One of THE destinations of 2019, and Lonley Planet’s number one place to visit needs its tourists back; we fell in love with the country and now is the time that you do too.
After the Easter bombings in earlier in 2019, the UK Foreign Office put travel restrictions in place and encouraged people not to travel there. These restrictions were echoed by governments across the Western world, and the number of tourists, that Sri Lanka had spent ages trying to build up have disappeared. Well, it’s been a good few months since those restrictions were lifted and the state of emergency dropped. We’re here to tell you about why you should visit, and start your own love affair with the country.
The Travel and Visas
From the UK, travel to Sri Lanka is easy. It’s the most expensive part of the trip but so worth it. You don’t need any special vaccinations, although you do need to make sure all your normal ones are up to date. If you want to visit Sri Lanka and fly, you can get there direct from London with Sri Lankan airways, or with a stop somewhere like Doha, but it’s all easy. In an attempt to drive more tourists their way, the Sri Lankan foreign office has waived the visa fee for certain countries. including the UK and the USA. This means their totally free! When you’re there the travel around is easy, Tuk Tuk, a car off the street, the government bus, private bus or even the train!
Whatever happens, when you visit Sri Lanka the weather will be better than the weather at home. It is close to the equator and therefore the temperature remains constant most of the year, of around 26–30°C in the coastal and lowland areas. The higher up the country and altitude you go, the cooler the temperature, where it can be as cold as 14–17°C. Nights in the hills can be chilly so do take a jumper and pair of trousers with you.
The one thing that is pretty high everywhere however is humidity. In the southwest this can climb to 90% but the average is about 60-80%. If you’re heading to the west and south coasts and hill country, December to March is the best time to visit Sri Lanka. If you plan on seeing the east coast, you’ll get the best weather from April/May to September. There’s always rain, but the rainfall never lasts for long!
An odd point to make, but the lack of tourists in Sri Lanka, as opposed to places such as Thailand, makes the whole experience far more lovely and far less stressful. Sure, you end up paying a little bit of a tourist tax on things if you dont speak the language and are scared of haggling, but it just goes to show that now is the time to visit Sri Lanka.
The beaches, oh the beaches! If you like a beach then you must visit Sri Lanka. There are loads of beaches, all completely different from each other and yet all as picturesque. Beaches for relaxing, for temples and for romance; there are beaches for surfing and swimming and whale watching. There are so many, some with loads of tourists, some with loads of locals, some with no one at all! And hey, if you’re as weird as Jess and love the sea don’t like sand there’s some that you can escape that too!
The Food and Produce
For us, the food alone was reason to visit Sri Lanka. We love everything curry and there was no short supply of that. Obviously you can find things to suit every taste bud but for us the highlight was hoppers for breakfast and kotthu roti for dinner. If you don’t know what kottu roti is, look it up and make sure you have some. Vegetarian, fish, chicken or goat, whatever it is just make sure you have it. The spices and spice is also amazing in Sri Lanka. We were lucky enough to visit cinnamon island and saw first hand how they make cinnamon, and even got the bring some home! Jackfruit quite literally grows on the treas there and there are mangoes and papayas being sold on most street corners. Delish!
Sri Lanka boasts a vibrant and unique cultural heritage with 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered around the country. The main religion of the country is Buddhism and this has a clear impact on the way that people treat each other and their environment. It also means that when you visit Sri Lanka you will probably be a part of one of the many colourful religious festivals hosted throughout the year. Sri Lanka has a diverse and rich cultural history and was a Dutch, Portugese and British colony from the early 1800s to 1900s, so expect splashes of European influence to be reflected in the architecture, food and drink and passion for cricket.
Absolutely everyone we met in Sri Lanka was incredible. Hospitable, friendly, welcoming and really keen to ensure we had a good time there. From our hostel owner who set us off on our way with a packed lunch; to the locals on the train that made sure we tried all the local delicacies. The people that helped us find our way and the hotel owners going out of their way to ensure we had the best stay. We met a coastguard on the beach that showed us the turtles he’d rescued that morning and when we went out at sunrise the local man who invited us in for breakfast with his family with the fish he had just caught. There was something almost overwhelming about how amazing everyone was. The world has a lot to learn from Sri Lankans.
The wildlife in Sri Lanka is insane. Sri Lanka, because of its varied climate, possesses a very high degree of biodiversity and is considered one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world. You can’t visit Sri Lanka without visiting one of the many national parks to try to catch a glimpse of an elusive spotted leopard or see elephants, bears, deer, monkeys, mongoose, wild boar, water buffalo, peacocks and many other beautiful species in their natural habitat. It also happens to be one of the best places to see Asian elephants in the wild. You can see giant sea turtles on the beaches, fish in the sea and the amazing monitor lizards just ambling down the roads.
Everywhere you look in Sri Lanka was beautiful. The most amazing thing is that it’s so varied too. Jungles, beaches, mountains, plantations. The most beautiful plants and species of flowers, the trees and it’s green, so green. Our number one recommendation is to get the train at least once on your trip, we spent 6 hours on the train and weren’t bored at any point because of how beautiful it was out of the windows.
OK, so this is bonus as Jess is a complete tea obsessive, but it is definitely worth going to see. Most of Sri Lanka’s tea plantations are based up in the hilly, cooler regions, but if you visit, there are some down in the south. We passed so many in the hills, and the famous Lipton’s seat, apparently where the first tea bush was planted by Mr Lipton. We visited a virgin white tea estate – Handunugoda Tea Estate – in the South near Koggala. Wherever you go, visit one and buy things!
Obviously, we are not mind-readers and can’t predict what might happen in the future. There are tensions preceding the elections in November, but hopefully this will not polarise voters as recent elections have done elsewhere. We can’t express how much our visit to Sri Lanka was one of our favourite EVER, so go and experience it for yourself.