Sri Lankan Highlights With Geckos Adventures
It seems as if there is not enough time in the world to unlock all the treasures of Sri Lanka. A mere six years after the devastating 25-year civil war and over a decade since the 2004 tsunami, the island is thriving socially and economically which has been aided by the dramatic rise in tourism over the past ten years.
From the second you fly into the dense palm-tree forests of Colombo to the moment you leave this tropical paradise, you will feel at ease with the extremely friendly locals who are eager to show you their country. The endless opportunities and sights Sri Lanka has to offer include lush tea plantations, crystalline waterfalls and the famous Yala National Park. Sri Lanka is also a famous surfing destination with amazing beach breaks in Arugam Bay, Unawatuna and Mirisa.
These are the 6 highlights of my 11 day tour with Gecko Adventures!
1. Main Fish Market Negombo
Each day, fishermen go out in search of the fish of which Negombo is most famous. This can be quite an intense affair, but witnessing the variety of fish being presented by the locals is a great experience. Arriving just before sunrise you'll be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the fish auctions. The morning light glimmering over the river makes for perfect photo opportunities, stunning enough to overshadow the potent smell of the fish.
Imagine tea plantations, waterfalls, rolling mountains, clouds and mist all mashed up together over 6 hours, given how slowly you are travelling it goes extremely quickly! At each train station on the way, the train cabins were filled with sellers hustling treats like freshly cut pineapple and mango with cinnamon, corn with salty butter, freshly made rice and curry, chilli fritters and crispy papadums. Delish!
This train journey was by far my favourite part of the trip, so much so I wrote a feature discussing the journey in depth with my tips on getting the best tickets!
By far my favourite town in Sri Lanka, surrounded by the most amazing mountains, and misty tea plantations, it's energy speaks for itself. The main street is full of cute little cafes, bars, sweet shops and Aurvedic day spas, bustling with backpackers and holiday makers alike. I had one of the best Aurvedic massages in my life here and it's definitely a 'must do' while in town.
Head down to Cafe Chill and expect to sit around communal tables, sharing travel stories with locals and other travellers until midnight! If you aren't too hung over the next day, hike up little Adams peak for the most amazing misty sunrise and mountain views.
4. Yala National Park Safari
Included in the itinerary, this is an epic 4-5 hours of vast dry woodland and open patches of grasslands. Yala National Park is one of the biggest draw cards in Sri Lanka and if you get yourself on a Geckos Adventures tour, you'll soon see why! The most sought after and famous animals to see are the Sloth Bear, Leopard and Elephants. We were fortunate enough to see 2 Sloth Bears and a group of young and old Elephants, which we were told was a rare and incredible event. We all felt extremely grateful!
5. Unawatuna & Mirisa
Famous for their beautiful beaches and corals, Unawatuna and Mirisa are very popular for tourists located in the Galle district. Offering the classic mellow traveller vibe, by day you'll find yourself swimming in the turquoise waters or tanning on the golden sand. And by night expect to wander the beach, sipping cold beers at the many simple beachside cafés. We also stayed at the Sanmira Renaissance Hotel, which features the best chilled out pool area and exceptional service.
6. Galle Fort
We only did a day tour to Galle, but if I ever go back I'll make the time to spend at least 3 days here. Inside the fort, you'll find the most magical little town bustling with culture and colours you'd expect to find in a little European town. As you can imagine, I was in love. The Fort was first built by the Portuguese in 1588 before being extensively fortified by the Dutch in the mid 1600s which explains the contrasts in culture. Head to the Fort walls to watch the magical pink sunset before heading to dinner at The Tuna & The Crab, located in the beautiful refurbished Dutch Hospital. One of the oldest Heritage listed buildings in Galle Fort.