Sri Lanka has just been named the best country in the world to visit in 2019, and we couldn’t agree more.
As a well-travelled Scot, I’ve been fortunate enough to have found myself in many cities, countries and continents across the globe – with just a backpack in tow.
Some countries I’m content with having only seen once; while others I pine to set sights on again. Sri Lanka falls into the latter.
Positioned on the Indian Ocean, it’s everything you’d hope for from a small island: vibrant, cultural and home to some of the most amazing wildlife in the world. Which is why when Lonely Planet announced that Sri Lanka was the top country to visit in 2019, I nodded in agreement.
Yes, its lack of infrastructure can make travelling around the country a little difficult at times, but its infectious charm more than makes up for it. And as you go from one city to the next, you’ll cross paths with few tourists at every train station, all making the same tracks as you.
In the past, the people and place have been scarred by a long civil war arising from ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority in the northeast, but it was brought to an end in May 2009. You can still feel its aftermath; but you can see the people’s optimism for the future, too.
Not only does the country offer up a coastline that is beyond beautiful, but the train journeys around the land are the best you’ll ever experience in your lifetime.
But in case you needed more reasons to immediately book a flight to the trendy destination then take a look below at some of the best experiences on offer around the beautiful country.
I found the city of Colombo to be charmingly chaotic. From the airport, expect an hour’s drive before reaching the country’s capital and as soon as you arrive, you’ll be taken in by the city’s energy and charm. Spend a day or two seeing its sights, and then hop on the train and head to Kandy.
Where to stay: Paradise Road Tintagel Colombo
Where to eat: Ministry of Crab (make sure to book before arriving – it’s a popular place!)
Tip: Ask your hotel to book your train tickets to Kandy before your stay. Not only will this allow you to avoid huge queues, but you’ll also be guaranteed a seat in second class (less crowds and plenty of open windows).
Kandy may be small, but it offers some of the most stunning views for miles. For this reason, opt for a hotel that’s high up on Kandy’s hills. Not only will you wake up to a lot of incredible wildlife, but you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from everything and everyone.
Make sure you also factor in a trip to see the Temple of the Tooth.
Where to stay: Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge
Where to eat: Theva Cuisine
Tip: Make sure you take the train to get from Kandy to Ella. It’ll be one of the greatest travel experiences of your life.
Ella is a place for real nature lovers. Not only will you constantly be surrounded by exotic wildlife and plants, but you’ll also finish your day with an incredible sunset and start the next with a stunning sunrise.
If you’re an early riser, then grab your rucksack and climb up Ella Rock. And you can always go on a day trip to Yala National Park (although be prepared to get up early as it’ll take you around four and a half hours to get there).
Where to stay: 98 Acres Resort and Spa
Where to eat: Ceylon Tea Factory
Tip: Make sure to hire a driver to take you from Ella to Tangalle, and stop off at the old tea plantation on the way. Trust me, you’ll be amazed.
Tangalle is for surfers and sun worshippers alike. If you’re in the mood to hang by the pool or try your hand at jumping on a surfboard, then swing by Tangalle for a few days.
You’ll also spend your evenings eating delicious coconut rotis, dhal curries and sipping on sweet cocktails.
Where to stay: Buckingham Place
Where to eat: Verele
Tip: The sun beats down strongly in the south, so pack plenty of sunscreen.
Much like Tangalle, Mirissa is laidback and carefree. With parties on the beach and great food on offer from one restaurant to the next, it’s a peaceful place to be.
Make sure you rise early one morning and go whale watching. You’re not guaranteed to see a whale, but you will find your sea legs.
Where to stay: Paradise Beach Club
Where to eat: Zephyr Restaurant and Bar
Tip: Don’t be caught off guard by the sea’s currents – they’re strong and sudden.
If like me, you love to see a lighthouse then Galle is definitely worth a visit. Steeped in history, and packed with museums and galleries, Galle is a great city to simply stroll around.
If you fancy it then try the eco-tour run by Rainforest Rescue International. The conservation charity will show you all Galle has to offer when it comes to preserving the environment.
Where to stay: Amanwella
Where to eat: The Fort Printers
Tip: Hire a driver to take you from Tangalle to Galle, and make sure to take stops along the way for photos.