It’s World Tourism Day, and what better place to celebrate it in other than Sri Lanka? Whether you’re a die-hard hiker or someone who enjoys long hours on the sandy beaches, Sri Lanka can satisfy all your weekend getaway needs. It’s not called ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’ for nothing. But in case you’re not convinced, here’s a list of our own favorite amazing experiences.
1. Lipton’s Seat
Situated in the heart of Haputale, Lipton’s Seat is definitely not a sight to be missed. It probably has one of the best mountain views Sri Lanka has to offer. At Lipton’s Seat, one can see as far as Nuwara Eliya, Ambewela, Sabaragamuwa, and even Hambantota. In fact, whenever a cricket match is hosted at Sooriyawewa (Hambantota), you can get a glimpse of the floodlights from the grounds.
Getting to Lipton’s Seat is quite the treat too. You can either take a vehicle all the way to the top. But if you’re the adventurous type, you can take a bus to the mountain. There’s actually one bus that goes up to the entrance. From there on, it’s about a 5km hike uphill. Even the route leading up to the top of the mountain is just breathtaking. Once you’re at the top, you can enjoy yourself with a nice cup of hot ginger tea while enjoying the view.
Tip: Try to catch the sunrise, usually at around 5.50ish in the morning. You won’t regret it.
2. Diyaluma Falls
Not so far away from Haputale, is Diyaluma Falls. It’s the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, standing 220m tall. A little further upwards on top of Diyaluma is upper Diyaluma Falls. Here, hikers are treated to beautiful natural pools. In case you’re wondering, yes you can comfortably go for a dip. Best part, you get an amazing view too.
Getting to the top of the waterfall would usually take you about 45 minutes. It might take a bit longer, that is, depending on which route you take. We’ve been told there are 3 in fact. The easiest way to get here is to take the Wellawaya bus from Haputale town. Get down near Diyaluma (ask the bus conductor if you’re not sure). From there on, the route is pretty straightforward.
Tip: Diyaluma Falls makes for a great camping spot. But be mindful when you actually decide to take the trip and avoid the rainy season
3. Great Western hike
This is one of the more challenging hikes to do. So if you’re one for some adventure and some camping, then this is for you. Great Western is one of the lesser known hiking destinations, even among the locals. But it certainly doesn’t lack any of the things that make for a great hike. It’s surrounded by fascinating peaks with adventurous trails that lead to breathtaking sights. If you’re lucky you might even come across a waterfall or two. Luckily, the trail remains completely undisturbed for the most part.
The only way you can get here is to take the Colombo – Badulla train. You would have to get down at Great Western train station. From there, the trail starts on the train tracks until you take a small detour near a kovil. Depending on how good of a hiker you are, the journey would probably take you from 3 – 4 hours all the way to the top, where you can find the camping spot. But before you even think of taking this trip, make sure you tag along with someone who has ideally done the hike before. No amount of TripAdvisor or blog posts will help you hike safely to the top if you don’t have someone experienced beside you.
Tip: Don’t miss the morning sunrise. One of the best sunrises you will set your eyes on. Period.
What makes Alagalla one of our favorites is the conveniently accessible trail. You can easily hike up to the mountain, spend a couple of good hours there, and get back home on the same day. So if you’re on the lookout for a one-day hike, Alagalla is perfect. The trail involves quite a bit of fighting through maana bushes, along with a bit of rock climbing to the top. While you’re treated to gorgeous sights, one thing we did find lacking is the usual cool climate you would get in the hill country. Instead, you’re greeted with a hot, humid sunlight. But as long as you have your head covered you should be fine.
If you’re thinking of doing Alagalla, the easiest way too do so is to take the train to Pilimathalawa train station. Get to Poththapitiya Tea Factory. You can opt for a tuk tuk or the public bus. Once you get down near the factory you could see a small sign that reads “Alagalla hike”. The journey is pretty straightforward from there onwards. But in case you feel unsure, you could always ask the villagers on the way to the top.
Tip: There are 2 routes to the top. One route starts from the Poththapitiya tea factory while the other starts from Gangoda train station. The best route is to climb through the tea factory route and get back down from the Gangoda route.
5. Colombo – Badulla train ride
Doesn’t matter if you’re a regular hiker or if you’re just one for the occasional trip. If you haven’t taken the train ride on the Colombo – Badulla route, you’ve missed a trip of a lifetime. World Tourism Day or not, it’s arguably one of the best, if not THE best commutes one can take. The scenic route takes you through lush green mountains in the cool, calm climate of the hill country. If you keep an eye out you might also come across a few waterfalls every now and then too.
This is the usual route for anyone visiting Ella, Haputale, or Nanu Oya. The Podi Menike and the Udarata Menike trains usually take a little more than 9 hours to get to Badulla.
Tip: If you’re passing Nanu Oya, keep a lookout for the Strawberry sellers at the station.
6. Jaffna’s roti and Rio Ice Cream
One cannot talk about World Tourism Day and not mention Jaffna. From the vibrant culture to the colonial structures, Jaffna has a lot to offer than one might think. But our favorite is Rio Ice Cream and roti from Amachi. Yes, we’re weird like that. Amachi is basically a vegetarian restaurant that’s located in the North. The restaurant offers some of the best vegetarian dishes in the Northern part of the island. This includes, of course, the roti. Now mind you, we being Sri Lankans have had our roti in plenty growing up. But has anything even come close to the ones served at Amachi? Not really.
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Let’s be honest. It would be unfair to call Rio Ice Cream the best in the country. But one thing’s for sure. A visit to Rio Ice Cream in Jaffna will definitely be a memorable one.
Tip: Try the Lava Ice Cream at Rio
7. Pigeon Islands
So there you have it. These are some of our favorite experiences in Sri Lanka. It’s a bit challenging to put a list up for all the amazing things you can do here. But we tried our best with this one. Do let us know in the comments below and tell us about your favorite experience in Sri Lanka. Happy World Tourism Day!