BUNNIK Escorted Tour – Sri Lanka March 2016
The best time of year to travel to Sri Lanka is December and January, and again in May. The South and West have best weather in December-April (winter) and the North and East Coast May-November (summer). For an island the size of Tasmania the weather is quite variable.
Sri Lanka is a very poor country, people are very friendly and at all times we felt very safe. I did not feel they were in anyway trying to extract monies from tourists. Sri Lanka is highly sustainable using everything they grow, and import very little to survive. Roads are notoriously bad with appalling traffic. Some journeys of 80 kms can take over 2 hours. You really need to see the sights up north so be prepared for traffic jams and long car journeys. Trains will be the future, however at present there are few local trains and buses but all packed full!
Food is stunning and cheap! Be prepared to eat Sri Lankan food, mild curries with a coconut base, their take on western is not great. On Bunnik Tours one of the highlights is visiting local villages for meals-really fantastic and much better than the hotels.
On the whole I think Bunnik are brilliant, specialising in small Group Tours, and they have a fantastic on the ground operator “Butterfly Vacations”. We had a local driver and bus boy, along with a guide and an additional Butterfly Vacations team member.
Our Guide, Priya was brilliant, very knowledgeable and adaptable to passenger’s requests.
Highlights of the Itinerary included –
- NEGAMBO – our first overnight was really to accommodate our 1.40am arrival flight. This fishing village is interesting for a quick look but not a destination.
HOTEL-Club Hotel Dolphin – 3* OK. Large pool area on the beach, Huge resort complex. My preference would be for the smaller colonial style boutique Hotels.
- SIGIRIYA Area – very important to all visitors. A good base for seeing the sacred sites of Polonnaruva, Sigiriya Rock and Dambulla. So many fortresses some as old as 1500 years.
HOTEL-Sigiriya Village 4 star. Great location for the rock and other sites in the area. Isolated from any town/villages, so you need to eat at the hotel. Rooms simple, clean and very adequate. Food was fine, a buffet with lots of options. Staff were wonderful. This hotel had a very nice atmosphere and I would use it again, location is important in this area due to distance/time to sites.
- KANDY – was the last capital of the Ancient Kings era. A beautiful city set on a Lake. Population only 200,000 but many tourists. Botanical gardens a must, also the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
HOTEL-Hotel Suisse 3 ½ star, they say its 5* but not by our standards. This is a Colonial property used by Lord Mountbatten in the war as his headquarters. It’s a time warp – not bad just old, quite an experience. Pool area very tired but hotel in a lovely location overlooking the lake and a 10-15 min walk to town. Food – another buffet but was ok.
- COLOMBO – a very large Asian city! The infrastructure is well behind most developing cities, they have just completed their first freeway. It runs from Colombo to Galle and will greatly ease traffic chaos. City is safe and dotted with many Colonial buildings from the Dutch and British occupations. We stayed on the water which was stunning and highly recommended. Shopping – there is a market of cheap Chinese copies near the main train station. There is a good local handicraft and Sri Lankan made store Laksala. You will need to hunt out other good quality stores and art galleries, but they are appearing slowly. Tuk Tuks are the local means of transport- safe as they can be!! Cheap and quick in the dreadful traffic.
HOTEL-Galle Face Hotel – It’s fantastic, not quite the standard of Raffles but every bit as grand. The food was stunning, rooms very good. Location is seafront. I would book this one.
Beaches Mirissa – lovely beach 40 kms from Galle, best to do a day trip.
Ceylon Tea Nuwara Eliya/Tea country. Ceylon Tea Trails – 5 different houses.
Train travel This will be the way of the future for tourism in Sri Lanka, the route from Ella to Nuwara Eliya is quoted as most stunning in the world!
Overall a fabulous up and coming HOT destination, would love to go back and see more !