Deep seeded in culture and colour, Sri Lanka is surrounded by a beautiful and sometimes wild coastline that would quench any traveller’s thirst. With its slow pace lifestyle and sometimes bustling streets, be assured you can pick a pace that suits your travel mode. As we explore just a small portion of the south and eastern coast (and a short detour inland) to give just a taste of what Sri Lanka has on offer: expect roaming elephants and breathtaking nature in abundance.
Kicking off our east to south coast adventures is the beautiful little town of Trincomalee, situated on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. Renowned for its white sand beaches, you will have a little more room to move here than the more touristy sisters of the south-east coastline. In town explore the vibrantly colourful Sri Pathrakali Amman Kovil temple, and if you find yourself there at the right time of day you may even get to observe a Hindu ceremony! Experience a culture shift just a 15-minute walk from the Pathrakali temple in the old Portuguese quarter of Fort Fredrick. Just one of many Portuguese forts you can explore during your trip to Sri Lanka, a historical juxtaposition from the modern times, but still just as beautiful.
Move over Colombo, it is said that Kattankudy is the most densely populated city in Sri Lanka with nearly 50,000 residents, but don’t let this stray you from making a visit on your way down the east coast, as it still holds the energy of a slow-paced town. About a 2.5 hour drive down from Trincomalee, there are plenty of places to escape from the crowds, such as Kallady beach which can often be empty bar a fisherman boat or two. However, with the populace comes some spectacular culture, so you won’t be in need of a great local eat or two, and while you’re in town why not explore some museums such as the Kattankudy Heritage Museum showcasing the deep history of Arab and Muslin traders provincially. Other things to add to the list is the gorgeous baby blue St Mary’s Cathedral and vibrant colours of a setting sun from the Batticaloa Lighthouse!
Arugam Bay is sooo puuurdy, as is most of Sri Lanka, know that we think about it, but Arugam Bay holds a special place in our travel diaries. A small town with only one small street lined with shops and surfing supplies, Arguam Bay is a definitely a surfer’s magnet with some of the best seasonal waves in Sri Lanka. Whether its wave season or not, all year ‘round you can expect to let your hair down as the ‘Bay has been known to host some of Sri Lanka’s best beach parties, but nothing a salt water dip the next morning hopefully can’t fix.
If you’re travelling to Sri Lanka to grab some *gasp* visuals then it’s well worth the inland detour towards the tea plantations in the Haputale Mountain region. The detour isn’t too far a stretch, as travellers must detour around the Yala National Park reserve (which we recommend shortly). The Scottish settler Sir Thomas Lipton from, yes, Lipton Tea started his first tea plantation in this region, and taking the walk to Lipton Seat, the view where Sir Lipton himself would often take refuge for the view, has become a rite of passage for tea lovers. Taking about 2.5 hours on average, and whether you’re a tea lover or not it’s well worth the *gasp* view!
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is a large 979 square km nature reserve along the south coast that has been divided into to 5 sanctuaries, in which 2 are open to the public. The only way to visit the park is by a half-day or full-day Safari tour, which you can easily book online or have your host organise for you. Yala hosts a number of species including reptiles (a lot of crocs out here), over 44 species of mammals, including the rare Sri Lankan sloth bear, large herds of elephants, wild water buffalo and one of the highest leopard densities in the world! Yala is also home to some 215 birds species including the Malabar pied hornbill (it’s like the Sri Lankan toucan) among many other rare species, meaning you’ll come across a herd of bird watchers or two.
It’s a fantastic four-wheel driving adventure, traversing around some of Sri Lanka’s dry landscapes and wet swamplands. To top it off you receive a picnic lunch on a wild beach, but don’t worry the crocodiles here only like still water. And before you ask, yes, we spotted a leopard!
Sliding along the southern shores of Sri Lanka in the Matara district is the slow-paced fishing town of Weligama. With its long sandy beaches and a milder surf break, Weligama is probably one of the best spots for beginner surfers, and offers plenty of lessons, which are available cheaply. Alternatively, grab one of the hundreds of boards for hire for those who want to dive right in. For those holding back on the waves, there are some great day trips such as the popular whale watching tour.
An easy location to get to via bus or car from Yala (or Colombo) and with plenty of beach shacks or bunks up for grabs. It goes without saying that being a fishing village there is plenty of fresh local seafood cuisine and Weligama offers some of the best – finger licking good!
Mirissa is no more than about a 20 min tuk-tuk from Weligama, but we’re making a quick detour here just to let you know that it’s got an amazing point break for the more experienced surfer that is hidden from the main roads. Not to mention one of the best bays to go snorkelling with the giant (and very friendly) sea turtles. For those who want to skip out on the local curry, we recommend heading a tad further north to the Doctors House, a restaurant/bar operated by some Aussies with the hand of some local groms, so good coffee is in store!