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Sri Lanka trip Sept 2014

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My wife and I are planning a trip to Sri Lanka mid-Sept. (13-26th). I’ve spent many hours reading amazing trip reports kindly posted by numerous authors on this site. We’ve pulled together a trip plan, would appreciate anyone’s thoughts.

We plan to book the first half through an agent (eg: Boutique Sri Lanka) and travel via driver up until to Kandy, then we will move to train/taxi as we like the idea of having some independence. We’ve both travelled a lot and are happy to explore places and organise as we go. We’re Irish, in our mid-thirties, easy going and want to get a flavour of different types of Sri Lanka. We like the outdoors and love to get out hiking. We love food and are looking forward to tasting all that Sri Lanka has to offer. Accommodation wise we’re happy so long as it’s clean and relatively comfortable. We like smaller places with character and don’t tend to enjoy larger commercial resorts as much. We will plan to splurge a little in the cultural triangle, but hope to step it back after that. No 5 star hotels, equally, no party palaces. Aiming for $50-60 a night. I’ve read that booking hotels in advance is a lot cheaper due to rack rates. Will leaving the booking of accommodation in the second half be a problem?

Our plan at the moment is as follows:
Arrive Sat 13th @ 9pm (night) – trying to decide whether to stay in Negombo or head north to Horathopola. Is it possible to get to Horathopola at this time of night? Leaving at 10pm, assuming 1hr to clear airport? Or is the weather likely to be bad there this time of year, therefore, making more sense to overnight in Negombo and head straight to CT the next day. Thoughts?

Sun 14th: relax in Horathopola (tbd weather). Sun 14/Mon 15th: Drive to Cultural triangle, stay in either Cinnamon Lodge or Heritance Kandalama. Spend 2-3 nights. Visit Dambulla, Sigiriya, maybe Pollonoruwa as day trips.

Wed (17) travel to Kandy, spend 1 night. Stay in Queens.

Plan is to part company with driver here. Thurs (18th), take the train to Ella. Any recommendations for places to stay in Ella. Hoping for cheap and cheerful here as hoping to be outside hiking during the day. Plan to spend 3 nights here. Can anyone recommend a cooking course?

Sun – Fri – This is the part we are having trouble deciding on. We’d like to head to the coast and spend a few days in the sun relaxing/reading books/swimming etc. Would be nice to have water sports (surfing/diving/snorkelling ). The two places we are looking at are 1) South east coast – Tangalle or 2) Arugam bay (east coast). We are contemplating not booking this part until closer to the time – depending on weather we will chose one over the other. Is this a good idea? Any issues with this?

Have read that the weather in the south can be nice this time of year, (but also not so nice). Have read that the water can be wild though. We can both swim well (comfortable swimming 1km off west coast of Ireland), but not sure how wild is wild for the water in the south? If we go South, we may move after a few days to Marissa, to be closer to the airport on the last day. Any recommendations for this?

For Arugam bay, any recommendations for accommodation? Are we likely to get better weather here versus the South? Is there a particular area that is recommended?

Fri 26th, fly from Colombo at 10pm. How safe is it to leave travelling back from the east or south coast on that day? We plan to hire a driver and car locally.

Many thanks for your help,

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