Sri Lanka serves as the perfect international destination from India; our neighbouring island separated by the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait. A 1.5-hour flight from Bengaluru will get you to Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport.
Visa can be applied online at http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/ . The fees for applicants from SAARC countries is 20 USD (as of 23 June 2018). The ETA ( Electronic Travel Authorisaion) lasts for 30 days but can be extended.
Indian currency is not officially available at the airport so it is advised to either get the currency from India or use the ATM available at the airport. Also a number of mobile companies have stalls at the arrival hall. You can get a decent plan for 500 LKR with data connection.
Day 1: Explore the cultural Sri Lanka
From the airport I took the A/C minivan to the Colombo Fort station. It cost only LKR 180 as compared to Uber which was costing around 1600 LKR. It’s an hour-long drive from the airport to the Colombo Fort station but the reckless driving ensured I could reach even faster. From the Colombo Fort Station I took the 06:05 am train to Habarana. The bumpy ride meant that I could have only small naps!! However after 5 and a half hours in train I was happy to see the sign “Habarana”. From Habarana I took a Tuk Tuk to my hotel Sigiriya Rock Gate Resort in the Sigiriya city.
The owner of the property was very helpful as he arranged a Tuk Tuk to the Sigiriya Fort. The entrance fees for SAARC nationals is 15 USD. The climb up on the Lions Rock tested my fitness but the top offered incredible views ( déjà vu – Arthur’s seat in Edinburgh).The weather was great and from the top you can also see the Pidurangala Rock.
The Tuk Tuk driver picked me from the Fort. After an exhausting climb I was ready to eat. I ate traditional Sri Lankan Food at Ahinsa Restaurant and the prices were also quite reasonable (around 500LKR for a big Thali).
Day 2- City of Kandy and Sri Lankan Capital Colombo
Early morning start!!
After a delicious breakfast in the hotel I headed off to Dambulla. The Tuk Tuk driver dropped me at the main road from where I could catch the bus to Dambulla. At Dambulla I visited the Golden Temple which has the world’s largest Buddha Statue Dhamma Chakka Posture, 100 feet in height
Then I headed off to Kandy. The bus ride from Dambulla to Kandy was a good two hours. Kandy was very cool and the city is surrounded by hills. The most visited attractions of the city is the Temple of Tooth Relics. The traffic in Kandy was really bad, as I headed to see the Bahirawakanda Buddha Statue which is a beautifully sculpted white statue – stands at 88 feet in height. There are panoramic views of the City of Kandy from here.
Then I headed to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphange in a Tuk Tuk . On the way I visited a tea shop which also had some set up for Ceylon tea manufacturing. At the elephant orphanage, I was asked not to photograph the untamed elephants. The elephants were not taken to the river to bath that day since the water level was quite high. I would have preferred to see the elephants in a more natural setup.
After spending some time at the orphange, I took the 1.5 hour train from Rambukkana train station to Colombo. At Colombo I stayed at the Star Anise Boutique Capsules. Star Anise is well located in Fort next to Dutch Hospital and the Fort railway station.
After much needed rest I headed off to the Sky Lounge. Did some munching there, I headed to Bally’s Casino . Time flew away in the casino as I tried various strategies in Roulette and Baccarat . After a short nap in the hostel, I went for a stroll at Galle Face Green which was a perfect closure to my Sri Lanka trip.