Dear GoMad Nomad,
My wife and I are taking a short trip to Sri Lanka for about 10 days in January. I went there about 10 years ago (Hikkadua, Galle, Ella, I think). This trip, half the time will be surfing, the other half something cultural, national park, etc. Got any suggestions? Time’s a bit tight but we want to fit some stuff in around Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Kandy etc. Have you been to any of these places? Any ideas would be much appreciated.
-Tom from the UK
You probably already surfed at Arugam Bay, which is well-known as a good surf sport. The town is lightly developed as a backpacker/surf spot and is still extremely low-key. I surfed there one day, but I’m just a beginner. The area immediately around Arugam Bay is for experienced surfers, but I had to go on a day trip a few miles away for the novice surf break. Pottuvil Point, Whiskey Point, and Crocodile Rock are all surf spots both north and south of Arugam Bay. Most surf shops run day trips to each of these locations or you can hire a tuk-tuk.
There are some other surf spots as you head north of Arugam Bay where there maybe a random guest house or two, but nothing else like the size of Arugam Bay. It may be worth it to do some additional guidebook research to locate these off-the-beaten-track spots, because, as I’m sure you know, surfers are pretty tight-lipped when it come favorite, secluded surf spots.
On the south coast, Mirissa is another village that surfers head to.
To see elephants, we went to Habarana Park which is very close to Sigiriya. We never actually went to Sigiriya, the $35 entrance fee was a bit too steep at the time. Dambulla is also close to there, where we based ourselves. It’s not necessarily a nice town, but it’s convenient. At Dambulla you can visit the cave temples too.
Galle is a little touristy, but a pleasantly quiet, historic, picturesque, and romantic place to stop for a couple days. It is located near other (non-surfing) beaches, like the popular Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna. Ella is a pretty nice place to chill also, with excellent views from some of the guest houses. And a hike up Little Adam’s Peak is beautiful.
I would recommend getting up into tea country. We stopped at Haputale. Great views from the guest houses there. And you can visit tea plantations and factories. I would visit Dambethanna Tea Factory, where Sir Lipton got his start.
Travelers seem to like Kandy because it’s the cultural capital, but it didn’t really interest me too much.
We tried to go to Andhurapura but our train broke down and we had to change plans. Train travel in Sri Lanka may be slow and frustrating, but really it was one of my favorite aspects of the country.
We never made it to Polonnaruwa, the ancient capital, but it’s east of Dambulla. Even though places look close on the map and distances are relatively short, travel in Sri Lanka takes a long time due to the aging infrastructure and slow transport.
Alright, that should get you started. I hope I’ve given you some direction!
Here’s some info to guide your Sri Lanka travel budget.
To get more inspiration, check out my photos of Sri Lanka or 11 Things I learned in Sril Lanka, or Runaway Juno’s Favorite Moments in Sri Lanka.
Enjoy your trip,