Getting to Sri Lanka from India is a breeze: a quick hop, skip and jump and you are in Colombo! If you’re an Indian, Sri Lanka will appear incredibly familiar and yet, unique still in so many ways. Clean, green, orderly… the country is charming to the hilt.
Tea, tea and tea again!
When one thinks of Sri Lanka, it’s going to be tea on top of the mind. The beverage springs up, in myriad forms, everywhere you go. Be it during the meandering drive through the tea gardens of Nuwara Eliya; the comforting cuppa while walking through a misty Haputale road; or the sweet milky concoction over which the locals were happy to discuss the weather, movies and roads – tea leaves a lasting impression on everyone. A trip to Sri Lanka and you can confidently enhance your tea-pedia – orange pekoe, golden flush, silver tips – you name it!
The calm of the Buddha
Pristine Buddhist stupas, shaped beautifully like folded peepal leaves, dot the landscape. Driving down from Galle to Colombo, you notice numerous small, almost indecipherable stupas. While in Colombo, do not miss the fascinating Gangaramaya Temple, with its quirky memorabilia collection.
Living in history at the Galle Fort
One lands up in Galle Fort, and cannot help feel a Pondicherry hangover. Ambling down the streets, one must make a pit stop at the Serendipity Arts Café. From the eclectic menu, one can order a black tea; a Sri Lankan breakfast; and a walk with Juliet Coombe! Juliet is a British photo journalist (and a Lonely Planet photographer!) who came to Sri Lanka in 2004 to cover the tsunami, ended up marrying a local and settling down here. She now helps travellers discover the sights, sounds and smells of Galle Fort. During the walk, Juliet has many interesting anecdotes to share – the single family which has been sponsoring Arabic education in Galle for decades; how treasures from shipwrecks and the colonial times are still being discovered all around the area; how the humble coral fortifications of the walls and perhaps a protective charm by a seer held back the tsunami in 2004.
Sky and sand
Ask an Aussie or Brit why she or he picked Sri Lanka, and you’ll probably hear the word ‘beach’. Most tourists and travellers swear by Sri Lanka’s beaches. If you can’t think of a life without sand between your toes or if taking a boat out to watch corals, turtles and blue whales is on your bucket list, you must plan for time around the beaches of Bentota. While a tad touristy, the beaches are divine and an early morning barefoot walk on the sand is a must do.
The indefatigable rice and curry
You cannot go to Sri Lanka and not sample the local fare. Spicy, bursting with flavour, rice and curry is a staple diet. It tastes equally good everywhere you go – at the Harbor Stop AVP restaurant at Colombo, Mama’s Galle Fort Rooftop Café or even the simple buffet in an unassuming village eatery along the western coastline.
And all the pretty maids in a row
The mist at Haputale, as it seeps into the hotel room and one’s imagination; the train station at Nanu-Oya with equipment over a century old and still in use; the British Garrison cemetery at Kandy and its young, enthusiastic caretaker Herath; waking up to the sound of waves breaking on the sands at Bentota; the singsong Sinhala and the rapid-fire staccato Tamil – these are some of the experiences one remembers Sri Lanka by.
For more expert advice and inspiration, check out our Sri Lanka travel guide.