30 Friday January, 2015
By Tamsin Vyvyan-Robinson, Ampersand's Sri Lanka specialist
It has been about 7 months since I left my life in Sri Lanka to return to London; this time last year I was sitting on the terrace of the Galle Face Hotel sipping cocktails, watching the magical sunsets over the Indian Ocean whilst getting a decent dose of vitamin D! On my blustery morning walks through Battersea Park I often find myself dreaming of the Sri Lankan sunshine I became so accustomed to. This got me thinking… what are the first things I am going to do when I go back to Sri Lanka to visit my old friends?
1) Eat as much Sri Lankan food as I possibly can – it is truly delicious! The Green Cabin Café in Colombo is great for simple Sri Lankan cuisine. Set in a quaint courtyard, it serves a range of Sri Lankan dishes and is popular with both locals and foreigners. If you can make it over to the East Coast of the island, Gal Oya Lodge has some of the best curries I have ever tried in Sri Lanka and I can’t wait to get back there. Something which I regret not doing is having a cooking lesson; you can experience being taken to the market to choose the fresh local produce in the morning before you learn how to cook a range of dishes and, best of all, enjoy eating it for lunch! Ampersand Travel can arrange private cooking lessons throughout Sri Lanka – one of our best-selling cooking experiences is at Ulagalla, Anuradhapura.
2) Swim in the sea every day! Sri Lanka is renowned for its stunning crescent shaped, palm tree lined beaches, and I think the best place to admire them is from the sea! The heat can sometimes be unbearable (particularly from March through to July) and there is no better way to cool down than a dip in the glorious ocean. As it is a tropical country it does rain a fair bit and swimming in the sea, in the rain, is by far the most therapeutic experience I can think of. The sea can get a little rough, so watch out for the strong undercurrents and don’t go too deep (best swimming conditions are from Dec – April). Ampersand Travel can offer trips to top beaches for a luxurious dip along the whole of the island’s coastline. My favourite 3 places to stay for the best swimming beaches are:
1) Amanwella, Tangalle
2) Habaraduwa House, Habaraduwa
3) Jungle Beach, Trincomalee
3) Adam’s Peak summit. Although I have already climbed the 5,200 steps to enjoy sunrise on Sri Lanka’s highest peak (also known as Sri Pada), I have a strong urge to do it again. I blame Champika, my Sri Lankan driver, who is a Buddhist (along with 80% of Sri Lanka’s population). When I asked him how many times he has climbed Adam’s Peak, his answer was 30 times and each time it gets even more magical! Buddhists believe that the rock formation near the summit is the sacred ‘footprint of Buddha’. The perfect place to stay to experience climbing Adam’s Peak would be Tea Trails; it’s about a 40 minutes drive away.
4) Visit some off the beaten track waterfalls and jungles! Take the iconic train ride in the observation carriage from Hatton to Haputale and stay at The Living Heritage – some friends of mine stayed their recently and highly recommend it. It is in a completely excluded location, surrounded by jungles and tea plantations, with hidden waterfalls perfect for swimming and private picnic lunches. Ampersand can offer tailor-made trips to include this stunning train ride and stays at Living Heritage Koslanda.
5) Learn to surf the beach breaks at Weligama. Recently I’ve been doing my best to visit Devon for surfing lessons at the weekends. Every time I put on the extra thick and damp wetsuit, hat, gloves and shoes (thus looking more like a beach whale than a beach babe), I do tell myself I should have done this more in Sri Lanka! Weligama is the perfect place to learn to surf and there are plenty of keen instructors who can give lessons and provide all the equipment. For the ultimate luxury surf experience stay at Cape Weligama.
6) Burn off some Sri Lanka curry rice belly by doing a cycle tour! Head to the surrounding paddy fields and low tea plantations near Galle – the Paddy Trail is a stunning and relatively gentle 12 - 30km (tailored to your fitness) cycle loop starting and finishing near Wijaya Beach about 20 minutes drive from Galle. The guide will lead you through paddy valleys and around the stunning Koggala Lake and will provide plenty of information about nature and the local environment. Stop half way up for a coconut break! Stay at Kahanda Kanda near Galle, a stylish boutique villa with ravishing tea and cinnamon plantation views.
For more Sri Lanka tips or to book your tailor-made Sri Lanka holiday contact Tamsin at +44 (0) 20 7819 9770 / email@example.com