My name is Karishma Punwani and I work as a full-time marketer in an IT company. On weekends and holidays, I love making YouTube videos, indulging in sumptuous food, making travel plans and getting some beauty sleep. I love spending my time chit-chatting with friends and family on everything and anything in life, surfing digital world hacks, clicking pictures and capturing things around me. I am a happy-go-lucky person who believes in ‘live and let live’ attitude. So now that you know a little about me, here’s the story of my week-long birthday-cation (birthday vacation) with my family to the most beautiful dot in the world, often referred as a teardrop of India – SRI LANKA! So are you looking for a Sri Lanka itinerary? Then here’s the story of my 6-days trip to Sri Lanka with my family for ₹50,000 per person including flight tickets , which includes my Sri Lanka itinerary and some interesting tips too.
TRAVEL & ME
Exploring new destinations and travelling is something that I get from my parents, now I guess it’s in my genes! As a kid, I remember my father making travel plans even before our school holiday calendar was out. I feel blessed that I have got the opportunity to travel so often and to so many varied places. I have extensively travelled and covered most of the north, south and west of India along with few places in the east. My itchy feet didn’t stop there, I have also explored Dubai, Bali, and Singapore in the past.
All my travel trips have been with my family and they have always assured to make my stay and experience the best. For me, travelling has also been a time of the year to relax and unwind, so I like investing in luxury stay and pampering myself with spa and yummy local food! But somewhere deep in my heart I have a desire to travel solo, experience the backpacker way of living and stay in colourful hostels… I love the tropical environment – nariyal pani (Coconut water) and the beach is all I need when I think of a holiday.
So, this time around my family was planning for a holiday during Diwali break, which also was near my birthday, so we thought to make it extra special and go to a place which is out of our comfort zone, yet we get time to spend with each other. There were a lot of places going on in our mind, but we couldn’t freeze on any 1 destination and in the bargain, time was running from our hand. Finally, we got a nice deal from MakeMyTrip to Sri Lanka and the rest was history.
This was my 1st experience travelling with MMT and to be frank I was a little hesitant to take a group tour. I am always a person who would research on the net, plan my accommodation and travel, but now getting everything on a platter didn’t go too well with me. I need to admit that the services were great, our entire trip was comfortable and taken care off, we got to see the best of Sri Lanka in limited time and budget. Just I felt some days were over-planned, so we actually had to rush to finish the day’s itinerary. Our 7 days trip to Sri Lanka was from 30th October to 5th November 2019 at around ₹50,000 per person, including flight tickets.
Sri Lanka, Here I Come!
My parents, sister and I took an early morning flight from Mumbai to Bandaranaike International Airport( Colombo International Airport) on 30th October 2019. This airport is well connected to most countries. We had a direct flight that approximately took 3 hours. Sri Lankan Airlines, Air India, Indigo, Vistara, Spice Jet all provide equally convenient connections from India – we flew through Sri Lanka Airlines. We took economic class air tickets, but needless to say, the flight was comfortable and they also had drinks and food onboard.
Sri Lanka offers Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) – you can either apply online by yourself or take assistance from some travel agent. We had applied for our visa through MakeMyTrip and the process was pretty fast. We got our 30days visit visa within 24 hours of submission.
We landed in Sri Lanka early morning, the immigration was quick and easy, within no time we got our luggage. Upon getting to the airport, we were hounded by several car rental companies and money exchange kiosk. We were told that Indian currency is prohibited in Sri Lanka, so we carried extra dollars with us and got it exchanged (FYI: most of the tourist site and shopping places do accept Indian currency), but it’s always better to exchange money and keep local currency handy all the time!
Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka
The best to visit Sri Lanka is between November to March as the weather is pleasant. We visited during end October to early November so we got mixed weather. We got to experience rains, cold and heat (all in moderation) in 6 days. Sri Lanka has an amazing skyline. The sky is so clear and beautiful so I would highly recommend taking a road trip to experience the real Sri Lanka.
Soon we got into our bus and our guide greeted us in the Sri Lankan way – AYUBOWAN (meaning Live Long). The travel from the airport to our hotel was around 1 hour since we were a little early for check-in, he made us halt at a South Indian restaurant for some breakfast. Mornings are early in Sri Lanka, at 7 am I saw people working in full swing, shops were open and public transport full of people.
Day 1: Hello Colombo!
We soon reached our hotel which was situated on a hill facing the Indian Ocean. It’s one of the oldest properties – Mount Lavinia. It costed us around LKR 15,000(₹5974 approx) per room, per night for two people. Once we checked-in, I crashed on the bed as I was too tired with the entire night travel and I guess the breakfast played its magic!
After some time once I was up, I couldn’t take my eyes off the view – my room had an amazing beach and a garden view. We quickly freshen up and made plans to visit the city. It was around noontime but it has drizzled sometime back, so the weather was just perfect to explore.
Our guide took us around the city and gave us information about Sri Lanka regarding the language, people, culture, history, recent terrorist attacks, the life of people etc. I guess with tour packages this is an advantage, as no Google can tell you these insights than a local himself! Once you explore you can see the beautiful building (especially the government offices, the post office had spectacular outer architecture – in my dreams also I wouldn’t believe that would be a government office). Sri Lanka displays rich diverse architecture that is influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism and Sinhalese. There are different styles of Buddhist monasteries and Buddha stupa that you will find around the roads while driving.
It was around late noon and we halted for some food at the Colombo City Center Mall. You will get local and foreign shopping brands there along with Multiplex screening of the movie and a level of food court serving different delicacy. The mall had an amazing Arial view of Beria Lake and Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple – one of the most prominent landmarks in Colombo. Gangaramaya Temple is one of the biggest and most important Buddhist temples and you can see a mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese architecture. There is a museum at 5 mins walking distance which is brimming with antiques and statues of Buddha from around the world and a lovely Bodhi tree encircled with offerings of flowers, light and spacious teaching and vocational training space for locals. There is an entry fee for visiting the museum and temple of around LKR 300( ₹119 approx) per person. If you are not too interested in the museum, you should definitely spend some time at the lake, we had a lovely time walking around the lake.
Our next stop was Viharamahadevi Park (formerly known as Victoria Park), it is the oldest and largest park of Colombo. In between the park, there is a huge Buddha statue and series of water fountains, it is so calm, peaceful and spacious – everywhere your eyes can go, you will just be able to see greenery. It’s a recommended place to visit if you are travelling with kids or have plans for a day picnic, as it has a mini zoo and children’s play area.
Unlike other tourist destination, Sri Lanka has all tourist places to visit right in the centre of the city. Additionally, you will be able to see President’s House, Indian and other country Embassy buildings, Lotus Tower (highest tower in Asia – it’s yet not open, but very visible from everywhere), Marine lines, Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque right when you drive through the city.
Next, we went to an iconic and colonial-style hotel – Galle Face Hotel for a luxurious hi-tea. This 19th-century hotel is blessed with the best – it directly faces the Indian Ocean and sits right beside the city’s main seaside promenade, the Galle Face Green. I can’t express in words how spectacular the view was. We were served a luxury hi-tea right at the footsteps of the Indian Ocean. That day I saw the sky turning from blue to pink to orange and it was just so beautiful!!
We spend a lovely evening at the garden, they had arranged for kite flying session and entertainment for kids like the bubble-man, colourful wind toys. It was amazing to see the light house, elders taking their evening walks, kids running behind kites and people sipping a hot cup of soup and indulging in some local food. It was an hour drive back to the hotel, they had a dinner buffet arranged for us. I had a gala time with my family, talking about the day and relaxing with some local beer.
Day 2: Hey There Kandy!
After a satisfying breakfast of delicious bubble waffles at the hotel, we packed our bags to another exciting destination – Kandy, the second-largest city and one of the most popular spots to visit if you have an interest in hiking. It’s approximately 115kms from Colombo and takes around 4 hours of travel.
Travelling via road in Sri Lanka is easy, as they have signboards at every corner and all major destination is linked via highway. Most of the roads are clean, broad and you won’t notice too much traffic (PS: My point of comparison is from Mumbai roads).
In between our journey from Colombo to Kandy, we stopped at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage – it has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. The orphanage was found to take care of and protect orphaned and un-weaned wild elephants found wandering in and around the forest. There is an entry fee of LKR 1000( ₹399 approx) for entering the orphanage. I found the entire place very clean, well maintained and had a lot of greenery. A small walk into the orphanage and we saw more than 25-30 elephants playing and eating grass – it was such a wonderful site to see them play. Their entire day schedule is mentioned there. We even made the elephant eat grass and watermelon. If you like visiting an elephant sanctuary, then you can Bathe, Feed Play With Elephants At Dubara Elephant Camp In Coorg
Right across the road is the bathing area for elephants – a river of about 100kms long. Every day at 2 pm in the afternoon, you will see a huge herd of elephants walking one behind the other, walk their way from the orphanage, cross the road and come to the river for a shower. We got to experience this breathtaking site and I will recommend each and everyone to experience the same.
Never in life, I have never seen hundreds of elephants walking at an arms distance from me, without any guard or security. They walk their way to the river; the caretakers will bath and rub them and some elephants would just go off to sleep in the cool waters – ahh! it’s an experience for life!
The second half of the day we spent travelling to Kandy, witnessed a traditional cultural dance show. I witnessed the traditional harvest dance, which is performed during the harvest season to please the sun and moon to bless the land with rains. The peacock dance was beautiful too, and the cultural show ended with a magnetic fire show.
After which we visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic – which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. During some prayers, the heavily guarded room housing the tooth is open to devotees and tourists. However you don’t actually see the tooth, it’s kept in a gold casket shaped like a stupa. There is an entry fee of around LKR 1000( ₹399 approx) per person. If you plan to visit the inside of the temple you need to have a proper dressing which covers your arms and legs.
Day 3: Time To Live Like Locals!!
Once we came back, we checked into our hotel – Grand Kandyan and this hotel actually made me feel like I was in ‘Sone Ki Lanka’- they had huge, velvety coaches, white and gold walls, a huge gold watchtower. We had our best stay at this 5- star property. This cost us around LKR 29,000(₹11,560 approx) per room, per night. We loved the amazing spread of food and mouthwatering desserts here.
We had to leave for Nuwara Eliya the next day, but we were informed from other guests at the hotel, who had visited the place that it was raining very badly and a lot of people fell sick while going up the hill. Since last 2 days were a little hectic, we thought to take a break and spend time at the luxurious property.
Next day when I got up, my eyes saw the most amazing view ever! I could actually see 3 layers of white clouds in the sky crossing over the hills, houses and school building looking like tiny colourful bulbs. It wasn’t too cold, but just perfect to cuddle your blanket and sip a hot cup of tea. I could just sit and see this view for life!!!
The staff in the hotel were so friendly and supportive that we soon started talking about the city and people around. Wherever you go in Sri Lanka, you will get to know so many stories and the best part is you will be able to relate it to our history. The hotel staff were so kind enough that they arranged a local transport for us to go down the hill and explore some local shopping. Sri Lanka has colourful (Rikshaws) commonly referred to as Tuk-tuk – I loved the colour variety; I found them in Red, Blue, Green, Yellow and Black. If you are planning to take a local tuk-tuk, make sure to check the prices, some guy was actually charging us LKR 650( ₹259 approx) for 1 side drop, our hotel staff bargained and made in available for LKR 250( ₹99 approx) (that’s quite a lot of bargain!!!)
We explored the Kandy City Center Mall – you will find books, gifting, jewellery and convenient stores there. We went to a local fashion brand store, the staff there was so friendly that when they came to know we have come from India, they actually left their work and started talking to us. I was awestruck by their knowledge and interest in Bollywood Movies, Film stars – their lives and airport looks, Hindi Songs, Indian political and current affairs. It actually felt like I was speaking to a friend of mine who stays in the same country.
People, in general, there are so simple, friendly and welcoming there. After the wonderful conversation, we indulged in some local food at a small-time bakery, we had some yummy patties and cold coffee. Speaking about food, let me tell you that Sri Lanka is known for its seafood and they have delicious crab burgers. I’m a selective non-vegetarian, but I loved this dish and would definitely recommend you to try this. And now if your mouth is watering for burgers then check out the 20 Best Burgers In Pune In 2019
Now coming back to my experience, after we dined at the quaint cafe, we decided to just stroll along the beautiful streets. Since it was the day where we just wanted to chill and relax among ourselves, we spend a lovely evening at the pool and enjoyed the skyline transiting.
Day 4: Bentota Here I Come!
After a delicious breakfast, we embarked on our 4-hour road journey to Bentota – home to some of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. The quintessential laid-back seaside gateway is just the perfect place to laze around and take part in water sports activities. Bentota is just like Goa of India, it’s a typical tropical place with bohemian vibes, as you go south in Sri Lanka their skyline just gets more beautiful. After checking into the Citrus Waskaduwa hotel, which costed us around LKR 18,000 (₹ 7175 approx), we went straight to a turtle hatchery.
I would highly recommend you to rent a car for a day in Bentota as the beaches here are so beautiful. Even while driving down the lane you would enjoy looking at them. The hatchery was around 30 mins from our hotel and the hatchery has been divided into sections like – a place where the eggs are buried and hatched, they entire process of hatching, a pond for 1-day old baby turtles, bigger ponds for bigger turtles. I found the baby turtles so cute, they were just the size of a finger.
Our guide took us through the entire process and it felt so amazing to know about other species. I even got a chance to hold a 15 years old turtle in my hand and take a picture. I am not an animal-loving person at all, in fact, I get scared by their presence. This trip has been an out of comfort zone trip for me, as I could see, touch, play with animals, without any hesitation.
Later part of the day we enjoyed some water sports activities, boating and walking near the beach. Late evening in Bentota was a little dull, as it used to get pitch dark at 6 pm and on both days, it rained in the evenings.
Day 5: Say Hi To The Blue Whale!
I actually mean the above statement! As part of our package, we had opted for Blue Whale and Dolphin watching show. This show happens at most of the beaches in the southern part of Sri Lanka, since we were in Bentota, we travelled to Mirissa to experience the same. Mirissa was around 1 hour 30 minutes drive from our hotel, for the first time in life I have got up at 4 am on a Sunday to experience the whale watching show. The tickets cost approximately LKR 9676 (₹3587 approx) and included breakfast and fruits. We had professional swimmers accompanying us, they provided us with life jackets and within some minutes we were almost in the middle in the Indian Ocean. We had lost visibility with to any land surface on either side; what we could see was just pitch blue waters.
Within no time, we saw our 1st whale and everyone from the cruise pounding with joy. There was so much excitement and people didn’t bother about the heat and sun. We were lucky enough that we were able to see the whale many times and once we also saw a dolphin. It was great to experience an aerial view of the marine life of Sri Lanka and totally worth the money.
Since we were at the beach we spend some time by ourselves and engaged in some water sports activities and had some lovely tropical juice. Don’t miss the passion fruit juice there!
Day 6: Back To Colombo
It was time to leave the laid back and peaceful Bentota and pack our bags back to Colombo. We spent some hours in the morning at the beach near our hotel. Before leaving our hotel in Bentota, we got a wonderful opportunity to witness a beautiful Sri Lankan wedding taking place in our hotel. The beautiful couple were very cooperatively to let me take a picture of them. The bridal dress is known as Osariya and the groom’s attire is known as Nilame costume. Sri Lankan groom’s outfit is broken up in 4 parts- hat, jacket, shoes and mul anduma (attire of the God in Sri Lanka). Osariya would look similar to any regular Indian saree, but it’s like a wrap-around skirt (notice there are no pleats) with a long blouse and pallu attached; along with this, it features a peplum style ruffle around the waist to give it a modest and curvier look. To add to the luxe look, the brides are covered head to toe in jewels.
After witnessing this beautiful wedding, we left Bentota then started heading towards the city. Bentota to Colombo is around 2 hour of the journey by road. Sri Lanka is blessed with good connectivity to most of the big cities with local buses and trains. If you wish, you can opt for that as well. Once we reached Colombo we had some local food from a restaurant.
Sri Lankan food is very different from the South Indian food that we get in India, their love for spices and coconut is at some other level. But I have to admit getting pure vegetarian food can be a little tricky as most places there serve Non-Vegetarian food, especially seafood.
Rest of the evening, we spent indulging in some local shopping centres and malls. I bought some bookmarks, cards, fridge magnets, spice boxes for my family here in Mumbai. All in all, it was wonderful to see some local craft and spend time shopping.
Ah! At this point, I couldn’t believe my trip was coming to an end. But realities are hard to accept. We had a midnight flight from Colombo, we were flying through Sri Lankan Airlines. The airport is quite small, so we reached the airport a little early to be safe!
Tips For People Visiting Sri Lanka
- Unlike other countries, Sri Lanka doesn’t offer visa on arrival, so kindly make arrangements before from your home country. The process is a cakewalk but some preparation would help.
- Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with friendly people but they are a zero tolerant country with tourists with Buddha tattoos. So if you have one, hide it or remove it.
- There are a lot of Buddhist temples and stupa that you will visit, they are very particular with their dressing, they won’t allow you if your hands and legs aren’t covered – applies to all genders. So take appropriate clothes while visiting the shrines and respect the local culture.
- Though you may seem like you won’t spend too much in Sri Lanka, it is an expensive country. Make sure you have local currency at all times. Don’t depend on the ATM as most of them don’t work. Entering each tourist place costs like LKR 1000( ₹399 approx) or so. Shopping in malls is also expensive. We got saved as we booked all our meals, travels and tourist points from India before we left.
My Overall Experience in Sri Lanka
Landing in Mumbai has its own special happiness. You just feel that you are back in your city, your home! My family and I had a great time, made some beautiful memories, met some amazing people, clicked awesome pictures, had some delicious food and tropical juice in Sri Lanka. I loved Sri Lanka for its gorgeous skyline, its lush greenery and of course the super warm people.
I would recommend you to visit Sri Lanks as you can truly experience the best of everything, be it humid, sunny weather of Colombo, which will remind you of Mumbai, the chilly hill station of Kandy, like India’s Ooty, or the cool beaches of Bentota like Goa. We had a marvellous time in Sri Lanka. Thank You, Sri Lanka, for a beautiful holiday!!! If you liked the story of my 6-day trip to Sri Lanka, then do check out My 3-Days Trip To The City Of Baku In Azerbaijan With My Family
This article was contributed to Curly Tales by Karishma Punwani. If you have an article or similar experience to share, do write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org