Sri Lanka was the place that conquered my heart. Already before we went to this country I felt a special excitement that I haven’t had before for any other new place. After our 6 weeks in the country I understood what triggered the need to explore this small island.

Sri Lanka offers a bit of everything: crowded cities, delicious food, incredibly nice people, never-ending tea plantations, stunning beaches, misty hills and mountain areas, strong traditions, countless cultural experiences and, on top of all, a welcoming atmosphere.

Our 6 weeks were quite intense. We discovered a lot and still haven’t seen it all. “The Tear of India” (because of its shape and location) as it is sometimes called, is home to more than 21 million people, who are the ones that make their country so amazing.

Fact #1 The People of Sri Lanka

We understood that Sri Lanka faced hard times due to the civil war that lasted until present days (May 2009), as well as the fact that they have strongly been marked in the past by the foreign occupation which turned them in a colony. However, we only met nice, friendly, warm and honest (I guess a little lie for the business is tolerated) people and were touched by each individual story we listened to.



The state’s biggest ethnic group is the Sinhalese, followed by the Sri Lankan Tamils (around 11%), therefore the country has two official languages: Sinhala and Tamil. You will find most indications and signs written also in English, that is spoken very well among most locals.

Sri Lanka is the country that had the first female prime minister in 1960.

Fact #2 Bread Car

The song „Für Elise“ von Ludwig van Beethoven got a different meaning for us in Sri Lanka. The song was played by the cars that delivered the bread. We used to consider it a nice song, but after hearing the song all day long at high volume we got a bit annoyed by it, mostly after being woken up several times by it.


Fact #3 No alcohol during the full moon

This was something we never experienced before in other Buddhist countries. During full moon, you are not allowed to drink alcohol and you can also not buy it, at least in local liquor stores (you can not find alcohol in regular supermarkets).

The Poya Day is the day of the Buddhist full moon, in honor of the moon being at its fullest point. Depending on the moon calendar it occurs once a month and on that day also shops, banks etc. might close.

Fact #4 Food in Sri Lanka

We ate a lot and always good food in Sri Lanka. There are a lot of little street food restaurants that serve rice and curry or other delicious things, mostly quite heavy but always good. We found out that certain things, like string hoppers, are mainly served for breakfast and therefore only available in the morning. Instead, Rotis are usually served during the evening.



Some things and habits we found very strange while being in Sri Lanka. For example, they do consider Avocado as a sweet dish and serve it with honey or sugar and tea and coffee. It is always served after breakfast, so if you want to have your coffee together with the breakfast you will most probably have to ask for it. It was like this in all the families we stayed with, but we cannot say for sure if the rule applies also for hotels, as we did not stay in any.

Fact #5 Lotteries

What we immediately realized, almost everywhere, at any time, you can find kiosks or locals on the streets selling lottery cards to people to try their luck and win some money.


Fact #6 National Sport of Sri Lanka

What do you think is the national sport in Sri Lanka? Cricket came immediately in my mind when I was asked this question, but I was wrong. Even if cricket is the most played sport in Sri Lanka, volleyball is the official national sport announced by the ministry of sports in the country.

Did you know about all these facts before? There is so much more to say about this little country but I believe that the most incredible thing is its big variety of landscapes. Check out our gallery for more pictures from Sri Lanka.

At the beginning of our journey through Sri Lanka we agreed on a short list of places to visit, which got longer and longer as our increasing curiosity made us want to see more of the natural wonders of the country. One of the main attraction points, the famous Adam’s Peak, brought us to Hatton, in the green but also rainy and cold mountains at the time of our visit.

We reached Hatton late in the evening, after taking an early bus from Galle to Colombo, from where we continue for another 5 hours in the probably  most crowded bus we ever traveled with. There was also a bus going only once a day from Galle directly to Hutton, early in the morning, which was earlier than the time when we planned to start the day.

Taking local buses is probably one of the most authentic experiences travelers can have in Sri Lanka. There is no limit of colors and motifs in the design of the buses and the journey itself is not the only experience. Any bus we took felt like the scene of a spectacle where tourists and locals come together, where music is played loudly for the entertainment of whoever doesn’t feel disturbed by it, and where vendors of different snacks and drinks board the bus at almost every station, squeezing their baskets filled with fresh pastry, vegetables and junk food through the already crowded corridor, turning the bus into a mobile market. The same experience would repeat itself during our trip in India, only with stronger flavors and smells.



We were welcomed by a cold and strong rain that continued during the whole night after our arrival, which made us understand already that the climb to Adam’s Peak might feel very unpleasant. Climbing seven km through cold rain and strong winds was not what we imagined, so we gave up on our plans to climb the mountain. But apart from the hike to Adam’s Peak, a trip to Hatton offers also other experiences. We negotiated with our host, which was also a tuk-tuk driver, the price for a tour around the town, which included visiting the waterfalls, the tea plantations and tea tasting at one of the tea factories in the area.


It has been the only three days in which we felt the rainy season which brought less rain in the other places that we visited, but apart from stopping us to venture out to the most spectacular spots in the mountains, it made the surrounding landscapes look even more beautiful than probably in the absence of the grey and rainy sky.


Hatton was “flooded” with restaurants and coffee shops, where we could always enjoy a cheap and delicious meal and a hot coffee at the end of our walks through the infinite green tea plantations.

During our return trip to Colombo, we found more comfort in taking a minibus, that arrived in the capital city later in the afternoon, giving us time to catch a bus to Negombo, where we spent our last days in the country.

At every bus station in Sri Lanka, “friendly” people will try to help you find a bus and guide you to private minivans that are more expensive than regular buses (although more comfort is offered in return for the extra money paid). But if the price is the main argument for you when choosing transportation methods, then always look for the big buses that are considerably cheaper.

Our travels continued towards one of the more adventurous of our destinations, India.

The small city of Galle became for us a point of interest only during our journey to Mirissa. When the train brought us from Colombo to Galle, before continuing our trip with the bus towards Mirissa, we decided to make a quick coffee stop in Galle and that’s when it happened that we fell in love with the city.

We were looking for the nearest coffee shop, which, according to our map, was hiding behind the walls of the Fort. After visiting several forts before in Sri Lanka and being disappointed by the experiences, we did not expect much to happen here. But, when we passed the entrance gate, we realized this time the experience would be different. We found ourselves inside a well maintained and, as we found out later, also a quite touristic fort.



We stopped at a small coffee shop that looked good and had fair prices. The owner proudly spoke about the place as being the oldest coffee shop in Galle Fort, opening its doors in 1932. Despite its historic importance, the owner of National Tea Rooms continued offering to its clients an authentic experience at normal prices and preferred to preserve the traditional look instead of turning it into a fancy place, as it happened to many other places inside the Fort. The good breakfast and the refreshing coffee were just some of the ingredients that added to the positive feeling which we had towards the place and the friendliness of the owner convinced us to come back a second time, which we did at the end of our stay in Mirissa.

We understood that Galle Fort is a touristic destination for locals and foreigners. However, prices here are quite high compared to other places outside the old walls. Still, we weren’t disappointed with our decision to shorten our stay in Mirissa and spend a night in the hostel in Galle.

So, after our time at the beach in Mirissa, we came back one week later to this cute city. We arrived early to enjoy our time to the maximum. We went for a walk inside the big walls, observing the architecture influenced by the Dutch during colonial times.



Later we visited the museum, that was free of charge, followed by a walk to the “Dutch market”, which, honestly, felt more like a souvenir market where people sell overpriced clothes and spices.



Many locals recommend the place to tourists and even offer to bring them there, as they will earn a commission if the tourists purchase anything from the vendors. And, if the merchandise at the market does not present any interest, the helpful local will turn into a beggar with an emotional story, asking tourists for money. We’ve been approached by one of these people but kindly declined their offer and went first to the local fish market, right outside the fort, which did not impress us much either.

It is true what people say about Galle: it is very touristic and expensive, but we did not mind it so much. Traveling off-season has its advantages, as the number of tourists is always low. We really enjoyed our short escape into the modern colonial city.



The following day would bring us to Colombo and further to Hatton, back in the mountains area. Find here more pictures about Galle.

Like many other islands in the world, Sri Lanka is well known for its beautiful coastline and access to beautiful beach experiences. And with so many options it is not easy to choose where to go. Deciding which beach is better than others is a matter of personal taste, but we will tell you about the ones we visited during our trip in the country.


Negombo Beach

Negombo beach is probably the easiest to access when coming from the Bandaranaike  International Airport of Sri Lanka which is located between Negombo and the capital city Colombo.

We had quite a nice time in Negombo, where we enjoyed the city part, but we cannot say it has a beautiful beach. The road along the beach offers access to several expensive restaurants (more expensive than what we found in other places) and a lot of shops. Hotels in the area look lovely and, of course, you also can find some luxury resorts and fancy restaurants. The city of Negombo does not offer much to see but it is a great place to relax after or before a long flight. It is also considered an all-year destination.

Galle Face Beach (Colombo)

Galle Face Beach is the beach of the capital city Colombo and is located close to an industrial area, which makes it not a beach to enjoy very much (definitely not for swimming), but a walk along the coast can offer a short escape from the busy city.

If you move North from Colombo, you can find some nicer beaches around the area of Jaffna,  but we cannot tell you much about it as we haven’t been there.


Our favorite beach was in Trincomalee, a beach that we think offers something for everyone. “Trinco” is located on the east coast, its coastal area extending to the south, under the name Uppuveli and a bit to the north, under the name Nilaveli.



We stayed in the North area of Uppuveli beach, which is a great spot for tourists and backpackers. Restaurants in the area offer mainly overpriced meals, but if you search a bit you will find cheaper options. We enjoyed very much the stay there as it proved to be a great place to relax after the intense travel in Sri Lanka. The beach is very beautiful and perfect for long beach walks, offering access to fancy beach bars, coffee shops and snorkeling and diving experiences. One of the famous spots for diving and snorkeling is Pigeon Island, but we did not go there as the corals are in danger due to the water sports and intense mass tourism. Depending on the season you can do some boat excursions for whale and dolphin watching.

The Uppuveli beach is located around 3-4 km far from the city, while Nilaveli beach is approximately 14 km far. Away from the beach area, you can visit temples or the local markets. The best season to visit is considered from May to September, but the weather in Sri Lanka is always subject to change.


If you are heading more south towards the center of the east coast of Sri Lanka, you will reach Batticaloa. We stayed in the less touristic area Navaladi, populated by only a few accommodations and even fewer restaurants. It was a nice place as we were the only ones at the beach, but has also limited access to facilities. To reach the city it takes around 15-20 min by tuk-tuk. Pasikudah is considered more touristic with better options.


Similar to Trincomalee, the travel time to the east coast is considered best during the month of the European summer.

Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay was on our list of places that we planned to visit, but we found it difficult to reach from Ella due to the poor transportation options, so in the end, we skipped it. Arugam Bay is well known for its surfing activities.


We planned our stay in Mirissa after deciding to spend some time in the south part of the country. Even if the best time to travel to the south is considered from December to March, we were really lucky with the weather in August and profited from low prices and the low number of people during the offseason.



In Mirissa, you will find plenty of affordable restaurants and bars and a beautiful viewpoint close to the harbor. But we also understood that prices here can vary extremely accordingly to the season. The main beach area is very well organized and clean. Instead, the beachfront at Mihiriwella Road, where the fishing boats are, is covered by nets, garbage and death fish.



Mirissa is a great starting point for day trips to other beaches or to Matara city (including the Ahangama Beach), where you can find the famous stilt fishermen (good to know: it is not a common practice anymore nowadays, they just do it to get some money from the tourists). Click here for more photos from Mirissa.



You can also travel to Galle, which has a small, nice and very touristy city inside its Fort. The whole south coast offers great opportunities and beautiful beaches. From November to April whales can be spotted in the area.



One of the most famous beaches is probably Unawatuna, which we’ve seen only when we passed with the bus from Mirissa to Galle, but it looked very promising. For more pictures from Galle click here.


Sri Lanka offers great beaches for every kind of traveler and during any season. Most areas are easily accessible by bus and train. For those who enjoy train rides, I recommend the coastal train ride from Colombo to Galle, which I found more entertaining than the famous one from Kandy to Ella.


We didn’t plan a return to Colombo very soon, but our travel plans during the journey through Sri Lanka changed already so many times and, since traveling in this country is made so easy by the cheap and convenient transportation options, we’ve been more spontaneous with our decisions.

We spent a full week traveling as a small group, after meeting with Miriam’s cousin and her fiancé in Batticaloa and, due to their limited time in the country, we joined them on the trip back to Colombo, from where they flew back home. We opted for a faster and more comfortable transportation method this time and hired a private driver, that drove us to Colombo straight from the east coast, on a journey which lasted around 10 hours.

The short time that we spent in Colombo was sufficient to explore the city. We started our sightseeing early in the following morning, after breakfast at the accommodation. The first stop on our list was the Gangaramaya Temple, one of the best known in the city and quite different from the many others we’ve seen in the country. It felt more like visiting a museum of antiquities, where thousands of Buddha statues and other artifacts of all sizes populate the temple. Hindu elements were also present, all giving the impression of a collection of cultural and religious essence. It serves as a worship place for Buddhists but also welcomes people of all religions.



Paying the fee of 300 Srilankan rupees gives visitors access also to the smaller Seema Malakaya temple, placed on the side of the Gangaramaya Park’s lake, featuring several statues of Buddha and shrines.



Our walked continued along the seaside, where we visited the old fortification walls of the city and later got lost on the streets of the most popular area in Colombo, the Colombo Fort, which marks also the center of the city and its main connection point for transportation methods.


The easy way to explore Colombo is by booking a tuk-tuk tour, which can be organized and negotiated with most drivers. 10 USD per person is more than enough for a half-day tour, but the same price can be also negotiated for a small group of 2 to 3 people together. Know the prices by checking them with mobile apps like PickMe or Uber, which work very well in Colombo.

On the following day, we returned to Colombo Fort to board the train to a new destination, Galle, on the southern coast, from where we continued the journey by bus, till Mirissa. The train ride along the coast was almost as impressive as the one from Kandy to Ella. Although we managed to buy only standard 2nd class tickets, what we enjoyed the most about the trip was the low number of people traveling in the early morning, which made the experience better than previous rides.

While the rail network that spreads across Sri Lanka covers some of the most important destinations, it is still very limited in connections between the main touristic spots.

We initially decided to travel from Elle to Arugam Bay but due to hustle of finding a convenient route in terms of travel time and expenses, we felt more pleased by the idea to travel to the northeast coast and visit on the way the architectural wonders in the heart of the country.

Our plan was to continue going north following the railway network, which meant returning to Kandy, where we reserved more time to explore the city, as we didn’t have a proper chance to do so during our first stop here. Read more about our time in Kandy.

An interesting aspect about trains in Sri Lanka is the difficulty to get a seat. Reserved seats (available for first and second class only) are most of the time sold out and unreserved tickets usually “reserve” travelers the chance to taste the authentic experience of being trapped and squished for hours between luggage and people. We had an uncomfortable experience when traveling from Colombo to Kandy. It was interesting and somehow fun in the beginning, but three hours later we knew it wasn’t something we wanted to try again soon.

Dambulla in northern-center of Sri Lanka

After failing to get reserved seats for the train to Trincomalee, we took a morning bus to Dambulla, a small city but an important access gate to almost any place in the country through a complex network of buses that uses the city as one of the main connection points.

We spent only three days in Dambulla and decided to use the last hours of the arrival day to visit the famous cave temple (also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla) situated at the entrance in the city. We were part of the last group of visitors allowed to climb the stairs of the temple, shortly before sunset, which we found very convenient and pleasant in the absence of the larger groups. When visiting Buddhist temples, a proper dress code must be followed. I was wearing shorts that day, which is not accepted at the entrance in any temple, but the person at the gate was kind enough to borrow me a scarf to cover my legs… the gesture was nice, although a pink scarf didn’t really reflect my preferences in choosing colors to wear.



The temple includes a series of chambers, which represent divisions of a bigger cave filled with statues of Buddha. At the end of our visit, we were rewarded with a spectacular view from the height of the rock on top of which the temple is placed while the golden light of the last hour of the day left its last traces on the sky.



We returned to the city, searching for a place to dine and planned to get an early sleep as we wanted to catch the sunrise on the top of the Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya.

The Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya

At hour arrival in Dambulla, a friendly tuk-tuk driver offered us a tempting cheap ride to our accommodation in return for the chance to propose us a sunrise tour to Sigiriya and back, which we happily accepted. We agreed on a price of 15000 rupees, which we could have easily negotiated, but given the early departure and the distance to cover, we thought it was a fair price to pay.



At 4 o’clock in the morning the tuk-tuk driver picked us up in front of the hostel and we drove for more than 20 km in complete darkness till the entrance of the rock temple, where we were asked to pay an entrance fee of 500 rupees. A few other people arrived at the same time and together we started climbing up the stairs to the top of the rock. The Pidurangala Rock is less impressive than the Lion Rock, but surely less touristic, which made it our choice for a spectacular sunrise spot. The hike to the top is less than 30 minutes long and, while not very difficult, we advise wearing proper shoes as some parts are harder to climb and in the presence of humidity it can be very slippery.

The sunrise at the top was truly spectacular and the view over the surroundings beautiful to experience. And to make the journey more complete, after the return at parking space, our driver took us to the shore of the lake in the vicinity of the two rocks, from where we could watch their reflection of the water.



We returned to Dambulla in time for a late breakfast and a long nap after.

On the third day we were planning to visit more of the Ancient city of Sigiriya and extend our day-tour with a visit of Polonnaruwa, but in the following morning we realized how tiring the last days through the country have been  and how much our energy levels dropped, so we turned our plans of exploring the surroundings into plans to rest and recover. Polonnaruwa will have to wait until our future visit to Sri Lanka.

A direct bus from Dambulla to Trincomalee brought us a day later to the seaside on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, a country so small in size but so rich in experiences.

See more pictures from Dambulla and Sigiriya here.

As our first stay in Kandy was very short, we left a bit sad for not having stayed a bit longer, but at that time we did not know that we would come back soon again.

Why did we come back then? Well, our plan was to go to Arugam Bay, on the east coast of Sri Lanka, for a volunteer project after visiting Ella, but the project was canceled, so we decided to travel more north to explore Dambulla and after go to the seaside in Trincomalee, where we were supposed to meet with my cousin, that was coming to Sri Lanka for holiday. The best connection was via Kandy and therefore, after a few days in Ella, we took the train back to our previous destination. Again, we couldn’t reserve any seat, but on the morning of the departure we were told that there were places available, so for a second time, we could enjoy the scenery along the way without being in a crowded carriage.


Sri Dalada Maligawa

We stayed during our 2nd time in Kandy in a lovely homestay, a bit outside the city but easily reachable by walking. Our host recommended us to go to the ceremony in the Tempe of Tooth, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. It plays an important role in the country, as it is believed that whoever holds the relic has the governance of the country.


Due to the importance of the temple, every day a ceremony is held to show that important relic, but taking part in the ceremony means sharing the experience with large crowds, especially during the evening. The visiting hours are 6.30am, 9.30am and 6.30pm. We went to the one in the evening and after buying the most expensive ticket (7,99 € for foreigners) that we ever bought in Sri Lanka, we entered and took off our shoes while we were welcomed by drums and music. It was extremely crowded with locals and tourists.

We followed the line like everybody else, but the moment when we passed the relic was so short that we did not even have time to realize what we just saw. Honestly, I kind of regret going there as it has high importance for the many local people who come there beautifully dressed in white clothes to witness the ceremony and to pray, but we didn’t feel very festive inside the temple. There were already many locals and on top of that having also the tourists really felt like being surrounded by too many people, not to mention that the entrance price was very high.

The Big Buddha

One of the things we enjoyed doing in Kandy was visiting the White Big Buddha statue overlooking the city. It is a short hike to the top of the hill where the Buddha stands and at the entrance, you have to take off your shoes and leave them there for a little price, which is considered a donation. We found it a bit much paying for shoes and the entrance, but note that in Sri Lanka it is normal to pay at the entrance in any temple.



There is a lot to do and to discover in Kandy, but we decided to skip some of the „attractions“. We did not visit any of the tea plantations as we visited one in Ella. We also heard that the botanical garden would be nice but we’re much more overwhelmed by the natural beauty and the tea fields, which we considered enough not to go to the garden.

Food in Kandy

As we already mentioned, at the Hela Bojun Hala food stalls we found a lot of delicious food for fair prices, compared to Ella, but there were also plenty of other restaurants around We also found good local coffee places and tons of fruits and fresh vegetables at the local market.



When we were in Sri Lanka in August, it was the season for all kinds of fruits and in no other country we found such cheap and delicious fruits like here. The only thing that we always found stressful was that in Sri Lanka (except Colombo) almost every place closed early, around 09.00pm

Here you will find more pictures from Kandy.