Sri Lanka – history, culture, wildlife and palm fringed beaches

Sri Lanka – history, culture, wildlife and palm fringed beaches

A twelve day private tour provided us with an exotic mix of experiences ranging from visiting various cultural and historic attractions to staying at an estate house on a tea plantation. We searched for elephants and the elusive leopard in Udawalawe National Park and surfed from the beautiful palm fringed beaches that hug Sri Lanka, the tear drop island just off India.

Under the excellent guidance of our guide and driver, Joseph, who we had for the duration of our trip, we explored the Cultural Triangle which covers a vast area from the green hills of the central highlands down to the dry plains.  We climbed Sigiriya Rock and at 200 metres high this was one of our highlights, freewheeled around the Ancient city of Polonnaruwa and climbed the steep steps up to the Dambulla Cave Temple. All three sites famous for their World Heritage status with the Dambulla Cave Temple being the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.

Our stay in a plantation bungalow on the Rosyth Tea Estate, near Kandy, gave us a taste of the colonial past and was incredibly relaxing and educational.  The bungalow was located up in the hills with the most stunning views of the surrounding countryside.   We relaxed by the pool and learnt how to cook roti. A guided tour of the estate included a visit to the estate tea factory where we learnt about the process of making tea and how the leaves are taken from the bush to arriving in our cups.

A short drive away, the vibrant city of Kandy, another World Heritage Site, offered an insight into local legends, traditions and folklore.

Sri Lanka is by no means short of National parks. We visited the Minneriya Tank – a huge reservoir and great place for elephant spotting.  Our guide made sure we didn’t go into the park with the crowds and we were lucky enough to only see one other jeep for the duration of our safari. We saw over 60 elephants at the tank and got stuck there for an hour as we were surrounded by elephants and couldn’t go anywhere!

At Udawalawe National Park we ventured out on early morning and evening safaris in search of deer, elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, wild boar, birdlife, leopard, the Sri Lankan sloth and the spotted cat. Sadly, we did not see a leopard or the sloth bear but our safaris provided a brilliant first safari experience for myself, my husband and our two boys.

After a busy week of touring we headed to the coast and from Cape Weligama explored the hidden backstreets of the walled city of Galle, cycled through the local villages and paddy fields, chilled by the pool, learnt to surf and enjoyed taking walks along the vast palm fringed beaches.

Thanks go to our guide, the hospitality of the Sri Lankan people and a fabulous fusion of Malay, Indian and Portuguese influenced cuisine we had an incredible journey through a beautiful country. With an evening flight home we even had time to soak up the cosmopolitan vibe and indelible colonial heritage of the capital, Colombo – a perfect way to spend our last day in Sri Lanka.

Fancy a trip to Sri Lanka? If so, do get in touch we can tailor a trip to you personally and advise you which parts of the country are best to visit when. T:01344 988620

Helen travelled to Sri Lanka at Easter with her family

Helen Thomas