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This is a new series we're going to start here on TravelPulse. Sometimes, planning your travels can be difficult, but with a little bit of help and a few ideas, you can turn a good trip into a great one. In this mini guide we're heading to Sri Lanka. The tiny tear drop island south of India that Marco Polo once called "the most beautiful island of its size in the world."
Food To Try:
One of the most important (and enjoyable) parts of travel is the food, and seeing as Sri Lanka is rimmed by the Indian Ocean, it's no surprised that its best cuisine comes from the sea. A delicious seafood dinner can be had on the beach for just $7 USD. Even if you're not heading to the far north, you should be able to find a delicious Jaffna crab curry at any town by the water. There's something special about enjoying a meal while watching the sun go down, with the sea tickling your toes beneath the table.
Places To Go:
In each mini guide, we'll list three of the most interesting places to see in the country. For Sri Lanka there are dozens of places that we could list, but our favorites are below.
Unawatuna: This tiny little coastal town is a true beach paradise, with aqua-luminescent waters lapping up on a calm, white sand shore. Restaurants line the beach and the evenings are lit by candles and millions of stars.
Ella: This highland village is perfect for trekking and exploring the nearby jungle. This place is also famous as a jumping off point for Adam's Peak (Sri Pada), a candlelit pilgrimage which takes place once a year each December to this high altitude holy mountain. Devotees have been embarking on this journey for over 1,000 years and the flame-lit stairwell is a beautiful and evocative scene. Ella is surrounded by gardens and tea plantations and a tea tour is highly recommended (don't miss the Halpewatte Tea Factory). You could easily spend two or three days here without getting bored.
Colombo: Perhaps not the most attractive part of the country at first glance, Colombo is the capital and the metropolitan center of this tiny island nation. There are 4.6 million people living here, but it still retains some quiet back streets and leafy walkways. It's a great place to enjoy fancy restaurants, night life and cultural shows. It will also give you a contrasting view of the country between the laid back beaches, the tranquil jungle and the bustling city.
Sri Lanka is a country deeply connected with its religious beliefs. Adam's peak is perhaps the most famous pilgrimage site in the country and in December during Unduwap Poa, thousands of devotees climb the 5,000 stairs to reach the mountaintop at 2,243 meters. This is said to be the spot where Adam first set foot on Earth. It is best to embark on this trek before sunrise as candles light the way and make for an extremely serene and evocative view.
Top Historical Site:
Singiria (Sihagiri) is definitely at the top of the list of ancient sites to see in Sri Lanka. Picture a giant, flat-top rock, nearly 200 meters high, jutting out of an otherwise flat plateau. Now picture stairs carved out of the stone, a massive statue of a lion and an entire ancient town at the top. This is Singiria, Lion Rock, and it is truly an incredible sight to behold.
Of course this is completely subject to one's own opinion, but we believe that the beach at Unawatuna is the most beautiful in the country. White sand gently slopes into the Indian Ocean at the perfect gradient for swimming. The waters here can be wavy but they're almost always perfect for swimming.
Sri Lanka is a nature lover's paradise, and the country's tantalizing waterfalls are definitely worth a visit. Many are great for swimming with clear, refreshing water and beautiful views of the nearby jungle. They are also a popular weekend spot for locals, so they make for a good place to mingle and make new friends. Don't miss the falls near Ella!
Sri Lanka is a very affordable place to travel and hotel rooms, food and transportation is of incredible value. A couple can easily get by on $60 USD / day, while solo travelers should have no problem living on $35 - $40 / day. Cheap meals in restaurants will cost around $5 and nice double rooms can be had for just $30 - $50 / night.
Sri Lanka truly is an island jammed full with incredible culture, delicious food, beautiful villages and friendly people. There aren't many places in the world that are so small, and yet pack so much punch. You could easily spend a month traveling around this country and still not even scratch the surface, but even a week will give you a taste of what this fantastic nation has to offer.
For more on traveling in Sri Lanka, check out our Guide To Backpacking Sri Lanka!
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