When one looks for tropical weather for a holiday, the most popular destination for Indians is Sri Lanka. Typically, people either do the cultural triangle of Sigiriya, Dambulla and Anuradhapura or they do the beach side of Colombo, Bentota and Kandy. We did all of them in our 5 nights stay.
We started our Sri Lanka sojourn with Sigiriya. We drove directly to Sigiriya from Colombo airport. It took us about 4 hours to reach Sigiriya as it was raining in October end. Sigiriya is known for hot air balloon rides. We had also booked it prior to our visit through a lady called Mareena. Unfortunately, our ride had to be cancelled due to the rains. However, Mareena was very professional and refunded the entire amount paid.
The main thing to see in Sigiriya is the rock temple. It is quite a trek and not for the faint hearted and weak kneed. We could only do one of the two, either the Sigiriya rock temple or the Dambulla caves as none of us were trekkers. We decided to do the Dambulla cave temple as it appeared less daunting.
From Sigiriya we went sightseeing to Anuradhapura. It’s about an hour’s drive. We started with the Sri Mahabodhi tree which is the is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. This was followed by a visit to the excavations in Anuradhapura which depict the ancient Sri Lankan civilization. The ticket is for about INR 3000 per person, but if you have an Indian passport, you get a 50% discount. You can spend the entire day seeing the various sites in Anuradhapura. The cab can go to most places though a little bit of walking is required at all sites. You can take pictures though the only restriction is that you can’t have your back towards the Buddha statue. Do try the sour mangos laden with local spice and salt available everywhere on the way.
The next day we moved from Sigiriya to Kandy. On the way we stopped at the Dambulla cave temples. The hike to the temple was a strenuous one. However, the cave temples were beautiful and it was worth the climb. There is a restaurant at the bottom of the temple. You can rest there before heading further.
At Kandy, our main point of attraction was the Tooth Relic temple. The temple is massive in size. the Royal palace, the audience hall have beautiful artifacts. Pictures are not allowed in most parts of the temples. Other places to see are the spice gardens and the elephant orphanage. Since we had seen a lot of that in India, we did not go to these places and spent more time at the temple.
From Kandy, we went to Bentota. Bentota has the best of beaches in Sri Lanka and is a place to chill out and relax. Most resorts have private beaches. It will be better to do some prior research on the places you want to eat at since Bentota is a quiet place and the best of places may turn up in the most unexpected areas. One such experience for us was the Randholee restaurant where we had an amazing authentic Sri Lankan meal.
Our last stop was Colombo. Unlike other destinations in Sri Lanka, Colombo is a busy city. You can spend time here shopping for clothes, gem stones and souvenirs.
The entire experience of Sri Lanka was very much like Kerala. It was cleaner, more hospitable and at times more reasonably priced. Definitely worth a visit for a family holiday!