Sri Lanka is located just four hours away from Singapore. What are you waiting for?
When I first told my friends and family that I was considering travelling by myself to Sri Lanka, I was met with mixed reactions. For those who’d never been to Sri Lanka, they expressed concern for my safety and wondered aloud what is there to do in the island country. However, my friends who had visited had nothing but praises for Sri Lanka.
“Because the landscape is so diverse, you’ll feel like you’re getting four vacations for the price of one, ” – my friend, Mel.
As an experience junkie, that was the sentence that sealed the deal. In early August this year, I embarked on an 8-day journey through the southern region of Sri Lanka. Turns out, Mel was more than right. Even though I only covered a small part of the country, there was so much to see and do that my days were filled to the brim. Here are 5 reasons why I can’t wait to go back!
1. There’s something for everybody
Whether you’re into outdoor activities like hiking and scuba-diving, or prefer more sedate holidays practicing yoga and meditation, you’ll find your groove in Sri Lanka. History buffs are also in for a treat because Sri Lanka’s rich heritage — the culture of Sri Lanka dates back over 2, 500 years — means there are plenty of historical sites to explore. Some of the most famous spots include the ancient rock fortress, Sigiriya, and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, which was founded in 1595.
2. Beautiful, varied landscapes
Imagine spending time soaking up the cool, fresh air of the hilly tea plantations before heading down towards the coast, located just a few hours’ drive away. During my short visit to Sri Lanka, I trekked through national parks (Horton Plains), visited tea plantations (Dunkeld Estate), explored a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Galle Fort), and frolicked by the beach (Unawatuna).
For an incredible two-in-one experience, be sure to visit Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s most famous wildlife safari and nature reserve where you’ll get to see animals such as leopards, elephants, sloth bears, and crocodiles. Plus, because it’s located along the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, you’ll also be able to admire stunning views from the seafront!
3. Easy to get around
If you’re travelling in a group, it’s probably more convenient and cost-efficient to hire a driver to take you around. However, if you’re going solo (like I did), fret not. The railway network in Sri Lanka is pretty decent – I got a First Class seat from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya (the highest point in Sri Lanka) for just under SGD25. And, you can easily book tickets online. If you’re travelling to and through the Hill Country, taking the train is quite a marvellous experience as you get to admire rolling greenery unfolding all around you. A First Class ticket on Expo Rail guarantees you comfortable seats, air-conditioning, and even some light refreshments.
4. Friendly locals
Turns out, my friends’ and family’s worries about Sri Lanka were unfounded. Wherever I went, I was met with friendly smiles and locals who were more than happy to help with directions or dining recommendations. In fact, during one of my train journeys, I made a new friend who regaled me with tales of Sri Lankan folklore, places to visit the next time I’m back, and the foods to try. Which brings me to my next point …
5. Delicious local cuisine
Curry all day err’ day! Despite its close proximity to India, the types of curry you’ll find in Sri Lanka are more similar to the ones you’ll find in Singapore, with a liberal use of coconut milk in their cuisine. Speaking of coconuts, you can’t leave Sri Lanka without trying the king coconut. Unlike the green coconuts that we get in Singapore, the king coconut is larger and has an orange hue – its juice is sweet and refreshing, and really hits the spot on a hot day.
What I really enjoyed about Sri Lankan cuisine is how each meal is usually accompanied by an array of small side dishes. An order of curry with rice would usually come with a side of dhal, papadam, chutney, and a variety of vegetables. Or, instead of rice, why not try the Sri Lankan classic – hoppers? This is a dish made with a fermented batter comprising rice flour, coconut milk, and assorted spices. After a big meal, wash it all down with a cup of steaming hot Sri Lankan tea. Being one of the largest tea exporters in the world, you’ll get all sorts of tea varieties here. My favourite memory is sipping freshly processed tea at the Dunkeld Estate (pictured in the main image for this article), which is surrounded by lush greenery and breathtaking views of Castle Lake.
With so much to see and do in Sri Lanka, I’m already making plans to go back again next year! Will I see you there?