A gigantic granite cloud carries me over leopard jungles, emerald rice paddies and peaceful elephant plains. I soar along a turquoise coast, past surfers, beach bars and fishermen on stilts. Suddenly I’m speeding next to a young man dangling from a train by one hand. And before I know it I’m back in Colombo, the city streets singing with tuk tuks and smelling of sweet curries.
Thanks to Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, Cvisit & Sri Lankan Airlines, I got the chance to explore Sri Lanka like a prince of ancient Ceylon. I seemingly soared over Sri Lanka from the top of Lion’s Rock, and I literally soared over the Southern Coast with the wings of Cinnamon Air’s sea plane. I discovered an island not only full of incredible destinations but also full of wonderful people with warm and welcoming smiles.
Colombo: A Thriving Capitol
If you’re heading to Sri Lanka you’re bound to start in Colombo. This city brilliantly blends a colonial history with a rapidly developing economy. On one block you’ll find a luxurious hotel and office high rise. While on the next, there’s a pub dating back to British colonial times. It’s charming, intriguing, and truly allows one a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s past.
Colombo isn’t just a layover destination before heading to the southern beaches but a great introduction to Sri Lanka at large.
Habarana: Roam Among Wild Elephants
Sri Lanka is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, and Habarana and nearby Kaudulla National Park is where you can find it. But among all the wild life here, the main attraction are it’s Elephants. There are literally hundreds of Elephants roaming free in the wild. We actually got so close to them that they nearly charged out jeep. For the full story check out Charged By Herd Of Wild Elephants In Kaudulla National Park.
Sigiriya: A Castle City In The Sky
Sigirya aka Lion’s Rock could easily be considered one of the ancient wonders of the world. It’s essentially an ancient castle fort soaring 180 meters into the sky. On the climb to the top you’ll see incredibly well preserved paintings from the 5th century, followed by the original intact lion paws which mark entrance to the main fort. And when you finally summit, you’re mind will struggle to grasp the sheer beauty of the 360 degree view over the Sri Lankan plains. It’s an experience on par with but much cheaper than Peru’s Machu Pichu. For a full guide, check out the Ultimate Guide To Sigiriya.
Kandy: The Heart / Tooth Of Buddhism
Kandy is a quaint city nestled among jungle covered hills. It’s famous for The Temple Of The Tooth, fittingly named as it holds what is believed to be one of Buddha’s teeth. Because of this, Kandy is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Buddhist’s every year.
Galle: A Colonial City By The Sea
Galle epitomizes a seaside colonial city. From the moment you step inside the walled fort, you get the feeling that you’re back in colonial times. Many of the British and Dutch built buildings date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Today many of these have been converted into charming hotels and cafes. Protected by the high stone walls, Galle is one of the best preserved colonial forts in the world.
Unawatuna: Beach Bums & Backpackers
Unawatuna sounds like some Hawaiian beach bum hangout, and it kind of is. Although it’s full of rich Russians on holiday and upscale resorts, it’s also got a lot of cool backpacker hostels and hangouts. There’s a decent night life with a few bars and clubs, and some excellent food, especially the Tuna steak at Kingfisher Restaurant. Whether you want to go whale watching, surfing, sun bathing or exploring Galle, Unawatuna is the perfect place to base yourself.
I didn’t know. I just didn’t know how special Sri Lanka really was. It’s not the miles of beaches or bio-diverse jungles. And it’s not it’s ridiculously stunning resorts, and budget friendly hotels and meals. But more than anything it’s the people and their heart felt smiles that seem to extend across this unique South Asian island.
Now that I know, I’ll definitely be back soon. Thanks Sri Lanka!