So, it was Deepavali and we have 5D4N to think of an impromptu itinerary in Sri Lanka. We want to see it’s history, it’s ruins, herds of elephants, beach, grandeur ancient architecture. In a nutshell.
Typically, one would go on the net and be advised to do the Cultural Triangle trip (see pic below): Kandy – Polonnaruwa – Wilpattu National Park.
But since we are not on tour, we have the flexibility to plan our own routes which includes ALL those that we’ve mentioned.
We have chosen Dambulla as our base to all the other places throughout our trip, pretty much because of its centralised location.
And for the solo travelers or those on a shoestring budget around Asia, I would definitely recommend staying at CLN Tourist Guesthouse. The location of this guesthouse is superb. You’ll get a clear view of Sigiriya Rock from the balcony which is also overlooking rice plains amidst the sunset/sunrise. You’ll get Food City across the road which is a supermarket, in case you need to buy snacks for day trips. You will also get a bus stop across the road which seems to be the main interchange point to all the other parts of the area, which includes routes to Sigiriya, Habarana and Polonnaruwa.
This is what there is/are in each location we went throughout our trip which is a MUST see for you:
1) Dambulla – Underground Cave Temples
Dambulla is definitely the perfect base for this whole trip. However, apart from it’s centralised location, Dambulla has a point of interest of its own. The undergound cave temples are really unique and definitely worth a visit if you’re into architecture. There are a total of 5 temples to see and will take you around 2 hours.
2) Polonnaruwa – Ancient City
We had a fantastic time in this massive ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Because this place is HUGE and while it seemed that everybody else rented a car/van to go around the whole ruins, we decided to rent bicycles and do a little bit of workout. And oh boy, it was the best decision ever. Renting bicycles allows us to stop wherever we want, along nooks and crannies, park our bikes and explore each area of the ruins. We must have spent around 3 hours (maybe more) just exploring this ancient city. Rental of bicycle for the whole day is LKR 600 (SGD 6/USD 4.70).
3) Habarana – Kaudulla National Park (Jeep safari on a 4WD on a rainy day is simply awesome!) Going to Habarana is an overnight decision but definitely worth the thought. Elephant safari? Sri Lanka? I mean, c’mon! This was one of THE BEST moments during this trip. What adds to this adventure is the rain. Being in that 4WD ramming through muds, trenches and potholes is just pure awesomeness. And no, we weren’t worried about getting a fever because this is a once in a blue moon experience.
This is a 249 square km reservoir which is built by King Mahasen , 15 centuries ago.
In the dry months from August to October, more than 300 wild elephants gather on the shores of the reservoir. This gathering is considered as one the largest in the wild anywhere in the world. It was October, and we were lucky indeed. Do check out our video for a summary of this trip.
Distance from hotel: 40 km or 55 km
Travelling time: 1 hr or 1 1/2 hrs
Open: 6am – 6.30pm
5) Sigiriya – The 8th Wonder Of The Ancient World.
Just look at it. How can it NOT be the 8th wonder? I remembered the first time I lay my eyes on an aerial photo of Sigiriya inside one of the glossy pages of a travelogue. The first thing that pops up in my mind is “Man, that looks like Machu Picchu. Only that, it’s nearer to Singapore!”
…and so, we took the public bus from Dambulla to Sigiriya. It’s easy to spot which bus to board because the destination will be clearly displayed infront of the bus. If all else fails, the helpful locals will be more than willing to help you out. I really love travelling around in public transports when I travel. It gives me a chance to talk to locals, understand their culture and transportation system.
I can happily say that I can now strike Sigirya off the No. 5 listing on my travel bucket list. I am contented and I am satisfied. Sigiriya definitely didn’t disappoint me.
6) Negombo – Beautiful beach. We chose Negombo particularly because it is near to the airport and chilling by the beach is a must in our itinerary. Negombo has a range of hotels and guesthouses ranging from budgets to super villas. We stayed at Sunset Beach Hotel, which is needless to say right at the beach. I really enjoyed hearing the sound of waves at night as I sleep.