If you ever want to know what its like to walk into a paint advertisement, go to Sri Lanka. Whether it's in the thicket of the jungle, the huts by the beach, or through the bustling, busy roads of the hill stations, you will find a little orange house. Or blue. Or teal. Or pink. Or red. Or purple. Not green though, probably to avoid camouflaging amongst the jungle terrain that is Sri Lanka. I spent a gorgeous six days at the end of June between Bentota, Colombo and Nuwara Eliya.
Nuwara Elia is gorgeous! Its a city in central Sri Lanka set amongst the vast expanse of tea fields and meadows. The hill station is reminiscent of the British colonial era, and almost all the architecture is preserved to make it look that way. We couldn't do anything too physically exerting (such as nearby hiking expeditions etc) because of my daughter, but we managed to see the tea fields up close and stop at most places to get pretty pictures.
- Visit a tea factory plantation. See how the tea process works. We went to blue field tea factory.
- BUY TEA. For anyone - take a sip? Have a cup of tea. Anything. I don't drink tea at all but it's one of those bad afterthoughts - how could you not buy tea when you go to the tea fields in Sri Lanka? I didn't even drink tea there. My mother didn't let me live it down hehe.
- Get photos of yourself in the tea fields. They are just stunning. It's a dream of a backdrop and the air smells so good!
- Stay at a colonial hotel. The entire city is reminiscent of British colonial era, so it's beautiful to bask in that old-world mood while you're there. We stayed at Jetwing St Andrews.
- Do stop at Gregory Lake. It looks like one of the meadowy backdrops old films. It's a man-made (thank the Brits) lake and sits beautifully between the hills in Nuwara Eliya. Also if you're lucky to be able to stop, try taking photos of the lone horses against the fields close by. My driver didn't let me stop every 10 minutes. KILL HIM.
- Have lunch at the tea factory. The buffet options in Sri Lanka aren't the best, so do make the effort of researching the best restaurants In that area and go there.
- PLAN THIS Badly. It's a far trip from Colombo and train tickets aren't easy to book internationally, especially first class with three observation decks. If you go by car, just plan it out so that you're not exhausted by the time you reach (in other words - don't get off a 7 hour flight and then drive straight from the airport).
- Eat at Ministry of Crab - best variety of crab I've ever seen. You have to book in advance though
- Get coffee at the Barefoot Cafe. You don't have to be barefoot, but this cute and artsy cafe has a good menu with cool wall posters and paint colors, and also a fun crafts shop with beautiful local arts and crafts
- See the Jami Ul Alfar mosque! It was almost an hour with traffic getting there from where I was, but the candy cane mosque was so worth it and worth the pictures! It's red and white striped and checkered almost all over, even on the inside! Just keep in mind women aren't allowed access in certain parts of the mosque, but you can still try and be as sneaky and creative as you can with angles!
- Enjoy the resort life. Stay at a place with a nice pool, a great view, and good food. Make sure your hotel has a nice pool though. Sri Lankan beach water isn't too friendly to swim in most parts of the year due to harsh currents.
- Don't expect to find blue water white sand beaches - the actual beach can be a bit bland - but enjoy sunsets where the skies change into various spectrums and you have the beach to yourself. It's gorgeously romantic and SO photogenic.
- Take a boat ride under the mangroves. There are several boats operating as such but the best would be to ask your hotel which ones are the most tourist preferred. Get one with the fish spa included, these aren't the small spec sized fish eating at your feet, they're huge! Hilarious/mortifying experience if you're as ticklish as I am!
- DO check out the turtle hatcheries. They're set up at various spots in the region and give you the chance to hold small turtles and learn more about he hatching process. The larger turtles are allegedly there due to injury and are being "brought back to health" rather than them dying out at sea. It's a difficult argument though and can feel like they're being kept in a zoo. The hatchery guys swear otherwise.
- Do eat at Aman. Amazingly bright walls and great food amidst a jungle set up. Was odd to hear Arabic music playing though haha.
- Definitely eat at Malli's SeaFood Restaurant. The food is great and the owner is just fabulous. He told me the most interesting story about how he's been writing a book about all the different kinds of people he's met as a restaurant owner in the middle of the jungle, and how he's learnt things about all cultures based on the way people speak to him! How gorgeous!