If you’re on a quest for a truly authentic travel experience without a big budget, we suggest going to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, a teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean, located south of India is only a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Male (the Maldives) and four hours 36 minutes from Dubai. It’s easy to combine your tour of Sri Lanka with both Dubai and the Maldives. Here’s a list of top five reasons to visit Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka is one of the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world. The country has 16 national parks and is a wildlife lover’s paradise. There are 91 species of mammals, 433 bird species, 26 species of cetaceans (ocean wildlife) and 106 species of amphibians. Sri Lanka Asian elephants, leopards, buffaloes and sloth bear are some of the unique species you’ll find in the national parks.
The best parks to see elephants are Udewalawe National Park in Udewalawa and Minneriya National Park in Habarana. If you must choose one park to watch the wild elephants, we suggest Udewalawe because in Minneriya elephants appear seasonally.
Yala National Park is best for leopards though the chances to spot one is quite slim these days. Mirissa is famed for whale watching, and Kalpitiya is the best place for dolphin watching.
2. Tea plantations
The country formerly known as Ceylon, is one of the top tea producing countries in the world. In fact, Sri Lanka is synonymous with exceptional tea – Ceylon tea. The island’s central highlands are the best places to enjoy the views of mountains covered with tea plants and lush tropical forests. From morning to early afternoon these tea plantations are dotted with female tea pluckers adorned in colorful clothing and headgears working on the slopes of the farms.
To enjoy the picturesque views, we suggest taking a train from Ella to Nano Oya Railway Station, just outside Nuwara Eliya or vice versa.
Located mile high above the sea, Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka’s main tea producing town. Known as Little England, besides the tea plantations and tea factories, Nuwara Eliya has tea rooms, colonial buildings and a vibrant market in the center of town.
3. Authentic adventure
The congested and narrow roads of Sri Lanka can be frustrating and time-consuming, but it’s the best way to see the authentic side of the country. There are not too many highways in the country, making it possible for tourists to see villages, markets, roadside stalls, school kids and buffaloes crossing the narrow streets. These roads are often packed with tuk tuks, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. The road conditions are worse during market days, usually during the weekends.
You won’t see tourists flocked to the food stalls to grab a bite in Sri Lanka. However, most hotels do serve up a right mix of local cuisine and mix gourmet food. Rice and curry is the most popular dish and is considered the national dish of Sri Lanka. There are many variations of the curry.
Most of the dishes are spicy, vegan-friendly and natural. Along with rice and variations of curry (vegetables, fish, or chicken), you should also try egg hoppers (appa) with katta sambol (chili), dhal curry, string hoppers and paratha with pol sambol (coconut and chili mix).
5. Historic sights
Sri Lanka’s treasure, Sigiriya (Lion Rock), an ancient rock fortress and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most visited attraction in the country. This pre-history planned city of palaces, reservoirs, temples, gardens, and monasteries is an important archaeological site for Sri Lanka like Machu Picchu is to Peru.
Located in the Cultural Triangle near Habarana town, you can easily combine your tour of Sigiriya with Dambulla Rock Temple and Polonnaruwa medieval capital of Sri Lanka.
Have you been to Sri Lanka?