Seema Prakash is the Destination Manager for India & the Subcontinent. She recently took the journey of a lifetime to Sri Lanka and touched on the many highlights that this wonderful island nation has to offer. Read her story below and be inspired to travel to this remarkably scenic country.
Sri Lanka, an island nation, also known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, is situated off the Southern tip of India. The country has a documented history of some 3000 years and was an important stop on the ancient Silk Road route. It was also a center of the Buddhist religion since ancient times where the teachings of Buddha were first written down.
We arrived in Colombo and were met by our guide with orchid garlands, a traditional welcoming ceremony. He took us to our hotel called Wallawa, an elegant boutique hotel with wonderful high ceilings. The room opens onto a backyard with exotic greenery reminiscent of a plantation. The service was excellent and the outdoor dining area serene. We indulged in a symphony of exotic fruits and colloquial nuances to the traditional breakfast.
The following morning we proceed on our first leg of our trip, a 3 hour journey to Sigiria which is part of the cultural triangle. This journey was full of sights and sounds that kept us in quiet awe. Rassi, our chauffeur/guide was a wealth of knowledge, as we drove though small hamlets with its rich forestry of rubber, teak, and coconut trees. As an Indian, we had heard stories of Rama and his epic journey to rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of the evil Ravana who lived in Lanka. He showed us the mountain in Ritigala with its unique vegetation and healing herbs only found in the Himalaya Mountains, which were transported by the god Hanuman, to heal the wounded in a battle to rescue Sita. We also saw the famous rock fortress of Sigiria and were regaled with yet another ancient tale of kingship and royal deceit.
Later that day we arrived at our hotel called Ulagalla. We were welcomed by the traditional ceremony of Aarti. This boutique hotel nestled in a village in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura. The Resort is a historic mansion transformed into a modern haven. All the accommodation is private Chalets that are air conditioned and equipped with modern amenities. All Chalets have a private plunge pool.
From this base, we visited the national wild life preserve and spotted all kinds of animals and birds. The highlight was watching a herd of elephants in their natural habitat. We also visited a Spice garden and were educated about ancient Ayurvedic medicine. This hotel organizes tours to the ancient city of Anuradapura with its rich cultural history.
After three days we headed to Kandy, a hill resort, famous for its tea plantations and an ancient Buddhist temple that has preserved a tooth of Lord Buddha. Here we stayed at Cliningdel. This hotel has old world charm and is nestled in the hills of Kandy. The mountain-view from our hotel room was spectacular. The room had a colonial feel to it with Victorian style furniture. The food and service was superb.
Our next stop was a five hour awe inspiring journey through the hills surrounding Kandy. We stopped at an elephant’s orphanage in Pinnawala, which takes care of elephants who have been victimized by poachers. From there we went to the ocean resort of Galle. Located in the historic port of Galle, Amangalla sits within the ramparts of the 17th-century Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Offering views of the resort’s 200-year-old gardens and of the Fort and harbor beyond, it provides for the leisurely exploration of this historic trading port and the surrounding countryside.
The following day we travelled to Tangalle to the Amanwella Hotel. Nestled comfortably in the southern coast, it is secluded and sits amidst the coconut grooves facing the crescent shaped beach close to the village and has the most picturesque scenery. We had a great view of the mighty Indian Ocean from the balcony outside, where we had breakfast on the last morning, and I thought “What a perfect end.”
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