“January is endless” – Bloc Party
The days are dark, the festivities are over and the tube is full of long faces. There is only one cure for these January/ February blues. Hop on a plane to somewhere tropical and run away from it!
Sri Lanka is the perfect location for the winter getaway (Southern Sri Lanka in particular) as the weather is fine and warm and rain is minimal on the Southern Coast. With spectacular beaches, delicious food and bundles of culture, Sri Lanka really delivers.
After a hectic 2017, we wanted to spend more time relaxing along the South Coast, therefore, we missed out on the cultural triangle in the centre of the country (this gives us a good reason to go back!)
Here are our highlights and recommendations from our recent visit:
We spent our first two nights in the popular beach town of Unawatuna. Located three hours drive from Colombo Airport and ten minutes from the colonial town of Galle, Unawatuna itself has been affected by tourism in a big way (not always for the best reasons) but don’t let that put you off – we found some gems in this spot.
We stayed at a gorgeous boutique hotel just around the corner from Unawatuna Beach, Sergeant House. This colonial villa boasts unique, spacious rooms with the quaint swimming pool in the heart of the property.
Just a short Tuk Tuk ride away, is Wijaya Beach. Speaking of Tuk Tuks – during our two weeks in Sri Lanka, we soon discovered they were the cheapest and most convenient way to get around for short journeys (good fun too!). Walking along the roads can be pretty hazardous for pedestrians, so travelling by Tuk Tuk is safer too.
Wijaya Beach is a stand out beach in the area and is far less spoiled than Unawatuna. The Indian ocean felt like bath water and was ideal for a refreshing dip. The hotel/ beach club is also the perfect place to grab some lunch on the seafront and hire a beach bed. The pizzas from the wood oven pizza ovens here come highly recommended! Wijaya is an oasis and not to be missed.
Close to Wijaya is the colourful Owl & Pussycat Hotel. We enjoyed our first traditional fish curry here under the stars. Service was exceptional and the food didn’t disappoint. I particularly enjoyed the tuna tartar with avocado. If you are looking for a romantic meal in Sri Lanka, this should definitely be on your list of places to go!
The Dutch colonial city of Galle is a short Tuk Tuk ride from Unawatuna and well worth a visit for its charming fort, best explored at dusk when it is cooler. There is a large variety of restaurants (Fort Bazaar is recommended) to try within the old fort’s walls, once you have caught the spectacular sunset over the ocean or watched a spot of cricket at Galle’s International Stadium.
3. Weligama & Mirissa
Surf’s up in Weligama and the W15 hotel is where it is at. We spent an awesome five nights at this boutique beachfront hotel, enjoying the cool location, infinity pool, nightly DJ set, delicious food, chilled atmosphere and making friends with the locals (by locals we mean the stray beach dogs that roam the area and kept us highly entertained with their antics!).
If you want to learn to surf, this is the place to come, especially for beginners. You can find an instructor from one of the many surf schools that dominate Weligama Bay and as you can see from our pictures, surfing is the soul of this beach.
A short drive from Weligama is the uber-touristy destination of Mirissa. Famed for its whale watching trips and vibrant nightlife (particularly with backpackers), for us, we discovered the real jewel of this busy beach town was located behind the tourist trail.
The Dewmini #1 Rotishshop was recommended to us and we ended up having our favourite lunch here. A simple menu of traditional Sri Lankan Roti with curry oil to dip – no bells and whistles, just good food and fresh juices to accompany it. We soon returned to try Kottu, a common dish in the region.
Home to wildlife such as elephants, leopards and crocodiles, Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s largest and most famous. A three-hour drive from Weligama, we stayed at the Cinnamon Wild Hotel – a vibrant safari lodge located conveniently at the gate of the national park.
Witnessing a leopard and her calf wandering the park freely, was one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen and well worth the five am wake up call!
Once you return from your safari experience, you can kick back around the pool and enjoy the wildlife that surrounds you. We saw monkeys on the cabin roofs and wild boar fighting back crocodiles on the adjacent lake. An unforgettable experience!
Our final destination was the heavenly Tangalle. To accompany this perfect beach stay was the perfect beach hotel – the Anantara Peace Haven, Tangalle (its in the name!). This hotel is truly spectacular and from the moment we stepped through the door, we knew we were staying somewhere special.
Every tiny detail has been considered, from the baskets of fruit, water and sun cream that you receive by the infinity pool, to the candles, incense and bath salts to enjoy with your open top bath. This place is pure luxury and you can’t help but be impressed by the food, service and amenities offered.
The onsite private beach is stunning but is not the safest spot for inexperienced swimmers due the strong undercurrents, however a short walk along the coast will lead you to another secluded beach that is more suitable for swimming and offers some more affordable lunch spots than the Anantara.
As you can imagine, leaving this little peace haven was no easy task, but London was calling. We took a final swim by the pool and reflected on our winter escape.
Our trip to Sri Lanka was filled with so many unforgettable memories but what we will remember most about it is its rich culture, culinary delights (I still miss my morning hoppers and daal!) and warm people. You can tell why Sri Lanka is nicknamed – ‘The Jewel of the Indian Ocean’.
Peace out Sri Lanka! We will be back.