Earlier this year, I was backpacking in Asia for almost half a year and got to see some incredible places. I wanted to end my trip in Sri Lanka because it was a place that I had heard almost nothing of. And although 3 weeks to me was a bit too much, I wouldn’t change anything. Some people I met told me they could spend more than one month here, so I guess it’s all about what you’re looking for.
But in these weeks I managed to cover a big chunk of the country. My only regret is that I didn’t get to see the north, but this just means that I have to go back one day. I liked most of the places I went to, but there are some that stuck with me more. Here are my top 5 places that I think you should visit when you’re in Sri Lanka.
After being disappointed with both Colombo (which I knew I would be anyway) and Kandy, I headed off to the (very) little town Ella. The train ride Kandy – Ella has been voted as the most beautiful train ride in the world, and I have to agree. It was nothing but breathtaking! The train gets really full and everyone wants to stand by the doors to see the views, but the locals were so kind to me and let me get the best spot (YASSS). When we arrived to Ella, me and my friends were shouting with happiness – we loved it instantly and were so happy to finally come to a place that didn’t feel… meh. Ella is quite the “backpackers paradise” I’d say, although I was happy to notice that tourism in Sri Lanka hasn’t yet boomed, so there weren’t big crowds of people. Although Ella is one of the more touristy spots in Sri Lanka, I think it might’ve been my favourite. There’s a lot to do here – you can go hike to waterfalls, do sunrise and sunset hikes to Little Adam’s Peak or Ella Rock, see the famous Nine Arch Bridge, take a tuk-tuk to visit Lipton’s Seat where you will see endless tea field views and go to my favourite place to eat and drink: Cafe Chill. We stayed at a really good hostel called “The Hangover Hostel“. They also have hostels in Mirissa and Colombo.
2. Mirissa Beach
Perhaps the most touristic spot in Sri Lanka, but I liked Mirissa Beach because of the pristine beaches and of course – the Coconut Tree Hill viewpoint. It’s actually become quite the Instagram spot apparently, but I found it while I was bored chilling on the beach and needed to move my ass for a bit. It’s so beautiful and still, quite untouched. Mirissa is also full of restaurants and bars on the beach, and even has a sort-of “club” (if you can call it that). There’s still not a lot of hostels in Sri Lanka since it’s “on the rise”. We stayed in the worst place EVER though, so can’t really recommend that one, but there’s a hostel that our friend stayed in and it looked really cool. It’s called “JJ’s Hostel” and has really good reviews.
3. Weligama Beach
When you’re in the south, you’re basically just going from beach to beach. So our next stop was Weligama, which became a favourite of mine because of the cute and cozy hostel we stayed at, and because of Midigama Beach. You can take a tuk-tuk there, which takes about 10 min, and be in one of the prettiest beaches in Sri Lanka. Otherwise, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the other beaches in Weligama. Make sure to stay in “Beatroot Hostel” when you’re here. I liked it so much that I came back and stayed for two more nights.
4. Galle Fort
I looooove Galle Fort. The Dutch built their headquarters here in the 18th century, but flash forward to today and the European-style buildings have been turned into cafés, restaurants and shops. There is only one way to enter Galle Fort and it’s through the main gate. The area is small and it takes about 2-3 hours to walk through the fort, but take your time here. There’s some incredible handicraft shops, monuments, restaurants and even a tiny little beach where you can swim. One thing you must do here is watch the sunset on the fort’s wall. I actually came here twice. First time I was with my two German friends when we stayed in a treehouse 30 min away, but then I decided to book a hostel in Galle Fort (Pilgrim’s Hostel) because the others were leaving. Aaaaand then I met a guy and decided to extend my stay (classic, hah!).
5. Balapitiya Beach
Speaking of this guy, we traveled together for a few days and rented a motorbike in Hikkaduwa. We went along the coast and found this goooorgeous beach which we later found out was called Balapitiya. The best thing? We had it ALL to ourselves. We were running around, screaming, playing in the water, explored and slept for a bit even. It felt like we had found a slice of paradise.
I was thinking of putting Pidurangala Rock and Yala National Park here as well, but if I had to go back to 5 places in Sri Lanka, these are the ones I would choose. It’s going to be very interesting to see how tourism in Sri Lanka will develop since Lonely Planet has said it’s THE country to visit in 2019. I’m happy I got to go here before it’ll become a big tourist spot, as I know it will be. There’s some really good surfing spots, which you can see by all the surf camps being built here. It’s cheap, has plenty of beaches and all the potential to become the next “Thailand”. The best time to visit Sri Lanka is now – when you still have the chance to have a beach all to yourself.