Home Destination GuidesAsia Sri Lanka Travel Diary – Part 2

Sri Lanka Travel Diary – Part 2

by Lisa Stentvedt
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I am sad to say that my trip to Sri Lanka has come to an end, and as I am writing this I am currently sitting in a Qatar Airways Qsuite, enjoying a glass of Bordeaux (the perfect end to the trip) on a flight from Doha to Oslo (planning on publishing business class review soon – I wasn’t expecting to get to test out the Qsuite on this trip!).

I have had such an incredible time in Sri Lanka, and am excited to finish my travel diary with a part two (head this way to read part 1). As you may remember, when we left off, I had just checked into Wild Glamping Knuckles, where I’d be glamping for 2 days (and for the first time!).

The second half of the trip started in the Knuckles Mountain Range, and ended by the beach in Mirissa, in the south of Sri Lanka, and was just as epic as the first half. Let’s dive in!

If you want to try this itinerary out yourself, you’ll want to read my guide here!

Day 6 – Knuckles Mountain Range

I woke up from our first night of glamping feeling very refreshed. Falling asleep to the sound of nothing but the sound of the animals and forest around us was incredibly relaxing (and it was insanely dark in my tent once the power went out at 22:00). After a Sri Lankan breakfast (paratha, dhal, string hoppers and chicken), we set out for our adventure for the day; a hike to Heel Oya waterfall and village!

The 12 km hike started at 9, and ended up taking us 6 hours. The hike itself could have taken 3-4 hours, but our guide Janaka stopped often to ensure we learned about the local plants and animals in the region. We hadn’t even walked for 100 meters when we saw a rattle snake lounging in the dry grass, which I had not expected!

In addition to the snake, the 12 km hike took us through local villages filled with smiling people (and children who loved to utter the two English words “Hi!” and “Bye!” as they waved us in and out of their village). I absolutely loved seeing how the locals live in this region, and how far their life is from the one I live at home in Norway.

My favourite thing about the hike was stopping at the Heel Oya waterfall. Emily and I didn’t hesitate to jump in (after hiking around 7 kilometers in the Sri Lankan sun we were feeling quite sticky) and had a great time cooling off in the refreshing water. We still had a bit to go, so once we were satisfied and dried off, we kept going towards the end of the village.

After a couple of leech encounters (we wore leech socks up until the waterfall jump, but took them off for the remainder of the hike) and some beautiful sceneries as we hiked past rice paddies and tea plant fields, we reached the edge of the village. We were given a brief cooking demonstration by a local woman, before we could dive into a lovely (and well-deserved) lunch. The staff at our glamping spot then came to pick us up, to take us the 1-1,5 hour drive back to Wild Glamping Knuckles.

The rest of the day (it was a little over 5 by the time we got back) went by quickly. We all jumped in the shower (you can’t imagine how sweaty a 12 km hike in the heat gets you – even when you have gone for a cold swim), got some photos of our tents, and prepared for dinner. The staff lit a bonfire for us outside, and we enjoyed our wine whilst staring into the flames (so hypnotizing!) and talking about the day we had had.

After a great barbeque dinner (which included kotthu – my favourite Sri Lankan meal!), it was back to our tents and straight to bed. There’s no point dawdling about when the generator is shut off at 10; it’s quite literally lights out!

Day 7 – Kandy

We woke up after another night of deep sleep, to nothing but the sound of nature outside our tents. We were sad to check out from our glamping spot and loved that the staff had set up our breakfast right in front of an epic view of the mountains. I honestly cannot recommend Wild Glamping Knuckles enough, especially if you want a truly unique experience in Sri Lanka. They only have 10 tents available, and we learned that they book out quite quickly – you can book it here!

We drove down from the mountains to Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka. We first stop at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, where one of Buddha’s teeth are enshrined. The temple was quite busy on the day we visited as it was a full moon, which is a holiday in Sri Lanka.

After visiting the temple, we were taken to the home of a traditional Kandyan dancer named Ruwan Marasingi. He is a dance teacher, with a dance school in his backyard! Him, his sons and some of his students gave us a demonstration of traditional Kandyan and Sri Lankan dance, in addition to teaching us about the different drums used with the dances (the one used for our display was the geta-beraya drum). Ruwan has learned the dancing from his father and grandfather, and has then taught the traditions to his two sons – how incredible is that?

After the display and teachings, we got to try some of the dancing for ourselves! You can imagine I was excited, having always loved dance classes and trying to find a way to dance wherever I have lived (whether it’s through a dance class or on a dance floor). We learned that there are 24 base steps in the traditional Kandyan dance, and we got to try our hand at two of them – and I have to say I managed quite well!

Our hotel for the night (just the one night, sadly) was Amaya Hills, Kandy – with great views of the city below and mountains on the other side of the valley. I must admit it was quite nice to stay in a hotel with proper lighting and strong Wifi after two days of glamping.

traditional kandyan dance, sri lanka

Day 8 – Nuwara Eliya

We had a bit of a lie-in on our 8th day, as we had less on the plan than some of the previous days. This let me catch up on some work (mostly emails and editing photos from the trip – and typing up my notes for this travel diary!), as well as having a slow breakfast enjoying the views from the hotel.

Our first stop on the way to Nuwara Eliya was the Ramboda waterfall, and we stopped for lunch at a hotel overlooking the waterfall (the 11th tallest in Sri Lanka, randomly enough). From there, it was a short drive to the Damro Tea Plantation, where we were given a tour of the factory and learned a little bit about the history of tea in Sri Lanka. There are 680 women working the fields of the plantation, and each of them aim to pick 18 kg of tea leaves per day!

From the plantation we headed to Nuwara Eliya, which is the highest town in Sri Lanka (at around 1800 meters above sea level). Nuwara Eliya is known as “little England”, and it is where the English would go to escape the heat in the summers, back when Sri Lanka was a British colony.

We stayed at Jetwing St. Andrew’s for the night, a hotel I remember as one of my favourites from my trip two years ago. The hotel dates back to the late 1800’s, and I absolutely loved walking through the hallways (with its original tiles) trying to imagine the people who have walked there in the past 130 years. We were given a tour of the gardens and wetland reserve of the hotel and learned all about their sustainability focus. In their ponds they have several types of endangered and critically endangered frogs, and in the reserve you will find 6 bird species that are endemic to Sri Lanka!

After our tour (given by the onsite naturalist), we ran to the garden to enjoy the last few rays of sun and a couple of glasses of wine before dinner. We were quite excited for an a la carte dinner after a week of buffets, and it did not disappoint! St. Andrew’s is still one of my favourite hotels in Sri Lanka.

How we spent our afternoon in Nuwara Eliya; working, posing for photos and drinking wine! Photo by the incredible Bella Falk.

Day 9 – Drive to Mirissa

On day 9 we didn’t have a very busy schedule, as we had a 7 hour drive from Nuwara Eliya to Mirissa ahead of us. We opted for an early start, and left Nuwara Eliya by 8 (after a quick stop to the very British-looking post office to send off some postcards). As we were eager to get to Mirissa, a popular beach destination in Sri Lanka, we took a slightly faster route with fewer stops (all though we did drive through Ella and stopped at the Ravana Ella waterfall for a few quick photos).

We arrived in Mirissa around 13:30, and were very happy to find that our hotel, the Mandara Resort Mirissa, was a lovely beachfront hotel with a pool overlooking the ocean and waves. Naturally, our plan was to hit the pool (as always), but we couldn’t see the ocean without having a swim first! And I can’t even BEGIN to tell you how incredibly nice it was to swim in the ocean for the first time in 2 years (since my last trip to Sri Lanka, to be exact). I loved the feeling of salt water on my lips and in my hair again, and was excited to find that I can still dive under a wave with perfect timing.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing by the pool, ordering drinks and ice cream from the lovely hotel staff. We had a very early morning coming up the next day (for a very exciting reason), and so we tried to go to bed a little earlier than usual.

beach in mirissa, sri lanka

Day 10 – Whale watching, Ayurvi and off to Bentota

As mentioned, we had an early morning, and the day started at 06:00 as we left our hotel to go on a whale watching excursion with Sail Lanka! You know I love a boat day, and so I obviously brought my bikini in hopes that I would get a chance to jump in the water at some point. We left from Mirissa in the morning and sailed off on a catamaran in search for whales (blue whales, bryde whales or sperm whales, we were told) and dolphins. As dolphins are my favourite animal, I was really hoping we’d get to see some, and luckily for me, we did! Not long after sailing off to sea, pods of dolphins started surrounding the boat, and I got to sit at the front of the catamaran with my feet dangling over several dolphins swimming, jumping, and playing alongside of the boat. I was so happy I didn’t even care if we saw whales at that point!

But, of course, we kept searching for them, and after a while, our captain got a radio message that some other boat had spotted a young blue whale! We headed of in their direction, and after a while – we saw it! After each time it came up for air, we sailed slowly in the same direction as the whale, hoping it would come back up without changing direction. They come up for air around every 10-15 minutes, and we ended up seeing it break the surface several times! It was such a great experience, and I know Bella got some epic photos of it with her zoom lens.

After our animal encounters, we anchored closer to land, and it was finally time to jump in the lovely water. I dove in as soon as I got the chance and stayed in the ocean until it was lunch time (made fresh on the boat). After another quick swim it was sadly time to head ashore again, but everyone was smiling from ear-to-ear as we docked. I highly recommend Sail Lanka’s 7 hour whale watching excursion.

Looking for whale watching activities in Mirissa? Here you go:

The day didn’t end there, as we were taken to Ayurvie Weligama for a massage and an introduction to Sri Lankan wellness and ayurvedic history. We were all treated to a lovely foot massage – which was surprisingly needed after a day in the sun and at sea. The hotel and spa we visited (Ayurvie Weligama) was absolutely lovely, and we got a tour of two of the suites, as well as one of the standard rooms (with its incredible ocean view).

After our lunch, massage and hotel tour in Weligama, it was off to Bentota – our final stop for the trip – and one of my new favourite hotels; the Taj Bentota Resort & Spa. We were met at the Taj with the most efficient check-in of the trip so far (which is really nice when you are on a longer trip with a busy schedule).

The Taj is a resort with several restaurants, and on our first night we dined out on the grass overlooking the ocean at their Shack seafood restaurant (one of the best seafood restaurants in Sri Lanka, I was told). Sadly, I do not eat seafood (worst Norwegian ever, I know), but their chicken and vegetarian dishes were absolutely worth recommending! During dinner, we were treated to a show of traditional dances (I was tempted to join in, considering I learned a couple of moves in Kandy, haha!), drums and a live quartet setting the mood for dinner.

Day 11 – Last day 🙁

On our final day in Sri Lanka (I’m not crying, you’re crying), we went on a morning river cruise on the Madu River. This 2-hour cruise in a small boat took us up the river, past several of the many islands in the wetlands, and through dark mangrove forests. We saw water monitor lizards, river jellyfish (which I had never heard of before), and several colourful birds that habitate the area. Following the river cruise, we all had one thing on our mind: the amazing pool at the Taj.

We spent the rest of the day lounging by (and in) the pool and enjoyed our lunch (a buffet) at the Palm Restaurant at the Taj. Since we were all leaving (except for Emily, who decided to stay a few extra days – smart girl) in the evening, it was so nice to have this relaxing time together for a few more hours. Bella, Roshni and Marko left the hotel at 20:00, whilst I had a few more hours (for my 04:00 flight I didn’t have to get picked up from the hotel until midnight). Emily and I went to the beach for sunset, had a couple of drinks at the Tease Bar of the hotel (if you are ever at the Taj Bentota; don’t miss out on their Banker’s Martini!), before heading to the buffet restaurant for dinner (and then back to the bar for another drink).

I was so sad to leave Sri Lanka, and I can’t believe how fast these 11 days have gone! I have really enjoyed blogging live (-ish) for this trip, and if you have enjoyed reading these posts, do let me know in the comments! Chances are high I will do it again on a future trip.

Over the next few weeks I will be updating and ensuring that my Sri Lanka content is all up to date for you all, so make sure to check out all the posts:

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