YES! We are in Sri Lanka! We’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time and it has finally begun. We have four weeks to spend here, quite a long time, and we decided to start our journey in the Southern province, or to be more precise: the beach! More on the rest of our trip and our itinerary will follow soon, but for now we will focus on the beautiful beaches that we encountered.
We didn’t go straight to the south from the airport on however. The first two nights (one whole day since we arrived late in the evening and left early morning) we spent in Colombo. We heard that there is not much going on there and this is true. We visited the Jami-Ul-Alfar mosque, which is beautiful but we just walked by it since many people were praying. We went on to the Federation of Self Employees Market but besides being very hectic and hot we didn’t think it was that interesting, nor was the Old Dutch Hospital. We did have a nice lunch at Barefoot cafe and dinner at Green Cabin, and our hostel (Drift BnB) was great too. In short, it was fine for a day but if you’re short on time: just skip Colombo.
COLOMBO TO GALLE
The next day we took the train to Galle. You can go there by taxi, tuktuk or train, but going by train seems to be the cheapest option (only 180 rupees pp 2nd class, which comes down to approximately €1.00!). You’ll spend three hours along the coast line of Sri Lanka. There’s no airco but the open windows and fans do their job fine. Tip: Get on the train at Maradana station instead of Colombo Fort. This is one stop before Colombo Fort station. Don’t be scared when the train is packed: everybody will get off at Colombo Fort station, leaving you to pick a nice spot so you don’t have to stand. Otherwise, get early at Colombo Fort because the train will be waiting there for some time before it leaves.
We decided to stay in Unawatuna instead of Galle since it has a more beautiful beach and is cheaper. A tuktuk from Unawatuna to Galle will cost you approximately 400 rupees whereas going by bus is 21 rupees (!). Unawatuna basically consists of two roads full of guesthouses and restaurants. We thought it looked very nice, but we think it might be crowded and overwhelming when you are there during high season (Dec/Jan). We stayed at Sunny Family, a little guesthouse a bit off the main road. It seems like they just started the place as they were renovating a bit, but it was nice and good value for your money.
So what’s there to do in Unawatuna? Obviously the main activity is laying on the beach. You can go to the main beach in Unawatuna or go to Jungle Beach, a 20 minute walk from the main beach. It’s a small beach and while we were there, there were just a few tourists and some locals teenagers drinking and making music. Once again, we were there during low season (August) but in high season it might get crowded on this beach. You can also get a tuktuk (250 rupees) or bus to Dalawella beach. This beach has many resorts and is more widespread, hence a lot more beach to yourself. It also has the famous swing! Unfortunately it was broken when we were there. Furthermore, Galle Fort makes for a perfect (half-)day trip. When you are in Galle fort, Poonie’s kitchen is a good place to go if you are looking for healthy and Western food (and delicious cakes!).
Our favorite other main activity, eating, is well accounted for in Unawatuna as well. Go to Bedspace Kitchen for good Western food for lunch/dinner (more expensive) or their second location for breakfast/brunch. We tried our first Sri Lankan egg hoppers in the latter and they were so good! They even gave it a Western touch by making Eggs Benedict with egg hoppers. Roti Shop is another good place to get yourself some nice rotti for only 300 rupees, perfect as a snack or lunch.
We took a tuktuk from Unawatuna to Mirissa (1500 rupees) but you can also easily go by bus. We stayed at Surf & Yoga Mirissa, a place with good breakfast, nice staff and as the name suggests, the possibility to do yoga twice a day and go surfing. The beach in Mirissa is very small, you will need to rent sunbeds as you otherwise will get wet (we did so twice haha!). It’s fun to see the contrast between Delawella beach and Mirrisa, as Mirissa is way more touristic: there are beach clubs everywhere with music, sunbeds, happy hour and of course many tourists. But it is a nice change and offers you the possibility to meet people and have dinner at the beach! The food is more expensive but you can pick your own catch of the day and cocktails are 300 rupees during happy hour, which basically lasts the whole day. When we were walking along the beach to get back to our guesthouse, a local pointed out to us that there were sea turtles and after waiting for some time we indeed saw some huge turtles! You can see them on the beach during the evening but we were not lucky enough unfortunately.
We only stayed one night in Mirissa and went to Tangalle the morning after. You can go by bus from Mirissa to Tangalle, but since you have to transfer we took the more comfortable option and went by tuktuk for 3000 rupees. We were staying at Lonely Beach Resort, a really cute place at Marakolliya beach, approximately 5 km from Tangalle town. Here the beach is more beautiful and quiet. The staff was really nice. Unfortunately in May a flood swept away half of their beach, including their sunsets and they had to rebuild their restaurant but there was no downside to it in our opinion. They serve delicious and huge breakfast and for dinner and sunbeds we went to the resort next door.
All in all we spent only 5 days on the south coast. We planned it this way since we didn’t know what the weather would be like. It’s supposed to be monsoon right now and we did have showers every day, but they were mostly at night and really short. We had some really good beach days but since we have more beach time ahead of us on the East coast, we decided to make it a short one on the South coast. You can read more about our stay on the East coast later on!
Our first impression of Sri Lanka is really good: the people are nice, the nature is incredible, it’s nice and quiet (though this may also be due to low season) and the country is still unspoiled, though you see some bad influences of upcoming tourism in some places. One thing that we have taken away from the South coast: don’t let the monsoon discourage you from going there! It is beautiful and the rain is really not that bad (at least in August).
We would love to hear your experiences in Sri Lanka and if you have any tips or questions, let us know in the comments below!