In June we spent 20 days seeking out the best of Sri Lanka. We explored the Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka, flew to the far far north up by Jaffna, and all the way down south to Galle. We even went on a safari in Yala National Park. Sri Lanka is a country that has something to offer for every kind of traveler; culture, gorgeous beaches, wildlife, friendly locals, tasty food, and so much more! Sri Lanka should definitely be added to your bucket list. These destinations were our favorite spots and the best of Sri Lanka!
The Best of Sri Lanka
Yala National Park
Did you know you could go on a safari in Sri Lanka? Neither did we! We made the journey from our hotel Cantaloupe Levels in Galle to Yala National Park, where we spent the night camping at Leopard Trails. While we were there we went on an afternoon and morning game drive. We saw leopards on both!
This was not our first safari but it was the first time we saw a leopard two days in a row. Yala National Park has the highest population density of leopards in the world. We’ve seen a leopard before in the Serengeti but have never gotten as close as we did here. If seeing a leopard in the wild is on your bucket list you have to go on a safari with Leopard Trails in Yala National Park, these guys specialize in spotting leopards.
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If there was one place we could spend a month in Sri Lanka, it would be Galle! We fell in love with Galle and the surrounding beaches. We spent 5 nights perched above the Unawatuna Bay at Cantaloup Levels, which was the perfect spot to be. Every morning we woke up with gorgeous ocean views, relaxed by the pool, and had lunch in one of the poolside beds. At the end of the day, we watched the amazing sunsets from our balcony or the nearby peace pagoda.
At night we’d just take a quick 10-minute tuk-tuk down to the Unawatuna beach bars & restaurants. We couldn’t believe the beach bar scene here it kind of reminded us of one of our favorite beaches in Jamaica. A trip to Galle wouldn’t be complete without visiting the fort, you could easily spend a few days wandering around inside the fort EXCEPT it’s super hot and only 2 establishments can serve alcohol. We wouldn’t suggest a hotel inside the for you’re better off staying right on the beach at Cantaloupe Aqua or up in the hills like we did.
The far north of Sri Lanka is a place that you don’t hear about very often while traveling. Jaffna and a majority of northern Sri Lanka felt very raw and untouched by outside influences. Just a few years ago the civil war that raged for the past 3o-years finally came to an end. After three decades being under constant pressure and threats of violence, this part of the country feels different than southern Sri Lanka.
During your travels in the north don’t expect as many eye-grabbing sights and tourist attractions that will hit you over the head like in the south. Jaffna and the rest of the north make you look a bit harder for their secrets, but when you do, you’ll find a lot of beauty and adventure. One of our favorite things we loved about northern Sri Lanka were the beautiful Hindu temples in every town and village. Jaffna is a must for the adventurous traveler, and one of the best of Sri Lanka.
Skip the private transfer and hop on the local train from Colombo to Kandy. It may sound like a terrible idea, but we guarantee this will be one of the most scenic train rides you have ever been on. The train ride was one of our favorite parts of our trip to Sri Lanka. You won’t need air conditioning just pop your head out the side of the train to enjoy the fresh air and gorgeous views.
Once in Kandy make sure to check out the Temple of Tooth, go to the Big Buddha, and, if you have time, hike up to Sigiriya. Next time we visit Sri Lanka we plan on spending a week in Kandy as there are a ton of things to do in the area.
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The entire Eastern coast of Sri Lanka was great but the little beach town of Arugam Bay was our favorite. It just had that beach vibe we love in little coastal towns. We could totally see ourselves chilling there for a few weeks. Arugam Bay is particularly popular with the surfers due to its great surf point. We love a good beach with happy hour bars on the sand where we can sit back and watch the sunset.
Trincomalee & Pigeon Island
One of the best days during our time in Sri Lanka was the day trip out to swim with the incredible sea life around Pigeon Island National park. We traveled during off season but there are frequently whales and dolphins in the area where tour can be arranged for whale watching. Be sure to climb high on the hill for great views of the island and the bay.
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Sri Lanka really surprised us with the variety and beauty it offered. The food was amazing too we loved all the coconut curries, next time we have to try all of these 10 must try dishes in Sri Lanka. We know we’ll be coming back to Sri Lanka sooner than later. We’ve met some amazing friends and we can’t wait to go back and explore more of this magical country and discover the best of Sri Lanka.