Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon, is a small but charming nation with a wide range of cultures. The island country has long been a favoured destination for travellers thanks to its unspoiled beaches, diverse biodiversity, significant exports of tea and cinnamon, and breathtaking natural beauties. On my maiden visit to the gorgeous country, I discovered that Sri Lanka is much more than just these few highlights.
I landed at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport and was driven to the iconic Galle Face Hotel Villa in a spacious caravan arranged for us by Walkers Tours, a destination management company based in Sri Lanka. Built-in 1865, Galle Face is an architectural marvel on the seafront that used to be a Dutch mansion. Located on Galle Road, it was originally built by four British entrepreneurs. It also features a museum and art gallery in its Regency Wing, which houses the first car that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh owned, and several pieces of memorabilia from the hotel's history, including a gallery of famous guests.
Siddhalepa Ayurvedic Spa
After a quick tour of the hotel and breakfast, we headed to get a soothing massage. The Siddhalepa Ayurvedic Spa in Horton Place provides natural therapies to calm the nervous system and reduce stress. Siddhalepa delivered on its promises; from the tranquil surroundings to the incredibly relaxing massages, everything was simply perfect.
Colombo By Jeep And Lotus Tower
After a quick change of clothes, we headed out for a tour of Colombo. We decided to take the city tour offered by Colombo By Jeep. Just before sunset, when everything seems to take on a warm amber hue, the open-air WWI and II jeeps provide you unhindered view. We also ascended the 350-meter-tall Lotus Tower, located in the centre of Colombo, to catch the perfect sunset.
Ministry Of Crabs
After the Jeep excursion, we went to the Ministry of Crab (MoC), one of Sri Lanka's most sought after restaurants. The eatery, located in the Old Dutch Hospital Complex, is a seafood lover's paradise. MoC has all of them, including the renowned Mud crabs, freshwater prawns, oysters, and clams. Additionally, if you have a Mastercard, you can save 15 per cent on food and non-alcoholic beverages!
Avani Bentota Resort
It takes about two hours to get from Colombo to Bentota. However, the journey feels brief because it travels through beautiful beaches and verdant scenery. The Avani Bentota Resort, situated on the nicest beach strip along Sri Lanka's western coastline, served as our second place to stay. Geoffrey Bawa, a well-known architect, created the hotel's 75 rooms with seaside views.
Turtle Hatchery And Madu River Boat Safari
Several threatened turtle species, such as the Olive Ridley and Leatherback turtles, have a nesting area on the virgin golden coastline of Bentota. Under the direction of the Sea Turtle Protection Association, the Turtle Hatchery works to preserve and safeguard the eggs from predators and other perils. Following the briefing on turtle protection, we made our way to the Madu River's banks, where a boat safari was waiting for us.
On the way to Nuwara Eliya, we also stopped briefly in Ella, which is 200 kilometres from Colombo. Ella, which is 1,041 metres above sea level, is encircled by hills that are home to forests and tea plantations. The Nine Arch Bridge, boldly spanning the valley below and bordered by lush woods and tea plantations, is the primary draw in this area.
Nuwara Eliya And Grand Hotel
At 1,868 metres above sea level, Nuwara Eliya boasts the coolest climate in Sri Lanka. It seemed as though we had been transported to a town in England when we arrived at the Grand Hotel, where we were scheduled to spend the night. The more than 200-year-old establishment was decked out in green, crimson, and white in preparation for Christmas.
W15 And Temple Of The Sacred Tooth Relic
We arrived at W15 Hanthana Estate in Kandy during the final portion of our trip. The estate in the hills embodies colonial charm to the fullest extent. W15, a beautifully restored bungalow from the days of the British empire, is perfectly complemented by the stunning surroundings of undulating tea plantations and emerald green woodlands. If you ever want to stay at the lovely hotel, a Mastercard will give you an immediate 10 per cent discount. We also stopped at the Buddhist shrine in Kandy known as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (also called Sri Dalada Maligawa) on the way back to Colombo. The relic has played a significant role in local politics from the beginning of time since it is believed that whoever holds the relic controls the country's governance. The artefact once used to be owned by Sinhalese rulers.
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Our sole stop before Colombo airport was Odel, the country's first department store. What vacation would be complete without picking up gifts for loved ones? You can purchase traditional clothing, cosmetics produced from native ingredients, or handcrafted items from Sri Lanka at Odel. We paid with our Mastercards (yes, you get 15% off!) and grabbed a quick supper before heading to the airport.
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