Ampersand's Travels...

Sri Lanka Travel News

With a founder who is half Sri Lankan, it is hardly surprising we love Sri Lanka so much. It was the original region that Ampersand started selling more than 15 years ago and it is the destination we visit most regularly – partly for research and partly because we just love it! For those of you who are considering treating yourselves to a stylish, cultural and delightfully tropical holiday, read on for our latest Sri Lanka news and insights.

AMPERSAND’S NEW SRI LANKA SPECIALIST

Introducing Tamsin Vyvyan-Robinson! If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track in Sri Lanka, here are her top insider tips she discovered whilst living on the island for the past year.  

Tamsin 3

NEW RESORT OPENING UP AN UNTOUCHED REGION OF SRI LANKA...

Gal Oya Lodge is the first property to open in the south-eastern interior of the island, just outside of the untouched and almost forgotten Gal Oya National Park, still with a few small touches to be made it will open officially in August 2014. It’s about a three hour drive east of Kandy and about 2 hours drive north from Arugam Bay. An absolute top location with Sri Lanka’s largest lake – It’s a paradise for wildlife and bird-lovers, and a stunning spot for boat safari trips where you can spot swimming elephants! Enjoy boat safaris, jungle drives or just relaxing by the pool, there is something for everyone. The eight spacious bungalows, eco-luxury style, each specially placed with their own spectacular view – you feel like you are alone in the Jungle!

Beautifully designed with wooden panels and glass with outdoor bathrooms, with everything you need to make it feel a little bit luxurious – soft white towels, extremely comfortable bed and crisp white sheets. They also have the perfect amount of character – beautiful old Sri Lankan rice cleaning bowls turned into sinks and elephant hand carved taps.  Please note there is no A/C – but you don’t need it with the highly effective ceiling fans. The traditional Sri Lanka food we ate for the whole two days was delicious and different every time and some of the best I’ve eaten. They are planning on getting an additional chef to feature a variety of cuisines, but focusing on traditional Sri Lankan dishes. We made our own egg hoppers for breakfast too which was fun!

Gal Oya Lodge Gal Oya National Park Sri Lanka 2
Gal Oya Lodge Gal Oya National Park Sri Lanka 5
Gal Oya Lodge Gal Oya National Park Sri Lanka 6
Gal Oya Lodge Gal Oya National Park Sri Lanka 3

USE THE BETTER TRANSPORT LINKS IN SRI LANKA...

The new Southern Expressway from Colombo to Galle, which was finished in August 2013, has more than halved the journey time. You can now reach Galle in one and a half hours. The expressway has been extended even further from Galle to Matara, opening just two months ago, which now makes travelling to Tangalle a lot quicker, about an hour from Galle,  as you can avoid the busy coastal road, saving a lot of time. It used to take about 3 hours to reach Tangalle from Galle.

Increased connectivity and better scheduling on Cinnamon Air and Helitours have greatly improved the domestic flight network in Sri Lanka. Their amphibious planes offer inexpensive flights, making less explored places like Trinco, Kalpitiya and Jaffna much easier to visit.

The brand new Mattala airport is now open in the Hambantota region of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Airlines fly once a day from Colombo International Airport and it takes just 45 minutes. Therefore, if you are looking to go straight over to the south-east to see some of the best National parks and Wildlife Sri Lanka has to offer this is a great option. You’ll also be close to some other great spots such as Ella, Udawalawe and Bundala National Park.

COOL COLOMBO...

Colombo is an incredibly fun city. For a community fuelled experienced with ethically made local products then visit The ‘Good Market’ on Thursdays 12-8 at Waters Edge, Battaramulla. Or on Saturdays 10-6 at the Nuga Tree car park, Colombo Racecourse, Colombo 7.   Recently opened in early 2013, The Good Market is a weekly celebration of celebration of organically grown Sri Lankan produce, natural foods and snacks, handmade and fair trade crafts and live music.

If you want a party you have to go to Colombo’s hottest new bar, which only opened last December - Sugar 41. It’s located on Maitland Cresent in the centre of Colombo. An open air restaurant come bar that serves up delicious tapas style food, which you can either eat at the bar or sitting at a table in a relaxed style setting. I love it for its range of refreshing cocktails but most of all the Mzansi’s – Colombo’s best live band from South Africa. They’ll give you the Jazz, blues and soul experience! This is a must - but be sure to book a table in advance! 

I love Sri Lankan food and probably my favourite place for local and authentic ‘rice and curry’ in Colombo has to be Green Cabin, 453 Galle Road. Serving up all the favourites – Egg hoppers, Dhal, Spring Hoppers, Tomato curry, Pol Sambol, Sini Sambol, Chicken curry and so on! However, if you’re looking something a little more high brow try the Gallery Café – it’s a romantic courtyard setting with a delicious array of Sri Lankan/western fusion style food. 

Egg Hopper 2

An old favourite, still hip: Go shopping and have a quick bite to eat at Barefoot Shop/Café, 706 Galle Road, Colombo 3 – Situated in the heart of Colombo it is one of Sri Lanka’s cool hipster hangouts. During the day, it is a shop come café. If you are looking for the very best quality Sri Lankan gifts then Barefoot is the place to go – selling everything from colourful materials and clothes to luxury Ayurvedic products. The café is an absolute treat and I would recommend going there for lunch or an afternoon refreshing drink. The peanut butter and Chocolate smoothie is amazing!  Come evening and Barefoot Café turns into a trendy hangout with the ‘pub’ quiz on every Wednesday evening at 8pm and live jazz every Sunday afternoon/evening in its beautiful frangipani courtyard setting!

Walk along Galle Face Green to catch the ocean breeze, watch the sunset and experience local Colombo life… you can even buy a kite to fly and get really involved!


THE KNUCKLES MOUNTAINS: WONDERFUL NAME, STAGGERINGLY BEAUTIFUL SCENERY...

About a two-hour wiggly and slow drive from Kandy in a northeast direction is the Knuckles Mountain range, undoubtedly my favourite place in Sri Lanka! It’s a mountainous area shaped like your knuckles and it’s the perfect place to be at one with nature and surround your self in paddy fields, tea plantations, waterfalls, wildlife and no other tourists to be seen at all. There’s some quite basic accommodation or you can camp. If you enjoy hiking up a mountain with your guide to see the breathtaking views and surrounding villages and countryside, taking a picnic and jumping in waterfalls then I would definitely recommend it!

Knuckles 3
Knuckles 2

A FEW LOCAL TIPS ABOUT THE SOUTH COAST...

Best surf beach for beginners – Weligama. The Green Rooms offer experienced instructors surf lessons and is a good place to hang out for the day in a hammock!

A secret sunset spot in Mirissa – Climb up the hill to the west side of Mirissa beach until you get to the top.  Sit of the hill and over look the palm trees and ocean for a stunning and private view! 

My favourite restaurant in Galle Fort – lunch time – Crepe-ology, 53 Leyn Baan Street (delicious sweet and savory crepes). For the evening – Fortaleza (table bbqs, fish, amazing wine selection!), Church Cross St.

Other favourite restaurants – The Kingfisher, Unawatuna. Number One, Mirissa . (You must book both in advance via your hotel during peak season).

Best daytime beach hangout – Talpe Beach Resturant.

The New Year party place – Wijaya Beach, Talpe. It’s also another great day time hangout place with amazing wood fired Pizza!  

Fishermen on Sticks tip – Sri Lanka is famous for this magnificent sight. Early morning and evening you will be able to spot them in action all along the south coastal road. However, be aware of the fakers that do it in the daytime and then demand money from you when you take a photo!  Although the small amount you give is definitely worth it – a picture you will want to keep from your Sri Lankan experience.

Sri Lanka Stilt Fisherman (1)

Sri Lankan buses – watch out! They are so fast and they rule the road. Yes they are in the middle or right on the wrong side, travelling 50MPH and not noticing anyone crossing in front of them but they don’t care – keep a wide birth!

A Place to see turtles in the wild – Walk east from Mirissa beach, past the first bay until you get to the second bay with only a few fishing boats and normally no tourists. Grab a snorkel along the way and swim with the turtles that are often there... Amazing! 

Please feel free to contact me for more information or to start planning your own tailor-made holiday to Sri Lanka!

Contact:  tamsin@ampersandtravel.com / +44 (0) 20 7819 9770