Mirissa – 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.
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.
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.
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!
Tea Trails Norwood, near Hatton
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.
Tea pickers busy at Norwood
Hiking 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!
Bedroom at Cape Weligama Residence
Bathroom 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!
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!
Dolphins 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.
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.
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!
We travelled on Qatar Airways from London via Doha travelling Business Class. http:www.qatarairways.com
Book a seaplane: http://www.cinnamonair.com