We had heard a lot of good things about Sri Lanka even before we left for the trip. Our entire family of five was looking forward to the adventures to come as we landed at the airport early in the morning of December. On the field we were greeted by our friendly guide Nishan, who was with us throughout the trip. We were about to spend our first Christmas vacation away from home, so our 10 and 13 year olds in particular knew about a very different Christmas. According to Countryaah.com, Sri Lanka is a country located in southern part of Asia. Our three-year-old daughter certainly did not know what to expect…
We spent a few relaxing beach days at the beginning in Negombo to get used to the 4 ½ hour time difference. Thanks to the magnificent sandy beach and the excellent facilities of the hotel, we quickly got into the holiday atmosphere! We stayed at Jetwing Blue ****.
On the third day, it was finally time to start our great adventure. There were great experiences in the program one after another:
the elephant orphanage in Pinnawala, Sigiriya’s Lion’s Rock, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla Cave Temple, Kandy and Holy Tooth Temple, and Yala National Park were just some of the highlights of the trip.
“Elephant Poo” was an experience in its own class. We first took part in a guided tour of the elephant center, after which we got to see how unique products could be made here – well, just about that? Gift paper, stationery and all kinds of souvenirs were available at affordable prices.
Next, we headed to Sigiriya, where a challenge awaited us: climbing the Lion Rock. On the first day, the weather was rainy, so we had to change plans a bit, and instead of Lion Hill, we visited the ruins of Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa is a former capital, the old part of which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. We also went to see the famous Rankoth Vehera stupa / temple. We were equipped with umbrellas, but we still walked barefoot and learned that the temple had to be rotated clockwise.
The next day we got up early, met our guide and left for Leijonakallio at. 7.15. The cave paintings came to mind especially impressive – it feels amazing that they were made as early as the 4th century! There were plenty of steps, but the route was in good condition and the journey up to the top of the hill (and down) was already an exciting nature experience in itself. We had great luck, because when we almost got down we got to see a cute Asian giant squirrel up close!
In Kandy we had time to rest by the hotel pool. After that we went for a walk to the shore of the lake where the kids fed the fish with Popcorn. We also saw a varan on the beach lying just a few feet away from us! We also visited the Holy Tooth Temple and its museum.
One of the absolute highlights of the trip was a train ride through the highlands on an old diesel train. We boarded a train in Nuwara Eliya and traveled all the way to Ella. Train travel was a good variation for sitting in a car, and the scenery was really stunning.
The tour culminated in a safari in Yala National Park, where we saw e.g. elephants, peacocks, samba deer, wild boars and small but spectacular bee-eaters (Merops apiaster).
After many experiences, we wanted to spend a few relaxing beach days at the Cinnamon Bey ***** resort on the west coast of Beruwala, which was perfect for a more relaxed stay and also served as a good base when we set out to explore the colonial city of Gale. We also had time to visit a nearby turtle center to help newly hatched chicks get back to nature and also care for adult injured turtles.
All in all, the trip was full of awesome experiences that we will remember with joy for a long time to come.