Sri Lanka was an experience to remember. I loved experiencing a new culture, a different people and just a completely different vibe than what I’m used to when I travel. I usually travel to tropical destinations, and stay on a nice resort, and sip my drink while sleeping on the beach or reading a book. Don’t get me wrong, I love relaxing and napping, but this time I wanted a more immersed cultural experience. I wanted to really learn about the region and meet the locals. If you are looking to travel to Sri Lanka, I highly recommend the places I’m about to tell you about. There is so much to see so I definitely want to go back and explore more of this amazing island country.
Things to do
First we went to temple of the scared tooth, which is one of the most sought after buddhist temples because it houses an actual tooth of Buddha! It was really beautiful inside but it was super crowded, which was a little much for me. I quickly walked in and walked right out. I tried to take pictures as quickly a possible so I can look at them after. After the temple, I toured the Geragama Tea Factory. It was on the side of a mountain, and honestly I thought to myself ‘there is no way a tea factory is in this small space’; but when we went all the way to the top, there were tons of tea plants and lots of equipment to do the entire tea making process. You start the tour from the top and then work your way down through the different rooms of equipment, each with a specific purpose in the team making process. We saw where the leaves are humidified, where they are processed, and every step from start to finish. At the end there is a shop where you could buy the teas produced there, and I bought the BOP tea = English Breakfast and a few packs of Green Tea. I have to say it is probably the best and freshest tea I’ve ever had.
After the tea factory, we told our taxi driver we wanted to go to a spice garden. He found one for us and it wasn’t what I thought. I had my heart set on going to a spice garden where you can learn about and buy different spices to cook with. But he took us to a spice garden where they make things out of plants for medicinal purposes. You can also cook with it, but this location specialized in research and development of healing spices. We did a tour and as we went along I learned more and more about everything in nature that can help you health-wise. I was amazed at how many benefits these things had, and all along I relied on Advil or Tylenol to help with headaches, but I could have been using natural products. They even had stuff to help with hair growth and thickening. Needless to say I bought a bunch of their products and I cannot wait to try them to see if they work. I’ll keep you posted on the natural beauty products I bought and liked.
We then headed out the next day leaving Kandy to head to Dambulla, and stopped off at the center of Sri Lanka. It was like an ancient house or temple made of rocks with etchings of people and lions. I learned that the lake next to it was where the temple was originally located, but back in the 90’s they uplifted all the rock to just a little ways over so that the temple would not be submerged in water and they wouldn’t lose that piece of ancient history. They had to mark every single piece of rock so that it would be put back exactly the way it was before. I can’t imagine having to do that in the heat and humidity.
The forecast said it would rain every day, 100% of the time, but we got lucky and it only rained at night, with the exception of one day which we ended up going to Dambulla temple rather than our planned hike for the day. Before you enter the temple, you have to remove your shoes. I was a little hesitant because the ground is straight up cobble stone, but luckily the stone is so old and worn that it wasn’t uncomfortable on my feet. The temple was very beautiful and there were very old paintings on the walls of Buddhist figures. There were lots of people there to give flower offerings to the Buddha. Afterwards, was a great photo opp because you end up being at the top of a big hill essentially and you can see the lush green land for as far as you can see.
I went on a hike in Sigiriya to the Lion’s Paws of Sri Lanka and we went all the way to the top. It was the most breathtaking and amazing experience I have had in a long time. It is an ancient fortress where a King’s palace later occupied. After the King died, the fortress was turned into a Buddhist temple until the 14th century. I couldn’t believe that something that old still exists. And the views and how high you were made you feel like you could touch the clouds.
Our last day I did a spa day after the Sigiriya hike. The spa at Jetwing lake was probably my favorite part of the trip after being sore and my feet hurt from all the hiking. My massage was 90 minutes and I swear the massage therapist had magic hands. The pressure of the Swedish massage was perfect! I also really liked that there is a shower in-room so you can take a quick shower afterwards if you prefer not to keep the oil on you, or before if you are coming from a sweaty hike. I was so relaxed that I asked the therapist if I could stay for another 15 minutes to finish my nap.
How I got around
We hired a taxi when we got to the airport, and the price to have a driver with the car for the whole time you are there is the same price you would pay for a rental car. Beware of renting a car as the driving is extremely dangerous in Sri Lanka if you’ve never done it before. I highly advise to go the driver route so that you are with an experienced driver and they know how to navigate the roads. Our driver’s name was Sunil and he was very sweet. His English was good enough that he understood what we wanted. Sometimes things got lost in translation, but if you are patient with each other, you will get the message across. Also, he has experience with tourists so he generally knows what you want without having to fully explain it. Just say Sirigirya, and he knows you most likely want to hike the Lion’s feet or Pidrangula as an example.
Where I stayed
I stayed at Ozo hotel in Kandy the first 2 nights and it was a decent hotel. It was quite simple and had a small balcony where you can enjoy the sunrise in the mornings. I had a peaceful sleep and the bed was super comfortable. I didn’t like their shampoo and body wash that was included. It just seemed of very cheap quality. I also didn’t like the hair dryer that came in-room. Luckily I brought my own, so I just ended up using that. These are minor grievances, and I overall liked the hotel. The restaurant was actually really great for dinner and they had good wine selections. And I also loved the breakfast buffet. I was happy with the fact that they had great customer service. We accidentally booked Ozo in a different city, and they switched the booking for us with no penalty. Win!
We switched to Jetwing Lake in Dambulla, which is only 15 minutes away from Sigiriya. The hotel was so unique. It’s a brand-new build, only 9 months old and the concept is super cool. It’s all about modern minimalism mixed with woodey furniture and a little grit. The lobby was fully open-air concept as well as the hallways. When I say open air, there are no walls. You walk up to a platform and there is the lobby desk. I absolutely loved our room. I love simple and chic. The shower was open concept, you just walk in and turn on the water. I loved that there was a separate tub that you could take a bubble bath in. I didn’t use it, but I should have. The towels were plush and soft. The hair dryer came in handy when I needed to wash my hair that evening from all the sweat build up. The bar was stocked with soda and snacks and the room comes with 2 complementary bottles of water.
There is so much to cover on this amazing place, so I will be doing another update on where we ate, nightlife in Sri Lanka and where I shopped. I had an overall amazing experience and like I said before, I will be going back!