When I originally decided to go to Sri Lanka, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I originally choose it because I wanted to go to India, and I decided that this was close to that.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is that Sri Lanka is NOT India. The culture and the country are very different. Now I have not been to India yet, but everything that was in my mind as, this is what India is, was wrong.
1. No Crowds
In India, there are people everywhere and it is a really busy place. Sri Lanka is not like that. Sri Lanka has one busy city and the rest are really more like towns. Everyone has their own space and there is room to move around. At the tourist attractions like Temples, Museums and Parks, we would encounter people, but there never were line ups or traffic jams. We had space to walk to the exhibit, see it and move on at our own pace.
2. Unique Culture
As I mentioned this is not India. In Sri Lanka, people are laid back. They are very dedicated to their religion and their families. They take time to appreciate life and love to visit nature. They have lots of elaborate Temples with active pilgrims. They will take you in and teach you how to be apart of their culture. A lot of their religion is based on reflection of self while climbing for an amazing sunset or sunrise.
3. Lots of beaches
Since Sri Lanka is an island, there are a lot of large yellow sand beaches. The beaches are beautiful. There are a lot of public beaches, so you can walk along the water for miles. That being said, the tides around Sri Lanka are strong and the winds whip by. We found most days the beaches were red flagged, so we spent most days in the hotel pools instead. ON a side note, most hotels we stayed at in Sri Lanka had pools.
4. The Amazing Ruins
Sri Lanka has a rich history of kings and empires. Therefore all over the island there are temples, castles and forts to explore and imagine life hundreds of years ago. Most of the temples, castles and forts are set up so that once you pay the entrance fee, you have full access to the ruins and can climb and wander among the ruins at your own discretion. It is amazing that there are no safety ropes or prohibited areas.
5. Diversity of the Landscape
One of the amazing things about Sri Lanka is the diversity of the landscape. Some areas of Sri Lanka are a beach, some are a rain forest, some are a cold mountain top, others are dry and hot like a desert. All of these areas are a 3-4 hour drive from each other. So you basically can be in a different climate each day on this island.
Sri Lanka is known as the land of the elephants. So I expected them to be everywhere. In some documentaries I saw, I was told there wan an elephant problem in Sri Lanka. However for the most part, you can see wild elephants at the National Parks. There are a few different ways to see elephants in Sri Lanka. One way was to go to the baby elephant feeding programs and watch once of their three daily feedings. Another was to rent 4X4 and ride out to the herds with a guide to see them. The last way, my favourite was to get a safari jeep and head out into the national parks and drive through the bush to see the herds.
As I just mentioned, Sri Lanka has 2 large safari national parks. They are in the southern end of the island and within a days drive of each other. At the park for around $60 a person, you can get a seat in a personal safari jeep with a park guide, who will talk to the other guides to get you to where the herds have migrated to in the park that day. These safaris are generally 4-5 hours in length.
8. Different from the rest of the world
Honestly Sri Lanka is very different from the rest of the world. It’s like going back to colonial times. They are very proper in how they service tourists. They have protected their way of life from western influences. They have a very wild landscape. The travel using tuk tuks. They all go home for 6 pm.
The trains are amazing. You can see so much of the country, for an affordable price with the wind whipping in your hair. The train can be a little intimidating. There is no English at these train stations and the stations have weird names. But once your on and you know what stop to look for your good to go.
There you have it, 9 reasons. Honestly my trip to Sri Lanka was more challenging then I thought it would be. It is a very different country then what I am used to, however it is also very rewarding. Be prepared for a trip that is more work to travel and understand. But the more you adventure in this country the more you love it.