In Backpacking: Sri Lanka | Part 1 we documented our explorations from Colombo to the Cultural Triangle. But the New Year passed with Arash ill in bed and we were feeling the need to start 2017 properly… on the beach. The bus ride to the south from Ella was fast, downhill and twisty. The exhilarating ride to the shore was long, but worth it. The southern coastal areas that we visited were significantly different from where we were previously.
It was a bit of a walk from the bus station to the beach road where we stayed, and where you absolutely need to stay too. There seemed no reason to stay in town, with the pristine and inviting beach so close. Our packs weren’t too heavy, so we walked with the guidance of google maps. Actually, I should be more clear… I desperately wanted to take a tuktuk but Arash kept telling me, it’s just a five minute walk, oh just a little bit further, it’s right after that turn, we’re almost there. But then we were there and it was worth the walk.
Tangalle was another place where words do no justice in trying to describe the experience. I immediately wanted to open a small business and spend the rest of my life right there. As usual, we dropped our bags and headed out (but with swimsuits and sunscreen this time).
The next two days were spent in the ocean chasing waves and watching fish swim in schools, drinking fresh juices, tanning and riding bicycles along the road which spanned the beach. Our room was literally across the street from the beach, we woke and fell asleep daily to the sound of waves crashing on the shore.
- Best of Tangalle: everything!
- Worst of Tangalle: nothing!
- Travel to Weligama: Free from a nearby couchsurfer host ))
- Accommodation: private room and bath for 1500 rupee ($9.76)
After Tangalle, we went to Weligama with a couchsurfer host and very informative local who was traveling that way. Just like having the chance to learn about Auntie’s story in Kandy, our new friend Jeevan gave us insight into the spirit of Sri Lanka. He dropped us near our hostel and we ventured on to meet our new hosts. We chose Weligama over the more well known, neighboring Mirissa because we prefer to stay in places where we can see and understand life a little better (we already know what vacation is like). Also, there is a hostel with a great reputation in Weligama, Soulmates’ House. The girls who run the hostel were warm and welcoming, the house was decorated with original art, and tattoos are available from one of the volunteers. They knew all about the local community, who to find, where to eat, how much to pay and the best transport options.
We were unaware before arriving, but this town is known for surfing and learning to surf. The shores are crowded with surfers of all ages and instructors are plentiful. Pretty much, each day went like this… eat fruit and drink coffee, get swimsuit and beach gear, stop for a coconut on the way to the beach, Arash surfs all day and Sativa lays on the beach reading or being worried about a surf accident, go to Mirissa for dinner. Repeat as needed.
Mirissa had snorkeling and the beach was lined with wonderful restaurants and fresh seafood caught daily. However the beaches were very crowded and there were usually long waits for dinner, some places even requiring a reservation.
When the time came, the day of our flight, we woke up before the sun and started walking to the Weligama train station. We got a tuktuk along the way and stopped in Galle since our flight wasn’t until night.
- Best of Weligama: surfing and surf school
- Worst of Weligama: travel to Marisa for everything except surfing
- Train ticket per person: Weligama/Galle 60 rupee ($0.39) second class
- Accommodation: private room and shared bath in a hostel for 2000 rupee ($13)
Our friends at Soulmates’ House insisted we stop here on our way to Colombo, even if just for a few hours. Galle was another fantastic and memorable town to visit and again we were sad that we didn’t have enough time to spend here and really enjoy this cozy little city and its very rich colonial history.
From the train station you can ride a tuktuk into the old town and spend the day (or longer if you have time) meandering through the stone paved streets and looking at the artisan works of this beautiful place. Wood workers can be found crouched in doorways while carving away and the smells of tea and coffee brewing from cafes can be smelled on the small streets. Spots not to miss are the walk along the coast to the lighthouse, the port ornamented with enormous anchors, the Historic Mansion Museum and the National Maritime Museum.
- Best of Galle: the beautiful and rich history
- Worst of Galle: it’s a bit expensive
- Train ticket per person, Galle/Colombo: 90 rupee ($0.59) second class
Visiting Sri Lanka was an incredible experience, our only regret was not having enough time to do everything we wanted. The people are kind and generous, the history rich, the land exceptional. I’m sure we will be there again in the future… so watch for a Part 3… or maybe we will see you there 😉