Here are the highlights from my amazing trip to Sri Lanka. If you are thinking about going to this awesome country read below for some highly recommended tips.
Sri Lanka has a huge tea making industry due to the high country that lies in the centre of the island. The cooler climate makes it ideal for growing the tea plant Camellia Sinensis.
This tea estate is actually on the way from Kandy to Nuwara Eylia. Our driver we hired for the day stopped into this estate for a rest. They give excellent free tours of their tea factories which is finished off with a cuppa in the cafe / tea shop. They don’t use chemical pesticides on the tea plantation. Instead they use oil form the Margosa plant to spray the leaves. They also use dolomite on the soil to help with the pests. Green tea is steamed where black tea is fermented. Green tea is a more expensive tea as the stems have to be removed from the leaf before steaming. Approximately 4kg of leaves = 1 kg of tea.
This town is well known as the ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka. I found it really trippy as we could have believably been in England or even Bowral (near where I grew up) with all the old English hotels, beautiful rose gardens and eucalyptus trees lined roads. It quite nippy on the nipples at night (so pack appropriately) which makes it all the more surreal as it is such a contrast to the sweaty betty heat everywhere else.
We stayed at the classic English Hotel called The Hill Club, complete with stunning rose gardens, formal dinning room and ‘Bernard’ the butler. Men have to wear a suit to dine in the formal dinning. Scotty didn’t have such attire so Bernard came to our rescue and lent him one – which was hilarious as Scotty had been travelling for 4 weeks prior in Asia and had barely put a shirt on let alone a suit and tie!
We visited quite a few tea plantations but this one was a real treat. After a 45min tuk tuk ride from our hotel up a long winding road and perched on top of a hill with magnificent views of the tea plantations, is the only certified organic tea plantation in the area – Herritance Tea factory. We had the most beautiful five-course lunch for A$20 per person. To my delight they also grow most of their own organic produce. They have a mini tea factory where you can sample some of the tea and see how it is made. It is a beautiful hotel but as it’s in the middle of the country going out to explore the area would be difficult unless you have a driver. My recommendation is if you do want to splash out – stay here just stay one night on your way through or pop in for lunch like we did.
We travelled from Nuwara Eylia to Ella by train, which is a fantastic way to see the amazing scenery as the train winds its way through tunnels and tea plantations with locals waving as we chugged past. The best part of the trip is that you can hang out the doors and windows of the train, which in hindsight was pretty dangerous but OMG so much fun! I recommend not bothering with paying for the ‘observation’ carriage as it’s about 10 times the price and if you hang out the door like us it won’t matter anyway! You can check out our train surfing here.
We stayed at Chamodya Home Stay guest house and had the most deliciously scrumptious home cooked Sri Lankan curry for dinner with all the bells and whistles. The traditional Sri Lankan breakfast the next morning was also noteworthy.
We went hiking up Little Adams Peak and Ella rock for spectacular views. On the way back from Little Adams Peak we stopped in at the Newburgh Green Tea Estate and picked up the most amazing green tea I have ever had. I’m kicking myself now I didn’t bring a whole suitcase of it home. Not sure how that would have gone down with customs though!
Everywhere I went I continually asked if they used pesticides on the tea and I always seemed to get the same answer “This area is chemical free!”
I was told that this estate was chemical free and looking at the website it appears to now be certified organic.
We went on Safari to Yala National park. This is meant to be the best park to see a leopard. And see a leopard we did….alas only for about 5 seconds. The viewing in the park is very difficult because of the thick bush. It was an enjoyable experience however I could not help but compare it to my experience in Africa and I feel the amount of animals I saw was minimal in comparison that that of Kenya or Tanzania. Having said that is was still a fun thing to do.
We stayed at: Jetwing Yala National Park. This hotel is amazing and was a real treat after staying in basic hostel type accommodation.
This hotel is very new as it was built after the tsunami. It is also part of an environmentally conscious group. In many different ways this hotel is Eco friendly. They also had plenty of healthy food options too. http://www.jetwingeternalearthprogramme.com/jetwing-vision.html
We went surfing in Aruguam bay which is a tiny surfy town on the east coast of the country and was our favoruite place in Sri Lanka. The season starts from Late May and goes through to September. There is a beautiful long peeling right hander out on the point of the main beach. It’s on a reef but it’s not too shallow. The best bit about this break is that is was suitable for both Scott and myself – that factor alone made it awesome. He is a much better surfer than me – let’s just say I’m not so fond of the big waves but we could both surf here. He was with all the gnarly dudes out the back and I surfed further down the break at the baby point. I went and got myself some lessons to refresh my skills and after a few days I was really loving it. I do recommend taking booties if you go here to save cutting up your feet on entry and exit into and out of the water.
Arugam Bay Surf Resort which had a backpacker type atmosphere. This place took a few days to grow on me but by the end we didn’t want to leave. It’s run by some awesome people who are super friendly. The food here was really great and the boys will make variations to anything on the menu.
Mambo’s – the premier location in Aruguam bay. As the lonely planet says ‘ roll out of bed and into the surf’. This hotel is an awesome hangout with a fantastic beach bar right on the water. It’s shaded by beautiful palm trees and hammocks. No need to wear a watch at the place as you lounge around between surfs. The hours morphed into days.
This is a hotel in the center of town right next door to Arugam Bay surf resort. It is more like a proper hotel. It is right on the beach and has a beautiful view of the beach on the top floor. Hopefully they will turn this into a bar/ café sometime soon. You can also see the surf on the point from up here. The rooms are clean and tidy. The staff are very friendly and helpful.
Best East’s and Drinks
- Arugam Bay surf resort – They do awesome juices, smoothies, amazing Mexican food and BBQ fish, they also did amazing cocktails, fresh coconuts and Traditional Sri Lankan Curry. The boys were more than willing to change meals around to suit my liking even though they thought I was crazy asking for a burrito with salad instead of a wrap but they kindly obliged anyway.
- Hideaway Blue Cafe and Bar. These boys are a cut above the rest when knowing what westerners want when on holiday. Good coffee, juice and cocktails. The end. They have a players advantage having lived in Melbourne for several years and boy can you tell with their boho beach hipster chic layout. This place has a café during the day and a cocktail bar at night. Complete with glass jars, and slow drip coconut water coffee and cocktails. This place is run by two brothers and it has the ‘it’ factor that no other place in the bay has. I was very happy to find smoothies and bliss balls on the menu. Took me right back to my favorite health café at home.
- Samanthi’s Restaurant – if your looking for an authentic Sri Lankan Curry this is the place to go. Make sure you order ahead that morning and you can choose chicken, prawn or vegetarian, It comes with all the condiments. It’s a must while you’re in the Bay.