There is quite a buzz now around the pearl drop island Sri Lanka with its beautiful sunny beaches, colonial city’s, tea covered mountains, wildlife parks and small fisherman villages. Sri Lanka was the midpoint of the spice route from Europe to China – that’s why many different races from Indian, Arab, Dutch, British and Portuguese has left their influence. Ceylon was the former name of Sri Lanka (until 1972). The Tamil war ended in 2009 and since then the island is getting popular by travelers. People call it “India lite” and never have been to India but I can imagine what they mean. It is foremost very easy travelling with polite and noninvasive local people. Of course, everywhere you go, people will ask you things (mainly if you need transport), but the best thing I – say no thanks and they will walk along. Sri Lanka is the size of the Netherlands and Belgium together – quite a small area- but home to a huge variety of landscapes. It offers visitors so much experience within fairly short travel distances.

Nearly at the end of the rain season, I was able to visit Sri Lanka for a little more than a week. The travel went from Negombo – Kandy- Ella – Talalla- Udalawawe national park and Mirissa. We have stayed at precious spots from a cabin in the forest, a mud house, a beach house on a cliff overlooking the ocean – to a treetop house in the jungle. Negombo is where we arrived late at night after our direct flight from Amsterdam. The next day we took a taxi to Kandy which was easily arranged since everyone wants to be your driver. We drove through beautiful hilly areas before arriving in Kandy. Our hotel for the night was Mountbatten bungalows. Mountbatten brings you back to British colonial times. The hotel surroundings are magnificent and we were spoilt by all the luxury. The next day a tuk-tuk driver brought us to the train station where our journey to Ella began. This was an incredible train journey along tea covered mountains. Since the British had built tea plantations in the central hills of Sri Lanka – the nation has acquired a reputation for top quality tea. Often this is called the most beautiful train ride in the world – I was jumping for joy pretty much the whole journey. Try to reserve a seat in advance – if there is no seat available at Kandy station – another option is Perideniya (close to Kandy). Price for a first class seat is around 12 euro and you get a meal for that. Put yourself at ease since the ride is quite long – 7 to 8 hours. I cannot mention enough how stunning the landscape is – the train takes you through tea plantations, waterfalls and rolling mountains covered in clouds and mist. Then finally we arrived at Ella, a village nested in a luscious hill country. Ella has a nice main street with bars, and good eateries. This town has a relaxing backpacker vibe to be compared with Ubud in Bali and Pai in Thailand. The next day we had an active day from hikinig to the nine arches bridge (definitely to be recommended) and to the little Adams Peak. The climb up is not hard at all, although at the top there are mountainous terrains- the views are hauntingly beautiful. After having our nature doses we were ready to go to the beach. At Talalla we induldged ourselves in the tranquil atmosphere of paradisiacal surroundings for a few days. The Talalla bay beach house situated at a cliff overlooking the ocean was splendid. The palm trees, the sound of the waves and the tropical sun putted us at ease. At night, terrific dinners were served. Each night I fell asleep by the sound of the waves and during the day I relaxed on the terrace in a hammock in total privacy.

Quite impulsively we decided to have a break from the beach to go to the national park – Banyan camp. Banyan Camp is set on the banks of Lake Hambegamuwa. This eco treetop lodge is an incredible place where nature is not disturbed yet by (human) invaders. There is no electricity but instead the surrounding are lightened by lanterns which give a beautiful warm glow. The sleep area is an open plan with a maximum of 6 persons. In the afternoon we were picked up by a ranger to go canoeing in an old fishermen canoe. To experience the lake from the boat – to see all the birds- and 300-year old banyan tree was amazing. Our dinner was served at a raft next to the lake which was a perfect ending of the day.

Our final stop was Mirissa – this little beach town has the perfect combination of a natural beach plus evening entertainment without being overrun by too much tourism. After a perfect beach day, when the sun starts to set you can walk along the candlelit restaurants. We had delicious dinners at Zaphyr and also on one night they gave a great party. One of the most popular activities in Mirissa is going on a whale watching trip – this is the biggest tourist trap I have ever seen. Everyday overcrowded boats leave the harbour to hunt for whales. Literally they hunt for whales – all boats were chasing madly at the whales. Once a boat spotted a whale, all the boats go in the same direction and it turns into an ugly chase, scaring the animal. It is very tragic to see that they do not respect the whales ecological environment at all. Luckily, this was just a small part of our time in Mirissa where we stayed at an incredible guest house- the spice house. Each morning a terrific breakfast was served including egg hoppers – one of my greatest culinary pleasures- it is a cupped pancake fried with egg. We slept in the mud house, a precious spot with an outdoor shower. The boutique hotel is in a beautiful setting just 5 minutes set back from the beach. Once you walk through the gate, you are transported to another place with stepped-layered landscaped gardens surrounded by coconut trees with monkeys playing in there – which makes you feel at instant very zen. The owners Wathsala and Phil had created a hidden gem amidst the jungle where you wake up with the sounds of monkeys and singing of the birds. The food was the best we had during our stay in Sri Lanka.

This were just a few highlights from Sri Lanka and there’s even much more to experience (Adams peak, Sigirya rock, the colonial cities) – once you have seen the pearl drop island, you want to come back.

Recommended places to stay:

– Kandy – Mountbatten bungalows

– Tallalla – Talalla bay beach house

– Udalawawe national park – Banyan camp

– Mirissa – Spice house