I never imagined that traveling to Sri Lanka would’ve been so profoundly impactful on my life. Furthermore, Sri Lanka was my first solo trip as a female traveler; What a life-changing experience! Have you considered adding Sri Lanka to your bucket list but aren’t sure what to expect? Well, look no further than this photo diary to inspire you to visit Sri Lanka!
I remember watching an episode of the docuseries from the late Anthony Bourdain, as he traveled through Sri Lanka eating delectable, street food. I recall feeling like I wanted to be there; I had to go see this dynamic and beautiful country for myself.
In my opinion, Anthony Bourdain was arguably one of the best storytellers within the genres of food and travel. In the same way that Bourdain inspired me to visit Sri Lanka, I hope that this photo diary will also galvanize you to travel to one of the world’s most underrated countries.
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”– Anthony Bourdain
Central Sri Lanka
Kandy is a city located in central Sri Lanka. It’s surrounded by large hills, tea plantations, and rainforests. The heart of the town surrounds a small lake, all of which is walkable. It’s well-known for the Temple of Tooth relic, which is one of the most sacred places for practicing Buddhists. The temple has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kandy Railway Station is also where you can catch arguably one of the most beautiful train rides in the world.
My hostel in Kandy has to be, by far, one of my most favorites I’ve stayed at. Located centrally, Clock Inn Kandy Hostel offers cement-tube beds on the rooftop of the hostel. From the foot of your bed, you have offering 260° views of the city below. I loved waking up to the sounds of birds and the views of clouds rolling over the mountains in the distance. It was absolutely magical! If you travel to Sri Lanka, I highly recommend you consider visiting this beautiful town.
Sigiriya “Lion’s Rock” Fortress, Piduragala Rock & Dambulla Cave Temple
Around 2.5 hours north of Kandy, famously lies the Sigiriya Fortress (a/k/a Lion’s Rock). Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, Sigiriya is one of Sri Lanka’s most valuable monument sites. It bears the remains of an ancient civilization, such as carvings and frescos along the facade.
Adjacent to Lion’s Rock is Pidurangala Rock. Pidurangala offers spectacular, 360° views of the surrounding province, as well as Sigiriya Rock. I opted to hike the Pidurangala instead because: (1) it’s far more affordable; and (2) to get those incredible views of Lion’s Rock in the distance. The hike took me around 40-45 minutes to complete. The level of difficulty is around moderate to hard but well worth the effort. If you travel to Sri Lanka, I highly recommend that you visit this historic site.
After around a 7-hour scenic train ride south from Kandy, you’ll arrive in the small town of Ella. Ella is a quaint village, surrounded by lush forests and tea plantations. It also has a cooler climate due to its higher elevation at just over 3,400 miles above sea level. Ella has become quite popular with tourists traveling to Sri Lanka. Some of its main attractions include, but are not limited to, the Nine Arch Bridge, Ravana Waterfalls, and Little Adam’s Peak.
Short story: While spending my nights in Ella, my two hostel mates encouraged me to do the mile hike to the summit of Little Adam’s Peak just before sunrise. Boy, am I so thankful that they did. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’d ever seen! Also, I loved that a few of the stray dogs hiked up alongside us. What an unforgettable experience!
Southern Sri Lanka
Yala National Park
Increasingly, there are fewer and fewer places where large, exotic animals can live peacefully in the wild. Thankfully, the government of Sri Lanka has dedicated hundreds of square miles of land as strict wildlife reserves. It’s an important conservation place for Sri Lankan elephants and leopards.
There are several jeep-safari tours that take you on an adventure throughout the park as part of a day tour. It requires an early morning start to arrive at the reserve before sunrise. I’m not particularly a morning person, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars in my life as I had in the wee hours of the night at Yala National Park. The safari tour also leads to where the reserve meets the beach. It’s absolutely incredible!
Mirissa & Unawatuna Beaches
Oh, how I long to return to skipping down the sandy beaches of Sri Lanka. Located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, lies the popular beach towns of Mirissa and Unawatuna. Known for its whale watching and surfing, Mirissa and Unawatuna were my favorite stops in Sri Lanka.
After backpacking around the island nation for days on end, it felt amazing to settle my feet into the sand. THIS is why I traveled to Sri Lanka! I highly recommend slotting a few days of relaxation on these golden shores.
Located on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, Galle is an old city once colonized by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galle Fort is the best representation of those colonial times. The Fort features landmarks, such as a lighthouse, a seaport, delectable restaurants, museums, religious sites, and schools.
Galle was my last stop on my backpacking trip throughout Sri Lanka, and it was truly a pleasurable way to wrap up my visit to this incredible country.
That’s all for now, Folks!
You can also find my travel vlogs exploring Sri Lanka here.
Thanks for stopping by, and Happy travels!