Why I do not recommend Sri Lanka as a holiday destination

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From the starting point I must testify I have decided to go to Sri Lanka for kitesurfing and chilling on the beach. But since is a destination highly promoted, I decided to take advantage of some of the many touristic landmarks.

Since I got a lot of question from friends related to Sri Lanka, I will write this “warm” and honest report, now, while is still hot. Sri Lanka is the first place I have ever been to that just simply did not impressed me. It was beautiful, but nothing wow! Bam! Boom! You rock my world kind of feeling, as it happened in Aruba, Zanzibar, Lanzarote & many other places.

We have set “camp” in Kalpitiya, a small fishing village along Puttalam lagoon. A very rustic and rural place, where cows, donkeys and dogs were sleeping in the middle of the road and all the locals greeted us with a smile on their face.

Despite what you might find on the internet, there is not really anything worth visiting in Kalpitiya. Which can be applied, from my perspective, to the entire experience we had in Sri Lanka. When you read on the internet about an area or a touristic landmark, you are simply swept away, it makes you so excited to get there and enjoy the experience. And when you arrive … spoiler alert: you will be disappointed. The experience does not match the impressive marketing.

So, as a conclusion, what troubled me about Sri Lanka is that has created some high expectations and did not rise to them. Now it seems to be a “hot” and mega-trendy-fendy promoted place and that’s what made me so disappointed: very high expectations, very low experience.

Back to Kalpitiya, we have visited the small Dutch fort (and when I say small, I mean in 10 minutes the tour was over). The Dutch church was closed but looking from the outside… I don’t think we have missed much.

I left home convinced I am going to visit a Hindu country (the first one for me). And to my surprise, in our area it was a Catholic community (70%) and a growing Muslim community (30%). Sri Lanka is totally transforming, shifting to Muslim. So far, is a peaceful “form”: women change their beautiful sari to black burka and men stop their daughters from going to school, the mosques call for prayer 5 times a day, but that’s about it.  Yet, no judging of tourists for short pants and they don’t ask you to cover your body when you go in a restaurant.

Some of the tourist attraction I have seen: Dambulla Caves, Sigiriya Rock and 2 natural parks, Minneriya & Wilpattu.

Dambulla Caves is generously presented as a caves “complex” when, to be honest, you can say that are some beautifully decorated rooms. Like monks’ cells. To get there, some hundred stairs are waiting for you.

A piece of advice: of you dare to go, take sneakers and wear socks because inside these caves you are not allowed with shoes, but you can wear your socks J Girls are not allowed in shorts so wear a long skirt or long trousers and tops that cover your shoulders. Ideal a long sleeve or a scarf to cover you with.

Sigiriya Rock is actually an ancient fort where, after climbing all 1800 steps, you can admire the view. Well, since I am not a big fan of climbing, I can’t say I was impressed.

If you decide to go see elephants in any of the natural parks, plan you trip for the second part of the day because in the dry season elephants stay in the shade until the afternoon, at 16 – 17, when they come out to eat, near the water. We have entered the park at 16.30, with the last group and we managed to see in Minneriya a family of over 100 elephants. It was great! I must admit that elephants are very impressive animals, since they are so gentle and peaceful. On the other hand, in Wilpattu (where we enter in the first part of the day), we did not see any leopards (as marketed), nor elephants (well, just one). But we have seen deers, wild boars and peacocks.  Yes, I know, very similar to our local ones:)

For the sake of Sri Lanka’s reputation, I must confess that we did not travel to the southern part and we did not get to Anuradhapura, which I am sure had the potential to dazzle me.

Some tips & tricks:

  • Bring your own sun cream. In Sri Lanka you will find with SPF 60 or 90. They don’t really like sun.
  • With European fees, the smartphone becomes a luxury, so I recommend you buy an external Wi-Fi modem. The device was 43 euro (8000 rupees) and you can use it in any country. Just buy a local card. For 15G you pay about 5 euro (to be more precise, 916 rupees).
  • Bring US dollars not euro and change from US to rupees in their banks. The conversation rate is really good. Is better this way then to make the conversion at restaurant or hotel, because they will overcharge the exchange.
  • When we tried to rent a scooter, they asked for 1200 rupees/day. We said they should make a special price because we take it for 10 days, so we got it for 800 rupees/day. Which means that for 10 days we paid around 50 euro.
  • The stores have very selective opening hours: they are opened at 9 / 10 and closed at noon only to be open again around 17.00.
  • The liquor stores are scarce because you need a special license for alcohol. So look around for you because if you’re on a tight budget a beer in a liquor store will be 180 rupees as compared to one in a restaurant (which is around 500).

And you definitely need to try a tuk-tuk! They are really fun and have a local charm:)

 

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