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Fiona's Unforgettable Sri Lankan Experience

chilling

We flew to Sri Lanka from Cardiff with Qatar Airways via Doha and were upgraded to Business Class on the first flight. A comfortable reclining seat that turns in to a flat bed, loads of space and attentive stewards, Qatar Airways offer fine dining in the sky- I can only say that nothing was too much trouble – you order your food when it suits you and don’t need to take your courses in order – this was a first for me. What a treat – I felt totally pampered and it was the first long haul flight that I have taken where I didn’t want it to end!

Business Class

Flying time to Doha was just under 7 hours and then onward to Colombo was just under 5 hours. Arriving in Colombo in the early hours it was straight to our first hotel the 4 star Jetwing Beach Hotel in Negombo which was a short transfer – perfect for a first night’s stay in Sri Lanka.

my travels

jetwing

Overlooking the beach at breakfast we were treated to a ‘Seine Fisherman Experience’ the fishing folk digging their heels into the sand and with a heave-ho they pulled the enormous nets in by hand – filling their baskets with the fish which they then took to the local market in Negombo.

fisherman

fish

Negombo is a mix of fishing village vs beachfront town. With its temples & churches, a lagoon where you can take boat trips and the Dutch Canal, there is plenty to see here, not to mention a visit to the vibrant fish market! You can easily while away a day wandering around and stopping at a local eatery for lunch.

negombo

Dinner that evening was hosted by the 4 star Jetwing Blue Hotel Negombo – the sister hotel to Jetwing Beach and adjoining property. These beachside Hotels have a contemporary feel to them – both have 2 pools, gym and spa (Jetwing Beach also has a Tennis Court) and only 4km from Negombo are in an ideal location for both enjoying the beach and visiting the local sights.

gardens

The next day we drove up into the hills and tea growing areas which surround Kandy. The drive took approximately 3 hours and the road to Kandy was a beautiful one. Stopping several times on the way we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens Peradeniya –Sri Lanka. It is open 365 days a year and with over 4,000 species of plants under cultivation over 147 acres, it provides visitors with an enormous variety of flowers and trees, including orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees.

After this scenic journey (and an unscheduled stop to take photos of the local monkeys) we arrived in Kandy where the altitude of 500m means the climate is slightly cooler. The evening’s activities started with a Kandyan dance performance which is both colourful and captivating. Wearing elaborate costumes, particularly the headwear, the dancers move to the beat of the drum and take you on a journey that is centuries old.

Kandy is dominated by its lake and the nearby Temple of the Sacred Tooth a Buddhist temple which houses Sri Lanka’s most sacred relic. As legend would have it, the tooth was taken from the Buddha at his funeral ceremony in India and then smuggled to Sri Lanka in 313 AD where it eventually ended up in Kandy. The Temple was built within the Royal Palace to keep it safe. Worshipers and tourists visit the temple, bringing with them their offerings – lotus blossoms and frangipani, to honour the precious relic. This peaceful and calm place is a must if you come to Kandy.

mahaweli

We stayed at the Mahaweli Reach Hotel in Kandy which lies on the banks of the Mahaweli River about 5 km from Kandy. This 5 star Hotel offers tranquillity, only occasionally disturbed by the calling of the birds. The main restaurant looks out over the lawn which gently slopes down to the river – you can even dine in private upon a deck over the water. To escape further you can take a cruise down the Mahaweli River or go fishing - the hotel can organise an array of different excursions for example a visit to Sigiriya Rock would be on my list!

monkeys

From here, we left Kandy behind and headed up in the tea regions of Hatton, passing beautiful waterfalls and breath-taking scenery. We visited a working tea factory en-route and watched the process of tea making.

tea

On arrival at the Ceylon Tea Trails we checked in to our own Bungalow – The Norwood Bungalow one of the five restored historic tea planter residences. A magical place, all to ourselves - it was like going back in time, with colonial style furnishings and butler service - I could have stayed longer!

bath

This award-winning Tea Trails experience is one I will never forget – gourmet food, four poster beds and elegant bathrooms plus a spacious lounge and billiards room leading out to a croquet lawn, large swimming pool and sun deck. When you stay here you are on an all-inclusive basis which also includes afternoon tea and laundry service! I want to go back!

norwood

wild tented lodges

The journey from Hatton to Yala was approximately 6 hours, so an early start for us! Wild Coast Tented Lodges in Yala was our destination, and on arrival we were whisked off for a Jeep Safari into the Yala National Park, where we saw wild animals in their natural state. Despite the bad weather, inside the park we saw elephants, monkeys, peacocks, wild boar, deer, crocodile, a whole range of birds and the highlight for me – a Leopard! It was an unbelievable experience.

safari

tent

inside tent

At the Lodge meals are served in the Bamboo Clad Dining Room overlooking the pool and the ocean and at night the hotel staff escort you back to your tent in case you come across any animals! Later on whilst trying to sleep I could hear a stray elephant being shooed out of the tent area by the rangers! It was an experience that I will never forget!

weligama

The following morning we were packed and ready to head for Weligama a 3.5 hour journey travelling further South, arriving at the Cape Weligama Hotel a beautiful hillside hotel that overlooks the Indian Ocean where we spent the last 2 nights of our Tour.

weligama

weligama

With its private shaded terraces this stunning cliffside resort has 39 villas & suites and is only 30 minutes away from Galle. With an endless array of activities from surfing lessons, scuba diving and lake kayaking to rice paddy bicycling and even leopard safaris Cape Weligama really does have it all. Built over 12 acres of tropical gardens you can immerse yourself totally in this resort and enjoy the sea and iconic sunsets from one of their restaurants.

tuk tuk

Not wanting to tear ourselves away from Cape Weligama, sadly we had to and next we had a whistle stop tour of Galle, which included seeing Galle Fort and Galle lighthouse. Within 1.5 hours we arrived in Colombo, the busy commercial capital of Sri Lanka and the end of our tour.

colombo

colombo

Summing up my visit to Sri Lanka – would I go back to Sri Lanka? – yes definitively, there is so much to see that we only touched on this beautiful country. Did I feel safe? Yes, the increased security is reassuring and at no point did I worry about safety.

The best time to visit the West & South Coast and Hill Country is from December to March and the best weather on the East side is from April/May to December, however temperatures are usually high throughout the year.

The Sri Lankans were courteous and welcoming and proved that Tourism really does matter to them. Call me on 01275 774 454 if you would like to visit Sri Lanka and hear more details of this amazing trip

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