The Sri Lankan tourism industry is in peril after the terror attacks that shook the country in April, earlier this year. Data from various sources state that there has been an 80% drop in the number of tourists when compared to the same period last year. All of this, after Sri Lanka was among the top destinations to visit for tourists - Lonely Planet even named it the top destination to visit in 2019.
Recently, a lot of countries have started lifting the embargo on their citizen from visiting Sri Lanka. So, we thought of sharing with you our experience of visiting this tropical paradise and why Sri Lanka should be in your bucket list.
We visited Sri Lanka in December 2017. And, it was the first trip that we made together and helped us unleash the travelbug in us. Sri Lanka is still the best trip that we have had. Everything was perfect about the country - the hospitable and warm people, amazing cuisine, mesmerizing scenic beauty. You name it, Sri Lanka has it.
We will be capturing our experiences and suggestions through multiple blogs so join us on this journey and we are sure you would definitely have a new destination added to your bucket list.
Our choice of Sri Lanka as a destination for our honeymoon was completely accidental. We were utterly confused when we were deciding where to visit for our honeymoon - but we were sure of one thing, the hotel where we stay has to be unique. And, we finally found that hotel - Sea View Tree House in Dikwella. Without much thought we booked the hotel and then decided to work around with the travel, visa and other requirements.
After a bit of research we realized that Dikwella is in the southern tip of Sri Lanka, over 2 hours 30 mins away from Colombo Airport. By then we had also booked our flight tickets to Sri Lanka in all the excitement. We were all too excited about our stay in a tree house with an amazing view, to back away from this location. So, we went ahead with it.
After a little more research, and a lot of help from Samitha, the owner of the hotel we had booked, we were sure that we had made an amazing choice. We were actually staying near one of the best beaches, not just in Sri Lanka, but in the world. This beach is called Hiriketiya Beach and was just 5 mins away from where we were staying. The beach is part of the Hiriketiya Bay - a horseshoe bay, making it a perfect spot for surfing. Yet, it received very few tourists back then because of the long drive that one had to make to reach it. Moreover, there were very few places to stay back then and the number of hotels in and around the area has multiplied now.
So, we were all set and started building our itinerary beyond Dikwella and Hiriketiya. Our itinerary included Mirissa, Matara, Dondra, Galle and Unawatuna (more about these in our upcoming blogs).
We got busy with our wedding and time flew by the next few months. Soon it was time for us to travel to Sri Lanka.
The warmth of the country took us by surprise from the moment we stepped out of the aircraft. We were welcomed with some live music and Supun, our driver booked with help from Samitha, was all smiles to welcome us and take us to our hotel.
There is something about the Sri Lankan air that energizes you instantly. We had traveled almost 12 hours, with one stopover and a delayed second flight, and were drained off all our energy. After about an hour and a half's drive through an amazing road network, we got the sight of our first Sri Lankan beach and asked Supun to stop for us to grab some tea from the beach-side shacks. He informed us that this beach was just a few kilometers away from Matara. As soon as we stepped out of the car and spent a few minutes on the beach, all our energy got restored.
We soon reached our hotel, and were welcomed with amazing fresh fruit juices by Santham, the manger/caretaker/accountant of Sea View Tree House - yes he is a bundle of energy and always carried an infectious smile. I would like to make a special mention here about the juices and shakes that we had in Sri Lanka; they are still the best we have ever had. They are so fresh and refreshing, unlike any other location, and this is not just the case with our hotel - every restaurant, shack or road-side stall we visited had really fresh and flavorful juices and shakes.
While we had just checked in and were not supposed to get a complimentary breakfast that day, knowing that we would be coming in by a morning flight, Samitha had instructed Santham to keep some hot breakfast ready for us. We really loved the food, especially because we were very hungry after all the travel.
We freshened up after breakfast and the only thing on our itinerary that day was to visit Hiriketiya. We walked up and down some steep roads, all the while listening to the roaring of the waves. After a couple of minutes we spotted the simmering blue water of the Indian Ocean and were completely smitten by it.
We spent hours on the beach and came back to our hotel to some amazing Sri Lankan dinner - grilled calamari for starters and rice & curry with ambulthiyal for the main course. The food was amazing and Chef Nima-asha cooks every one of them with a lot of love and care, which clearly shows in their tastes.
The next morning we woke up to an amazing view from our room. We were really happy to have picked this hotel and everything about this place. Sea View Tree House has recently got renovated and is now called Sea View Clay House. When we were staying, Sea View Tree House had just 3 rooms on offer and a common dining area. Owing to the demand, the Tree Houses were taken down to make way for more rooms, but Samitha assures that the experience will not be any less amazing. Be sure to look them up on Booking.com.
Although we spent hours on the Hiriketiya Beach the previous day, we just couldn't keep ourselves from visiting it once again the morning, before we headed out to explore the other parts of Southern Sri Lanka. And, we were glad we visited again. It felt like we have visited a new place all together. While the tide was lower in the morning, the waters were much rougher. We spent couple of hours on the beach and left although our hearts didn't want us to.
In the next blog we will cover the other places we visited and our recommendations when visiting Southern Sri Lanka, which we traveled in a tuk tuk that Santham helped us book for a very affordable, throwaway price.
If you are visiting Dikwella or Hiriketiya and need any help booking your hotels, car to/from Colombo or a tuk tuk to go around Southern Sri Lanka, you can get in touch with us and we will help you with the bookings.
Do share with us in the comments if you have any specific queries about this tropical paradise.