Much closer to the international airport than Colombo, Negombo can be an interesting stop for a first or last night in the country. The beach of Negombo stretches for miles, a little in its juice and that’s why we love it! The fishermen rub shoulders with the tourists, the traditional boats the one of the hotels, the dogs, the crows all living in harmony with the rhythm of the sea … There are only small hotels, which is rather good.
The orphanage was created in 1975 by hosting its first 7 orphans. Today, some of its first occupants have the joy of seeing their little children born in the same place daily. With the help of local and international elephant experts, the place is now a recognized centre for the conservation and captive breeding of Asian elephants. Elephants are free in the park, and this promotes reproduction since the first elephant was born in 1984, most naturally in the world. You will have the chance to attend the bottle at (9:15, 13:15 and 17:00) and bath at 10:00 or 14:00. The restaurant on the terrace just above the river offers a magical view of the place and allows you to observe the bath, for want of serving edible food … On the main street, do not miss the Maximus shop which manufactures very pretty notebooks and other papers in elephant poo, only natural! Small nice gifts to bring back. This brand won the BBC World Challenge in 2006 for its 100% recycled and sustainable development initiative.
The train in Sri Lanka is a fabulous time machine. Developed by the British colonists to bring tea from its place of production to the port of Colombo, it has little or no change since. Railway stations, wagons, the possibility to open windows and doors during the journey, all bring a charm forgotten in our ultra-secure countries. Not to mention the landscapes that are breathtaking!
Places can be booked up to a month day by day in advance, provided you have someone on site to pick them up (your driver can take care of it because the prices are really ridiculous). Some will prefer to try their luck at the last moment (in the 3rd class wagons apparently there is always room). Several routes offer superb views (the Colombo-Matara, Colombo-Kandy-Nuwara Eliya coastal train), but the most incredible is the Ella-Badulla section, where there is the famous loop (there are only 3 of them in the world!) As well as the Demodara Bridge (bridge with 9 arches). Arm yourself with patience because delays are frequent! For all schedules I recommend this site.
Temple of the Buddha’s tooth or Dalada Maligawa is a high place of pilgrimage for the Buddhists. This temple was built at the end of the 16th century when the relic arrived in Sri Lanka hidden in the hair of an Indian princess, Princess Hemamala. Every day, the pilgrims attend three ceremonies; 7h, 11h and 19h30. Tourists are welcome too, but the traffic in the temple is more complicated because of the crowds that press.
Esala Perahera (29 July – 7 August 2017, attention the date changes each year according to the moon)
It is one of the most spectacular Buddhist festivals; made of elephant parades, fire eaters, dancers, jugglers and lasts 10 days. The Buddha’s tooth is worn by an elephant chosen from among the most beautiful in the country, caparisoned with gold and which is the little star of the festival. One of them, Rajah, was so much appreciated that he now has his museum within the temple. It must be said that he faithfully carried the relic during the parades for 40 years!
The city of Kandy welcomes thousands of pilgrims on this occasion. We advise you to take a quiet hotel, slightly out of town like the fabulous Kandy House. Reservations to be made well in advance!
Located 4km from Kandy, the Peradeniya Garden was made in the 14th century for the pleasure of the King. Transformed into a botanical garden in 1821 by the English, its 60 hectares are today composed of a tropical flora of unheard-of richness; Palm trees, centenarian trees, many of which have been planted by famous people such as Lord Mountbatten, home of orchids. On the riverbank, giant bamboos are the favorite playgrounds for monkeys while near the alley of royal palms; the trees are constellated with giant bats. A colony of 24,000 bats has taken up residence in this garden. At sunset, their cries are deafening!
The small town of Nuwara Eliya exudes the nostalgic charm of the former English colonies. Known as Little England, many houses are built in the architectural style of the Tudor. The Nuwara Eliya post office is the perfect example!
The English loved to come and recover themselves during the warm period in this cool and humid climate that reminded them of their native land. Indeed, this misty and relatively cool climate, compared to the coasts, is one that allows the tea plantations of the region to prosper. Sri Lanka has 220,000 hectares of tea hills (the world’s second largest producer), mostly in this region. Several factories offer very interesting visits; Mackwood Labookellie is a 10-kilometer drive from Nuwera Eliya, or Pedro Tea Estate which is closest to Nuwera Eliya to name just two. The adjoining shops are very well stocked and make for nice little gifts.