13 Things To Know About Whale Watching In Mirissa, Sri Lanka

13 Things To Know About Whale Watching In Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Whale watching in Mirissa can be an incredible experience. 

Together with South Africa, Argentina, The Azores and a few other countries, Sri Lanka is one of the best whale watching destinations in the world.

If you are a fan of seeing wildlife in its natural environment, this is definitely an activity you should add to your trip to Sri Lanka. The good news is that there are several places to do it. The bad news is that whales can only been spotted in certain seasons – so if you are keen on it, you really should consider planning your trip around this. 

In this post, I explain everything you need to know about whale watching in Mirissa and share some useful tips to help you plan your stay and make the most of your time there.

Whale watching in Mirissa

A blue whale showing her tail off the shores of Mirissa

13 Things To Know About Whale Watching In Mirissa

The best viewings are between March and April

You can’t go whale watching in Mirissa year round – the season is from November to April. Keep in mind, however, that the best viewings are between March and April. The rest of the year, with the heavy rains during the monsoons, the sea is simply too rough and it is impossible to get out in search of whales.

You can’t take it for granted that you will spot whales

The first thing you will be told once you book the tour and even as soon as you get on board the boat that will take you whale watching is that there is absolutely no guarantee that you will actually see the whales. You can rest assured that the staff on board the boat will do their absolute best to make sure you have a wonderful experience, but keep in mind that nowhere in the world you should take spotting whales for granted – definitely not when whale watching in Sri Lanka.

You will also spot dolphins and turtles

As an added bonus during your whale watching in Mirissa expedition you will get to see other marine life. Look out for birds – there will be various species flying around. The most impressive sighting, however (other than the whales obviously) are dolphins and sea turtles. 

You must listen to the captain

Personnel on board of the boat has a trained eye and spots whales from a distance – while your untrained eye is probably still browsing the horizon in search for any sign of life. Make sure to listen to personnel onboard. They will tell you where to look for whales and they will say “tail up” any time they can spot a whale about to show off!

Get to know the signs that will help you spot the whales

Blue whales are among the biggest mammals on earth. They can measure up to 30 meters. As they are mammals, they have lungs – they can’t breathe underwater. But their lungs are so huge that whales can hold their breath for half hour at a time. 

Before surfacing, whales spout the air (and water) through their blow-hole. After that, they dip in and out of the water for three or four minutes and eventually they dive back in. That’s when you will get to see their tail. 

dolphins in Mirissa

Dolphins regularly make an appearance during whale watching expeditions

Expect to be at sea for up to 7 hours

Whale watching in Mirissa is often a matter of luck. Whales sometimes show up immediately after the boat leaves the harbor, other times it will take longer to spot them. On certain days, the expeditions may last three hours. On others, they can last up to seven. When I did it, it took us almost three hours to find the whales and the overall trip lasted six hours. 

It is not cheap

Whale watching in Mirissa is not cheap – at least not considering the prices of tours and activities in Sri Lanka. But it is much much cheaper than it would be in many other whale watching destinations! You can expect to pay anything between $40 and $60 USD – make sure to haggle the price of the tour a bit if you book it in person. 

I honestly think the tour is worth every penny – it’s not like you get to see whales every day!

You can actually book it online

You can book your whale watching in Mirissa in person, once you get there. Alternatively, if you would rather avoid the whole bargaining game and feel pressed for time, you can book it directly online. 

These are some good whale watching tours that you can book online:

whale watching mirissa

Tail up! – this is the usual warning boat personnel will give you to warn you of the presence of whales

Most operators now strive to act responsibly

Sri Lanka has a long way to go in terms of responsible tourism and animal welfare. Though activities such as elephant rides are no longer promoted publicly, they still occur. And safaris in national parks are not exactly run in a way that is not intrusive to the animals. 

That’s why I was a bit concerned before going whale watching. 

I must say that, despite all my reservations, I was positively surprised. Though various boats go out in search of whales every day during whale watching seasons, they strive to maintain a respectful distance from the whales and to keep a healthy balance so that on the one hand passengers get a wonderful experience and on the other whales are left alone and safe. 

Most operators now abide by the rules set out by the Whale And Dolphins Conservation Society for responsible whale watching.

Raja And The Whale is the best known operator for being responsible.

You must respect other passengers

Once you get on board of the boat for your whale watching expedition, you will be encouraged to keep to your seat. The point that the staff on the boat wants to make is that if all passengers keep their seat, all of them will have a good experience – boats normally turn around to make sure that all passengers have excellent opportunities for photos. Just make sure to respect others and their space. You are all there for the same reason!

You will get food and water during tour

Whale watching in Mirissa departs really early in the morning, so chances are that you won’t be able to have breakfast in your hotel before you go. The good news is that you will be given food and drinks on board – usually some sandwiches and lots of fruits, as well as bottled water. Make sure to bring some extra snacks just in case. 

You may get motion sick

Boats don’t usually go out when the sea conditions are not ideal but you may get motion sick all the same. Take some motion sickness pills with you, just in case. If you are prone to motion sickness as much as I am, make sure to take your medication about half hour before getting on the boat. Most motion sickness pills will make you a bit drowsy, but the excitement of seeing whales in their natural environment will definitely keep you awake!

You need to bring a good camera

If you want to take photos during when whale watching in Mirissa, you really need to bring a good camera, with a good long lens so that you can also capture them when moving in the distance. I use a Nikon DS3300 with a 70-300 mm lens. 

Mirissa Sri Lanka

Mirissa is a fantastic destination for sunsets too

Other Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To Mirissa

Where to stay in Mirissa 

Mirissa has some excellent accommodation options and you will definitely find something to match your budget and taste – whether you stay in town or in the nearby Weligama.

This is a selection of excellent places to stay in Mirissa Sri Lanka:

Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Mirissa

Sri Lanka is easy to visit, but if you have no time to plan your trip, you can count on some excellent guided tours. I have selected the best tours on the market for you:

How to get to Mirissa

There’s no airport in Mirissa, but it is easy to reach by public transportation from any place in Southern Sri Lanka.

To get to Mirissa from the airport you can take a private transfer, which you can book here. Alternatively, take the bus to Matara and from there a tuk tuk to Mirissa. You can book your bus ticket here

From Galle, take one of the many buses headed to Matara and get off in Mirissa. Although Mirissa is only 36 km away from Galle, it can take up to 2 hours to get there, depending on traffic.

From Ella, take a bus headed to Matara and then a tuk tuk from there. You can also take a bus to Badulla and get off in Mirissa. The overall journey will last around 4 hours.

How to move around Mirissa

Mirissa is best visited by tuk tuk. Remember to haggle the prices!

Other useful information 

Make sure to research whether you need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. If you are a United States, Canada and one of the EU countries national you will get a visa waiver, meaning you still need to apply for a visa, but you won’t have to pay for it. If you are from a country for which a visa is required, you can easily apply for your visa online here.

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

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

Further readings 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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9 Fabulous Things To Do In Mirissa Sri Lanka, And One Not To

9 Fabulous Things To Do In Mirissa Sri Lanka, And One Not To

There are many fabulous things to do in Mirissa Sri Lanka. This is a great place to spend a few days enjoying the gorgeous beaches, learning how to surf, taking in the laid back vibes, admiring Sri Lanka’s most amazing sunsets and – most importantly (provided you are going in the right season) – going whale watching.

Not only that! Mirissa has some very good accommodation option – making it a perfect destination whether you are looking to pamper yourself with a bit of luxury, or whether you’d rather save the pennies and want to stay somewhere more local or more budget friendly.

In this post, I highlight all the unmissable things to do in Mirissa, and one you really should avoid doing. I will also share some tips that will help you plan your trip and make it fully enjoyable.

Mirissa Sri Lanka

Whale watching is by far the best thing to do in Mirissa

Nine Things To Do In Mirissa Sri Lanka, And One To Avoid

Whale watching

Of all the things to do in Mirissa Sri Lanka, this is by far the most memorable one. You can’t do it year round – the whale watching season is from November to April, with the best viewings between March and April. And even when you can actually do it, there is absolutely no guarantee that you will actually be able to see whales.

You will notice that there are several boats looking for whales, but they generally behave quite responsibly, keeping a good distance so not to disturb whales. Boat staff usually warns passengers about the presence of a whale in the distance, and observing the movements of the whale they will say “tail up!” to warn that the whale is about to show off!

During the tour, you also get to see dolphins and sea turtles.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Whale watching expeditions cost around $50 USD. You will need to haggle a bit to make sure your are not being ripped off (or book online if you are not a fan of haggling.

Tours usually depart at 7:00 am from the harbor of Mirissa. You can expect to be out at sea for anything between 2 and 7 hours, depending on how lucky you are in spotting the whales. During the tour, you are usually offered some sandwiches, fruit and water.

TIP: Make sure to take some motion sickness pills. Boats don’t usually go out at sea if the water is rough, but you never know!

These are some good whale watching tours that you can book online:

Hang out at the beach

Mirissa and its surroundings are packed with beautiful beaches, and it’s pretty obvious that one of the nicest things to do there is spending some time baking in the sun and then getting in the water to cool down a bit.

There are various beaches you can pick from. The most obvious choice is Mirissa beach, which is actually very clean and lined with beautiful palm trees and where the water is nice and clean. You will find places to rent chair and umbrellas, or simply put your towel on the soft sand. Scattered along the beach you will find several places where you can get snacks and drinks.

Visit Parrot Rock

Parrot Rock is actually located on Mirissa Beach. You can walk there quite easily from the beach via the water – but make sure you try to do so during low tide, as the water may turn wild. The views of the surroundings from there are truly beautiful.

Go to Secret Beach

Secret beach is not really that secret. I guess the name is due to the fact that you can’t get there that easily – you will need to arrange a tuk tuk to get there and even so, you will have to walk for around 10 minutes to get to the beach as the road is to steep for tuk tuks. It is a lovely, small secluded beach with a shack selling coconuts and incredible sunset views.

surfing in Mirissa

Weligama is the best location near Mirissa to learn how to surf

Learn how to surf in Weligama

Weligama is one of Sri Lanka’s prime locations for surfing. The beach is truly lovely – long, sandy, lined with palm trees. Waves are constant, but the best ones come with the tide so the best time to go surfing is around sunset. You will find lots of places along the beach to rent a board for around 400 LKR (around $2 USD) and even many surfing schools.

Go snorkeling or diving

The reef is a perfect place to go snorkeling or diving and there is lots of beautiful marine life you can observe – you will even see turtles. You can rent snorkel gear directly at your guest house, or alternatively join a snorkel or diving expedition. Snorkeling tour are in the range of $30 USD, whereas diving is a bit more expensive. You can book your snorkeling tour here

You can also go to Polhena Beach by yourself – it’s said to be an excellent location to spot sea turtles. Make sure to bring snorkeling gear!

Admire a fabulous sunset

Sunsets in this part of Sri Lanka are out of this world. You can decide to simply go for a walk along the beach (I love Weligama sunsets the best!) or even enjoy a sunset dinner in one of the many small restaurants that pop on Mirissa Beach at that time of day.

Go on a day trip to Galle

Galle is one of the nicest places to visit in region, and at an easy distance from Mirissa Sri Lanka. The city has many interesting sights – most of them all concentrated in Galle Fort. The city, which has a lovely colonial feel, dates back to Portuguese rule of Sri Lanka (but the Dutch colonizers also left their touch) and it can be easily visited in half a day.

You can decide to spend a few days in Galle – but it’s a bit expensive by Sri Lanka standards – or you can go there on a day trip.

sunset in Mirissa

sunsets in Mirissa are fabulous

Take in the views from Coconut Island

One more for the views! Around 15 minutes from Mirissa Beach there is a coconut farm located on a hill, from where you can get impressive views – especially at sunset. You can get walk there from one of the restaurants in the area, or via a short walk in the water (again, watch the tide). Remember that coconuts may fall from the tree when ripe, so watch your head!

Don’t take photos of the stilt fishermen

With all the things to do in Mirissa Sri Lanka, also comes one that I recommend avoiding.

Contrary to what many think, stilt fishing is not an ancient tradition. This practice dates back to WWII, when fishing spots were incredibly crowded due to food shortages, and some men decided to overcome the crowds by trying to fish directly int he water, at times placing their stilts directly on the coral reef.

Between the 2004 tsunami and the fact that the monsoons make fishing very seasonal, this “tradition” is disappearing and there really are no more stilt fishermen in southern Sri Lanka. The ones you see are fake, and this is a massive tourist trap.

Those you are likely to see around Mirissa are mere models, posing for photos in exchange for a fee (usually around 500 Sri Lanka Rupees, but it may be more at sunset, because that’s when the best light is: there are fixed rates depending on the time slot you are trying to photograph), with a proper business organizations that goes from signs pointing to the areas where you will find the fishermen, to men actually collecting money before you can get any close for photos, and even some chasing tourists who have a camera on their neck so that they don’t dare take photos without paying.

Some may say that this is the only form of livelihood for the models and the people in the organization. But is it, really? Or is it more likely to be just a way to rip off tourists and make easy money?

It’s not for me to say whether it is right or wrong to pay for a photo – I am not a fan of it, but that is completely up to you. My guide explained that behind the stilt fishermen posing for photos there is some sort of a criminal organization, with lots of drug and alcohol abuse involved, and I’d rather not finance that.

The overall experience of photographing the stilt fishermen is kind of sour – very well described in this post.

Galle Forte

Galle is an easy day trip from Mirissa

Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Mirissa Sri Lanka

Where to stay in Mirissa Sri Lanka

Mirissa has some very good accommodation options and you are bound to find something that suits your budget and taste – whether you stay in the actual city or in its immediate outskirts such as Weligama.

This is a selection of excellent places to stay in Mirissa Sri Lanka:

Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Mirissa

Sri Lanka is easy to visit, but if you aren’t a fan of planning or would rather have the experts do it for you, you can count on some excellent guided trips. I have selected the best tours on the market for you:

How to get to Mirissa

There’s no airport in Mirissa, but you can easily get there by public transportation from most places in Southern Sri Lanka.

The easiest way to get from the airport to Mirissa is to take a private transfer, which you can book here. Alternatively, take the bus to Matara and from there a tuk tuk to Mirissa. You can book your bus ticket here

From Galle, you can use one of the many local buses that connect Galle to Matara and get off in Mirissa. Although Mirissa is only 36 km away from Galle, the journey can last up to 2 hours, depending on traffic.

From Ella, you will have to take a bus headed to Matara and then a tuk tuk from there. Alternatively, take a bus to Badulla and get off in Mirissa. The overall journey will last around 4 hours.

How to move around Mirissa

The best way to move around Mirissa Sri Lanka is by tuk tuk. Remember you always have to haggle the prices!

When to visit Mirissa Sri Lanka

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 December to March.

Whale watching season in Mirissa Sri Lanka goes from November to April, with the best months being March and April.

Other useful information 

Make sure to check out if you need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. Citizens of many countries – including the United States, Canada and all EU countries – can now benefit from a visa waiver program. You will still have to apply for a visa, but won’t have to pay for it. Should you need to pay for your 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 about Mirissa, Sri Lanka, you can check one of these books:

Other posts about Sri Lanka

Make sure to 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 are mine and without any bias. 

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Discover all the things to do in Mirissa - via @clautavani

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

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

 

 

Why Galle Should Be The Last Stop On A Sri Lanka Tour

Why Galle Should Be The Last Stop On A Sri Lanka Tour

Galle is the last stop of my trip to Sri Lanka. In the three weeks I spend there, I realize that this small country has a lot to offer. Historical cities and holy temples; lush nature and wild animals; beautiful landscapes, beaches and sea and, most importantly so, a welcoming and friendly people are all things that make me fall in love with Sri Lanka.

Come to think of it, many of my friends and colleagues have told me, before my departure, that they fell in love with Sri Lanka. After having traveled across the country, I can understand why: I have had a great time throughout my trip, and I would gladly stay longer. But I have just received a last minute invitation to visit the Maldives and in the space of two days I have to pack my bags and move on. Such is the life of a travel blogger.

Galle feels like the cherry on a delicious cake – much like that I eat to celebrate the birthday of my friend, Diana, who’s traveling with me. And we do so at a special location, one that not even in my wildest dreams I would have ever hoped for.

Galle, Sri Lanka

The beautiful lighthouse that is the symbol of Galle

A Beautiful Colonial Town

Galle has always been an important town in the history of Ceylon. Right by the sea, in a strategic position, for a long period of time it is a famous commercial port for the exchange of spices and precious stones. Such important geographic location doesn’t go unnoticed, and from the 16th century the Portuguese first, then the Dutch and eventually the British control it, leaving their mark on the landscape.

Galle Fort is the visible mark left by the Dutch colonizers. Even the name, Galle, is thought to be due to the effort of the first invaders (the Portuguese) who, having arrived there at the end of the 16th century, heard the singing of a rooster and immediately made a connection with the Portuguese name of the animal, “galo.” Singhalese people, however, claim the origins of name of the city which, according to them, derives from the word “gala” – which means “rock.”

Galle, Sri Lanka

A group of kids seek refuge from the heat in Galle

The best way to discover Galle and fully immerse oneself in its colonial atmosphere is by walking though the narrow alleys of the Old Town. It is packed with beautiful, crumbling buildings whose internal gardens are an explosion of colorful bouganvillea and jasmine flowers. Nowadays, many of these buildings have been refurbished and host beautiful boutiques, restaurants, small hotels and art galleries.

It’s an enticing city, completely different from the other ones I visit in Sri Lanka. It’s quite a nice change, actually. Up until now I have been impressed by Sri Lanka’s natural beauty, but the cities have somewhat disappointed me. The Old Town of Galle, on the other hand, is impressive, and well deserves to be enlisted among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I conclude my wanderings with a walk along the walls that dominate the Indian Ocean, and stumble upon the Clock Tower and the Lighthouse which overlook the beach – where I spot a bunch of kids having fun jumping from the rocks. Finally, I seem to find the perfect spot to admire an incredible sunset. Come to think of it, this is the one and only sunset I get to see in Sri Lanka, since it’s been raining almost every day since I have arrived.

Galle, Sri Lanka

Finally, a gorgeous sunset in Galle

Villa Sepalika: A little Piece Of Heaven In Galle

Flipping through my Lonely Planet while on the bus, I come across a short section that mentions the existance of gorgeous villas for rent near Galle. I am intrigued, and decide to read more.

According to the author, in recent years a number of luxury villas have been built around Galle, and these are available for rent, inclusive of a butler and a chef. They are the kind of places where one may spend two or three days, hanging between a beautifully furnished room, a gorgeous living room, a lush garden and a lovely pool. In other words the perfect place to conclude a glorious but tiring journey.

I mention this to Diana and Matteo, her friend who has meantime joined our wanderings, and we all agree that we may want to celebrate Diana’s birthday in style and moments later we manage to find a whole villa to ourselves.

Villa Sepalika

The gorgeous living room at Villa Sepalika

This is quite a change for us, considering that most of the time we think of ourselves as backpackers (though I am a rather unsuccessful backpacker). But the beauty of traveling in a country like Sri Lanka is that we don’t need to break the bank in order to treat ourselves to a special place.

That’s how we end up spending two incredible days at Villa Sepalika, a gorgeous villa at the outskirts of Galle, completely built following the colonial style.

The minute we enter the marvelous garden, we realize that we are in for a real treat. It is simply lush. The pool is larger than what it appears like in the pictures. The garden so big that we could easily play football in it, if we had a full team.

Villa Sepalika

A cozy sofa to relax with friends

I drop my backpack to take a look at the 3 bedrooms. Each of them is carefully furnished, and furbished in a different color. Each has its own huge bathroom. I pick the purple room. Then I start wandering through the rest of the villa. The kitchen is cozy and so perfectly equipped that, were it not for the fact that there are a butler and a chef, I would dare to cook my own meals.

The dining room table is huge; there’s a whole library (have I ever mentioned that I am a book worm?) and a beautiful living room with the coziest of couches.

Villa Sepalika

Even I feel tempted to cook in such a nice kitchen

But we are in Sri Lanka: it’s so warm here that we spend the evening in the huge patio, enjoying the hammock, moving from one couch to the other, drinking our cocktails and eating the delicious guacamole Matteo prepares, then moving to the table to celebrate Diana’s birthday with a mouthwatering dinner.

It’s only the morning after, in the full light, that I get the full picture of how lucky I got this time. I spend the rest of the morning relaxing between the pool, the garden and the patio, reading a book, listening to music and enjoying the company of my friends.

Villa Sepalika

Enjoying the fabulous pool at Villa Sepalika

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to conclude my trip to Sri Lanka.

Have you ever been to Galle? Did you know that you can enjoy a wonderful villa at a real steal there?

Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To Galle, Sri Lanka” and for a complete guide about Sri Lanka, check my post 13 Fantastic Places To Visit In Sri Lanka.

I also encourage you to read my post Everything You Should Know Before Backpacking Sri Lanka.”

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Villa Sepalika during my time in Galle. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. 

 

Sri Lanka Off The Beaten Path

Sri Lanka Off The Beaten Path

Kuduruketha. A gorgeous, hidden resort near Wellawaya, in Sri Lanka: not many people who visit Sri Lanka make the effort to go all the way there. Yet they should. To be fair, Diana and I had not intended to go either. But then a twist of events took us there, and it turned out to be one of our favorite places in the country.

The irony of being travel bloggers is that, the more time we spend traveling, the less time we have to plan our travels – be it making accommodation reservations; reading about the places we mean to visit; learning a bit about the culture of the country before actually finding ourselves there.

Sri Lanka off the beaten path

Sri Lanka countryside is simply gorgeous

When not having a plan is the best plan

Sri Lanka is a bit like that. Before going there, Diana and I draft a rough itinerary and make a list of the places we would like to see. Yet, we allow ourselves enough room to change plans, just in case something interesting comes up, or in case the weather conditions make it impossible to follow the plans.

The name Wellawaya comes up once we decide to skip Yala National Park. We have read that most sectors of the park are closed during the time we intend to visit, so it makes no sense to invest money on a safari if we don’t get to explore the park properly (by which we don’t mean we want the guarantee we’ll be seeing animals). Besides, we have just visited Gal Oya National Park and have had a wonderful experience that would been hard to match.

Sri Lanka

Having a chat with my new friends

We have already spent more than a week in the Hill Country, and we are tired of the chaos of Kandy and of the dampness of Nuwara Eliya. We want to make our way south, but need to break the trip. We feel the need to be surrounded by nature, so we look for a good alternative to Yala National Park.

Flipping through the pages of our guidebooks, we see that Wellawaya is a small place at the very end of the Hill Country, and Kaduruketha nothing more than a few scattered houses in what is described as an idillyc tropical setting.

We are hardly the kind of travelers that make an effort to get off the beaten path, but this is an easy detour. We decide to go.

A less visited side of Sri Lanka

A 45 minutes bus ride from Ella (once a remote village in the Hill Country, nowadays one of Sri Lanka tourist hot spots), Wellawaya is the closest real village to Kuduruketha. As we get off the bus at the intersection, we start walking the 2 km towards out hotel, Jetwing Kaduruketha, and quickly understand we could have not picked a better place to visit.

The setting is gorgeous: a windy road cuts across the greenest of landscapes. We cross paths with a few local women and children, who as many in the country walk around carrying an open umbrella, to protect themselves from both the rain and the fierce sun. They greet us with sincere smiles, yet unaccustomed to tourists. Dogs sleep in the middle of the street, their sleep hardly interrupted by a tuc tuc or by the odd motorbike.

Sri Lanka

Rural Sri Lanka is by far my favorite

We would be happy just taking long walks or easy bike rides, and relaxing by the pool or on the deck of our cottage with a book, but it turns out that there is much more to do in Kuduruketha than we had expected.

The area is packed with wildlife. Along with monkeys, there are various species of frogs, owls, flying squirrels and peacocks. It is peacock mating season when we visit, and they sure make it clear that they own the territory, flagging their gorgeous tails and singing their need for romance at night.

I actually have to fight a squirrel that keeps getting into our room to steal packets of sugar from our desk, much to the amusement of Diana who thinks I am yelling at her as she tries to walk back inside after her yoga session.

But there’s more!

Sri Lanka

Enjoying Elle Wala waterfalls in the company of a lovely dog

The area around Kaduruketha is packed with waterfalls and swimming holes. We opt to visit Elle Wala. It is a short tuc tuc ride north, though the thick forest. As the tuc tuc stops, two sweet dogs, who we later learn to be the “guardians” of the waterfall, show us the path through the jungle and take us all the way to Elle Wala.

We can hear the noise before we can actually spot it. The stream falls into what looks like a natural amphitheater. There’s a few giant rocks and lots of trees around, and a great swimming hole with freezing cold yet shallow water. It is a perfect setting: we can’t help wondering why such a beautiful place doesn’t get more visitors, but at the same time we are glad to have it all to ourselves.

off the beaten path Sri Lanka

The beauty of having a site all to myself!

Just as we have all to ourselves Buduruvagala, a Buddhist temple at around 7 km south of Wellawaya.

I am reluctant to visit, after having been crushed by the crowds during the poja at the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy and having wasted the equivalent of $10 USD to see virtually nothing. Besides, we have already spent a significant amount of money at various sacred places around Sri Lanka only to realize that the sites aren’t really that interesting to us, neither we feel they are worth the price.

But Diana insists, saying that Buduruvagala costs less than $2 USD anyways. So I decide I may as well give it a chance. And I am glad I do, if only to confirm my impression that the best attractions in Sri Lanka are the less visited ones, which have managed to keep a genuine atmosphere.

The temple consists of Buddha figures carved in the rock, dating back to the 10th century. The setting is idillic: completely surrounded by the forest, the only sound that of the gentle breeze the swept the trees.

For more Buddhist temples check out my post A Guide To The Most Unique Buddhist Temples In Sri Lanka.”

Jetwing Kuduruketha: we all deserve to be pampered

The best place to access the tropical paradise of Kuduruketha is Jetwing. The property consists of 25 beautiful, cozy and comfortable bungalows set in a gorgeous park, all with splendid views of the countryside.

There’s a beautiful infinity pool that overlooks the rice fields, and a restaurant and bar that serve carefully prepared dishes and fabulous cocktails.

Sri Lanka off the beaten path

A pool with a view

In line with its effort to respect and protect the environment, there’s no air condinioning in the bungalows (and frankly, there’s no need for it as the temperatures are actually quite pleasant at night). There’s no TV in the rooms – this is a place to relax and disconnect from the world. And in order to help guests to do so, Jetwing Kuduruketha offers ayurvedic treatments, as well as yoga classes.

If I ever go back to Sri Lanka (and I intend to do so!) I will visit Kuduruketha again, and I will know where to stay.

For more off the beaten path places to visit in Sri Lanka, read my post A Complete Guide To Kandy, Sri Lanka” and for a complete guide about Sri Lanka, check my post 13 Fantastic Places To Visit In Sri Lanka. Make sure to also read my post Everything You Should Know Before Backpacking Sri Lanka.

Legal disclaimer: I was a guest of Jetwing Kuduruketha during my visit to Sri Lanka. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.

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Discover Sri Lanka off the beaten path - via @clautavani