Usually my years travel is planned and organised at least 6 months ahead of time, simply to calm my inner Virgo control freak. So when Hubby and I decided, slightly on a whim to book a trip to Sri Lanka 6 weeks in advance, I did freak just a smidge. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go, in fact it had been on the list for a while, but I felt like I wasn’t fully prepared, in terms of research or what to expect. I’m not going to lie, I was very anxious before leaving, as this wasn’t going to be our usual 5* middle eastern luxury trip. Instead, what happened over the next 8 days was that I lost every ounce of anxiety and fell in love with this incredible country.
Since being in Kuwait, Sri Lanka seems to be a “go to” for an expat escape. With less than 5 hours travel and many direct flight options, it suddenly makes the possibility of visiting one of the hot travel destinations, so much easier. Everyone I knew that had visited this vast tear drop shaped isle, gushed about it, so I knew there had to be something, that made this country top bucket lists across the travel world. Nervous excitement built up and before I knew it, we were landing with no idea what to expect.
We had decided to opt for staying on the south coast, as we only had a week we wanted to find a balance between seeing some culture but being able to chill out in the sun. We had heard that Unawatuna was a small coastal village, with a nice beach and enough going on that we wouldn’t be too remote but fairly good connections to other visit worthy places. This country is huge so expect to be on the road for some time, wherever you decide to stay, for us this was about a 2 hour 45 minute transfer from the airport but the journey was painless and I was immediately taken in by the green, lushness of the place. I spent the whole journey staring out the window, spotting temples and Buddhas peaking about the palms and vast acres of jungle vegetation. Breath taking.
Our hotel was perfectly located about a 15 minute walk into the bustling village and beach but far enough out-of-the-way that you could find quiet refuge. There were a couple of niggles with the hotel, but it was newly renovated and clearly had some things to iron out, but on the whole it was very good for those that don’t want to completely rough it with the backpackers. The main Unawatuna beach was a large curved bay with beach bars and restaurants mounting the sand for a chilled out surfy vibe, but it was busy. The inner road of the village was lined with local eateries, craft shops and fruit stalls. I loved the rawness of the place and whilst it was geared up for visitors it still had an authentic feel about it, no large western resort influence.
When we wanted to escape the hustle of the village we simply grabbed our towels, hopped in a tuk tuk (which is the easiest, cheapest and readily available mode of transport) and landed on a beach we took a fancy to. Day two we decided to explore the much blogged about Jungle Beach. When I looked on the map it seemed about a half hour walk from our hotel, so early morning we set off. Half the way up a very steep hill, the road disappeared and we started down a dirt track. Still wondering whether we were going the right way, I spotted a hand written wooden sign which quite literally pointed to a complete off road “path”.
It wasn’t a real path, simply a route that had clearly been well trodden over time and through the jungle we went. Still we no idea if it was the right way, we took another turning which lead to a steep incline down to a beautiful cove bay. This was vastly different from the busy Unawatuna beach, there was about half a dozen of us there and it was bliss, golden sands, clear waters with a jungle back drop. Locals appeared, swimming and playing drums and having a family get togethers, creating a fantastic atmosphere, real and authentic Sri Lanka. We left the perfect beach day, a few hours later, sun-kissed and rather sweaty!
We walked to the Japanese Peace Pagoda only a few hundred yards away, as it hits the must see lists, and I can see why, it was simply beautiful. This gorgeous, pure white temple depicting Buddhas journey, perched on a hill over looking the coastal town of Galle. You could hear a pin drop, it was incredibly serene and spiritual experience. I think it’s a real shame that many young Instagrammers ignore the request for no photos and insist of posting that “perfect” shot of them here, showing little respect for the meaning this shrine has for locals.
Most evenings I would do a quick google or grab the guide book to try to find a beach spot of the following day. It was actually a Instagram tag search that lead me towards, what looked like an incredible coastal vista, about 30 minutes down the east coast. Social media had not let down, we had found Dalawella Beach and wow was it beautiful. This wasn’t hugely busy and was palm tree lined to perfection. A shallow lagoon was created by a reef, which meant it was barely tidal and the turquoise waters lapped at the white sands for the entire day. As you rounded the bay the waters became a surfers paradise, where locals and travellers took turns to ride the waves. There was evidence of the infamous stilt fishing, but we never arrived early enough to view this ritual synonymous with Sri Lankan coastal life, but everything else was perfect and we returned more than once.
When we visited the Maldives last year I said it was sunsets and dreams. Well I had never seen a sunset before Sri Lanka. Not a real sunset. Sunsets to end all sunsets. I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life, the sky shifted from blue, to purple to orange to pink. It was without question the most incredible thing and it was perfect to start and finish to an incredible trip.
There was just too much to cover in one single post, so dear reader you will be happy to know that part 2 of this Jersey girl’s adventure, will come next week covering Galle and food! So stay tuned for more Sri Lankan delights.