Stunning Sri Lanka
Now that I’m currently employed again and living in Chicago, my international trips are a little less frequent as compared to my nine months hopping around the world the previous year. However, my employer offers four weeks of vacation a year, which I plan to always use. Since I didn’t want to use more than two weeks at once, I began to mull my options. I preferred to go to a smaller country so I could see and enjoy a large part of it and hopefully not feel like I was missing out on a lot within that country. I’ve had the opportunity to see a large bit of Western Europe, both during my semester abroad in London back in 2011, and my two months I spent in Germany, Netherland, and Croatia, last spring.
I was able to narrow it down to three options-Cuba, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. The United States has recently lifted its travel ban for Americans to go to Cuba, so I was eager to see the country located only 90 miles away from America before it becomes too “Americanized”. Myanmar is another country that has only opened its borders to all travelers back in 2012. Sri Lanka seemed to offer a lot of similarities to India, which I absolutely loved during my two months there. After weighing the pros and cons for each (with weather being an important factor), I decided to head back to Asia and to Sri Lanka!
Sri Lanka seemed to offer the perfect mix of what I was looking to do during my two weeks. There were many cultural and Buddhist sites to see, opportunities to hike and be out in nature, as well as beautiful beaches and underwater life to see while scuba diving. Not to mention, the U.S. dollar would stretch a long way there as well!
My first round of planning involved googling around for other travel blogs to read about their experiences in Sri Lanka. I prefer this method to trip planning, as blog posts and pictures reveal an insight from fellow travelers that guide books and websites do not. I usually prefer to travel at a leisurely pace and only make a skeleton plan that allows for deviations once I’m in the country. Since I was constrained by two weeks, my planning was going to have to be a little more in depth, in order to not waste the little time I had.
My plan was to be as follows:
After landing in the capital of Colombo, I would immediately head northeast to the “Cultural Triangle”. I had read mixed reviews about Colombo, and as I’ve not been a fan of many large Asian cities (Bangkok notwithstanding), I decided to keep it off my itinerary. In the Cultural Triangle, I planned to visit the ancient ruins of the city of Polonnaruwa. Sigiriya Rock, a huge plateau located in the middle of flat lands, was also an important site to see. The Dambulla Cave temples, home to many Buddhist shrines and stupas, was also located in this area. All three of these sites all UNESCO World Heritage sites, and I was eager to experience the historical culture of the Sri Lankan people.
Next I planned to head to the hill country of Sri Lanka. Filled with rolling green hills, this is where tea is grown, ever since the British colonized Sri Lanka in the early 1800s. Ella offered several different hikes to experience the natural beauty of this country. The city of Kandy is also located in this area. Known as the “Cultural City” of Sri Lanka, Kandy houses a tooth from the Buddha (still a bit skeptical of this), and offers several other attractions that I was interested to see.
Climbing Adam’s Peak to watch the sunrise was something I wanted to do ever since I saw pictures of it when my Kiwi friends Tegan and Dan climbed the peak last year. It involved both a workout and a cultural experience that I didn’t want to miss.
After all of these activities and sightseeing, I knew I would be ready for some relaxing on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. The beach towns of Tangalle and Mirissa were high on my list, with Hikkaduwa not far behind. Some of these towns offered the chance to scuba dive, and Mirissa is the launching point for whale watching.
I also hoped to spend an afternoon at the city of Galle, another UNESCO site. Surrounded by a fort built during the Dutch colonization, the architecture of Galle’s buildings was another interest of mine.
As you can see, I planned to see a lot. Luckily, due to Sri Lanka’s small size, I did not feel like I would be stretching myself too thin. I planned to stay in Central and Southern Sri Lanka, as those areas housed more of the things I wanted to do and see. I had read good things about the North and East and how many areas there were still considered to be off of the beaten path, but I would have to see those areas another time.
My subsequent posts will provide detail on my adventures to these aforementioned places so keep a lookout for when they are posted!