Diary blog Sri Lanka: The first two weeks of our Sri Lanka journey

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

After a great month in Nepal, it is time for a new country: Sri Lanka. Images of waving palm trees, beautiful train rides and wonderful curries have made me want to go to this country forever. And now we are actually going! In this blog, I will tell you everything about our experiences and time in Sri Lanka.


Arrival in Negombo

After a long travel day (there is no direct flight between Kathmandu and Colombo) we finally arrive in Sri Lanka. We have decided in the evening to travel directly by Uber to Negombo, a neighbouring city of the capital Colombo. Here we fall asleep immediately after arrival. We have booked a night in the more luxurious Serendib Village hotel (including a swimming pool).

The next morning I don’t feel well, it seems that I have a cavity infection. So we take it easy and book an extra night at this hotel. I sleep a lot and Ries takes it easy at the pool. Negombo itself is not an interesting place, but it is close to the beach so we check that out.


Curious which hotels we chose in Sri Lanka? Click here for our free hotel guide for Sri Lanka!


Fruittent Sri Lanka

To Anuradhapura – an ancient capital of Sri Lanka

I feel a bit better and so we take, together with two other Dutchies we have met, a taxi that takes us to Anuradhapura in three hours. This is the very first capital of Sri Lanka, a place more than two thousand years old. A few hundred years ago, people started digging up and repairing the city. Today everything has been rebuilt and most temples look brand new. A strange idea, very different from European excavations such as Pompeii.

Anuradhapura is located a little bit above the centre of Sri Lanka. Negombo was already warm, but it seems to be much warmer here, especially in the sun, the heat is hard to bear. We are very happy with the hotel we booked, which again has a swimming pool. The following hours we cool off in the pool. After that, we visit the first ancient temples in the area, the temple complex of Minhintale. A beautiful place where we just see the sun goes down.

Mihintale Budhha cloudy

Click here for the ultimate guide to Anuradhapura

The next day, we visit the rest of the old city early in the morning. So strange for us to see all those brand new temples and to think that they have been rebuilt to a more than 2000-year-old design! We left early to be ahead of the worst heat and at 11 a.m. we are back in the swimming pool. It sometimes rains a bit, then we keep ourself busy with playing games with the Dutch couple we have met in Negombo. After the rain, the temperature goes a bit down which is very pleasant.

Tempel Anuradhapura 6

Praying Buddhists

Relaxing on the deserted beaches of Trincomalee

With a tuk-tuk, we drive in three hours from Anuradhapura to Trincomalee, a beautiful coastal town in northeastern Sri Lanka. We would actually go by bus, but because it is an election day and the people of Sri Lanka are going to vote, the entire public transport system is down. Secretly it is quite nice to enjoy the tuk-tuk on the quiet Sri Lankan roads.

Read our travel guide here with the best beaches around Trincomalee!

With the scooter to Nilaveli Beach

It is low season in Trincomalee because of the monsoon period that has just started. However, we are lucky and the weather is beautiful. It only rains at night. During the day the sun shines bright. We sleep in a cute cabana (a kind of wooden cabin) near Uppuveli Beach, but we immediately decide to explore some other beaches in the neighbourhood. And so we rent a scooter and go to Nilaveli Beach, a beach 15 minutes’ drive from our hotel.

It is a beautiful long and empty beach. The waves are high enough to play in and that is how Ries and I enjoy ourselves for a few hours. We sit at a cosy beach bar, named “Why Not”, where we drink coconuts and enjoy tanning.

Nilaveli beach-2

Nilaveli drone shot

Thirukkoneswaram Kovil: a colourful temple on the cliffs

The next day we ride the scooter to Fort Frederik, an old Dutch fort. It is still in full use by the army, so looking around freely is not possible, but that is not our intention either. We are here to visit the colourful temple of Thirukkoneswaram Kovil. This is on a cliff overlooking the sea, a beautiful sight! We walk around, take pictures of the temple, the cliffs and the deer that roam freely here.

The military beach of Marble Beach

Our next stop is a beautiful beach south of Trincomalee. With a name like Marble Beach, our expectations are high but indeed, the beach is beautiful. A bit strange that certain parts of the beach are military. Therefore, we are not allowed to walk in certain parts of the beach. But likewise, this beach is also completely deserted. A shame we have forgotten our goggles, you can snorkel very well here.

In the evening it starts to rain, but that doesn’t stop us from having a drink at beach bar Fernandos, the hot spot here in Trincomalee. Back in our cabana, it starts to rain even harder. It pours all night, but the next morning around ten o’clock the sky opens. First, we arrange our transport for the next day, then it’s time to spend some nice hours on the beach on our last days here.

Marble Beach

Admire Lion Rock in Sigiriya

We are on the bus to Sigiriya. There is loud music playing, lights are everywhere and people are standing in the aisle. However, this is not the only entertainment: there is a TV where Mister Bean and “prank videos” are broadcast alternately. Nothing special in itself, except that all pranks consist of veiled men and women who throw “fake bombs” at people. So a kind of terrorist attack jokes. Very unusual, imagine that these kinds of films would be broadcast on the bus back at home!

Two and a half hours later and we are at our destination: Sigiriya. A real advantage that all distances here in Sri Lanka are so short!

Lion's rock mountains and people

Climb the Pidurangala Rock to see Lion Rock

Unfortunately, it rains most of the afternoon, but at the end of the day it is done and we have just enough time to climb the Pidurangala Rock. This rock itself is not very special, but the view is the reason why we do climb it. From here we overlook Lion Rock, a large square rock that rises between the green palm trees. The rock itself can also be climbed, but the view of the rock from Pidurangala seems to be the most beautiful. And indeed it is beautiful! Slowly we see the sun go down and just before it is completely dark, we start the descent, which is a bit difficult at the beginning (the rock is steep).

Lion's Rock us

Day trip to Dambulla

There is not a huge amount to do in Sigiriya, but in nearby Dambulla, there are two sights that we want to see. And so we get on the scooter early in the morning. It is only half an hour away, but a completely different world. Sigiriya is a small village, Dambulla a busy city!

The Golden Temple and Cave temple

Our first stop is the Golden Temple. There is no one else here, so we only walk around the temple and associated giant golden Buddha. The image towers meters high above us. Sri Lanka has really beautiful temples, the neighbourhood temple is the famous Cave temple. After dozens of stairs, we reach five caves. Each cave is full of Buddha statues and the walls and ceilings are painted with beautiful patterns. In the caves, it is nice and cool, but as soon as we come outside the sun is burning brightly above us.

Dambulla cave temples

Rain and a massage

On the way back we stop at some fruit stands along the way and bring fresh pineapple, mango and some Sri Lankan sweets. Once back in Sigiriya we eat everything while it starts to storm. The rain is pouring from the sky, but it does bring a lot of coolness! Together we sit in the room of our hotel (Sigiriya Nature Villa Lodge) editing photos and writing new blogs. In the evening we bring back the scooter and we take a massage, so nice!

Kandy: a really busy Asian city!

Two days in Sigiriya was just enough time and so today we travel by bus to our next destination: Kandy. Once there, we are happy that we have chosen a quiet hotel (My City Hotel) because we can hide a bit from the bustle of the city, Kandy is a typical Asian city. It is full, with a lot of noise and pollution. In the afternoon we first visit Kandy Lake, a beautiful lake in the centre, then we take a tuk-tuk to the Botanical Gardens.

Oldest hotel of Kandy

Read our travel guide for Kandy here!

The Botanical Gardens: an oasis of tranquillity

We walk for hours through the garden. It is wonderful here, an oasis of peace. No honking buses, tuk-tuks or screaming sellers. Exactly what we need! In the evening it is time for a Netflix evening. We order food with Uber Eats (which you also just have here) and watch series in bed.

Charlotte @ Royal Gardens of Kandy 2

A visit to the Ambuluwawa tower, which turns out to be closed …

After a big breakfast, we get on the scooter. We want to visit some sights in the area for which a scooter is nice. The traffic in Kandy is quite busy, but luckily Ries has a motorcycle license. He drives well, which means I am much less scared! An hour later we reach our first destination: the Ambulawawa tower, a large shell-shaped tower on top of a hill. Unfortunately we are standing in front of a closed gate. Apparently today the former owner of this tower is buried and so it is not possible to go upstairs. Such a shame, we now only see the tower from far away.

Ambuluwawa Tower Spark

The white Buddha Bahiravokanda Vihara

Dissapointed we get on the scooter again and drive all the way back to Kandy. There we visit another beautiful temple, the white Bahiravokanda Vihara, from where we have a beautiful view of Kandy.

Then we decide to look for a quiet coffee shop to write for a few hours. We find the perfect place, in the middle of the busy centre is Buono coffee. Good coffee, workable wifi and nice service. In the evening we end our visit to Kandy with a dinner at Slightly Chilled Lounge, a tip from girlfriend Lara!

Buddha Bahiravokanda Vihara

The train to Nuwara Eliya

Today we are going to do something very nice: we are going to take a train ride. Uh yes, in the Netherlands that would not be exciting at all, but we are not in the Netherlands. Here in Sri Lanka, there is one train ride, namely that from Kandy to Ella, which is famous for its beautiful view. And so we board the train full of expectations. We travel second class, in a compartment full of other tourists. We look outside, tense. The first hour the view is nice but nothing special. However, this slowly changes. We drive into the mountains and the whole area is green. Rice fields make way for tea plantations, and the higher we get, the fresher it is.

Beautiful trainride Kandy to Ella

Hang out of the windows and train door

The image of Sri Lanka is the tourist who is photographed from the open train door. Of course, we also try to take such a picture, although that is harder than it seems! We hang out of the windows to our heart’s content and Ries is standing outside looking at the open train door for most of the train journey. It is also so beautiful: the green tea plantations, views and mountains that we pass.

Kandy to Ella trainride

The English Nuwara Eliya

After three hours we arrive at our final destination for today: Nuwara Eliya. A small English-looking town. We are mainly here to visit some tea plantations. In addition, we want to climb from here Adams peak, a holy mountain a few hours’ drives from Nuwara Eliya. But first, we take it easy, we walk through the town, visit the post office and see the golf course. It drizzles and is fresh. Because of all the greenery and the English buildings, it feels like we are not in Sri Lanka, but in England. Sri Lanka has been a colony of England for many years and you can tell that very well here!

Red wine and reading by the fireplace

After a quick street meal, we continue to The Grand. This is a beautiful hotel, completely in the English style. With the cold weather outside (it is drizzling) there is nothing more pleasant than drinking a glass of red wine by the fireplace. Now that we are getting closer to the holidays, it is nice to have a “European evening”.

Tea blaadjes groen

Tea plantations and high tea in Nuwara Eliya

We sleep a bit and take it easy. The coming night we will skip our sleep because we are going to climb Adams Peak. During the day we enjoy ourselves very much by visiting several tea plantations, tasting the tea and having a high tea in the afternoon with Canadian friends we met on the train.

Click here to read our travel guide for Nuwara Eliya

And then it’s time for a physical challenge: skip an entire night and climb Adams Peak. But more about that in the next diary blog!


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