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Beginning to plan for Sri Lanka and S. India trip in early 2019

Beginning to plan for Sri Lanka and S. India trip in early 2019

Old Mar 2nd, 2018, 11:17 AM
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Beginning to plan for Sri Lanka and S. India trip in early 2019

Hi, all,

Your expert feedback is needed! I知 planning a month long trip for my husband and me for Jan-Feb 2019 to South India/Mumbai and Sri Lanka and am looking now for some feedback on the SL portion of the trip. This is the first-trip-after-retirement so am very excited about it ! Given other obligations, I am comfortable with a month痴 travel, but not more. Interests are culture, scenic, architecture, food, traditional experiences. And a little R&R!

What I壇 like to see or do:

- Cultural triangle musts:
-Dambulla caves, Pollunaruwa, Minneriya Nat値 Park (probably). Not sure that I知 physically up to the climb up Sigiriya so will probably have to pass on this. Anuradhapura if there is time.
-Scenic train ride through tea country (Nuwara Eliya to Ella? Favorite scenic stretch?)
-Stopping at a tea estate
-Kandy Temple of the Tooth, dance presentation
-Ella vistas, Little Adam痴 Peak

Any other favorite sights or experiences?

Budget for accommodation is mid-range I know this is a very vague term which changes with the destination, so a splurge for me would be about $200+/night, and I see more modest homestays/small hotels around $100/night, with a happy medium around $150 (or less!). I知 looking to mix our stays with some of both. But I admit that I like my creature comforts (A/C especially!) and a pool would be nice so I知 okay with more at my higher end.

Nothing is firmed up yet, but I致e been doing research and so far, here is my rough plan:

The international flight I知 considering will fly into Chennai and out of Mumbai; so the first 2 weeks of the trip will be in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. From Cochin, we would fly to Colombo in the late afternoon/early evening. I知 looking at 12 nights in SL. We値l fly back to Mumbai for the last few nights.

Tentative Itinerary for SL
-1 night- Arrive Colombo (late in day) & sleep in Negombo. Villa Kupuru, recommended by CaliforniaLady (small but sweet).
-2 nights Jim痴 Farm Villas Jim's Farm Villas
Welltraveledbrit wrote about this place in her TR and it sounds very appealing; a good place to chill out and get that needed R&R: Mad Dash Across Too Much - Sri Lanka Not Bangladesh
-3 nights in either Sigiriya or Habarana. There are a range of places in this area that I知 looking at, but the one that seems to be a good balance of comfort, cost, convenience is Cinnamon Lodge Habarana: Sri Lanka Resorts Official Site Cinnamon Lodge Habarana Sri Lanka
Also considering Aliya Resort and Hotel Sigiriya, but since I don稚 expect to visit Sigiriya, not sure this makes sense.
-1 night-Kandy a range of options for hotels/guest houses: Theva Residency, Secret Kandy, Elegant Hotel, Tenthola
-2 nights Ella - 1st choice: 98 Acres. Other choices: Philips Bungalow, Chamodya Homestay (simple but good reviews on TA)
-2 nights Galle - Fort Printer (read annhig痴 description and the place looks lovely)
-1 night -Colombo (Taru Villas or Galle Face)

Comments on itinerary or choice of accommodations welcome!

A few questions :
1) I really like the look of Jim痴 Farm Villas and this is definitely a good R&R place; however, this stop is instead of a beach. A beach stop isn稚 that important for me but I wonder if I should do it instead of Jim痴 Farm, especially since I see that the trip from Ella to Galle is a long one.
2) The drive from Ella to Galle it does seem long. What would you change in the itinerary in order to have a stop between these 2 places. I really don稚 want too many 1-night stops
3) Travel agents the ones I see used by Fodorites are Boutique Sri Lanka, Antiquity Sri Lanka, Camlo Lanka Tours. Any other agencies recommended? I plan on contacting them to see what they are able to provide; anything that you found especially helpful in dealing with agents?
4) Any other thoughts or recommendations most welcome!

I知 working with Indianpanorama for the India portion of my trip and am very comfortable with my itinerary and will post it at a later time. I know this is still early in the planning stage but I love the planning -- and it sure helps me get through the stressful work days to think about this trip!.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2018, 11:53 AM
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Will be following this for sure, Progol! Right now, I'm planning just for South India in similar time frame as you, but seeing your tentative SL itinerary, and knowing the responses will be intriguing, is going to make SL tempting...if not during next January's trip, maybe the next.
Habsfahn posted on Sartoric's "memories" thread and I think his trip is to both South India and SL. It will be interesting to see his suggestions/comparisons for both, in addition to the many great TR threads describing both countries.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2018, 12:53 PM
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<<2 nights Ella - 1st choice: 98 Acres. Other choices: Philips Bungalow, Chamodya Homestay (simple but good reviews on TA)>>
Oops, that should be Planters Bungalow, not Philips Bungalow!

CaliNurse, I completely understand! There are so many places to see and so hard to make choices about where not to go! And yes, it will be interesting to see what Habsfahn says after their trip to both India and SL.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2018, 01:24 AM
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Hello Everyone,

@progol, As you said that your interested to visit Cultural, Traditional and architecture places there are many traditional and cultural places to see in srilanka like Jetavanaramaya, Isurumuniya, Ruwanwelisaya, kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, Gangaramaya Budhist Temple, Bakers Falls etc which seem to be very interesting places to visit.So, think about visiting these places also.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2018, 02:53 AM
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tralamo,
Thank you for your suggestions - they all look fascinating! I will see what I can and can't include, though many of the places you suggest seem to be outside of my current itinerary. Anything that you (or anyone else) would suggest or eliminate in the itinerary now? Would it make sense to skip Kandy and make a stop between Ella and Galle?

I know there are so many wonderful places to visit - as I said earlier, making choices about what not to see is the hardest part of planning any trip! Thank you again for your suggestions.

Last edited by progol; Mar 3rd, 2018 at 02:56 AM.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2018, 09:23 AM
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Hi Progol. I think you saw my trip report from Sri Lanka - we just got back a few weeks ago. Your itinerary seems well thought out - probably because it was similar to ours. I highly recommend 98 Acres! One of my favorite places of the trip. As far as Kandy is concerned, Botanical Gardens are well worth it; Temple of the Tooth was an average site. Kandy however, does make a good stopover after Cultural Triangle and on the way to Ella. I know you want to avoid one nighters - we did too, but sometimes it just makes the best sense. I would allot one night for Kandy. We had the same dilemma about the drive from Ella to Galle. We chose one night at jetwing kaduruketha which we throughly enjoyed, but I'm not sure it really cut back on the long drive - maybe by 45 minutes or so. It was nice to relax in the rice paddies and the hotel offers a few nature type activities. I think there are some game park type hotels between Ella and Galle - not sure if that interests you. Perhaps the travel agent you chose could make a good suggestion. Lastly, we really enjoyed the south - Indian Ocean and relaxing for a day at the end of the trip would be nice. Are you planning on spending time in Colombo?
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Old Mar 3rd, 2018, 11:21 AM
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Many thanks, donnahelene! Yes, I have read your trip report and have found it very helpful. I appreciate your comments here, too. I would like to add a day or 2 at the end to relax by the beach, but am also trying to keep it contained right now, and definitely trying to avoid 1-nighters as much as possible. I am planning the last night in Colombo, and current plan would be to fly into Mumbai from there for the last few nights. I prefer to stay in the city where we are staying -- I hate to have a long drive when we have to fly out; it always feels too risky.

The only park I'm considering right now is Minneriya; right now, I don't have Yala or the beach in the itinerary. But I'm still toying with it -- it's very much early in the planning stage.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2018, 01:45 PM
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Hi Progol, i think that your planning is doing pretty well, and with the time you've got I think that you are wise to avoid the long trek to Yala, which as you've read my TR you know I've got reservations about.

I would tend to agree with donnahelene about Kandy though if you are interested in temples I'm sure that the one there is a must. To me it was interesting, but no more than that. The gardens, OTOH were terrific and were well worth the trip to Kandy. Don't miss the orchid house near the entrance or the fruit bats hanging in the trees. We also liked having tea in the Queen's Hotel [might not be a bad place to stay if you are just there for one night; in any event don't miss the bar with its exhibition of photographs from the visit of the Prince of Wales in about 1900] and it's fun to wander around the nearby shops. We had 2 nights there so we stayed up at the Theva residence which we loved - very friendly people and some of the best food we'd ever tasted.

I would also add the gardens in NE to your list and the nearby cafe which was great and I'm glad to see that you're going to Galle - one of the nicest places I've ever stayed. There was just something about it that we both loved - it seemed to be a real place and the people there were so friendly.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2018, 02:28 PM
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On #2, that IS a very long drive.

We'd went from the train station in Nuwara Eliya, via Ella on our way to Tallala (east of Matara). We broke it up with a stay and morning safari at Udawalawe and just the two halves of the drive seemed long. Ella all the way to Galle I think would have been too much for us.

The Temple of the Tooth for us was quite memorable, however it was less for the temple than that there was a large pilgrimage going on. To pass through during such an event I think helped illuminate what the temple was really about.


Dambulla was our highlight from the Cultural triangle.
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 02:34 AM
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Many thanks for joining in, annhig and CounterClifton! I'm glad to hear from you both!

CC - I think I can squeeze another day into the trip and will add it after Ella; I like the idea of stopping in Udawalawe and perhaps doing a a morning safari there; that would give us a little more time for sightseeing in the cultural triangle, as we don't need to go on to 2 safaris. And it seems like the least busy of the main national parks.

In Kandy, I'm more interested in seeing the Temple of the Tooth for the experience of seeing so many worshippers and not so much for the actual temple; I could easily bypass it if it were simply an unpleasantly crowded site. But I will add the gardens to my list - sounds like a worthwhile stop. I like the suggestion of staying at the Queens Hotel, too - looks like it would be an interesting place to stay.

Yes, Dambulla is a must! It looks amazing. It intrigued me the first time I saw photos!

Has anyone visited the Mulgirigiala Raja Maha Vihara, another remarkable-looking temple in the countryside outside of Tangalle? I was thinking of a stay on the beach here for 1 night, although Udawalawe probably makes more sense. The temple looks fantastic, and somewhat off-the-beaten-path though it is also a steep walk up, and I was curious if anyone had been there.
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 05:41 AM
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Don't know if you have seen my TR, as it is from 2011.

Agree about the Botanical Gardens in Kandy. I also liked the Botanical Gardens at Nuwara Eliya. I stayed at NE rather than Ella so I could hike to World's End instead of Adam's Peak, but after driving through Ella on the way to the coast I think the scenery was better there. The drive from NE via Ella to Unawatuna near Galle was long, but doable. I was not overly impressed with Galle, which I visited from Unawatuna, but i wasn't overly impressed by the beach either. The renovated rooms in Galle Face are very nice.

Wouldn't it work better to fly into Mumbai and out of Chennai? Or put SL first?
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 06:47 AM
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Hi, thursdaysd,
thanks for your comments! Given our limited time, I don’t know that I’ll have the time for the gardens at NE, but will keep it in mind.

As far as the flights, assuming that they remain pretty much the same, the best pricing and scheduling works out to be into Chennai (only one stop) and out of Mumbai. If I fly into Colombo, the costs, even with the extra flights between the 2 countries, is significantly higher. The flights leaving Chennai or Cochin just aren’t anywhere near as convenient as those leaving Mumbai. I will probably purchase the tickets in the late spring or early summer, but I’m guessing the schedules will probably be pretty much same as they are now.
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 07:20 AM
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Well, yes, but there are round trip flights, Chennai-Colombo-Chennai, for under 200 USD in Jan 2019 on Sri Lanka Airlines. Depending on your arrival time I would spend the first night recovering in a hotel near the airport and fly to SL the next day.

Plus, on skyscanner, picking a couple of random dates in Jan 2019, I'm seeing very comparable prices for NYC - Colombo and Mumbai - NYC to NYC - Chennai and Mumbai - NYC.
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 07:31 AM
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Thanks for checking this out for me, thursdaysd. I don’t see any advantage to starting the 2 weeks in Sri Lanka if we are flying into Chennai, though. It’s easier to hit the ground running from Chennai, and start our 2 weeks in Tamil Nadu & Kerala. Kind of 6 of one or half a dozen of the other, I think, but I’ll play with this approach and see how it works.

Also, I’m planning on getting premium Economy which limits my flight options - it’s one of the concessions I’ve made for our flying to make our long distance trips tolerable, So looking on Google flights (and I’m using November and December 2018 as not all flights are available for Jan and Feb 2019), I find the best flight for price and schedule on BA.
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 08:30 AM
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Even in Premium Economy I would not expect to hit the ground running after that flight! But I need lie flat seats (i.e. biz class) to sleep on a plane. (That's why I have an AA affinity credit card so I can do long distance on FF miles.)

You might find this interesting: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/n...lass-compared/
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 09:55 AM
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Thanks for the link, thursdaysd. I wish we had the miles for biz, but not happening anytime soon.

Touring will be gentle upon arrival! I was rather "tongue-in-cheek" earlier; hopefully we will have had some sleep with the not-quite-flat seats before we land!
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 10:58 AM
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The renovated rooms in Galle Face are very nice.>>

mmm - we stayed at the Galle Face and as you may have seen from my TR we had a rather alarming experience when there was a fire in the old side of the Hotel and we were all evacuated from our rooms in the middle of the night. I have to say that their procedures left quite a lot to be desired.

It does have the most wonderful position though, and being able to swim and sit in the garden is lovely.
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 02:07 PM
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I haven't been in the Galle Face (or any hotel other than the small hostel we did stay at) but it would hard to pass on a swim after a few hours of Galle's heat and humidity!
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Old Mar 4th, 2018, 09:21 PM
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progol,

You dont skip Kandy as it is a 'cultural hub', why because you mentioned that you want to visit cultural and traditional places. Ella mainly consists of beautiful landscapes. so my suggestion is don't skip visiting
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Old Mar 5th, 2018, 02:39 AM
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Thanks, everyone! I'll definitely keep Galle Face on the options for Colombo. And tralamo, Kandy remains firmly on the itinerary. I've got a good handle on the overall plan - things will get more firmed up when I buy tickets, most likely in the late spring.

Any other suggestions most welcome!
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