Dennis (who is from Sri Lanka) and I decided to split this 10 days holiday in Sri Lanka into 2 parts: Surfing in the south and and hiking in the central part of the island. Sri Lanka is a natural paradise for all kinds of activities, especially if you are looking for a safe destination with affordable prices, a beautiful landscape and super chilled out and friendly locals!
From Colombo to Weligama Beach
We wanted to learn how to surf and found that Weligama Beach would be the perfect place to begin with this completely new sport for us. This is how to get to Weligama Beach:
We arrived at Bandaranayake International Airport Colombo and easily found the bus to “Main Bus Station Colombo Fort”. You just have to walk a few meters outside the airport and you will find all buses to Colombo lined up. Public transport is very cheap in Sri Lanka; we paid around 250 rupees (= less than €1,50) for two. The ride could take a bit less than 1 hour, but depending on the traffic it might take longer.
The Main Bus Station Colombo Fort is surrounded by a busy market. You can buy cloths, food, drinks, snacks, flip flops and souvenirs.
From Colombo Fort you can either continue your trip by train or bus.
The train station is only a 5 minutes walk away and you can check the schedule online:
You can either take a highway bus, which takes approx. 2.5 hours to reach Matara. From there you can take a Tuktuk or another bus to Weligama. We decided to take a Tuktuk and were brought directly to our accommodation.
There is another bus that drives along the coastal line. It takes longer since it stops frequently so you will reach Matara after approximately 4 hours. You might prefer this bus if you have a lot of time and want enjoy the view on the ocean. To reach places located more western than Weligama, for example Hikkaduwa, this bus might also be the better option.
Weligama is a small fishers village off the south coast of Sri Lanka. It is famous for its safe surfing spots for beginners, which is the reason why we chose this beach for our trip. You won’t hit any rocks there, the beach only has sand banks which prevent you from major injuries. Additionally you will usually get consistent waves.
Dennis and I booked a hostel called “The Surfer” and we really enjoyed our stay. We got a nice room with view on the ocean, but the best part was the rooftop terrace which is used as a common area for all guests. You can sit by the bar, chill on the sofas or swing in hanging chairs while enjoying cool drink or engage with other travellers. If you are travelling by yourself and want to hang out with others it will be easy to meet people up there. Some evenings activities are organised: You might watch a movie, look at the pictures taken during the surfing sessions on that day, play table tennis or have beers before going to the bars. Lahiru, the owner of the place, is a real fun guy who will always help you out if you need assistance.
The Surfer has direct access to the ocean and within 2 minutes you can already start paddling. Lahiru hires international surfing teachers with experience who will not throw you directly into cold water, but show you techniques on land and explain some essential theory to you as well. The practical lessons take one hour and with the package we booked we had 2 one-hour-sessions every day. You can cheaply rent a board whenever you would like to surf by yourself. You can check the prices and packages for surfing lessons on The Surfers Website!
After the lesson you can shower the salt off in the garden and jump into the pool, where we used to enjoy cool beers in the evenings as well.
Mirissa is a town located only 10 min away from Weligama beach by tuktuk or bus. It is famous for surfing and the nice beach as well, but compared to Weligama the town is more touristic and the number of beach site restaurants and bars make it popular for party people.
We spent one evening on the beach for dinner and drinks. We found an amazing restaurant called Zephyr (like the Red Hot Chilli Pepper song) that was nicely decorated with lights and displayed their catch of the day in front of the restaurant. We picked our fish and enjoyed the sound of the waves and the romantic atmosphere. Little crabs sneaked around and entertained us while we were waiting for our delicious meal.
You can choose any of the beach bars if you fancy some cheap and strong drinks after dinner, but I would recommend you not to leave your glass unattended. Watch some fire and light shows, prove your skills on the dance floor or simply taste yourself through the cocktail menu!
Galle is the main city in the southern region of Sri Lanka and its famous for its Dutch fort and the lighthouse. Take a walk inside the fort and enjoy some Dutch architecture. You can find a lot of restaurants and cosy cafes inside the fort. Some of them are touristic and quite pricy, but we made our way through the small side streets and found a cheap, cosy and super delicious restaurant. It is situated opposite the Al Bahjathul Arabic College Galle. You just have to climb up the stairs to reach the small balcony, you will recognise it by it’s blue furniture. As a dessert you should taste curd and honey in Galle, it is fresh and famous in the region. Galle is also known for its evening atmosphere, so bring your camera and take beautiful pictures of the sunset!
Hikkaduwa is definitely the most touristic place in the south of Sri Lanka and famous for snorkelling, scuba diving, souvenir shops, bars and restaurants and surfing at a medium to advanced level. We spent a day there to explore the beach and buy some souvenirs. It is normal in Hikkaduwa to bargain about the prices for the souvenirs, so you might find really nice and useful stuff for good prices. I found a bikini, a wooden elephant, a beautiful linen to cover my bed and a bag that was a recycled rice bag. You can also visit a Tsunami museum, but although it has a good reputation we did not have a chance to visit it.
We ate in Mamas Beach Restaurant (which belongs to Mamas Coral Beach Hotel) and ordered the special Sea Food Platter. I promise you, it was amazing! It was designed for 2 people and the crab was the best crab I have ever had. The entire plate was purely delicious. You will spend a bit more than usually in Sri Lanka (remember this town is touristic) but it’s worth every cent.
When someone asks me what is my favourite place in Sri Lanka, Ella comes to my mind first. I love mountains, green exotic plants, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh air and pure local friendliness. God just mixed all these things together and called it Ella. The place is full of positive energy and good vibes.
We stayed in Ella Paddyfield View Guest House, which included the breakfast and had a nice balcony with an amazing view over the mountains. As usually we chose a low budget place but the couple running the place was lovely and we were happy about all services. The place is a 10min walk away from the centre, where you will find restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
We had dinner in the same place called 360 Ella twice. We usually like to try different places, but we simply loved the live music and found the food to be really nice.
How to get from Weligama to Ella :
From Weligama we took a bus to Matara and from there is was a long bus ride to Wellawaya. We ate roti and chicken curry in a small place opposite the bus station before another short bus ride to Ella. The whole trip took approx. 6 hours in local bus, so it was quite exhausting. Remember that local busses usually play loud Sri Lankan music at all times, and if you want to escape from that from time to time (especially when the bus ride is so long), bring your own earphones! The ride itself is quite interesting since you pass a lot of small towns and different landscapes.
We spent 2 days in Ella (I would recommend you to stay at least for 3 days though) and did a really nice trek to Ella Rock. First you walk on the famous rail tracks, which were easy to reach from our accommodation after the owner had described us the way. Along the tracks you can find a few home based restaurants. We had lunch in Garden View Restaurant and ate whatever the local family had prepared that day for lunch, which was rice and many different kinds of curries. They use a lot of ingredients from their own garden and prepared most delicious fresh papaya and avocado juice for us. This is my favourite restaurant in the world.
You will cross a bridge (look out for monkeys) and pass Kithaella train station while on the tracks. The trains are still used, so be alert and careful while walking on them since you can usually hear them from far. You can ask locals you will meet along the way for the way and at some point you will have to leave the tracks and turn left. Always follow the path and ask locals and you won’t get severely lost.
We watched the ladies plucking green tea leaves and carrying their harvest home. A local guided us back on the trail when we got a bit lost in the tea fields once.
Once you arrive at Ella Rock you can go to 2 different view points, enjoy the landscape and take pictures.
It was really special to find a local preparing tea over a fire place at the first view point. I admired the forest because it looked mystical with all the burned trees trunks that bring out new, green life.
9 Arches bridge
Another really famous must see place is the 9 arches bridge, which is only a 30-40min walk away from Ella town. Follow the signs and ask locals about the way – we found it a bit tricky to find the way down to the bridge and everyone seemed slightly confused at some point. But no worries – in the end everyone arrives!
Mini Adams Peak & Waterfall
Mini Adams peak is another track you can do and around Ella is a waterfall which you can either walk to or take a 10min bus to, but unfortunately we did not have enough time to go there. Well, it’s just a good reason to go back to Ella one day soon!
We took a local bus from Ella to Bandarawela and changed spontaneously into a faster air-conditioned bus from there to Colombo. It is still affordable and offered some comfort at the end of the trip. The drive is long and full of curves, but Ella is worth any drive.
Must try food & drinks:
Rice and Curry
Roti: Egg Roti and chicken curry
Wade (Deep fried lentil balls, also available with shrimp; Snack)
Sweet: Curd and Honey
All kinds of fresh fruits & fruit juices
Beers & Elephant Ginger Beer (EGB)
Enjoy your trip to Sri Lanka!