We traveled through Sri Lanka this year in January and it was the perfect time to explore this beautiful country. We spent a bit more than 4 weeks traveling in Sri Lanka, which in our opinion was the perfect amount of time.
We landed at the airport in Colombo and stayed in Negombo after that. Negombo is closer to the airport than Colombo and it is way smaller. The perfect place to start off your Sri Lanka trip. We spent one day exploring this little city and the Beach in Negombo. We stayed at a little homestay which was comfortable and well located near the beach.
What we liked most about Negombo is that you can see very well that this city was colonialized by the dutch because of the many cute canals which are leading through the city.
Our favorite Place to Eat in Negombo was the Lords Restaurant. It might look a bit corny from the outside but the food is absolutely delicious. The owner is a Britan who moved to Sri Lanka because he loved the country so much. He gives a job and existence to several local families and he also collects donations for street dogs in Sri Lanka. We loved that! Don’t miss the virgin Coladas they are so delicious. They even have live music on some evenings which you can enjoy the best from the backyard.
The next day we hired a driver who drove us from Negombo to Kandy. A driver is quite affordable in Sri Lanka. We paid approx. 30 Dollars for that ride which was about 2 hours. So our trip through the central highland started.
Where to stay in Kandy
In Kandy, we stayed at the very cute Guesthouse called Sweet Lanka Kandy. We had a beautiful view of the hill where this house was located. And the hosts made our stay very comfortable. We recommend you staying somewhere on the hill. Sure you have to walk up and down when you want to get to the city (or take a tuk-tuk) but the view is worth it.
Things to do in Kandy
In the middle of the city, there is a beautiful lake where you can go for a walk and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Also, there is the temple of the tooth located right next to the lake. Where they say a tooth of Buddha is kept.
A little bit outside of the city there is the beautiful Royal Botanical Garden which is worth a visit. We spent a beautiful afternoon strolling through this park, seeing a lot of beautiful flowers and plants, and made a little picnic in the grass. It can be reached by tuk-tuk from the city in about 15 minutes.
The other morning we walked up to the famous Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue on the hill. We recommend you to go in the morning when the temperatures aren’t too hot yet. The view from up there is absolutely stunning.
Where to eat in Kandy
We had one dinner at The Empire Cafe which was very delicious and the spot is very cute. The kitchen is a mix of Asian and western and they had a few vegan options.
The other night we went to a typical Sri Lankan buffet which was super delicious and affordable. There are several places where you can eat a Sri Lankan buffet. We went to the Sharon Inn and had a stunning view and amazing food.
The scenic train ride from Kandy to Ella
From Kandy, we took the famous blue train and did that scenic train ride from Kandy to Ella, which takes you about 5 hours. Train tickets in Sri Lanka are very cheap, and the trains are a great way of transportation. But this route from Kandy to Ella got so famous that the train often gets too full from all the tourists. That day when we made the train ride, it was such a day. We got the tickets two days in advance when we got to Kandy. We had 2nd class tickets, which everyone told us are the best because it’s a bit more comfortable than the 3rd class. The 1st class would be with air conditioning, which also means the windows can not be opened, which we would like because we wanted to make the real Sri Lanka train experience hanging out of the open window or standing in the open door.
We ended up standing in the hallway of the train with many other people and couldn’t move. In the end, we had much fun and met a lot of people on our way, but it was exhausting standing all the time. On the train, locals are walking around and selling delicious food and fruits. But in the case of an overcrowded train, it isn’t fun to stand in their path. In the last hour, we were lucky enough to get a space to sit in the open door. Sitting there was such a fantastic experience! Overall we were happy to arrive in Ella after this ride and would recommend you do only parts of this train ride when you travel in high season and maybe get off at Nuwara Eliya. Except for that very famous route, we can say that traveling by train in Sri Lanka is pretty comfortable and easy.
We fell in love with Ella in the first moment. This place is a backpackers paradise, lovely and lush green. The temperatures are always a bit lower there, and in the morning or the late afternoon, it gets a bit cloudy. But that is great to go hiking and spend a lot of time out in nature.
Where to stay in Ella
We stayed at The Chillout Ella, which is a cute Guesthouse located directly on the bottom of Little Adam’s Peak and a little bit outside of the city center. It was tranquil and relaxing to stay there. We had a terrace with a hammock where we loved to hang out in the afternoons, and the hosts were absolutely lovely and very helpful.
Things to do in Ella
Nine Arches Bridge
The first morning we visited the Nine Arches Bridge at sunrise because we wanted to get there before it gets too crowded. We tried to get through the bottom of the bridge, so we walked off the path and came across some houses from friendly locals who helped us find the way. This bridge is stunning and has something very magical because it’s in the middle of the jungle.
Little Adams Peak
Little Adams Peak is the smaller hill of Ella, which you can hike up pretty quickly in about 30 minutes. The view is beautiful and the walk up there as well. We highly recommend this even if you are not very sportive. It’s not that challenging. It’s best to go directly after breakfast because, in the morning, there are fewer people, and the temperatures are much more comfortable.
The other morning we walked up to Ella Rock from our hotel. It took us about 3 hours to get up there. We first followed the train tracks until we got to the bottom of the hill and walked up then. This hike was more challenging, and we recommend you wear suitable footwear (we had sneakers with us). On your way, you will find several places where you can buy a fresh King Coconut, which is fantastic because they are super healthy and hydrating (don’t forget to bring your reusable straw). On the top, there is even a woman selling you fresh fruit juices and bananas. The view from the top is breathtaking, so the hike is sure worth it.
Day Trip to Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful small town and the origin of most of Sri Lanka’s tea. As we mentioned before, you can get off close to this place during your train ride from Kandy to Ella. We didn’t do that and decided to make a day trip to Nuwara Eliya during our stay in Ella. It was worth the ride because this place is so idyllic and beautiful. We visited one of the tea big and famous tea plantations called Damro. First, when we arrived, we went on a walk through the fields where we met a lot of friendly people working there. After that, we went back to the main building, where we had some tea on the terrace with a stunning view of the fields. With the tea, they serve a delicious chocolate cake, so don’t miss it. It was a great feeling to drink the tea there while looking at where it has been grown.