Six months of planning and fifteen hours of travelling later, our feet
touched the ground in Colombo, Sri Lanka. You need nerves of steel to get in a taxi, the rules of the road apply to the bravest drivers and our taxi perfected the art of dodging in and out of traffic and avoiding buses, no wonder they are all brightly coloured.
We began our trip in a beautiful placed called That’s Why Beach Cabanas in Nilaveli; the area has only been open to tourists since 2013 following the 30 year civil war. With the sun beating down we were desperate to explore the beautiful beaches that Sri Lanka boasted of and found miles and miles of white sand framed by picture book palm trees and the calm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean – this is why Sri Lanka is referred to as Paradise on Earth in many literary works.
Refreshed and revived, we decided to hit the road again and a couple of days later we headed for Trincomolee, one of the major ports of days gone by and filled with small fishing boats, brightly coloured netting and very friendly fishermen. First on the list was Fort Frederick, a post colonial fort filled with vast trees surrounded by vines, evoking scenes from the Jungle Book, white picket fences and once grand villas. The fort was built in 1624 by the Portuguese and was then run by the Dutch East India Company and the British until 1948. We then walked along to the Hindu Koneswaram Temple, with its riot of colours, and sat majestically atop the cliff tops overlooking the ocean.
The Cultural Triangle
Taking a deep breath we decided to try a tuk tuk taxi, heading from Nilavelli to Habarana. Here the beautiful Cinnamon Lodge which was built on a replica of the nearby Ritigala ruins, an ancient palace-turned-monastery was our home for three days. Nestled alongside a vast array of flora and fauna, Cinnamon Lodge sits next to a huge lily-pad filled lake, of which you have to cross on the most enchanting bridge to get to the palm tree lined swimming pool and colonial style bar and dining room. The hotel grows much of its own vegetables organically on site and even has the most magnificent butterfly garden. There is a top class spa available and a government approved jewellers on site for you to ogle Sri Lanka’s national stone the Sapphire.
Top of the bucket list was the caves at Dambulla, a 20 minute bus journey away from Habarana. The caves date back to the 1st Century BC when King Valagambahu sought refuge in the caves after being exiled. When the King regained his throne 14 years later he built the temples in the caves as a thank you to the Buddhist monks that had looked after him during his exile. The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site has been impeccably preserved. The 5 caves house over 150 statues of Buddha and countless illustrations of religious scenes, not to mention that when you reach the caves you are also privy to an awesome view of the local area.
Sigirya was our next stop to share treehouse beside the river with a very large family of mosquitos, how does something so small cause so much damage! After a relaxing morning walking past banana trees, scruffy fields and getting our feet tickled by the fish in the river, we took a tuk tuk to Polonnoruwa, the first city of the land in 11th Century AD and Sri Lanka’s second most ancient kingdom. From Polonnoruwa we stopped at Pidurangala rock, the alternative to Sigirya rock fortress. Climbing to the top in flip flops is not easy but worth it for the views of the surrounding flat plains and the majestic Sigirya rock fortress looming out of the ground.
All images (C) Luxury Topping.