Sri Lanka is on our must visit this year. Thank you so much to Agnes for providing us with some great places to visit when we arrive.
Why visit Sri Lanka?
If you are a budget traveller who is planning on spending some time in Sri Lanka, I have some good news for you. Firstly, this country is, not without a reason, called “Budget travellers’ paradise” and as you can guess, it’s very affordable, especially when you are interested in trekking, elephant riding, snorkelling or diving.
Secondly, Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries in Asia and its scenery will blow you away and leave you speechless for a long time. It has everything what you may wish for – gold beaches, tropical forests, high mountains and a great variety of wildlife.
As for the food, you will experience here absolutely new flavours from sweet, sour to extremely spicy. It can be a real Sri Lankan culinary journey on the cheap for you where you will be able to try some of the most delicious local meals such as spicy curry, mild hoppers and veggie samosas!
Lastly, travelling in Sri Lanka seems to be trouble-free. Are you afraid of getting lost? Don’t worry, locals will guide you! People here are amazingly hospitable and when they see backpackers and budget travellers, they don’t try to rip them off, but they try to treat you like a family member instead. Moreover, there is an easy access to any mean of transport you want to travel by, people speak very good English and Sri Lanka itself can be explored within a few days.
Top 3 places you can’t afford to miss in Sri Lanka
Pinnawala is a small village located in Kegalle, around 90 km from the capital, Colombo. It can be easily reached by local train from the capital city (Colombo - Pinnawala 3rd class train costs only $0.90). It is well known for its elephant orphanage visited by hundreds of tourists every day.
The orphanage itself is well worth a visit, particularly at feeding time but also walking down to see the elephants bathing in the river is a real spectacle. You can get a seat at one of the bars and local restaurants overlooking the river and you can enjoy the elephants as well as having food and drinks at a reasonable price considering the location. Just sit there for an hour and watch the elephants, it’s a really amazing experience!
The elephants in the orphanage are tethered to prevent them running away which was slightly of putting but once you understand the history and that after starting with just 4 rescued elephants they now have many more, quite a few who were born there but more importantly that they regularly release them back into the wild in the rain forests with ongoing checks on their welfare.
If you are lucky, you might get asked by one of the staff members to feed the elephants or help me out with bathing the elephants.
#2 Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka, located in the South-Eastern region of the country. The park consists of five blocks and covers an area of 1260 square kilometers. That sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Once you arrive here, you can rent a jeep with soft –tops which affords better opportunities in viewing wild life.
There is a great variety of wildlife in the park – from elephant, leopard to spotted deer and sloth bear. It is estimated that there are 32 species of mammals living in the park.
The safari experience costs around $30 per person (entrance ticket, 5 hours in the park, jeep rental and tips for the driver included), but it is absolutely worth it!
Galle is one of the biggest and most interesting cities in Sri Lanka, often underrated by travellers and holiday makers. It is located in South-Western part of the island, less than 120 km from the capital city. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period, so you can admire a typical Dutch architecture when strolling down the streets of Galle.
Moreover, Galle has a beautiful beach nearby where you can do some sunbathing, swim and relax. The great news is that the beach is never too busy and the place itself can be easily explored for less than $20 a day.
What can you do in Galle in your free time? A lot of different things. If you are travelling with kids, they will simple love Sea Turtle Hatchery (Habaraduwa). You will find it along the Coastal Road where you will see the hatchery collect their eggs to protect them. It costs only Rs 200, $1.50, but it’s a lot of fun You can also visit Galle Fort where you can find many interesting Dutch-style buildings and churches (price: Rs 300, $2.3) or explore National Museum, Maritime Museum and Historical Museum during your trip to Galle Fort (price: Rs 45, $0.3). When it gets dark, don’t forget to head to the Lighthouse, one of the oldest in Sri Lanka, built in 1848 (price: Rs 35, $0.26) and if you are an active person, rent a bike and go cycling around Galle (Rs 350, $2.70 per day).
Sri Lanka offers a lot of amazing places worth exploring. When planning your itinerary here, do not forget to add Galle, Pinnawala or Yala National Park and I beat you will not regret that.
Agness is a photography passionate, food lover and adventure hunter. She stands behind eTramping - a travel website where you can find plenty of budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out her "Add the Brick to the Great Wall:" Experience-based Advice for China from Expats" e-book which sums up her two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.