produces around 80 per cent of the world's cinnamon, it's fascinating to see the bark-to-roll process and taste some freshly made spiced tea. To manage expectations, it's a 10-minute stop on the cruise rather than an exploration around a fabled, rustic island. That known, the visit won't disappoint.
|Wherever you are planning to head to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.|