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Sri Lanka Travel Diary – Part 1

by Lisa Stentvedt
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// trip in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tourism

I am writing this from a tent in the Knuckles Mountain Range (one of Sri Lanka’s 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites), and it’s quite exciting. Not only am I excited to be glamping for the first time in my life (living out my Jane Goodall fantasies in a remote area without wifi or data signal), but I am also excited to be live blogging for the first time in years!

I got the idea from Nienke (the Travel Tester), who did it on her recent New York trip. She published a blog post about her experiences every day on the trip, and I thought it seemed like such a great way to get back to the roots of what we do: write honestly about our travels and experiences. Back when I first started blogging, I would do this all the time, so I thought it was a great idea!

To be fair, my plan was to publish a blog post about each day of the trip, but I just haven’t taken the time to sit down each night to write a post about the day – I’ve been focusing on testing out the hotel pool, grabbing drinks with the other bloggers on this trip (Bella, Emily, Roshni and Marco), and editing photos from the day.

So instead of writing (and publishing) a post from each day of this trip, I’m writing two: this one, which is a travel diary from the first half of the trip, and then another about the second half (which will probably be written at the airport in Colombo). And it is quite exciting!

Part 2 of the travel diary has been published – find it here!

As you may (or may not) know, especially if you’ve been following along on Instagram, I am currently on a press trip to Sri Lanka with Destination Sri Lanka. This is my second time visiting this beautiful island, and I am so excited to be back (especially since this is my first trip out of Europe since the pandemic)!

The trip has been incredible so far. We have explored the capital, Colombo, and travelled northeast to the national parks area and then we’ve now ended up in the Knuckles Mountain Range (more specifically; the area near Rangala).

I hope you are ready to read all about it!

Day 1 – Colombo

I arrived in Colombo after 16 hours of travel (sadly, Bergen or Oslo do not have a direct route to Sri Lanka), and was picked up by a driver who took me to our hotel for the first two nights; the Kingsbury. As I was quite tired, I was very happy to be treated to an in-room check in experience (meaning I could go straight to my room with one of the staff members, who did all the necessary paperwork there).

The Kingsbury was quite a luxurious experience, and it is definitely a hotel I will be adding to my hotels in Sri Lanka post! So make sure to keep an eye out for that when I update it.

I had lunch at a local restaurant, before the others arrived (Emily, Roshni and Bella flew in from London, and landed a couple of hours after me). When they got to the Kingsbury, we headed straight to the pool to enjoy some drinks, pool snacks and the water itself. The evening activity was a welcome cocktail event with Destination Sri Lanka, and we were treated to yummy canapés, delicious cocktails, and a pretty epic view of Colombo.

I was quite exhausted, so after dinner I fell asleep right away, and slept for 10 hours straight.

cocktail overlooking colombo, sri lanka
Cocktails at the Kingsbury rooftop

Day 2 – Colombo

On this day we got to explore Colombo, and were picked up at the hotel by a double decker hop-on hop-off bus with our own guide! We were joining a Colombo City Tour by Ebert Silva Holidays.

We got to sit on the second floor of the bus as we drove around Colombo (sipping on fresh coconuts), listening to our guide telling us all we needed to know about the city of Colombo and Sri Lankan history. Of course, he pointed out sights and must-sees along the way, such as the Lotus Tower, the Gangaramaya Temple (which we visited later in the day), and the Galle Face Green. In addition to that, we stopped and visited the National Museum of Colombo, where we got to see ancient artifacts and relics excavated through the centuries.

For lunch, we visited the Galle Face Hotel, one of 3 heritage hotels in Colombo (another one is Mount Lavinia, which I have recommended in my Sri Lanka hotels post, and where I stayed during my trip two years ago). The Galle Face hotel has roots dating back to the 1800s, and through the years, notable names such as Vivienne Leigh, Sting, and Pope Saint John Paul II have all stayed there. They also have Prince Philip’s car on display; which he bought in Colombo when he was based there with the British Navy in 1940.

After lunch, we were lucky enough to be taken to the Lotus Tower, which is not yet open to the public. The tower is the second tallest self-supported structure in South Asia, and will house a revolving restaurant and viewing platform when it opens. So stay tuned for that!

After enjoying the spectacular views of Colombo from the Lotus Tower, and visiting the beautiful Gangaramaya Temple, it was back to the pool for a quick hour before dinner at the Kingsbury.

Colombo, Sri lanka

Day 3 – Hurulu Eco Park

On our third day we had an early start, as we were checking out of the Kingsbury and leaving Colombo! We drove to Habarana, about a 4 hour drive, and quickly checked into our hotel for the next two nights; Cinnamon Habarana Lodge, before heading out for our afternoon plans: an elephant safari in Hurulu Eco Park!

Hurulu Eco Park is a forest reserve, and an important habitat of the Sri Lankan elephant. Obviously, we were very excited and crossing our fingers that we would get to see some elephants. When I went to Sri Lanka two years ago, and did a safari in the Wilpattu National Park, we saw an elephant after hours of driving and scouting. So, I was trying not to get my hopes up, even though people told me Hurulu was known as “the elephant park”.

The park and the safari did not disappoint! We saw so many elephants, and the first ones were visible in the tall grass not long after getting in our jeeps (Emily, Marco and I had one to ourselves, whilst Roshni and Bella got another). It was such an incredible day, and we just kept driving around, stopping to see the elephants walking about, drinking water, and probably wondering why we were so excited to see them. The whole experience was such a rush, and I saw more elephants in those hours than I have in my entire life! Definitely an experience I recommend!

Another highlight of the safari was to see Bella and Roshni’s jeep get stuck in a mud pit (the same one that broke a piece of our jeep off), and to watch them get pulled out of it by another safari jeep. It was quite priceless. I have posted a video of this here!

After the safari, we were quite tired – but there is always time to jump in the pool! So we did, and relaxed in the water until it was dinner time. Dinner at both the Cinnamon Habarana Lodge and at the Kingsbury were buffets.

Day 4 – Anuradhapura

After the rush of the elephant safari, it was time for some history and learning. We got in our van (we have “our own” van for the whole trip, and our driver, Ranil, is the absolute best) to head to Anuradhapura; a historic city listed by UNESCO’s World Heritage. Anuradhapura dates back to the 3rd century b.c., when Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka. As a result, the city holds several ruins that are quite important historically, as well as sacred sites for Buddhism.

During our day here we were taken to several of these sites, such as the beautiful Ruwanweli Stupa and the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree (which came from a sapling or branch of the actual Bodhi tree in India), and excavations of monasteries and surrounding buildings from 300 b.c. We also got to learn about the impressive irrigation system that was used then to ensure running, clean water for the monks (seriously, some of it would be impressive today!).

After our trip to Anuradhapura (it was around a 2 hour drive each way), I’m sure you know what we did: jumped in the pool. Seriously, there is nothing more refreshing, especially not when you’re only been used to Norwegian weather for the past 2 years..

reflections of a stupa in anuradhapura, sri lanka

Day 5 – Sigiriya Rock and Knuckles Mountain Range

Now we are caught up and it’s time for me to tell you about today!

We started the day by checking out of our hotel after breakfast and drove to Sigiriya Rock – which you may remember from my last trip! Sigiriya is also known as Lion’s Rock, and is an ancient fortress built on top of a large (as in, gigantic) rock. The fortress dates back to the 5th century and was excavated in the 1800s.

To get to the top you have to climb about 1200 steps, and it is one of Sri Lanka’s main tourist attractions (with good reason). It is also listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and Ranil taught us that it has been nominated as the 8th Wonder of the World!

We climbed Sigiriya in about 35 minutes (which was 10 minutes faster than I climbed it 2 years ago), stopping along the way to catch our breath and take photos. It is such a fascinating place, and it is just incredible to think what they were able to build without machines! Pools, irrigation systems, lift systems and throne rooms – nothing was off limits to King Kashyapa (who built the fortress).

sigiriya rock, sri lanka

We spent a good amount of time at the top to get our photos (I mean, we are all bloggers and influencers, after all), before heading back down to the car for another long(-ish) drive. It was time to head to the Knuckles Mountain Range, and check into our accommodation for the next two nights: Wild Glamping Knuckles!

So that’s what I’ve been up to for the past 5 days – what a trip it has been so far! Dinner tonight was absolutely lovely (a fresh BBQ dinner cooked using locally sourced produce and ingredients), and so far I am loving the glamping experience. There are only 10 tents here, and absolutely no signal or Wifi. So we are completely off the grid, which is quite a nice change.

However, do check back on my next blog post (covering the second half of the trip) to see if I still mean that!

Update! Read part 2 of my Sri Lanka travel diary here!

In addition to that, there is no electricity – only a solar-powered generator that is turned on from 06:30 to 08:30 in the morning and from 18:00 to 22:00 in the evening. Quite the experience! As a result, this blog post is posted with a little delay, and by the time you read it I won’t be at this location anymore. However, I still wanted to split it like this as it was quite convenient for me to write this tonight.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and that you’ll check back for part two of my Sri Lankan travel diary! I have definitely loved writing it, and think I might do this more often on trips moving forward.

wild glamping knuckles tents

As you know, I went to Sri Lanka 2 years ago, and if you are curious about those, you can check them all out here:

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