From Beaches to Mangoes; 15 Ways Sri Lanka Stole Our Hearts

From its miles of golden coastline and crystal blue sea to its sweeping emerald interior; Sri Lanka is most certainly a jewel in the Indian Ocean.

A snap decision to surprise our friends in Sri Lanka for Christmas and New Year meant that we had actually researched next to nothing before we set foot on the small island. We’d of course seen all the usual Instagram snaps but I don’t think we were prepared for the real beauty that awaited us.

After three flights just to reach Sri Lanka from Goa and then an immediate two buses (all on one epic hangover!) we arrived in Tangalle where our blissfully unaware friends were staying. We’re not sure if you can call it fate that this was where we first laid our bags on Sri Lankan soil but we’re sure that as soon as we laid eyes on Marakolliya beach we were well and truly hooked on Sri Lanka!

For the next month we travelled all over Sri Lanka and were awed by its landscape, welcomed by its people and easily slipped into its laid back way of life. Here are all the reasons why Sri Lanka stole our hearts and why we have decided to return again as soon as we can…May 2017!

Lush greens 

Despite raining for only 3 hours in the whole month the landscape in Sri Lanka is so beautifully lush and green. Everywhere you look palm trees stand proud or drape themselves along coastlines. And, once we stepped into the Central Highlands the dense greenery spread as far as the eye could see with not only palm trees but great pine forests and of course thriving tea plantations. After travelling through so many busy dusty cities it was so nice to be surrounded by nature and to be able to breathe the fresh air.

String hoppers
These can only be described as a noodle pancake…sounds weird but don’t knock them until you’ve tried them! These are a staple in the traditional Sri Lankan breakfast and along side some coconut sambal or dahl are completely addictive! Be sure to try the equally delicious sister dish too; the egg hopper!

Feels like home
The people in Sri Lanka were an absolute highlight for us! Everywhere you go you can guarantee to be greeted by big warm smiles and frantically waving kids running or cycling along side you – all making you feel instantly at home. The hospitality we experienced in Sri Lanka was second to none especially in the homestays where you are really taken under each family’s wing – read about our full experience of Sri Lankan homestays here…

Tea
Like any true Brit we love a good cuppa and luckily Sri Lanka’s fresh Ceylon tea really hit the spot. Since travelling we haven’t really drunk as much tea as we would at home both because of the heat and it not always being readily available. But served up every morning in real teapots and teacups who could resist? Unlike a British brew, Sri Lankan tea we found was best drunk black so you can really taste and appreciate the fresh, crisp flavour! Ohhhh get the kettle on!

Laid-back living
Part of the real charm of Sri Lanka comes from its simple way of life. As you wander through any Sri Lankan town you will see fruit stalls, with a sleepy owner, piled high with fresh pineapple and watermelons, men cycling in their sarongs on rickety old rusty bikes and ladies relaxing in the shade at the side of the road selling their pink king coconuts. Head along rivers or streams and watch as the adults lather up and wash not only their clothes but themselves in the green dewy water and laugh as the kids splash around and dive-bomb in next to them. The people here seem constantly relaxed and lead a simple way of life which soon rubs off on you too!

Catch of the day
We are big seafood fans but unfortunately living on the road with a strict budget means this is something we can’t usually afford the luxury of. Enter – Sri Lanka! The seafood here is not only pretty cheap but also so fresh and so juicy! We spent Christmas in Weligama and as we were feeling particularly festive (or maybe just a little tipsy!) splashed out on a seafood platter which was, without a doubt, the best seafood we’ve ever eaten; huge big prawns, melt in the mouth calamari and big meaty chunks of tuna and butter fish! In. Heaven. It was so good we had it again a few days later….whoops!

Beautiful beasts
Elephants, Elephants, Elephants!! Our favourite animals and Sri Lanka is where they can be found in their densest quantity in South East Asia. Whats not to love about seeing these gentle giants roaming in their natural habitat; ambling through the national parks, bathing in the lakes and playing with their newborns (yes we saw babies!) Read all about our incredible safari here…

Mangoes
The best ones we’ve ever had…for real! Buy them cheap from any local stall and savour the sweet juicy flavour. Oh and the mango lassies, mango smoothies, mango ice creams…we could go on! Can you tell we’re slightly addicted?

Paradise beaches
Sri Lanka’s whole Southern coastline is made up of beautiful golden beaches but if you look just that little bit harder you can find some real paradise escapes. And, even better? Ones that it seems noone else knows about – so keep the secret okay? We already mentioned Marakolliya which instantly stole our hearts and became one of our favourite beaches in the world. Its everything you dream of in a beach; palm trees, deep sand, warm blue water, hammocks and hardly anyone else around. Spend a day here and you’ll feel like you’re in a haze of sun and love.

Step back in time…
Sri Lanka’s beautiful little train stations are so quaint with their hand painted wooden signs, small ticket booths and plant pots overflowing with pretty pink flowers everywhere you look! Plus,  in some places when the steam train rolls in you will really feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Each one has its own little personality and can be gazed at through your open window as you roll through on the way to your next destination. Our personal favourite was Unawatuna station in the sunrise haze.

Kottu
This traditional Sri Lankan street food dish is made from chopped up roti and mixed with egg and vegetables! It’s not only delicious and super filling but we found it to be the cheapest meal around which was great for our small budget! It literally saved our lives and our bank balance when a huge plate cost only 80-150 SLR compared to a usual meal of 850 SLR –  plus it was so moorish that we’d rather eat it anyway!

History
For any history geek out there its amazing to find somewhere with such a well documented history. History in Sri Lanka is heavily intertwined with the rise of Buddhism in the 2nd Century BC and makes for fascinating reading. The history is so evident and can be seen and felt all around you in the temples and at sites like Dambulla which hold beautifully preserved relics from a time we can barely comprehend.

Surfs up
Grab a board, dive into the long curling waves and forget all your worries – if you have any that is! The surf in Sri Lanka is perfect for beginners and pros and the sea is always full of surf boards bobbing, riding and crashing around. Here is the place to realise those dreams and become that long-haired, sandy, beach bum, surf pro!

Manageability
Last but not least, one of the best things about Sri Lanka is that you can enjoy everything it has to offer in a really small space of time. You can spend the morning with the sun on your face and the sand between your toes and by dinner be in the rolling green tea fields. Coming from India it was even more obvious how easy travel in Sri Lanka is and with the fantastic train and bus network you can really pack so much in to even a two week trip.

With all of the above tempting your senses its time to book your ticket, plan your trip, experience all of the above and begin your very own love story with idyllic Sri Lanka.

C & J

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