A Guide To The Things To Do In Bentota, Sri Lanka

A Guide To The Things To Do In Bentota, Sri Lanka

There are many interesting things to do in Bentota, Sri Lanka.

A small town on the west coast of Sri Lanka, Bentota is about half way between Colombo and Galle. It’s a popular tourist destinations for foreigners as well as locals, especially for people coming from Colombo, so it can get busy at weekends.

Even if in the past the city was known as a spice trade centre, today, with its long white sand beaches, palms trees and its lagoon, Bentota is a quiet place where you can enjoy water sports, nature and sun. In addition, if you are a fan of history and architecture, there are many places that are steeped in history and design.

There are so things to do in Bentota and places to visit that you have plenty of options among which to choose. My advice is to stay there at least 3 nights – but if you want to take it easy and relax, you can even use an entire week.

In this post, I highlight all the unmissable things to do in Bentota and share some tips that will help you make the most of it.

Bentota beach

Bentota beach is a great place to hang out

15 Unmissable Things To Do In Bentota

Go cycling throughout the town and its surroundings

One of the nicest things to do in Bentota is to rent a bike or book a bike tour of the city and its surroundings. This is an easy way to get to know the place and connect with its nature, culture and inhabitants. Make sure to bike through the town, tea plantations, rice fields and coconut estates (where you can stop and have a look at how the coconut oil is extracted and its fibre is worked).

You will see Dutch houses, the beautiful Kande Viharaya Temple (more about that in a bit),  you’ll cross a river, admire the lagoon and pass by Dedduwa Lake and several Buddhist temples.

TIP: The bike tour is best done early in the morning or in the evening, skipping the sunniest hours of the day. Tours have different length and prices, ask for a quote at your hotel or guest house.

Head to Bentota beach

One of the best things to do in Bentota is spending time at the beach. The surroundings of Bentota have several beautiful beaches. The nearest is Bentota beach, just next to town. The contrast between the golden sand and the green coconut tree, together with the turquoise  water makes this place unforgettable.

You can indulge in the sun, have a long swim and walk on that soft sand, as well as enjoy some water sports including diving and snorkeling.

This idyllic place becomes even better at sunset.

GOOD TO KNOW: Swells often carry garbage to the beach, especially plastic. Please don’t add to it, do not to leave any garbage on the beach and always take it back with you. Even seemingly harmless waste may be swallowed by turtles and lead them to death. Small precautions can really make a huge difference.

Or Moragalla beach

Whether you are a quiet person looking for a peaceful place to sunbathe, read a book and relax, or looking for adrenaline, one of the best things to do in Bentota is spending time at Moragalla Beach.

Located between Bentota beach and Beruwala beach, this is a long white and golden sand beach with clear blue water, dense green vegetation and not many visitors.

There are places where you can organize snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, tube riding and banana-boat expeditions.

Moragalla Beach can be reached by tuk tuk, car and bike.

TIP: It’s best not to stay on the beach after the sunset.

Dedduwa Lake

The lake is one of the nicest place in Bentota

Spend time at Dedduwa Lake

One of the nicest things to do in Bentota is wandering around Dedduwa Lake. This is a wonderful place just outside Bentota. You can walk through the cinnamon and rubber plantations, have a drink on a boat house or in a villa by the lake while watching the calm water or have a boat tour on the lake (best to book in advance).

One of the most beautiful views of the lake is from Lunuganga, Geoffrey Bawa’s house.

Geoffrey Bawa house in Lunuganga

Geoffrey Bawa house in Lunuganga

Enjoy the beauty of Lunuganga Estate by Geoffrey Bawa

If you only end up doing one of the many things to do in Bentota, it has to be this!

Lunuganga Estate belonged to the renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. He purchased the place in 1947 and for the following 50 years he worked to turn it into the masterpiece that it is now. Inspired by his brother Bewis and the great work he made with Brief Garden, Geoffrey Bawa left his career as a lawyer and became an architect, one of Asia’s most influential.

Located on the banks of the Dedduwa Lake, the garden at Lunuganga Estate was his creative laboratory for new concepts and ideas, in fact during his life Bawa continued to change and experiments with its spaces and structures – something which he did until he fell ill in 1998 (he died in 2003).

New gardens were created in place of the old rubber tree plantation and sculptures and artworks strategically placed to reveal stunning views, such as that of Cinnamon Hill framing the Katakuliya temple in the distance. Lunuganga is an open-air museum, a park, and a house at the same time. The Estate is now under the care of the Lunuganga Trust and the garden is open to the public for guided tours.

During the tour you will get a glimpse of the main house, the Cinnamon House and the house of the artist Ena De Silva.

GOOD TO KNOW: Bawa’s house has been turned into a hotel. If you want to experience the interior of Bawa’s house you can book a room.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Garden tours of Lunuganga estate start at 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 2:00 pm, and 3:30 pm. The entrance fee is 1500 Sri Lanka Rupees (LKR) (roughly $8). Tours last around 2 hours. 

You can reach Bawa House by tuk tuk or by car from Bentota.

TIP: Make sure to wear shoes because the garden can get quite muddy during and after the rainy season.

Lunuganga

The beautiful park in Lunuganga

Visit the Brief Garden by Bewis Bawa

Among that things to do in Bentota you will definitely enjoy there’s visiting Brief Garden. This enchanted estate consists of a house and a garden designed by Bevis Bawa, senior brother of Geoffrey Bawa who was obviously inspired by his work. 

Located approximately 10 km away from Bentota, Brief Garden takes its name from Bawa’s father, a lawyer who bought this land with the money received after a successful legal brief. Originally a rubber plantation, in 1929 Bawa started working on this land and never stopped until his death in 1992. Throughout the decades, he created a series of gorgeous terraces that depart from the house and follow the slopes of the hill.

It’s a gorgeous tropical gardens inspired by the local traditions of Sri Lanka, with touches of Italian and English style in the landscaping. There even is a stunning Japanese garden. 

You can also visit the house, where you will be able to admire sculptures and paintings by Australian artist Donald Friend, who spent 5 years on the property.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Brief Garden is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The entry fee is 2500 LKR (little less than $14 USD). Though you can walk around freely, I recommend joining a tour to make the most of this place.

To get to Brief garden hire a tuk tuk (a return trip should be around 1000 LKR).

Try different water sports

This is one of the coolest things to do in Bentota, where the calm waters of the lagoon are the ideal environment for water sports all year round. I suggest water-skiing, windsurfing, canoeing, banana-boating and water-scooter.

Bentota is also very famous for diving: you will see a beautiful coral reef and colorful fishes, including lion fish and porcupine fish. Have a look around to find a good guide, it’s important to be safe when you go depth in the blue.

There are several centers where to try these sports.

 

Spoil yourself at a Spa

Between a bike ride and a swim, after long day in the sun, spoiling yourself with a spa treatment is one of the nicest things to do in Bentota. Most spas focus on ayurvedic treatments and you can pick between hot stone therapy, beauty treatments, aromatherapy, deep tissue massages, reflexology and much more.

There are several spas in town:  Sahana Spa at  Saman Villas, Barberyn Reef Ayurveda Resort and Ayurveda Shunyata Villa just to mention some. These are actually resorts where you can also sleep, eat and practice yoga as well as have treatments. 

Catch the sun at Paradise Island

North of Bentota you will find Paradise Island, a sandy strip of land that enjoys a privileged position between the often rough waves of the Indian Ocean and the calm waters of the Bentota Lagoon. It’s worth going.

things to do in Bentota Sri Lanka

Another gorgeous beach near Bentota

Go to Beruwala Lighthouse

Among the things to do in Bentota, make sure to go to Beruwala Lighthouse, built in 1889 by the Brits in order to warn ships of the dangers of underwater reefs. It’s located on the little Barberyn Island, a tropical paradise with high palm trees, submerged rocks, a 34 meter-high lighthouse overlooking the green island inhabited by crows that swarm noisily at sunset and a few ruins from the British era.

This is not always possible, but if it is make sure to climb up the inner staircase of the lighthouse to see the old lighting mechanism. Once you reach the top the 360 degree view is absolutely stunning.

This island is a paradisiac spot, far away from the crowds, where you can snorkel and sunbathe. You can get there on a 10 minute boat ride from Beruwala or Moragalla. Once there, a short hike will take you where the lighthouse is located. 

Ask your hotel to look for a boat for you.

TIP: For a special view, try to go at sunset. There are trips leaving from Malubanna sports center. 

Visit the Fishing Harbour in Beruwala

If you like fish and you’re early risers, one of the nicest things to do in Benota is visiting Beruwala Harbour. At about 10 minutes drive from town, you can observe the nets being pulled out of the water and boats being loaded. You can even arrange a fishing trip with the fishermen.

river boat safari

The views during the river boat safari

Do a river boat safari

Doing a boat safari is one of the best things to do in Bentota, which is home to the third largest river in Sri Lanka having. Boat safaris have different duration and can last anything from a couple of hours to the whole day. Whichever one you opt to do, make sure that yours include a visit of the mangrove lagoon as it’s truly gorgeous. 

During the cruise you’ll get to see various species of birds (herons, cormorants, kingfisher and so on), bats, beautiful villas with direct access to the river, abandoned buildings, the mangrove and array of reptiles including snakes, lizards and crocodiles – though the latter ones are very rare now. 

If you do a full day cruise you even get to see a traditional village where you’ll have lunch. 

TIP: Make sure your boat includes an English speaking guide or else you’ll miss on a lot of what this river has to offer!

Excursions are organized by hotels, guest houses and water-sport centers. The price depends on the duration and on the number of people on the boat. 

rescued turtles

Two rescued turtles. One is albino

Visit the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery

Due to the fact that sea turtles are on the verge of extinction in Sri Lanka, several projects have been launched to protect, rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles. Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery was established in the 1980s and it is one of the 18 hatcheries in the country. Visiting is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.

At the hatchery you will get to see several species of turtles, ranging in size from the egg till the elderly age; some with disabilities and others that were injured by fishermen, plastic garbage or bigger fishes. The eggs are taken away from the beach in order to protect them from predators like birds, dogs, crabs and poachers. They are gathered and preserved until they are hatched; and they are eventually released in the ocean. 

Several volunteers works on this project. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The hatchery is located between Bentota and Ahungalla and you can get there by car, tuk tuk, bike and public transports. The entrance fee is 1000 LKR (around $5.5 USD) for adults and 500 LKR for children; opening hours are from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm on Sunday and Monday. All the earnings go to the project. Donations are welcome. 

Join a yoga class

A yoga class is one of the nicest things to do in Bentota. It’s a great way to relax the body and free it of its tensions. 

There are several schools where you can attend a session. Experienced teachers will guide you through the various postures, breathing techniques and meditation.

Shopping at Ambalangoda

If you want to buy something typical Ceylonese as a souvenir, one of the nicest things to do in Bentota is heading to Ambalangoda, a coastal town which is about 24 km from it, on a shopping spree.  

This town is known for the manufacture of ancient wooden devil masks, which has been passed on from one generation to the other. Many people in Sri Lanka still believe that afflictions and diseases are caused by demons and these masks are worn during dances that evoke the demons. Different masks are used for different purposes. 

It certainly is a nice souvenir to bring back home.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can get to Ambalangoda by car, train or bus that run on a daily basis.

Temples near Bentota

There are several temples and pagodas near Bentota

Visit Kande Vihara Temple

Finally, among the things to do in Bentota there is visiting Kande Vihare Temple. Located on the mountain crest, from which its name is taken, it can be easily reached by bicycle, tuk tuk or car.

The temple was founded in 1734 and since 1904 it’s been used by monks, who are still been found there. It’s a place of education for other monks. 

Next to the temple there is a huge statue of a cross-legged Buddha, one of the tallest of Sri Lanka overlooking the entire surrounding area. It was finished in 2006. Once inside you’ll find the Relic chamber, one of the oldest and the most beautiful room in the temple. Make sure not to skip the image house, the stupa and the bo tree, which dates from more than 300 years ago and has a spiritual and religious significance – it is thought to be a holy tree among the Buddhists.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The temple is open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. There is no entrance fee though donations are welcome. Make sure to be dressed modestly. Mornings are best to visit if you want to observe the rituals.  

Workers at Lunuganga

People in Bentota are extremely friendly

Practical Tips To Plan Your Trip To Bentota, Sri Lanka

Where to sleep in Bentota

There is no shortage of good places to stay in Bentota. The following is a selection of the best:

How to get to Bentota

You can easily reach Bentota from Colombo by train, bus (get off at Aluthgama and then take a tuk tuk) or by car in two hours. An additional part of the highway was opened at the end 2019 so now it’s even faster to drive from the airport to Bentota.

How to move around Bentota

The best way to move around Bentota is by bike and tuk tuk. Remember you always have to haggle the prices!

When to visit Bentota

Keep in mind that Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, and you may end up catching some rain even if you do your best to avoid it. In general, the best season to visit Sri Lanka is between December and March.

Other useful information 

Make sure to check if you need a visa before you travel to Sri Lanka. At the moment, citizens of many countries – including the United States, Canada and all EU countries – get a visa waiver. You still have to apply for the visa traveling, but don’t have to pay for it. Should you need to get a regular visa, you can easily apply for your visa online here.

Make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

For further readings Sri Lanka, you can check one of these books:

Further readings about Sri Lanka

For more information about Sri Lanka, make sure to read the following posts:

This post was written by My Adventures Across The World contributor Elisabetta Tavani.

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau during my trip to Sri Lanka, and I wish to thank them for the incredible trip and all the useful insights. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain mine. 

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Read about the things to see and do in Bentota - via @clautavani

 

A Complete Guide To Visiting Nine Arch Bridge

A Complete Guide To Visiting Nine Arch Bridge

Visiting Nine Arch Bridge is a must when in Ella. In the last few years, this has become one of the most iconic attractions in the country. Completed in 1921 and entirely made of brick, stone and cement, the bridge has nice arches, with a total length of 91 meters and a height of 24 meters.

Nine Arch Bridge is located between Ella and Demodara stations, on a green valley and surrounded by gorgeous tea plantations. It’s one of those hidden gems that will soon make it on the wishlist of anybody visiting Sri Lanka.

Upon visiting, it is easy to see why. The area where the bridge is located is lush and absolutely charming, in a mysterious kind of way. After all, this is the Hill Country – one of the most beautiful regions of Sri Lanka, famous for the train journeys that are thought to be among the most beautiful in the world.

In this post, I explain everything you need to know to visit Nine Arch Bridge, with plenty of tips to avoid the crowds and to fully enjoy your visit. Before doing that, however, let me go through its history.

standing on nine arch bridge

You can walk along the bridge – but watch out for the train!

The History Of Nine Arch Bridge

As I have already pointed out, Nine Arch Bridge was completed in 1921, when Sri Lanka was still part of the British Empire. Located in Gotuwala, between the stations of Ella and Demodara, it was known as the “nine skies bridge,” a name that apparently refers to the fact that, if you stand below the bridge, you can see the sky through its arches.

The bridge was built in stone, cement and bricks because, at the time of its construction, World War I was waging in Europe and materials such as steel and other metals had to be used in the war effort – in order to complete the bridge, it was thus decided to use whatever other materials would be available.

tea plantations

There are tea plantations right under the bridge

11 Things To Know Before Visiting Nine Arch Bridge

You can easily get there from Ella

Ella is the most obvious access point to get to Nine Arch Bridge. From there, you can take a tuk tuk for around 600 LKR (Sri Lanka Rupees) (round trip). Alternatively, turn left at Sri Kanaser Temple on the Ella to Passara road and from there you just have to follow the signs.

Once you get off the tuk tuk, it is a 30 minute walk through the jungle and tea fields, whichever part of the bridge you decide to go to.

You can get to Nine Arch Bridge from Little Adam’s Peak

One alternative and fun way to get to Nine Arch Bridge is from the summit of Little Adam’s Peak hike. From there, you can follow a trail that goes directly to the bridge, so you can save some time if you are in town for a limited amount of time and want to hit both attractions on the same day. The hike can take between two and three hours, depending on how often you stop.

There are several viewpoints

You have plenty of places from which you can admire Nine Arch Bridge. Where you go is all a matter of what kind of views you prefer. I decided to wait for the train to arrive from the small coconut shop near the bridge – so most of my photos are taken from there.

These are the most famous viewpoints.

The coconut shop

Coming down from the trail where the tuk tuk leaves you, you get to a viewpoint where there is a small coconut shop. There are a couple of tables – the place is actually very modest. But the views of the bridge are just perfect.

Asanka Café

This café is thought to have the best views of the bridge. It’s located on the northern end of the bridge, and offers stunning views of the curve of the bridge. From there, you will be able to see the train as it comes out of the tunnel.

The hills above the bridge

On the same side as Asanka CafAè you will find a track on your right hand side that will lead you to a nice viewpoint.

The tea plantations

Pretty much anywhere below the bridge, there are tea plantations from where you can look up and get stunning shots. If you intend to go there, keep in mind that this is private land; it will be muddy and that you may find leeches, so you really need to wear proper shoes.

The hills on the way to Ella station

If you go towards the tunnel at the end of the bridge, on the way to Ella, you will get to the forest and you can walk up for perfect views of the bridge and the train passing on it.

Nine Arch Bridge view

One of the best views of the bridge

It is free to visit

Like many other incredible attractions in Sri Lanka, Nine Arch Bridge is free to visit. You will only have to pay for the tuk tuk ride to get there – unless you decide to walk all the way there.

You should plan to visit in the dry season

Nine Arch Bridge is located in Ella, in the Uva Province, south of Kandy, at about 1000 meters above sea level. This part of Sri Lanka is not as hot as the rest of the island, but it tends to rain regularly. I recommend visiting between January and April and between June and September to skip the peak rainy season. Keep in mind that there are chances of rain even when it is supposed to be dry season.

When I visited Nine Arch Bridge, at the end of October, I got quite a bit of rain!

The early morning hours are the best

Nine Arch Bridge is not a crowded attraction, but if you really want to have the place all to yourself, make sure to plan your visit around sunrise time – it’s best for light and even for rain (it tends to start raining in the early afternoon). The only downside of visiting at sunrise is that there are no trains passing on the bridge,

You should look at the train timetable to plan your visit

The best time to visit Nine Arch Bridge is when the train is crossing it. The train from Kandy to Bandarawela (via Ella) runs several times a day. However, keep in mind it is rarely on time so check the train timetable but factor in enough time for it to arrive. As you wait for the train, you can walk around to admire the tea plantations. You will know when the train is about to arrive as a whistle will announce it.

You can expect trains to go over the bridge at the following times: 9:30 am; 11:30 am; 3:30 pm; 4:30 pm; 5:30 pm.

There are guided tours that take you there

You can easily visit Nine Arch Bridge independently, but if you have limited time in Ella and want to hit all the main attractions in one day, you can opt for a guided tour.

These are the best options:

You can sip coconut while you admire the views

There is a small coconut shop with tables and the best views right in front of the bridge. There, you can get a fresh coconut for a real steal. It’s a nice and refreshing way to spend some time while waiting for the train.

walking along the tracks

Walking along the tracks

There are leeches on the trail

Especially during rainy season, leeches are a common issue in Sri Lanka. Make sure to wear shoes (best if hiking boots) and thick socks to protect your ankles, and to avoid walking on the grass where leeches may be hiding. We didn’t have an issue, but we saw several people battling to take them off.

You need to be dressed properly

The main reason I suggest appropriate attire when visiting Nine Arch Bridge is that there is a bit of walking to do (nothing strenuous); there are leeches on the trail; and the chances of rain are high. You should plan to wear good shoes, socks and rain proof gear.

This is a list of essential items to wear and carry:

Hills around Nine Arch Bridge

The hills around Nine Arch Bridge

Other Useful Information For Visiting Nine Arch Bridge

Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Ella

If you aren’t a fan of planning your trips or have no time for it, you may consider a guided tour of Sri Lanka. Most of them go to Ella. G Adventures has several good ones. These are a few of them:

Where to sleep and eat in Ella

Ella is the starting point for visiting Nine Arch Bridge, and has some excellent accommodation options. You can eat your meals at the hotel or guest house, but you will be glad to know that there are a few good restaurants in Ella. These are the best places to stay:

Other useful information

Keep in mind you may need a visa to visit Sri Lanka, so make sure to research before you fly. At the moment, citizens of many countries – including the United States, Canada and all EU countries – do not need to pay for a visa, but still have to apply for it. Should you need to get a regular visa, you can easily apply for your visa online here.

I also recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Sri Lanka. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

For further readings Sri Lanka, you can check one of these books:

Further posts about Sri Lanka

Make sure to read my other posts about Sri Lanka for extra help in planning your trip:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau during my trip to Sri Lanka, and I wish to thank them for the incredible trip and all the useful insights. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain mine. 

Pin It For Later!

Find out everything you should know about Nine Arch Bridge Sri Lanka - via @clautavani

Read what you need to know about Nine Arch Bridge - via @clautavani

 

 

A Complete Guide To Hiking Little Adam’s Peak

A Complete Guide To Hiking Little Adam’s Peak

Hiking Little Adam’s Peak is a must when in Ella. This is an easy, pleasant hike which is a great alternative to the most famous Adam’s Peak – a pilgrimage hike in Sri Lanka.

The Hill Country, where Ella is located, is one of the most beautiful parts of Sri Lanka – picture lush vegetation, mountain peaks, tea plantations. People visit to do tea tasting, to experience the many waterfalls of the region, and to enjoy a bit of hiking in a mild climate before getting back to the heat of the coast.

Little Adam’s Peak got its name thanks to its resemblance to Adam’s Peak, located closer to Nuwara Eliya and thought to be a holy mountain. With its 2243 meters peak, this is a much more challenging hike – so if you are in the mood for a hike, but at the same time want to do something easy and manageable, opt to hike Little Adam’s Peak.

In this post, I explain everything you need to know to hike Little Adam’s Peak, and share some practical tips that will help you make the most of your time there.

The view from Little Adam's Peak

The view from Little Adam’s Peak

Hiking Little Adam’s Peak

The two trails to Little Adam’s Peak

You can pick one of two ways to reach the top of Little Adam’s Peak: the first is a longer and beautiful trail that goes through the tea plantations and the second is a series of steps that will take you all the way to the top.

The trail you pick should depend on the season. I hiked in the rain season so I went for the shorter trail.

The trail through the tea plantations

From the main road in Ella, you can easily reach Ella Flower Garden where the trail begins. You will be walking through tea plantations, so chances are you will spot women picking tea. The hike is nice and easy, with no major challenges, but you will need hiking shoes or at least trainers so make sure you don’t get leeches on your legs – especially if hiking in the rain season!

The staircase trail

If you intend to hike during the rain season, go for the easy trail through the steps as there will be leeches on the grass, and these are a real nuisance.

This trail starts inside the grounds of 98 Acres Hotel, at the main gate where tuk tuks are parked. It is a steady but easy ascent, with no major challenges and beautiful views at the beginning and at the end of the trail.

Practical information for both trails

Overall walking time: This trail takes about 1 and a half  to 2 hours overall, including time for photos and to admire the views.

The hike should take no longer than one hour to go and come back – add a bit more time if you want to take it extra easy and take some pictures. If you decide to use the stairway trail, it takes even less time.

Difficulty level: Easy.

Both trails are well marked and easy to follow., with either clear signs or a path that is fairly obvious.

GOOD TO KNOW: On your way to the top you’ll encounter many lovely dogs that seem to know the trail very well and that seem to enjoy a bit of a rest in a quiet spot at the top.

After hiking, you can reward yourself with a nice cup of tea and some food at 98 Acres Cafè and Restaurant. The view from there is also really splendid.

trail to Nine Arch Bridge

The trail actually continues to Nine Arch Bridge

Continuing to Nine Arch Bridge

Once you get to the summit, you have the option to continue your hike to Nine Arch Bridge, a very famous attraction in this part of the country. There is a trail that goes directly to the bridge, so you can save some time by heading there directly rather than going back to town and then take a tuk tuk to drive you all the way there.

It’s another two to three hours to get to Nine Arch Bridge. Make sure to check the train timetable so that you get there in time to take photos as the train passes on the bridge.

If you have little time to hike, or don’t want to deal with the various arrangements, you can go on a guided tour of Ella that takes you to all the most famous attractions. These are the best tours – some include hiking:

views along the trail to Little Adam's Peak

The views along the trail to Little Adam’s Peak

The Sights

The view throughout the hike are stunning. Whichever trail you pick, you won’t be disappointed. You will be going through tea plantations, and will many great photo opportunities. At the top, you’ll find two viewpoints – you will recognize one by the presence of a Buddha statue. From there, you’ll be able to see the valley, Ella Rock, Ella Gap, Newburg Tea Factory and Rawana falls flowing through the hills.

If you want, you can continue walking for another kilometer until you reach a second peak. Needless to say, the view from there is just as amazing.

Dog at Little Adam's Peak

A cute dog rests at the peak of the trail

What To Expect When Hiking Little Adam’s Peak

Getting to the beginning of the trail

The starting point of the hike to Little Adam’s Peak is the entrance of 98 Acres Hotel. You will need to follow the road down towards the hotel spa, and from there you will get to the main gate where tuk tuks are parked. Immediately on the left, you will find signs pointing towards Little Adam’s Peak.

If you want to opt for the longer trail, you will need to reach Ella Flower Garden, at about 1.5 km out of Ella long the main road.

Hiking fees

Hiking Little Adam’s Peak is completely free. You may only pay the fee for a tuk tuk to reach 98 Acres Hotel, where the trail starts.

Guided tours of Ella that go to Little Adam’s Peak

The trail to Little Adam’s Peak is easy to follow and you will meet many people along the way. Should you have limited time in this part of Sri Lanka, you may want to join a guided tour that includes all the most popular places to visit, as well as a guided hike to the peak. These are the best options:

Food and drink

Unless you are planning to continue hiking all the way to Nine Arch Bridge, all you’ll need for this hike is enough water and some light snack if you want. You will find water vendors at the top of the trail, and you will be able to get food and drink at the end of the hike at 98 Acres Restaurant.

tea plantations on the way to Little Adam's Peak

Tea plantations on the way to Little Adam’s Peak

When to hike Little Adam’s Peak

Little Adam’s Peak is in Ella, which is located in Uva Province, south of Kandy, at about 1000 meters above sea level. The temperatures in this part of Sri Lanka are usually not nearly as warm as they are in the rest of the country.

I recommend visiting Ella and Sri Lanka in general from January till April and from June till September to skip the rainy season and leeches that infest any greenery. In any case, keep in mind that chances of rain are high even in the dry season.

When I visited Ella, at the end of October, I got quite a bit of rain!

Best time of day to hike Little Adam’s Peak

The best time to hike Little Adam’s Peak is in the early morning hours or a bit before the sunset. I suggest you check the weather conditions before starting the climb – you want to make it won’t be foggy, which is actually a very common thing in this part of Sri Lanka.

An early morning hike minimizes the risk of bad weather, as it generally starts raining and fogging up in the early afternoon. I started my hike at around 12:00 and it got really foggy soon after I got to the top. I was lucky enough to have time for photos before the views got completely blocked by the fog!

Essential items to wear and carry

This is a relatively easy hike, yet I recommend being properly equipped for it.

This is a list of essential items to wear and carry:

Where to sleep and eat in Ella

Ella is the starting point for the hike to Little Adam’s Peak. There are some excellent accommodation options. Although there are quite a few restaurants in Ella, much like in the rest of the country, hotels or guest houses also serve meals. These are the best places to stay in Ella:

Other useful information

You may need a visa to visit Sri Lanka, so make sure to check this before your trip. At the moment, citizens of many countries – including the United States, Canada and all EU countries – have obtained a visa waiver. You still have to apply for the visa before you go, but don’t have to pay for it. Should you need to get a regular visa, you can easily apply for your visa online here.

I also recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

For further readings Sri Lanka, you can check one of these books:

Further posts about Sri Lanka

Make sure to read my other posts about Sri Lanka for extra help in planning your trip:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau during my trip to Sri Lanka, and I wish to thank them for the incredible trip and all the useful insights. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain mine. 

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Where To Do A Safari In Sri Lanka

Where To Do A Safari In Sri Lanka

A safari in Sri Lanka is a great way to admire the incredible wildlife variety that this country has to offer.

Though most people think of African countries when they hear the word “safari,” you should know that Asian countries such as India, Nepal and especially Sri Lanka are great wildlife viewing destinations.

There are many fantastic national parks in Sri Lanka that you can choose from to do a safari. However, you have to pick wisely depending on the kind of experience you want to have, and you have to go prepared knowing what to expect and what to look for.

I have been on a few safaris in three different national parks in Sri Lanka, and each place offered a different experience. In this post, I highlight three of the best places to do a safari in Sri Lanka, and share some information and considerations that will help you pick the most suitable one.

But, first of all, let me explain why you really should consider doing a safari during your trip to Sri Lanka.

Safari in Sri Lanka

A safari in Sri Lanka is simply a must!

Why You Should Consider Doing A Safari In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is blessed with an incredibly lush landscape, perfect for wildlife to thrive. Chances are that even if you don’t actually go to one of the 26 national parks in Sri Lanka, you’ll end up spotting animals here and there.

Among the species you’ll be able to spot there are Asian elephants (around 7000 currently live in Sri Lanka), which are a bit smaller than their African cousins, with the majority having no tusks (something researchers say is a result of evolution to minimize the risk of being poached). You can spot them in many places, and in regions with the highest concentration you may come across them even while you drive – elephant crossing signs are quite common in Sri Lanka, just as actual elephants crossing! (I saw a couple myself).

You’ll also have a chance of seeing water buffalos, jackals, bears, spotted dears, a wealth of bird species, and if you are really lucky you will be able to see leopards – it is said that around 100 leopards live just in the area of Yala National Park.

Another reason to do a safari in Sri Lanka is that it is very budget friendly. Safaris are normally associated with luxury, and to be fair they usually are. Thanks to the small national park fees and the overall budget friendly costs of traveling in Sri Lanka, doing safaris in this country is actually much easier than anywhere else in the world. This obviously has its consequences – but I will talk about it later on in this post.

Gal Oya National Park

Gal Oya National Park is a lesser visited one

3 Beautiful National Parks To Do A Safari In Sri Lanka

With a whopping 26 national parks in Sri Lanka, picking one for a safari is a difficult task. Each park offers something different in terms of landscape, wildlife and overall experience.

Some parks are a bit more difficult to reach compared to others, and have less accommodation options nearby, which in turns means that they are lesser visited and you are bound to having a more private experience.

Other parks are significantly more accessible and, because of that, more crowded. With crowds, animals tend to retreat to safety and spotting them may become more difficult.

My advice is to pick a park which is within your itinerary – with so many parks to pick from, it wouldn’t make any sense to go out of your way!

Now, without any further ado, let me tell you about my favorite national parks for a safari in Sri Lanka.

Gal Oya National Park

Of all the national parks in Sri Lanka, Gal Oya has to be my favorite. I went during my first trip to the country and fully enjoyed my time there.

Located on the eastern part of the island, Gal Oya was established in 1954. It’s one of the largest national parks in Sri Lanka, and one of the lesser visited, thanks to the blissful isolation and the fact that there are very few accommodation options nearby. Chances are that if you go for a safari there, you won’t see many other visitors.

Gal Oya is a prime destination for elephant watching, but you’ll also be able to see spotted dears, crocodiles and various species of birds.

At Gal Oya you’ll have the chance to either do a classic jeep safari, in cars that fit up to six passengers, or a boat safari (this is the only place in the country where you’ll have the chance of doing that) in Sri Lanka’s largest man made lake. Safaris start very early in the morning, or in the late afternoon, when the days is cooler and animals are out and about feeding.

Various companies run safaris in Gal Oya National Park. I recommend joining game drives led by Gal Oya Lodge, as they are run in full respect of animal welfare by experienced and knowledgeable guides.

Should you want to book a safari in Gal Oya online, these are some options:

How to get to Gal Oya National Park

Getting to Gal Oya National Park via public transportation is not easy – and this is probably why not that many people go.

The closest large town is Bibile, which can be easily reached by public transportation from Kandy and other places in the Hill Country. From there, you can take another bus towards Ampara, or a tuk tuk, to go all the way to Gal Oya Lodge, which usually is the place where visitors stay when visiting the national park. The ride from Bibile to Gal Oya Lodge usually lasts around 45 minutes.

Where to stay near Gal Oya National Park

Gal Oya Lodge is the only good place place to stay near Gal Oya National Park. It’s not cheap at all, but it is 100% sustainable, entirely immersed in nature, and they organize game drives with well trained rangers. The on site restaurants serves delicious food. There is no phone reception, so you will be blissfully isolated. Check here for rates and here for reviews.

Kaudulla National Park

Kaudulla National Park is an excellent place to see elephants

Kaudulla National Park

Together with Minneriya, Kaudulla is home to some of the largest elephant gatherings in the world. Elephant gatherings usually take place between June and November, when the levels of water decrease and elephants move from one area to the other in search for food and drink.

Going on a safari in Kaudulla means you’ll have the chance of seeing the highest number of elephants you can think of – there are hundreds of elephants (adult male and females, juveniles, and even new borns) all close to each other, grazing through the grass. Other animals you may be able to see are storks, fish eagles, and leopards (though the latter are not seen very often).

The main drawback of doing a safari in Kaudulla National Park is that it is very crowded. Getting there is easy if you are staying in the area of Dambulla and Sigiriya, and with the budget rates to get in the park, this means that there generally are quite a few jeeps driving around in search of elephants.

In other words, if you are going for a safari in Sri Lanka pick Kaudulla knowing that this won’t be a private experience. It’s still better than Minneriya, which is even more crowded – to the point that elephants are now accustomed to jeeps and their migratory route has been changing because of that.

At Kaudulla you’ll be able to go for a morning or afternoon game drive, which usually lasts between two and three hours, to which you should add the time to travel from and back to your hotel. You’ll be going around in a jeep that sits up to six passengers, and that has a canvas roof that can be put down so that you can stand up and take photos. Unfortunately, when I visited it was pouring – so the roof had to stay on.

Safaris in Kaudulla can be arranged directly from your hotel, which will take care to find a good jeep and driver for you. The price of the safari will include the fee for the jeep (this is usually fixed and can be shared among passengers) and the entry fee to the park. Any tip for the driver / guide is an added cost.

Alternatively, you can book your safari in advance online. These are some good options:

The Crowded Planet has a full guide about Kaudulla National Park you may find useful.

How to get to Kaudulla National Park

Most people visit Kaudulla National Park from either Polannaruwa or Dambulla / Sigiriya. From either towns, it is an easy tuk tuk drive. Alternatively, you can join a tour that directly departs from your hotel.

Where to stay near Kaudulla National Park

The best place to stay near Kaudulla National Park is Dambulla. There, the best hotel is by far Jetwing Lake. The hotel has spacious rooms decorated in traditional local style, with views of a beautiful lake and park. There is a 72 meters long pool, a spa where you can get beauty treatments and massages for a real steal, a buffet restaurant and even a Chinese restaurant. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews

Yala National Park

An elephant showing signs of stress at Yala National Park

Yala National Park

Of all the national parks to do a safari in Sri Lanka, this is my least favorite. Yala National Park is the second largest and by far the most famous national park in Sri Lanka. The wildlife variety in Yala is outstanding. There are 215 species of birds; more than 40 mammals including elephants and leopards (it is said that around 100 live in the park, making it the one with the highest density of leopards in the world) and sloth bears; reptiles such as crocodiles and the cobra.

Yala National Park is divided in five different sectors, and visitors normally get to visit one or two at the most – the majority goes to sector 1, as it is the easiest one to reach. Some tourists occasionally go to sector 5.

The main issue with Yala is that, because it is so popular and so easy to reach, it is extremely crowded with jeeps. Chances are that you will see a line at the gate well before opening time, at 6:00 am, and as soon as you get in, jeeps will start racing and driving recklessly, passing other jeeps from all sides, so that they have a chance to be the first ones and the first in line at an animal sighting.

As a result of the crowds and the noise, animals tend to hide more than usual, or they show signs of stress – an elephant charged a jeep right in front of ours when we visited!

Despite the fact that Yala should be a prime location for wildlife watching, the overall experience tends to be a bit disappointing.

Safaris in Yala usually start very early in the morning, or in the late afternoon. They last around 3 hours, during which you go around in a jeep, including heading to a beautiful, secluded beach.

You can book your safari in Yala through your hotel, and even online. This is a good selection:

How to get to Yala National Park

The closest town to Yala National Park is Tissamaharama, which can be easily reached from Ella (around 2 hours) or even Galle (3 hours).

Where to stay near Yala National Park

You will find a good range of budget accommodation options in Tissamaharama.

If you are opting for something more comfortable, go to Jetwing Yala – it has gorgeous rooms in a nature setting, and it is very close tot he park. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews

peacock in Yala

Peacocks are a common sight in Yala National Park

Practical Information And Tips For Doing A Safari In Sri Lanka

The best time for a safari in Sri Lanka

National parks in Sri Lanka are open for safaris year round, so you can really go when you want. Having said so, the best time to do a safari in Sri Lanka is usually the dry season, as more animals are out at the fewer water sources, and this means you’ll have more opportunities to spot them. On the other hand, dry season also means more crowds!

GOOD TO KNOW: Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, so different parts of the country are hit with rain in different months. Keep this in mind when planning where to go for a safari.

How long to factor in for a safari in Sri Lanka

This is totally up to you! However, Sri Lanka is not like Africa and you don’t have to spend days doing a safari. Most safaris take half a day, or a day at most, which I am sure you can easily spare in your itinerary. If you really want to extend your safari experience, you could consider going glamping in places like Gal Oya, where you’d have a whole range of other activities to keep you entertained for days.

The costs of a safari in Sri Lanka

Doing a safari in Sri Lanka is really not expensive – and that’s probably part of the reason why parks are so crowded.

This is a typical breakdown of costs:

$25 USD for the park entry fee – to be paid in Sri Lanka Rupees, and according to the daily exchange rate.

$35 USD – around 6000 Sri Lanka Rupees – for the jeep rental, to be shared among the various members group.

Additional tip for the driver.

Elephant in Yala

An elephant literally surrounded by jeeps in Yala National Park

Issues with safaris in Sri Lanka

Safaris in Sri Lanka aren’t nearly as nicely regulated as they are in Africa.

First of all, the government doesn’t limit the amount of jeeps that can get into a park. National parks thus end up being terribly crowded, and the fact that there is no regulation establishing how close to an animal you can get only adds to that – with cars that really get too close.

Jeep drivers behave terribly bad – they race among themselves to get closer to animals; they encircle them; and the end result is that animals are so stressed that they even charge the cars (I saw an elephant doing that in Yala). I have also been told that a reason why drivers behave so badly in parks is that they feel the pressure of pleasing their tourists and showing them more wildlife, so that they get higher tips.

Tips for a better safari experience

Having said so, if done properly a safari in Sri Lanka can be an incredible experience!

So, here are a few tips to make sure that your safari runs smoothly:

  • Do your research before you go! Check reviews of tour companies running safaris in search of signs of bad behavior. Do tourists mention the car getting close to animals, rather than the opposite? Do they mention reckless driving or chasing wildlife? If so, then it’s a big no no.
  • Make sure you tell your driver that you won’t tolerate any bad behavior. Tell him that you won’t accept speeding, chasing animals, and driving recklessly through the park.
  • Look for reviews pointing to a good guide that shows excellent knowledge of the local wildlife.

Make sure to read my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

What to wear for a safari in Sri Lanka

The main key when doing a safari, anywhere in the world, is to wear color neutral clothes. Go for comfortable pants vs. a dress or skirt, as there are likely to be mosquitoes; make sure to wear shoes rather than sandals for the same reason; and wear a long sleeves shirt. A hat will be necessary if you are going in the dry season and the canvas roof of the jeep is rolled up.

Remember to put sun block on, and to carry enough water for the duration of the safari. And don’t forget your camera!

For a more detailed guide, head over to my post “What To Wear On Safari.”

Further readings about Sri Lanka

For further readings about Sri Lanka in general, you can check one of these books:

Make sure to also read my other posts about Sri Lanka:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau during my trip to Sri Lanka, and I wish to thank them for the incredible trip and all the useful insights. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain mine. 

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13 Incredibly Cool Things To Do In Colombo

13 Incredibly Cool Things To Do In Colombo

Although often overlooked, there are actually more things to do in Colombo than you’d imagine and if you are visiting Sri Lanka, you should consider spending a day or two exploring its largest city.

Usually referred to as Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo actually is just its judicial and executive center – the capital is indeed Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, of which most foreigners (including myself, I must admit) never even heard about. Most people would tell you that you should skip Colombo during your trip to Sri Lanka: there’s lots of traffic and – supposedly – not much to see.

I dissent! I spent a day in Colombo during my last trip to Sri Lanka and I was actually positively surprised by all that it has to offer, and although I did find it intense (traffic, pollution and lots of construction work going on), I think it is very interesting and that it deserves a visit.

In this post, I highlight some of the things to do in Colombo that you should not miss, and share a few useful trip that will help you plan your visit.

Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam

The Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam is one of the most iconic places to visit in Colombo

13 Things To Do In Colombo That You Shouldn’t Miss

Visit Gangaramaya

One of the unmissable things to do in Colombo is visiting the many temples. Gangaramaya is simply a must.

Located on 61 Sri Jinarathana Rd, this is Colombo’s most important Buddhist temple. It’s actually a pretty large temple, with several buildings which include a pagoda, a library, a small museum with a pretty random exhibit, a display of donations and gifts from devotees, and – apparently – even a relic of Buddha’s hair. There even is a stuffed elephant on display – a bit out of place to be honest, and you kind of feel sad for the poor animal being there on display!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can get in for just 300 Rupees, which is about $3 USD. The temple is open from 5:30 am to 10:00 pm.

Admire the colors of the Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam

Located on 11/15, Captain’s Garden Kovil Street, this is honestly the most impressive temple you will see in Colombo. It’s a Hindu temple, with very detailed and incredibly colorful artwork, both inside and outside.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can get inside this temple for free, but beware of the opening hours, which are from 6:00 to 10:30 am and from 4:30 to 6:00 or 7:00 pm.

Walk around the Fort

The Fort area is overall one of the most interesting places to visit in Colombo. Most of the old buildings in the area belong to the Dutch and British colonial times – when this part of town really was a fort. Next to them, you’ll find some very modern buildings – so the overall feeling you get is that of a very eclectic place.

Places of interest inside the Fort include Old Galle Buck Lighthouse, which was built in 1954 and from where you can enjoy nice views of the ocean and the harbor; the Clock Tower, which actually used to be a lighthouse and was built in 1857; Central Point, which dates back to 1914, is the biggest building in the area and has been beautifully renovated; and Lloyd’s Building, which dates back to 1908.

Enjoy some down time at the Old Dutch Hospital 

Among the nicest things to do in Colombo, there’s visiting the Old Dutch Hospital. Inside the Fort area, you will also find the Old Dutch Hospital. It dates back to the early 17th century and it is thought to be the oldest building in the area. It has been beautifully restored and now is a lovely place to sit for a drink or to shop – needless to say, it is not a hospital anymore!

Beira Lake

Beira Lake is a famous attraction in Colombo

Walk around Beira Lake

One of the most local things to do in Colombo is going for a walk around Beira Lake. Close to Gangaramaya Temple, this large lake is of a bright green color – I assume it is because it is very polluted. In the middle the lake there is a small island with the Simamalaka Shrine. It’s a nice place to chill for a bit. You can rent one of the pedal boats to go around a bit.

Climb up Lotus Tower

This is one of the most famous landmarks in Colombo – the kind of thing you can see from a distance. I didn’t have the chance to go up when I visited, but the views from there must be impressive.

things to do in Colombo

Independence Memorial Hall – one of the most important landmarks in Colombo

Hang out at Independence Memorial Hall

This is probably one of my favorite things to do in Colombo. It’s a nice place, airy, spacious, where locals hang out and from where the views are beautiful. It is perfect for photos thanks to the beautiful light and its architecture.

The building commemorates Sri Lanka independence from Great Britain, which occurred on 4 February 1948. It is surrounded by a nice garden and there is a status of Sri Lanka’s first president, Stephen Senanayake, right in front of it.

Go to Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque

This is by far one of the best places to visit in Colombo. It’s a gorgeous building that dates back to 1909, and it looks like candy.

TIP: Beware of touts hanging outside the mosque. You’re likely to find people demanding money to take photos of the mosque, but they are by no means staff members!

Shop at Pettah Markets

One of the nicest things to do in Colombo is exploring Pettah Markets. There actually are several – including a floating one.

The fruit and vegetable markets is likely to be your favorite. It’s packed with color, and with the smell of delicious fresh fruit – if you have a chance, definitely try the pineapples (they taste nothing like they do in Europe or the US!) and mangoes. There are several kinds of mangos – this is one thing I learned in Sri Lanka, actually. The best one is Alphonso, with Karutha Colomban a close second.

Visit Colombo National Museum

Among the unmissable things to do in Colombo there’s visiting the National Museum. This is the largest museum in the country, and dates back to 1876, when Sri Lanka was still under British rule. It has an interesting exhibit of art and crafts that will help you get a better understanding of Sri Lanka’s history and culture.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is located in Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha. The entrance fee is 350 Rupees (around $2 USD) and the museum is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Explore Viharamahadevi Park

Formerly known as Victoria Park, it is located near the National Museum and it’s a nice place to go for a walk. There is a giant golden Buddha Statue and some nice water fountains. Exploring this part of town is one of the things to do in Colombo.

places to visit in Colombo

Galle Face Green is a favorite locals’ hangout

Chill at Galle Face Green 

Hanging out at this waterfront really is one of the nicest things to do in Colombo. This is where the locals go for a walk, to swim in the ocean at the end of a hot day at work, and to enjoy local snacks and street food. It’s a really pleasant place to walk around, and you’ll have plenty of excellent photo opportunities.

Now – don’t picture a wide beach and clear turquoise waters. You can see from my photo that the beach is very narrow: you have go do down the stairs to get there. And the water is anything but clear. It’s the ocean after all. But it still a nice place to spend an hour or so.

Enjoy local street food

Among the tastiest things to do in Colombo, there is trying the local street food. When you are in Galle Face Green, you will be tempted to try some of the local specialties. I say, go for it! You’ll see many small stalls, some selling pop corn, potato or manioc chips and other international goodies. Opt for the more local ones and make sure to try parippu wade – it’s a sort of deep fried lentils topped with fried shrimps. It’s not exactly light, but it is oh so tasty.

food in Sri Lanka

Galle Face Green is a nice place to try local street food

Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Colombo

Guided tours of Colombo

If you want to make the most of Colombo without having to worry about getting around, you may want to do a guided city tour. Here are some good options:

Where to stay in Colombo

There are a few excellent hotels in Colombo, and as it usually happens in Sri Lanka, all of them have at good on-site restaurants.

This is a selection of of good accommodation options in Colombo:

Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Colombo

Sri Lanka can be easily visited independently, but if don’t have time to plan, don’t like it, or just  want to leave the job to the experts, you can count on some good guided trips. G Adventures Sri Lanka encompassed tour goes to all the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka, including Colombo.

Lotus Tower Colombo

The Lotus Tower can be spotted from many places in Colombo

How to get to Colombo

In Sri Lanka, Colombo is the best connected city and you can easily reach it from pretty much anywhere via the excellent public transportation system.

Colombo is at about 30 to 45 minutes drive from the airport (which is actually closer to Negombo), depending on traffic. The best way to get there is a private transfer, which you can book here for just $5 USD.

How to move around Colombo

Traffic in Sri Lanka can be hectic, and it is actually insane in Colombo. You have several options to move around town.

By bus

The good news is that public transportation works well in Sri Lanka, even within the city. Buses very budget friendly; and you’ll have plenty of buses to move around. The bad news is that buses are usually very crowded, and in the terrible traffic they move really slowly.

By tuk tuk

Tuk tuks are everywhere in Sri Lanka; they are an efficient way to go around Colombo and chances are that if you walk around they will spot you from a distance and ask if you need a ride. All you have to do is hail a tuk tuk, check if it has a meter and – if it doesn’t – haggle the price. There even are some apps that allow you to book tuk tuk rides!

By taxi or Uber

The main advantage of going around by taxi or Uber in Colombo is that you are likely to find an air conditioned car – which comes in handy in a city that suffers with terrible heat. Taxis and Ubers are generally inexpensive. You use Uber as you’d do anywhere else; you can hail taxis in the street.

what to do in Colombo

Local women hanging out at the Independence Memorial Hall

When to visit Colombo, Sri Lanka

All in all, it is always a good time to go to Colombo. Keep in mind that Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons that hit different parts of the country at different times, and even though you may do your best to avoid them, you may still get some rain when visiting.

However, it is said that December to March is a good time, with drier days. I went at the end of October and found dry weather – but it was definitely overcast and ready to rain.

How long to stay in Colombo

Despite being the largest city in Sri Lanka, Colombo can be visited in just a day. There are probably enough things to keep you busy if you wish to stay longer, but I honestly recommend heading out to explore the rest of the country, which is actually way prettier.

See my recommendations below for further readings on places to visit in Sri Lanka.

Safety in Colombo

Despite many media channels and governments warnings against travel to Sri Lanka, both times I visited I found the country to be incredibly welcoming and safe. Safety measures in Sri Lanka have been heavily increased since the Easter bombings of April 2019, with regular checks in hotels and places of interest.

In general, I find Sri Lanka one of the most welcoming countries I have visited, with lovely, friendly people. My advice is to use your good judgement when it comes to these warnings, but keep in mind that terrorist attacks can occur anywhere, anytime, and that tourism is a much needed source of revenue for the country.

Other useful information 

Make sure to check out whether you need a visa to get into Sri Lanka. Nationals of many countries – including the United States, Canada and all EU countries – can now benefit of a visa waiver and can get into the country for free. You will still have to apply for the visa, because you will be asked for confirmation at customs. Should you have to pay for your visa, you can easily apply for your visa online here.

I also recommend getting a good travel insurance. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

For further readings about Colombo, you can check one of these books:

Make sure to also read my other posts about Sri Lanka:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau during my trip to Sri Lanka, and I wish to thank them for the incredible trip and all the useful insights. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain mine. 

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Discover the things to do in Colombo Sri Lanka - via @clautavani

Read about the things to see and do in Colombo, Sri Lanka - via @clautavani