After saying goodbye to Iran we headed for Sri Lanka, often referred to as the “teardrop of India” or “pearl of the Indian Ocean”. We were so excited to just relax for a bit, dig our toes in the sand and enjoy an ice cold beer after 4 weeks in Iran.
If you ever decide to visit Sri Lanka we recommend flying with Sri Lankan airlines. It’s relatively low cost but the service on board was exceptional. The stewardess wear a beautiful uniform resembling Sri Lanka’s national bird; the peacock, and greet you with a respectful bow. Having all food and drinks included in the ticket price was also a happy surprise. That used to be the standard for Icelandic airlines.
Sri Lanka is both rich in culture and nature despite its small size. This makes 3-4 weeks a perfect time to explore the main highlights of the island. Sri Lanka is world famous for its paradise beaches and coconut trees. The first blog from Sri Lanka will thus be dedicated to our top 6 favourite beaches.
Let’s go the the beach, beach ! – Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Merely 1 km in length, the semicircular sand of Unawatuna beach has become a very popular tourist destination. Like most beaches on this list it lies on the Southwest coast, around 6 km from the dutch colonial town, Galle. It used to be one of Sri Lanka’s finest beaches but due to booming tourism its almost completely covered with restaurants and cafés, leaving a thin strand of unspoilt golden sand. If you like to snorkel you’ll find some coral life close to the west end of the shore but most of it was killed in the tsunami and hasn’t fully recovered. Also at the west end you can hike up the buddhist stupa or “Dagoba” and enjoy the views and the rocky side behind the bay where you might see peacocks on the big rocks. Unawatuna is good for a few days to stay and relax while you make day trips to the close-by Galle.
Mentioned mainly due to its close proximity to Colombo’s international airport. Instead of spending your first night in the busy and chaotic capital, grab a tuktuk and head to Negombo beach to ease your way into Sri Lankan culture. The beach is a little bit shabby, but what we liked was the local feel; instead of endless strides of sunbeds and full service you’ll see the locals hanging out, swimming or playing cricket. Although you wont find restaurants lining the beach you’l find a variety of places serving fresh seafood and rice & curry on the nearby beach road.
Tangalle is a small fishing village on the southernmost coast of the island and is best known for its beautiful stretches of palm-fringed beaches. The undercurrents are strong so it isn’t the best for swimming or water sports. The beach is however mostly untrodden and there is little tourist infrastructure. So its ideal for those wanting the beach for themselves in a peaceful environment, but it was a little too quiet for us. The town itself isn’t that exciting except for the nice lagoon where you can go kayaking and enjoy the diverse birdlife. However if you are willing to take a short bus ride you can go visit the impressive Mulgirigala cave temple, the views are magnificent and you’ll meet friendly Sri Lankan monkey families at the top.
For the last four decades, Hikkaduwa and Narigama beach have been one of the most popular beaches of the south shore of Sri Lanka. The town has a vibrant athmosphere, filled with nice cafés and cheap guesthouses. Designated as the second best surfing spot in Sri Lanka, after Arugam Bay, its truly a heaven for intermediate and advanced surf addicts. Don’t miss out on the giant sea turtles which are easy to locate at the so called “Turtle point”. The spot is usually occupied with tourists but if you have some snorkeling gear you can swim a bit further from the shore and easily meet these magnificent creatures in a less stressful environment.
Unlike the other beaches on the list, Trincomalee is on the northeastern shore. We mention Trinco, as its often called, for its untouched Nilaveli and Uppuveli beaches. The sand is superfine and white, the ocean is crystal clear and there is notably less undercurrent than the other beaches on the list, which makes it ideal for swimming. Trincomalee went through difficult times during the civil war (ending in 2009) and has only recently started to regain more attention from tourists. The infrastructure is scarce, so you won’t find the same variety of guesthouses and restaurants as on the southwest coast. On the other hand, you’ll have this paradise mostly for yourself, so bring a nice book 😉
From Trinco you can head by boat (2 km) to the nearby Pidgeon island, a marine national park. This was one of our highlights in Sri Lanka. This small island is surrounded by crystal clear waters, colourful coral life and shy reef tip sharks, making it ideal for snorkeling enthusiasts. When visiting Trinco we also recommend walking from the main bus station to the Koneswaram Hindu tempel . En route, head to the beach of Back Bay, where poor fishermen and their families live in slum conditions right on the sand. What struck us was seeing many domesticated spotted deers wandering around, showing no fear when approached. These deers originate from a pair of deers that were brought to the island as pets during the British rule.
This was our favorite beach in Sri Lanka, mostly since it seemed to have the perfect combination of cleanliness and quality without being overrun or damaged by too much tourism. This crescent shaped beach is the perfect destination for a beach holiday where you can chill out in a hammock enjoying a fresh lassi drink (local mix of fruit and curd) during the hottest hours and walk among the candlelit restaurants when the sun start to set and pick your favorite display of local fish and lobster which they cook to your liking. Mirissa is also superb for surfing (you can hire a board for 3$ an hour) but one of the most popular activities is whale watching. Apparently this is one of the best places to spot the largest whales in the world, the blue whale.