We arrived in Anhuradapura late in the afternoon, some friends I had met in Negombo and me. It was raining hard . The taxi took us to the hotel we had found in our guidebook but the price they quoted was really overrated and we were all very angry and left.
Finally the taxi drivers took us to a nice little guest house: : LIEVIS Tourist Accommodation ( click here to see tip)
The next morning we went to the legendary Sri Maha Bodhi tree in the heart of Anhuradapura where hundreds of pilgrims gather from everywhere to pray and meditate. One of my friends was keen on yoga and meditation, so we both stayed in a yoga position and meditated together with all the other locals. It was really peaceful and relaxing.
Next day we visited the Jetavanarama Dagoba . Really impressive! When it was constructed it was the tallest stupa in the world, and one of the tallest human constructions in those times. 122 meters. Now it is less in height but it still looks huge. They have calculated that the bricks in its original construction could be enough to build a 3 meter high wall from London to Edinburgh.
There are a lot of well-preserved ruins in the town, but my friends were hungry and tired already so we decided to continue the next day. The price for visiting the rest of the ruins is 100 dollars.
So we went to the city center and had a very good meal of local delicacies, and then after a long walk around we went back to the hotel. The city is nothing special but now and then you see girls walking in their colorful dresses or a beautiful little stupa....
I intended to hire a tourist taxi which would take me around the ruins in one morning, as the other guests had done. They said sometimes taxi drivers can reduce the price of the entrance fee. We tried to do the same but we weren't lucky enough to find the right person, and as it was raining, I decided to postpone it.
The next day it was raining again and the day after that...So after several short walks in the city and the artificial ponds I decided to head for Jaffna where the weather was good, and come back later.Related to:
- Budget Travel
VISAS & MONEY
You can get a one-month visa on arrival at the airport. It costs 35 dollars or 30 euros. Then you have to renew your visa in Colombo or Kandy. This costs 3.500 Sri Lankan money.
For the extension you have to go to their office:
no. 41, Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha
It's easy to find all the information on the internet ( www.immigration.gov.lk ) and click on “obtaining visit visa” )
You'd better call them to make sure nothing has changed. You should be there very early as there are hundreds of people waiting. You get over with the procedure in 3-4 hours.
The local money is the Sri Lankan rupee. Currently it is about 167 rupees to the euro and 127 to the dollar, but it flactuates daily. The main banks have ATMs where you can use your VISA and MASTERS cards. The maximum you can get is 50,000 rupees. There is one at the airport.
The daily expense depends on your budget of course but I think it can not be less than 15 dollars. Unless you are a very good negotiator. And a very frugal eater.....lol
In case you are heading to India after Sri Lanka, getting the Indian visa is a little troublesome.
First you should go to the office of a private company located in Colombo 4.
129. PHILIP GUNAWARDANA MAWATHA
( near THUMMULA JUNCTION)
First you go there to submit your papers. Go between 8.00am and 2.00pm.
You need to apply on the internet and also 2 photos of some special square size. So if you can afford a few hundreds of rupees it is easier to visit first the small shop near the entrance of the Office. They apply on the internet for you , take your photos and can provide everything you need for the visa and you don't have to worry about anything. I think I paid about 400-500 rupees for everything.
A week later you have to come back, (9.00-11.00), to submit your passport. Then, be prepared for a long long wait until about 4.00 , 5.00 or even 6.00 in the afternoon to get your visa.
They usually give a 3-month visa here so if you need a six month or more , make sure it is possible.
From Negombo I took a bus to Wyangoda where I could catch the train to Kandy. This is a shorter way to go if you are staying in Negombo. You consume a lot of time waiting for the train to come but still it's better. The view from the train window is really amazing. At some point you can see the Bible rock far in the distance.
Arriving in Kandy I relied on a tuk-tuk driver to take me to a nice guest house. As all the popular places were booked up we ended up on the steep slope which would be difficult for me to walk up and down but still it had a nice view and hot water.
The most inspiring thing in Kandy is the artificial lake which is fresh and pleasant to walk around. One day I saw a water dragon busking in the sun near the edge of the lake. It was really big. Locals told me this kind of dragon lives only in this lake.
You can see a lot of animals living in the lake. I saw a lot of egrets and monkeys …
On the other side you can see the temple of Tooth.
Going on to the center of Kandy you can find a lot of shops and eateries, bakeries and jeweleries.
At the background you can see the surrounding green hills and a Buddha statue .
The weather is unpredictable in Kandy. Sometimes it is sunny and later it can be raining. One morning that the weather was predicted good, I went to the Botanical Gardens.
The other guests also told me they had very nice walks to the hills and they had enjoyed the views very much.
I also visited Malwatte Monastery which is close to the lake.
Some interesting things to visit in Kandy are the Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, The Kandy Archeological Museum, the arts and crafts Association, the Tea Museum, and of course the Botanical Gardens.
Unawatuna , or Una as the locals like to call it, was my favorite place, not because I like so busy places, but because I found a quiet and surprisingly remote guest house in the middle of all this overbuilt chaos.
I also appreciated the beautiful sea which is perfect for swimming. Una's bay is protected from the currents and big waves so you have the feeling you are swimming in a turquoise swimming pool.
The restaurants have delicious fresh fish and if you need to try local and cheap food it is also plenty of it in the small street shops.
There are many options of massages, spas and any type of relaxation for your tired body and face.
Local people are nice and helpful and always have a smile for you.
The jungle beach is also unforgettable.
There is also a nice piece of sand beach on the other side in front of Dalawella Beach Resort
A nice day trip can be to the lake of Koggala not far away. There is a small island in the middle of it that you can reach by boat.
If you come by highway bus don't forget to tell the driver to stop at the end of the highway, at the junction with the seaside road, before he turns north again towards Galle.
This junction is in equal distance between Unawatuna and Galle. There are always taxis waiting there for Unawatuna and they cost about 150 to take you to your hotel.
There are so many hotels and guest houses compactly built, sometimes one inside the garden of the next one, that it is a little confusing . But one can have plenty of options to fit their budget.
Unawatuna is 6kls from Galle and the public bus fare is 20rs, a tuk-tuk is 400rps.Related to:
Tangalle (or Tangalla) is very beautiful. The majority of hotels are on the seaside road. It is a very green and breezy town. The center is about half an hour away from the beach.
The beach is very long and has several separate parts with different names. Goyamboka beach, Coconut beach, Medaketiya beach and a mile away is the exotic Marakolliya beach, with coconut trees and nice resorts in the lagoon with the mangroves. The sea water has a beautiful color and is very inviting but still very dangerous as there are strong currents and sharp rocks inside.
The only disadvantage of Tangalle is that the sea is usually very rough. So you have to go to further parts of the long beach to find a safe and quiet place.
All the hotels bring out deckchairs across the road, under the beautiful coconut trees, where you can enjoy your drink, read your book or just relax in the deckchairs watching the waves. We spent long hours there...
Mirissa is a place where you can really feel you are on vacation. It is green and not overbuilt, surrounded by vegetated hills, and gifted with a wonderful beach.
The most enjoyable time was in the evening when we headed to the beach restaurants to have a delicious meal. The tables are right on the sand and later on, when the sea rises the waves caress your feet. The light of the flickering candle flames and the wine make these moments unforgettable. We usually changed restaurants with my friends wanting to try all of them . Most of them are good but you have to make sure that the fish is fresh, because some “fresh fish” displayed on the counters on the beach , come from the fridge.
If you find a barbeque on, don't miss it. There is a big difference in taste – and in price, of course - between grilled fish and barbequed fish. I liked red snappers and baracudas.
I remember I liked the food and service in “Chill Out” restaurant and “One Love” restaurant.
At the western end of the beach, where some bar-restaurants usually play louder music, sometimes they throw very lively parties that can last for two or three days and nights....
Swimming is more relaxed and safe in the small bay at the far end of the shore beyond the big rock.
In the evening when the sea level is lower many people go up this rock to enjoy the view and the lovely sunset...
The waves are good for surfers and there are some surfing schools on the beach and they all arrange whale and dolphin watching.
There is also a small temple and a monastery on the top of Mirissa hill. It is only a 15-minute walk up the hill from where you can have amazing views of the whole town , the beach and even Weligama bay! I think you can attend yoga classes there, too.
Some hotels also offer yoga classes.Related to:
One of the most visited places in Sri Lanka, Ella holds its fame deservedly. The town is built on the beautiful mountains with tea plantations and cloud forests, offering great views and enjoyable walks in the spectacular countryside. You can climb Ella's rock or Little Adam's Peak, or visit picturesque waterfalls very near. There is also a small monastery on the main road easy to reach on foot.
There are very cozy wooden restaurants and bars on the main street.
The railway station is a sight by itself. I even had a long walk along the rails and enjoyed amazing views of the surrounding landscape.
It is only one hour from Haputale by train. The scenery of this journey is wonderful!
There are not a lot of things to do in the town, apart from eating and drinking, but I was quite tired by the day walks so the fresh evening temperature was perfect for good night's sleep.
View my Travelogue for more photos.
I liked Jaffna for something I can not explain even today. Maybe it was the sense of abandonment you feel walking around the city, that makes you imagine you are in a different time. You can still see the results of the cruel war. Bombed houses are scattered around the streets next to nice colonial houses or abandoned little villas with big gardens and tall trees.
People in the street tell you how much they suffered and most of them had been driven away from their houses to save their lives and their children. They narrate sad stories about the war but they all resume a strong decisive expression when they end up saying they will build everything themselves and bring their city back to its previous prosperity. As if the whole city is recovering from a long fatal disease.
The main street, Hospital Road, is leading to the market and it's there where all the action takes place. It is very busy and lively and nothing reminds of the unhappy past.
The road the bus rides to enter the city is Kandy road, vertical to Hospital road.
The Fort built by the Portuguese in the 17th century is interesting and worthy of spending a morning to visit it. I started walking along the beach road with the nice view to the sea. I saw some young boys playing cricket in a clearing. It is the national sport in Sri Lanka as well as in India. After wandering around the fort for a long time, I headed for the market. I passed the delapitaded clock Tower and reached the famous Public library. A lot of local tourisst took their photos in front of it...I ended up in the market.
Another day I walked along Temple road with the remains of old colonial houses , once prosperous and full of life, but now almost lost in the lush foliage and the tall trees. I visited a hinduistic temple on the way and the famous Nallur Kandaswamy Kovi and then I had a nice meal in “Mangoes Restaurant” in Temple road.
I asked the locals if I could visit the islands but unfortunately it was not a good season for a boat trip. They discouraged me as some people had drowned the previous day when a boat overturned...
Food is a combination of traditional Sri Lankan dishes with a strong taste of Indian cooking.
I liked it.
But most of all I liked the wonderful people of Jaffna!
View my Travelogue for more photos of Jaffna.
Royal Botanic Garden , KANDY
You will easily spend a whole day in the beautiful botanical Gardens. They are built on a quiet large area of 147 acres ( 59 hectares). There have 4000 species under cultivation and 2 million visitors every year.
They are located in Peradeniya, and opened in 1821.
You can read all the information in the pamphlet they give you at the entrance, which contains a map of the Gardens so it is easy to find your whereabouts.
You can reach the Gardens by a short bus ride. I took the bus near the lake. When I got my ticket I was a little surprised by the price – 1100 rupees is expensive for Sri Lanka standards --- but anyway they have to keep it neat and tidy. It's a lot of work.
The parts I liked most were the orchid house which was quite impressive. My favourite orchid is the pink Vanda Hybrid. Also you can see the great lawn with a giant java fig tree in the center like a living umbrella, a lake with water lilies and papyrus of the Nile , the Palm avenues, the Cacti, the double coconut trees which I had never seen before. The Spice Garden was interesting, the flower Garden was quite impressive and the central open area carpeted with green grass, where locals and tourists took their time sitting or lying down to rest , basking in the sun.
I had a small snack in the outside cafeteria and took a taxi back to Kandy because I was too tired to look for buses....
All in all it was a very enjoyable day.!
For more beautiful photos view my Travelogue
Opening hours 7.30 – 17.00
tel +94 81 2388088 / +94 81 2388238
Train from Kandy to Haputale
The first class was booked up so they told me to come early the next morning to buy a ticket ( I thought I might be lucky and get first class) but no luck, I just bought a second class one.
I sat on a bench on the platform to wait for the train and it was almost empty at that hour. So I was looking forward to the beautiful journey and the relaxed trip , as I like trains very much. One hour later, the crowd gathering and waiting at the edge of the platform seemed like a threat to me..I couldn't stand up for a long time because of my operated leg, so I thought I could get a seat because they would respect my inability to stand up and my walking stick.
The horrible truth came after half an hour, when there was a mad crowd entering the train door, pushing and treading on each other, trying to push me away and even throw me down .
I started shouting so some of them helped me get in but what was happening is indescribable. There was not an inch of empty space in or out of the train door. Even when they pushed me in I couldn't move any further. We were all a big mass of bodies , hands and legs trying to fill in all the empty space.
Of course I had to face the unhappy reality that I would travel all the way standing up just leaning on the other people for support and continuously getting kicked and elbowed.
Somebody made a remark that made everyone laugh. He said “Imagine. I didn't take the bus because I thought it would be crowded...”
I forgot completely about taking photos because it was impossible to move my hand, open my bag, take out my camera and put it back in. Absolutely impossible...
Two hours later, my leg was hurting a lot but there was no hope of getting a seat. Somebody let me lean on his tiny table, which was somewhat better.
Finally, after 4.5 hours, I got a seat, at Hutton, I think, where many got off. The rest of the trip was very nice and having a window seat I took to taking as many pictures as I could...for one and a half hour more.
The scenery was rewarding for all the trouble..
Chilaw is a big town with nothing special for the traveler.
There is a cathedral and some Hinduistic temples worth visiting, though.
The beach is quite nice but it is usually very rough and not safe for swimming.
But if you happen to pass by, you can stop and buy very fresh fish at the famous local fish market.
One of the most spectacular places I have been in Sri Lanka.
It is built on the ridge of a mountain , with amazing views on both sides.
The climate is fresh and good for long walks in the unique countryside. There are tea plantations around, a monastery, other small villages and the famous Lipton's Seat lookout , so you have many options for enjoyable walks in this heavenly place.
But even in the moments of relaxation you can enjoy the pure nature and the incomparable views. Even on a rainy day the blanket of mist adds a mysterious atmosphere to this wonderful place.
You'd better check the weather forecast before you come to Haputale because the clouds may disturb the views.
You get there by train or bus.
Jungle Beach, UNAWATUNA
A refreshing swim in the crystal waters of this beautiful little beach makes an excellent day trip.
You take the seaside street and go on until you reach the end where there is a sign to turn right. Then again you go on for 10-15 minutes and then the road goes uphill and the journey becomes very picturesque as your path has an excellent view to the sea on your left. After about 45 minutes you reach some houses and you turn left. There are usually people there to guide you but it isn't difficult to find anyway. Then you go down a small path to reach this little paradise beach.
Except there are many people who have already discovered it and also a big restaurant. This is convenient for satisfying your thirst and hunger after swimming but it surely spoils the environment.
However I am sure you will be contented after all, because the water is clear and safe to swim in.
You can also come by boat or tuk-tuk and save the trouble of walking but I tell you every time I went, I enjoyed it very much. The first time, when going back to Una, I lost my way so a few local boys showed me another way which came to Una through the northern side. So I had the chance to get a glimpse of a more authentic daily life.
Galle is a must see, in my opinion, because of its unique atmosphere. The colonial houses, the clean streets, the artistic air , the elegant bars and restaurants and the famous Fort surrounding the old city make it an interesting environment and an exciting visit .
The Fort was built in the 18th century by Dutch architects and it is a perfect combination of European architecture with local material and the necessities of the environment.
In the evening everybody heads for the Fort. A walk around the wall that embraces the old city is both interesting and pleasant. The view to the sea is wonderful and the light of sunset is very romantic.
Later you can continue your walk in the lit streets when the beautiful colonial buildings look even more elegant than in daytime.
The train between Colombo and Galle is cheap and fast but it is often unbearably crowded.
It costs 130prs and takes about 2,5 to 3 hours depending on the time of the day. The fastest is around 1.00-2.00 pm.
I enjoyed this picturesque little town very much. The beaches are wonderful, the people are nice and very helpful . There are some decent guest houses near the beach.
As I was staying in Rasika hotel just 2kls south, I visited Ambalagoda twice by bus.
What you will gain here is a peaceful and relaxed stay as most tourists head for busy Hikkadwa.
There are some famous mask carvers, local cultural centers and a fish market.
It was greatly damaged by the tsunami with a great loss of lives, unfortunately.
It is 10klms north of Hikkadwa.
Sri Lanka Hotels
One of the colonial type of hotels situated in Mt Lavinia about 40 minutes drive from the Colombo...more
We reserved this hotel by booking/com and stayed with my family. We were lucky to selected this...more
No: 288 Galle Road, Dadella, Galle, 80000, Sri Lanka
Good for: Business
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