Relatively small island of Sri Lanka in southern tip of India is really diverse for its size. I think one could describe it as mini India without all the filth and hussle. It’s easy to switch between pretty southern beaches and lush beautiful hillsides just in few hours with a bus that costs less than two euros. Mountainside offers stunning view especially during dry season and mid northern part has unique Buddhist culture only second to Asia’s grandest cultural capitals. Varied National Parks offer a good selection of classical safari animals such as Elephants, buffalos and sambal deer.
“The real question is, is it really worth visiting?”
Sri Lanka is good, but after visiting pretty much all the countries in South-East Asia I wonder if there is anything really special in Sri Lanka that other countries cannot offer. If you are into beaches, you could go to Philippines or even less touristy areas of Thailand. For surfing Indonesia is the mecca. For mountains go to Nepal, for wannabe-jungle-Tarzans there is Malaysian Borneo, for ancient ruin geeks there is Cambodia and Myanmar. So I guess the niche of Sri Lanka is that all the attractions are packed in relatively small area that is easy to cope, which makes it ideal location for shorter relaxed holidays.
Prices and money
Will your miserable minimum wage cover the trip? Possibly, probably not. After civil war ended in 2009 there has been an economical boom pretty much everywhere in Sri Lanka. Everything is getting more and more expensive especially for tourists. Sri Lankan government has also set a policy to promote 4 and 5 star tourism trying to ditch all the dirty hippies off the ride. Because of the policy cheap and good guesthouses are hard to find. Accommodation is definitely the biggest part of expenses and a night in decent guesthouse (for two persons) will wary somewhere between 10-25 euros depending on location. Even with 30 euros per night you would only probably get a decent clean room with hot water by the beach.
Public transportation is super cheap though and 2 hour bus ride will cost under one euro in most cases. And 2 hours will get you far on an island where everything is pretty much packed together.
Food can be arranged for cheap if you are into it (0,5-2 euros per snacky local meal) but for western dishes in a proper restaurant he prices will wary between 5-12 €. Local rice and curry is south Indian styled and not very good in my honest opinion. Maybe the food poisoning I got from it on day 4 has something to do with it. Rottys and Kottus are delicious though.
Some tourist attractions are ridiculously over priced (25 USD to enter one mediocre temple) but that’s the price of economical growth so the foreseaable future will show whether it will become increasingly difficult to travel this country with a smaller budget. We had 4 years old Lonely Planet with us. Prices had almost quadrupled.
“Anyways you can cope with 1000 euros for three weeks easy without having to sacrifice anything.”
Places worth visiting
Beautiful hillside village with all the luxuries of a proper backpacker hub. Nice sites to visit and gorgeous views (Little Adam’s Peak) for little effort.
Adam’s peak is very probably the ultimate mountain view in Sri Lanka. We saw 5 meters of mist and vertical rain.
Unique ancient fortress on a 200 meter high rock. Definitely the best cultural site we saw in Lanka.
A bit touristy but really nice beach and good food. Easy place to just space out and lie down for a while. Tangalla and Talalla would probably be better in terms of less people is more. Mirissa is pretty much a tourist trap with too many families and far too much Canary Island atmosphere.
Surfing is a big thing in Sri Lanka and I wish I could have done it more but the season wasn’t really good for that. Weligama was OK but the wind was wrong. Arugam bay was supposed to be good but we skipped it because of it’s isolated location. All the south coast was pretty much a mess in intermediate surfer. What I heard from pretty reliable sources is that the best places to surf in Sri Lanka are Ahangama/Midigima area or Arugam bay. Check out the situation before going though.
Sri Lanka is definitely a good island to visit especially during high season when the sea is calm and sky crystal clear. During rainy season the sea can be super rough at times and visibility close to zero in mountains. I would definitely take a relaxing 3 week vacation in early december just to lay on beach drinking margaritas and enjoying seafood pizza.
“There is something for everyone I guess.”
- hiking/light trekking in the highlands
- for animal enthusiasts -> wildlife safaris
- Excellent southern beaches. Be there on season (nov-feb) for nice and calm sea.
- possible to do it all in a one trip if you don’t mind a bit of a hassle