I got your reference from some friends. Your Instagram page is wonderful!
I am planning to travel to Sri Lanka from 18-24th November for my birthday. The trip is just of 2 people. We were planning to visit: Colombo, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sigiriya, Hikkaduwa (for diving), and Galle.
18 November: Fly into Colombo. Overnight in Colombo.
19 November: Drive to Sigiriya via the Pinnewala elephant orphanage.
20 November: Overnight in Sigiriya.
21 & 22 November: Drive to Hikkaduwa. My birthday is on the 21st Wednesday
and I was planning to spend it in Hikkadua scuba diving as I love the water. Visit Galle. Overnight Hikkaduwa.
23 November: Drive to Colombo. Fly out of Colombo at night.
So I was looking for some suggestions of places to stay, eat and things to do in general in the places listed if possible 🙂
Would you suggest stopping by at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on the way from Colombo to Sigiriya OR skipping that and instead going on a safari at the Minneriya Elephant Park OR doing both? Slightly confused about this, any advice would be very helpful!
Of course if there’s something else we absolutely must do/eat/see in another place (preferably one along the way) do let me know!
A couple of things: I didn’t know what budget you had in mind so I have tried to give you options across budgets where possible.
I am not suggesting too many changes to your itinerary because I think you’ve chosen well and you don’t have all that much time to try and cram in something else.
Some of the best food we ate in Sri Lanka was from the local food carts. You can find these in the big cities but also in the smaller places like Hikkaduwa, just head to one with the most number of locals. Try the ‘dahl-curry and rotti’ or hoppers and the sambol for sure.
Firstly regarding whether you should visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage or Minneriya National Park or both:
I would usually have suggested Minneriya over Pinnawala but I believe the dry season (May-Oct) is the best time to spot elephants there. Like with any wildlife, the best or easiest sightings happen when the water has dried up and the animals have congregated at the few remaining water reservoirs.
When I checked the weather as it is at the moment it has already started raining there. So the chances of spotting elephants or any wildlife is lower. Additionally, I don’t think one safari is enough when visiting a park and you are pretty short of time to do too many more safaris: climbing Sigiriya is likely to take the better part of a day. However, if you’re not only going for the elephants and do decide to go, it sounds like a beautiful park with deer, monkeys, etc.
Pinnawala has been getting mixed reviews and complaints that it has gotten more commercial but some people do still seem happy with it. You can check the reviews on TripAdvisor. Additionally, you won’t be going out of your way to visit it as you drive from Colombo to Sigiriya. There is another park where orphan elephants are cared for at the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalave National Park but, again, it’s too much out of your way.
Olu Villas: Clean rooms on a budget.
Havelock Place Bungalow: A lovely bungalow with individual rooms, a pool and garden.
Colombo Courtyard: A pleasant boutique-style hotel.
Palmyrah at the Renuka Hotel: For local food.
Nuga Gama at the Cinnamon Grand: For a fancy Sri Lankan meal under a banyan tree in rustic surroundings.
Pagoda Tea Room: This iconic bakery is great for pies, cakes and a Sri Lankan meal-in-a-leaf called a lamprai. Incidentally Duran Duran shot part of their ‘Hungry Like a Wolf’ video here. Location: 105, Chatham St, Fort
Black Pepper at the Dutch Hospital: For north-Sri Lankan food. They also do a variety of crabs.
Ministry of Crab: We went here and found it extremely over priced. However, the food was good if you do want to try it.
See & Do:
Wolvendaal Church: 18th century church that is one of the most important Dutch buildings in Sri Lanka.
If you’re really into food and have the time you could consider doing a food tour in Colombo. Like this one by Urban Adventures, perhaps, or you can find more food tours here.
Hotels (in and around Galle):
The Dream House: A great, easy on the pocket, 4-roomed guest house with a bohemian feel and good food.
Wijaya Beach: Sits on a narrow strip in a quiet village and has pleasant, well-furnished rooms, some with good views and balconies. Great restaurant also (see below). In Mihirpenna, 20-minutes from Galle.
Crepology: Wonderful crepes served in a rooftop restaurant in Galle.
Lucky Fort Restaurant: Possibly more of a draw for it’s quirky, chatty owner, the restaurant serves good, home-cooked local food prepared by the family. Don’t be fooled by their fancy-looking website. This is a very simple, authentic restaurant.
Wijaya Beach: Serves some of the best pizzas we’ve ever eaten and cheese cake. Their Arrack Attack cocktail is also a winner. In Mihirpenna, 20-minutes from Galle.
See & Do:
My husband did this cycle tour near Galle and really enjoyed it.
Hikkaduwa is only 45 minutes from Galle so I would suggest you either stay in Galle or Hikkaduwa and commute so you don’t have to keep packing and moving.
Drifter’s Hotel and Beach Restaurant: I have not personally visited this property nor has someone I know but it is highly rated on TripAdvisor. They have a hotel and a villa.
Similarly popular on TripAdvisor is Neelas Beach.
See & Do:
Poseidon Dive Centre: If you haven’t already decided on a dive centre this centre is a 5-star PADI Dive Centre.
Whale / dolphin watching: About an hour away from Hikkaduwa and likely to take the better part of a day, but it is one of the best whale-watching spots in the world! And whale watching season has just begun ☺ If you do go, make sure you use an ethical boat operator such as Mirissa Water Sports or Borderlands, who also do a number of adventurous things in Sri Lanka like canoeing, sea kayaking, etc.
I haven’t visited Sigiriya but my friends who have stayed in Kandy where there are more accommodation options and travelled the 45 minutes to Sigiriya.
Sigiri Lion Lodge: Lonely Planet recommends this very simple, budget accommodation. Has also received good reviews on TripAdvisor.(I couldn’t find their own website.)
Sigiriya Village: A gorgeous hotel with great views of Sigiriya Rock from the outdoor pool.
I don’t have any personal recommendations for restaurants here. Here’s a nice round up by Travel Triangle, though.
See & Do:
Dambulla Cave Temple: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered the best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.