1. Hiking in the gorgeous views: Haputale and Ella
Absolutely the best of Sri Lanka: Gorgeous highland treks! We were driving with our amazing jeep from Udawalawe National Park towards the central Sri Lanka, our intention was to get to little mountain town called Ella (means waterfall) when we realised we were low on gas. We stopped in this tiny hillside village called Haputale for some gas and since it has been quite a long day already, we decided to stay over night and continue our journey the next day. We checked into a nice twin peaks style motel and looked into our travel guide book where we could eat or what there was to do in Haputale. And luckily we did! This is where the legend of Sir Lipton started his tea business and his favourite view point was a little hike away!
Next morning we woke up in a misty mountain village and headed towards Lipton’s Seat. Weather was quite chilly and sun was hiding behind the clouds so no sun screen was needed. Hah, right. The hike was absolutely amazing, tea plantations all the way up and people working on the fields, children going to school, people living their simple lives. Everywhere reminders to respect the nature and cherish it. Felt truly lucky to be there and see all that. And the view on the top was worth the hike! We drank maybe the best cup of Ceylon tea I’ve ever had, little hut on the top serving open fire tea with samosas with home made hot chilly sauce. Tasted maybe better than nothing ever before that. Worth the 7km hike for sure! There’s also a tea factory in the village where the hike starts, interesting to see how tea is made from fresh leaves to drinkable tea.
In the evening I decided to enjoy some purifying Ayurvedic treatments and I think we got some well deserved Lions at the railway station bar with the locals. Bar didn’t need to switch the lights on since my face was glowing in the dark after being five hours hiking without sun lotion… Idiot! Late night snack Kottu Roti was filling and local atmosphere something I will remember for the rest of my life.
Next destination in the highlands was idyllic town called Ella. Amazing views from guesthouses and surprisingly good restaurant scene. Way more touristic than Haputale, but I enjoyed the great restaurants this place had. Check out Chill, the best passion fruit juice (or mojito if you wish) I’ve ever had, cheese cakes to die for, great hang out in the evenings with some wine and pizza, delicious veggie burgers… We also participated on a cooking course and learned to make our own Sri Lankan dhals and curries. Recommended!
2. Elephant watching: Udawalawe
Sri Lanka has many national parks with elephants so you’re spoiled with choices. Udawalawe National Park was on our path and a dream come true seeing so many elephants in their natural environment. Elephants with tusks, babies with their moms, elephants taking a bath, crocodiles, water buffaloes and many tropical birds. Skip the zoos and protect the animals in their surroundings! Felt truly humble. Don’t miss this one!
3. Swimming in a waterfall: Just pick one on the way
Where ever you travel in Sri Lanka, there will be a waterfall near by! We saw so many during our four week trip around the country. Some of them you can swim in (be careful!!), some are just to see and wonder where the hell all that water comes from. If you’ve never swam in a waterfall, do it now. World will never be the same again. 🙂
4. Relaxing on a beach: Pasikuda
There are so many beaches to choose from! We travelled to Sri Lanka during rainy season, so all those famous beach destinations in the south were wet and soggy so we didn’t even bother. But the east coast has also some world class beaches and we enjoyed quite a few of them. The most beautiful one was in Pasikuda, very quiet and beautiful, not much to see or do besides your book and turquoise water and white sand. And my husband in double denim jeep outfit, so romantic.
If you want some action, Arugam Bay is great destination for surfers, although the hip life style and cool surfer people have put the prices up big time! Also Trinkomalee area has some decent beach destinations, fire on the beach, ice cold Lion, BBQ and yoga. Some ok diving in this are too, we skipped the dives because the dive shop couldn’t provide clean air… We did whale watching trip but there was no whales and the captain was fishing on the boat so can’t really recommend them. Just enjoy hammock and if you’re travelling on a budget, you can stay in a backpacker cave! Say whaaaat??
5. Rent a jeep and hit the road
I can’t tell you this story, Al can do it so much better.