IMG_1636Mirissa – Whale watching photo

Hiring a Car at the Airport

Visit Sri Lanka, Tea Trails and Southern coast. I hope you will learn from my mistake if you plan to hire a car in Sri Lanka.  It is important to book a hire car from the airport from one of the large International hire companies who will arrange a Sri Lankan driving licence and proper car insurance.  You will need to do this at least a few days before you arrive in Sri Lanka because it takes time to organise a driving licence, and an International licence does NOT suffice.

Unfortunately, we were unable to hire a car because we had not made these arrangements beforehand. Also, do not be put off driving in Sri Lanka.  One reads horror stories about driving in the country but the driving conditions are absolutely fine for anyone accustomed to driving around the world.  The biggest problem is getting lost!

Getting around in Sri Lanka:

Hiring a Car and Driver:

Many visitors choose to hire a car and driver for a week to take them around the island and show them the sites.  This is the most common way to get around and there are many companies that will organise this for you.  The Sri Lankan roads are notoriously bad although things are improving with the new highway from Colombo, the capital down south.

Sea Planes:

Now, this might seem like an extravagance but trust me it really is not!  If I return to Sri Lanka, I will definitely get around by Sea Plane.  For example, the drive from Colombo Airport to the Tea Trails takes the best part of a day and the roads are twisty, turn tracks for most of the journey.  A day is wasted because you will soon tire of driving through villages with dogs lying in the road!  I’ll give you some links to book a sea plane at the end.

Trains:

There are some delightful train journeys to take particularly inland around Kandy.  Again, only if you have plenty of time as they are slow.

This blog will cover The tea Trails and Southern Sri Lanka.

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Tea Trails at Norwood

I arranged our first trip with The Resplendent Ceylon Group.  They arranged for a comfortable 4×4 to drive us up to Tea Trails, staying at one of their bungalows on the tea plantation called Norwood.  Take a look at their website, link below, because they have a few to choose from.  We spent a few days at Tea Trails and then drove down to stay at their fabulous new hotel Cape Weligama for another few days.  This was exemplary in every way and I would recommend without hesitation, infact I may well be back to to Cape Weligama in the future!

IMG_1516Tea Trails Norwood, near Hatton

Tea Trails:

You will arrive at the bungalow, which is owned by The Resplendent Ceylon group a family run operation that also owns the tea plantations producing their famous Dilmah tea.  Welcomed by a butler and wonderfully friendly staff who will pamper you beyond belief, this is a Relais Chateau hotel so you know the standard will be perfect.

All meals are included in the price.  A chef will come and discuss what you would like to eat every day and everything is included in the price of the stay so you need not worry about running up a large bill.  We enjoyed hiking the trails and visiting the tea factory.  You can climb Adams Peak.

IMG_1524Tea pickers busy at Norwood

IMG_0492Hiking at Norwood

A trip to Sri Lanka would not be complete without visiting this magical Highland area, with hillsides full of tea plantations and the workers busy picking the leaves.

Cape Weligama Hotel:

The hotel arranged for one of their drivers to collect us and we drove to Cape weligama.  This was a mistake and I would recommend splurging on a sea plane.  The drive takes 6 hours and it really is a waste of a day.  But, it was wonderful to arrive at the gorgeous Cape Weligama and be welcomed with some ice tea and meet our butler who looked after us during our stay.  The staff, and particularly the butler service make this extra special. We stayed in a beautiful residence, quietly tucked away, and it was magnificent.  Regular readers will know just how fussy I am, but this went above and beyond in every way!

IMG_1541Bedroom at Cape Weligama Residence

IMG_1542Bathroom with our own Sauna Cape Weligama

The sauna was huge and perfect and I particularly like the walk in wardrobe with enough space for diva amounts of clothes!  We shared an idyllic pool with one other residence but that was empty so we had our own pool all week!

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Private Pool Cape Weligama

We were very lazy and the butler bought our meals onto our terrace whenever we wanted.  He bought us breakfast everyday and constantly stocked our fridge with drinks and goodies.  We felt totally pampered.  He arranged our Whale watching trip at Mirissa, which was great fun.  The other boats out that day were packed with tourists but we enjoyed an enormous boat all to ourselves!

IMG_1612Dolphins spotted on our Whale watching trip

Galle is a short drive away so we took a driver to explore Galle and stopped at the Turtle hatchery along the way, driving past Koggola Lake.  Galle is worth a visit but I definitely wouldn’t want to stay there.  It is packed full of tourists and the Old town is full of expensive jewellers and tourist tat.  Go for an afternoon or evening if you are nearby but don’t make a special journey.

IMG_1551Galle

IMG_1547Galle

Galle food market is a joy to visit bursting full of every vegetable and fruit imaginable.  I stocked up on spices in the Spice Shack just outside the market.  There are some nice little restaurants dotted around the town.

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We loved Tangalle, a couple of hours drive down south from Weligama.  More about that I’m Part II.

We didn’t want to leave at the end and definitely wanted to take the butler home with us!  Actually, our trip was so perfect we went back a month later!  I’ll tell you about it next time.  Visit Sri Lanka, you won’t regret it!

Information:

We travelled on Qatar Airways from London via Doha travelling Business Class.  http:www.qatarairways.com

Stayed at http:www.resplendentceylon.com/capeweligama and http://www.resplendentceylon.com/teatrails/bungalows

Book a seaplane: http://www.cinnamonair.com

Tourism: http://www.srilanka.travel

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IMG_0545Tangalle Beaches

5 of my favourite things to do in Southern and South West Sri  Lanka

In no particular order:

Visit the beaches of Southern Sri Lanka – Tangalle

Next time I visit Sri Lanka I will stay longer in the South around Tangalle.  The beaches are some of the best you will see anywhere, undiscovered and unspoilt, you can walk for miles without meeting another person!  This suits me perfectly.

IMG_0444Protected Turtle Eggs in Tangalle

The President himself has a house nearby and many of Colombo’s finest have summer houses in the area.  It is easy to see why, sheer perfection.  The surfboarding backpackers are nowhere to be seen, the seas are a little rough in places here.  I was keen to visit the new Anantara Peace Haven Tangle Resort hotel and it didn’t disappoint.  We enjoyed a delicious lunch and will be back for a stay in a luxury villa for sure! http://www.tangalle.amamtara.com

Lunch on the Terrace Il Mare, Italian Restaurant, Anantara Hotel Tangalle

We enjoyed a delicious Italian lunch on the terrace of Il Mare, with good food, perfect service and  perfect view.  Who could ask for more?  They have a lovely bar too.  I would add that our driver was very well looked after at Anantara, there is a special drivers area and they dine very well!  Our driver was most impressed.  This is not always the case.

IMG_0427Beach View from Anantara Tangalle

Hire a Bicycle

Be adventurous and hire a bike!  Explore the hinterland passing Water Buffalo and Rice paddy fields as you cycle along.  Every village is home to a magnificent Buddhist Temple and little shops so you can buy everything you need as you go.  Sri Lanka has more dogs than any other country I have visited, every house seems to belong to a dog who will be lying in the street.  Most are friendly so just pedal around them!

IMG_1780Water Buffalo and Egret

The countryside is so interesting and it is a great way to see things.

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You can go on  cycle tour but be adventurous and go it alone.  Everyone was friendly in Sri Lanka.

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Spot the Coconut gatherer?

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Take a train along the coast if you don’t want to drive

Whale Watching, Mirrissa

This is just wonderful.  Head out to sea in the early morning and spend time Whale watching.  You are sure to spot Dolphins even if you aren’t lucky enough to spot a whale.  We saw one!

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Dolphins playing near Mirrissa

Make your way to the port or your Hotel will organise a trip.  Be careful, we enjoyed a boat to ourselves but some boats seemed to be laden with people so check before you set off.

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Whale watching Boats

I’m staying in the area between Galle, Weligama and Tangalle so it is possible to do all these 5 activities during a stay in this area.  My tip would be not to cram too much into your visit or you end up driving about all the time.

Koggola Lake

Another water based activity.  Hire your own boat and captain to take out and explore the lake, it is beautiful here and a good spot to rent a villa if you don’t mind not being near the sea.  There are a few slightly touristy attractions to stop off and see as you sail around.  Firstly, a Cinnamon plantation where you can watch how it is produced and buy some Cinnamon.

IMG_1755Koggola Lake

Stop by the Turtle Sanctuary nearby Koggola Lake. and drive a couple miles further to Galle and these four favourites of mine will make a nice day trip.

IMG_1761Koggloa Lake

Galle

Go and visit the Galle Fort, Galle lighthouse, National Maritime Museum.  Galle has an interesting history with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16c followed by the Dutch Colonial period in the 17c.  It is a fortified city built by the Portuguese, but extensively fortified later by the Dutch.  Salle Fort is a World Heritage Centre.

IMG_1547 (1)Galle Fortifications

Galle Old town is a such a pretty old town and full of interesting shops, particularly specialising in jewellery shops but you won’t find many bargains!

The Cricket ground was ruined in the Tsunami a few years ago and many lives were lost in this terrible natural disaster.

IMG_1549Galle Cricket Ground

IMG_1555 (1)Fishermen line the route Weligama to Galle

The road from Weligama to Galle is a great place to stop and buy fish, they line the route most of the way.  Of course, if you want that classic fisherman on a pole shot, you can pay and they will obligingly jump on a pole for you!

I hope you enjoy my things to do in South West Sri Lanka, let me know!

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