G’day everyone, in this post I am going to look at the difference between travelling in Sri Lanka as opposed to experiencing the country.
So, firstly, why travel to Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka’s landscape is characterized by stunning natural features, including mountains, plateaus, plains, and coastline.
The central and southern regions of Sri Lanka are dominated by a range of mountains known as the Central Highlands which are adorned with lush green tea plantations, picturesque valleys, and cascading waterfalls, creating a scenic paradise.
Along the coasts, Sri Lanka offers an extensive shoreline fringed with sandy beaches, tranquil bays, and rocky cliffs. The southwestern coast is renowned for its palm-fringed beaches, while the eastern coast boasts beautiful coral reefs and clear blue waters.
In the northern region, the landscape gradually transforms into flat plains, known as the Jaffna Peninsula. This area is characterized by vast stretches of agricultural land and lagoons, providing a unique ecological habitat for various native bird and animal species.
Sri Lanka is home to several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, showcasing its rich biodiversity. Yala National Park, Wilpattu National Park, and Sinharaja Forest Reserve are among the popular destinations for wildlife enthusiasts, featuring diverse flora and fauna, including elephants, leopards, crocodiles, and colourful bird species.
Sri Lanka’s cuisine is vibrant and flavourful, combining diverse influences, including Indian, Malay, Arab, and 500 years of European colonisation. The island's tropical climate and abundant natural resources contribute to a rich variety of ingredients that are used in its dishes.
Rice is the staple food of Sri Lanka, and is typically served with a range of curries. The curries are often spicy and flavoured with a blend of spices such as curry leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and chilli.
Seafood plays a prominent role in Sri Lankan cuisine due to the island's coastal location. Fish, prawns, crabs, and cuttlefish are commonly used in dishes like "ambul thiyal," a sour fish curry, and "Jaffna crab curry," which is known for its fiery flavours.
Hoppers and string hoppers are traditional Sri Lankan delicacies made from rice flour. Hoppers are bowl-shaped pancakes served with a range of accompaniments like curries and sambols, while string hoppers are steamed rice noodles enjoyed with coconut sambol or curries.
Other popular Sri Lankan dishes include "kottu roti" (chopped roti stir-fried with vegetables, eggs, and meat), "lamprais" (a Dutch-inspired rice dish with meat and accompaniments baked in a banana leaf), and "wambatu moju" (sweet and sour eggplant pickle).
For dessert, Sri Lanka offers treats like "kiribath" (milk rice), "kavum" (deep-fried sweetmeat), and "pittu" (steamed rice and coconut mixture).
Sri Lankan hospitality is renowned for its warmth, generosity, and genuine care towards guests. The people of Sri Lanka embrace visitors with open arms, making them feel like part of the family. From the moment you step foot on this beautiful island, you are greeted with genuine smiles and heartfelt greetings. Sri Lankans go above and beyond to ensure that guests are comfortable. Whether you're exploring ancient temples, lounging on pristine beaches, or enjoying a cup of world-famous Ceylon tea, the genuine hospitality of Sri Lanka will leave an indelible mark on your heart.
If you have read anything about Sri Lanka in the past year, it’s likely that it wasn’t good news. From protests, political uprisings, electricity cuts, and food shortages, the country has had its share of bad fortune. In addition to daily hardships, the people of Sri Lanka suffered economically from lost revenue due to the nearly non-existent inbound travel during the upheaval. The good news is that things are looking up for travel to this island nation.
If you need any proof people are ready to travel to Sri Lanka again, just look at the data. So far, in 2023, Sri Lanka has welcomed over 100,000 tourists, which is nearly 25% increase from last year. The current government has worked to stabilize the country’s previously fragile economy, and daily life, along with tourism, is heading back to pre-COVID numbers.
This is good news for these wonderful, resilient people.
Travelling in Sri Lanka
There are many ways to travel around Sri Lanka, from homestays and guesthouses to eco lodges, boutique hotels and star rated accommodation. Whether you are travelling solo, with friends or family, on an organised tour or cycling around the island with your backpack, there is a suitable place for you to stop and refresh on your journey.
Experiencing Sri Lanka
One of the best ways to experience a country is through its food. Understanding the ingredients, flavour combinations and processes that go into preparing individual dishes deepens the joy of cooking and eating.
Now, this where I enter, left stage.
On one of my culinary and cultural tours you will experience the country with a Sri Lankan born Australian chef. I love using spices in new and different ways, the smell of curry leaves scorching in hot coconut oil transports me back to my childhood home high in the Kandyan hills. Some of the best cooking I have ever experienced in Sri Lanka has been cooked by people using a pinch of this and a handful of that, following recipes that have been handed down over generations.
For 16 days, we traverse the island experiencing its culture and food. From a monastery high on a mountainside, to the top of a rock fortress. From ancient stupas and a 2300-year-old tree to the holy Temple of the Tooth. From spice gardens, to the back of an open jeep on a wildlife safari. From colonial forts to traditional dancers, drummers and fire walkers.
From UNESCO registered sites and towns to a walk in the forest to gather wild honey with Sri Lanka’s original indigenous Vedda people.
From beaches to waterfalls, tea estates and a turtle hatchery, to stilt fishermen and a world-famous train journey, we experience this unique culture with you.
From fruit at a roadside stall to roti and samosa vendors. From high tea surrounded by tea plantations, to a night market food stall, with the warm Indian ocean spray in your face.
From hands on cooking classes, a sumptuous seafood BBQ on a private beach, to traditional Dutch inspired food at the Dutch Burgher Union, we have all of the country’s food for you to experience.
We transport you in air-conditioned comfort, from an eco-lodge to some of Sri Lanka’s best 5-star hotels chosen for their green accreditation.
Ancient Greek geographers called this island Taprobane. Arabs referred to it as Serendib. European mapmakers called it Ceylon.
I call it my childhood home. Come, experience it with me.
Pete is a Sri Lankan born Australian with over 40 years experience in hospitality. Pete has a deep love and understanding of the culture, cuisine and hospitality industries of both countries - knowledge which he weaves into his culinary tours.