Heading to Sri Lanka and seeking something that’s off the tourist map? There are lots of secrets that this little tear-shaped island holds and on my travels, I was lucky to come across a few of them. Here are some offbeat Sri Lanka activities from me to you.
FIND TALALA: There might be times when Sri Lanka gets too chaotic and for times like that the best cure is to find Talala. Talala is a well-kept secret but I doubt it’ll stay that way for long. It’s a bay area in Sri Lanka with a pristine beach sans any construction whatsoever. There is a yoga resort slightly inland and a panoramic hotel on a nearby hilltop but on the beach itself, there is nothing except stretches of sand and clear blue water. There is one lone house on the rocks above the beach that is available to rent. If idyllic is what you seek, Talala holds the key. Read all about it here.
STAY IN THE FISHING VILLAGE OF KIRINDA: At some point in Sri Lanka you might want to go to Yala National Park and then you’re going be heading South-West. Guide books and other travellers you meet will tell you that you have to spend the night or go via the town of Tissa to visit the park, however, that’s not entirely true. Kirinda only an additional 20-30 minutes away from the National Park is a much better alternative. Kirinda is a calm and laidback little fishing village laden with views of ramshackle huts, colourful fishing nets, stark orange sunsets and young kids playing cricket on the beach. It’s the exact opposite of the Tissa and the madness that defines it. Unless you’re the epitome of patience and have the ability to remain unfazed in the presence of massively aggressive touts, do not waste your energy with the Tissa and bypass it entirely. To know more about Why Not Tissa, click here.
EAT AT RAWANA HOLIDAY RESORT IN ELLA : This was probably one of the best meals I ate in Sri Lanka and at 1800 LKR for a meal which was more than enough for 2 people, it was really good value for money. The food is all vegetarian and I was halfway through my meal before I realised that tiny fact. There are nearly 12 dishes in total on the menu with some rather typically Sri Lankan veggies like lotus stem, yam curries, okra and more. Most of the vegetables used are grown in the owner’s organic garden nearby. For those wanting to take their culinary love a step further, the owner also offers cooking classes along with take home printouts of her recipes.
Rawana serves less as a resort and more as a charming guest house and has excellent views of the lush green surrounding valley. However if you’re looking for something a little cheaper, more homestay like and with equally if not better views of the valley, walk up the hill to Floating 2 Homestay run by an enterprising lady and mother of two. The walk in prices can be as low as $10USD per room.
TAKE THE TRAIN: It doesn’t matter how addicted to comfort you are, taking a train journey in the hill country is a must. Though this is not entirely “offbeat”, I spoke to a fair few travellers who were skipping this journey because they felt it might be “overrated” : Big Mistake! The journey from Ella to anywhere: Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Colombo is stunning, it really doesn’t matter which way you are going. You’ll go past rolling tea estates, gurgling rivers, smiling locals and pine forests that will make you feel like you’re in Scandinavia and not Sri Lanka. The train rumbles through long tunnels and everyone shouts in glee. It’s amusing, it’s fun and it’s a microcosm of the Sri Lankan spirit at its best. If you dare, stand at the open doors like the locals and enjoy the panoramic views even closer. Hang on tight and be careful, though! Read more about Sri Lankan train journeys here.
SPOT A CROC IN ARUGAM: Arugam is known for its surf, sunshine and sandy shores however for me, the most memorable bit was the lagoon tour of the mangroves while sitting on a plank of wood lodged precariously on two old canoes. As our boat “captain” rowed us around the mangrove we spotted elephants, massive river fish, a variety of birds and finally, right towards the end, a big fat crocodile who was definitely not afraid to come close. At first, I was quite excited to spot the big fella but as he just “hung out” not too far away from us, I urged our boatman to row us away faster! Getting up close and personal with the Mangroves and its inhabitants in Arugam is definitely one of my favourite offbeat things to do in Sri Lanka. Want to know more about Arugam Bay? Click here.
RIDE A BICYCLE: If you’re headed to Anuradhapura in Northern Sri Lanka take the day out to hire a bicycle and ride around its many lakes. These lakes are basically undesignated bird sanctuaries- the fauna is so rich in the area that you could sit for hours watching the number of birds flying in and around the lake and away. Pack a nice lunch at your homestay or pick up something from Jungle Cafe – a garden cum restaurant – not too far from the lakes. If you’re all laked out spend the day chatting with friendly locals and exploring the free ancient ruins in the area. Want more details on spending a day biking in Anuradhapura? Click here.