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Proposed Sri Lanka Itinerary - any opinions welcome

Proposed Sri Lanka Itinerary - any opinions welcome

May 8th, 2013, 07:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 105
Proposed Sri Lanka Itinerary - any opinions welcome

HI - and thank you to all who have so generously posted trip reports on this website. I have put together an itinerary based on much of what I have read on this site, taking into account what we like to do. My husband and I are in our early 50's, like active vacations, a little beach time, and experiencing the culture of a foreign place. We also like nice hotels & accomodations. We are not much for guides, museums etc. Just enjoy the experience of being somewhere very different from home. With that as a background - would love input on the proposed schedule.

Day one - arrive Columbo at midnight - and stay at Hotel Wallawwa for one night.
Depart at 9 AM for the 4 hour drive to Dambulla.
Visit Dambulla Caves late afternoon.

Currently thinking of staying at Kandalama - but I keep reading about the bats and other moving creatures in and around the property. We have been to plenty of third world spots - but not too enthused with close encounters with creatures. Is this overblown - or is there somewhere else to stay.

Day 2
Visit Polunnarwu. Would like to bicycle around the ruins. Is this possible? Saw it mention in LP guidebook - but not sure of logistics .
Relax at hotel in the afternoon.

Day 3
Visit Sigiriya - hike around. Visit Batik factory (does anyone know where this is?)
Relax at hotel in the afternoon.

Day 4
Depart for Kandy (appx 2.5 hours)
Visit spice gardens along the way. Visit Botanic gardens and temple of tooth.
Overnight (should we stay at Kandy House, Theva Residency, or in town? We are literally just going to sleep overnight and I know those two places are out of town)

Day 5
Depart for Tea Trails (2.5 hours)
Stay at Castlereagh Bungalow
Worlds End hike (is this possible to do in the afternoon after we arrive?)

Day 6
Adams Peak (we are not interested in getting up at 1 in the morning - has anyone done this with a 5 AM departure?)

Day 7
Rafting. We are only interested in class IV and V rafting. Is this available in the area and in January?

Day 8-10
Depart for Tangalle 5.5 hours
Stay at Amanwella

Day 11
Noon - depart for Galle (appx 1.5 hours)
See the fishermen in Weligama enroute.
Walk around Galle, shop sight see.
Should we have dinner here or in Columbo?
Depart for Columbo (appx 1.5 hours)
Stay at the Park Street Hotel, Columbo

Day 12
Tour Columbo, shop etc.
Midnight - depart for home.

Any comments or thoughts most appreciated.
chichichicago is offline  
May 8th, 2013, 08:59 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,826
Overall, I think you have a good plan.

The Kandalama has public spaces that are open-air, so bats can fly through the long corridors that are connected to balcony-like spaces. That said, I only saw bats a few times. And while there are geckos, there are no more than what you would see at a good hotel in Hawaii. There are some wild elephants in the area, so guests are advised not to wander outside in the dark. None of this was off-putting to us. There were not a lot of bugs because of the bats and geckos, I expect. The Kandalama is really lovely and we would stay there again.

There are batik factories in many places. Your diver will be glad to take you to one (or more if you want).

We loved the Kandy House. The Thevada Residency gets good reviews, but I'd opt for the Kandy House rather than the modern Thevada Residency - just a matter of personal preference.

There are wonderful walks in the Tea Trails area - through the tea fields. We loved being at Tea Trails so much, we really didn't want to leave it during the day. I can't tell you whether doing these hikes from Tea Trails is a reasonable plan.
Kathie is offline  
May 8th, 2013, 09:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,892
This itinerary is very similar to the one we had in 2008. Here are my comments:
Day 1: Dambulla is a good and easy activity for your first full day in SL. You will be jet-lagged and will be adjusting to the heat. We did not find the bats to be much of a problem at Kandalama, although the monkeys were a bit of a pain. That said, it is a great place to stay for touring the Cultural Triangle.
Day 2: We had an excellent local guide at Polonnaruwa who probably could have directed us to the bicycle rentals if we had decided not to be driven around.
Day 3: There was very little shopping of any consequence in the area - we did not visit a batik factory.
Day 4: We skipped the spice gardens but stopped at a very interesting wood-working shop along the way. Unfortunately others have not been able to find it. The Botanic Gardens are on the "other" side of Kandy and best visited on the way to Tea Trails. The Temple of the Tooth is worth a visit and if you time it right you can take in a Kandyan dance performance afterward at a nearby venue. We enjoyed Kandy House but there is no a/c, so it could be uncomfortable for you. There are ceiling fans but we found them to be inadequate. Dinner out by the gardens and breakfast on our private veranda were excellent. We did not find the location to be a problem.
Day 5 - 7: The drive to Tea Trails takes 3 hours. Castlereigh is a good choice. The hiking at Tea Trails is excellent and you should take advantage of it as well as a tour of the tea factory. We did not do any of the activities that you have proposed, but I am sure that they can be arranged through Tea Trails.
Day 8-10: We stopped at Amanwella but did not stay there. It is in an area with good beaches but rough surf. Not much at all to do but I'm sure it will be relaxing.
Day 11: You will need to have an earlier start than noon, especially if you choose to have dinner in Columbo. The fisherman are out at sunrise, so you will likely miss them.
Day 12: We did not stop in Columbo. Hopefully you can get a late check-out or just book an extra day at your hotel.

Post back if you have any further questions.
Craig is offline  
May 8th, 2013, 12:10 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,366
Looks like a good plan. A few observations based on our tome in SL.

We did teh Adams Peak climb at 1.00am and really enjoyed it ( although i did question my sanity when we got up after a couple of hours sleep!) it is quite tough and took us about 4 hours to get to the top before dawn. It was so cold we decided to head on back down before sunrise which came as we were halfway down. It is quite tough on the legs and unless you are used to serious hiking then I would not tackle teh peak and worlds end so close together. We passed plenty of people on the way down who had started much later than us so i dont think you will be alone or missing out.

Tangalle was nice but Mirrissa seemed nicer. We spent 5 days in Weligama and didn't see any fishermen at all? There were lots of stilt fisherman along teh coast who all charge an arm an a leg to take a photo.

I liked Galle and stayed there a few days. Some great restaurants at all levels. The Fort Printers and Galle Fort hotel are good bet s for a special meal. For something less grand, Mamas Galle Fort is good.
crellston is offline  
May 8th, 2013, 12:38 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,528
I was going to post a detailed reply but really the others have said more or less all that needs to be said so i'm just going to put down a few random thoughts:

1. the closest encounters we had at Kandalama was with the monkeys, and that was out fault for not shutting our room door properly - the other encounters were strictly optional!

2. do go to the botanical gardens in Kandy, AND in Nuwara Eliya if you have the time - the cafe there is excellent and the gardens are fascinating. personally I would stay in town in Kandy; we stopped for a drink and a snack in the Queens and for a one night stay it looked fine - and as central as you can get.

3. as you don't need to be in Colombo until the next day as your flight is so late, I would stay in Galle - we found it delightful and a really lovely place to be in the evening. the Fort Printers was very pleasant and very central. the next day take the fast road to Colombo, go shopping, go home. BTW there is a very good shop at the airport - airside not landside - for clothes and other such souvenirs. but buy your tea before you get there as it was very expensive there as were refreshments.
annhig is offline  
May 8th, 2013, 05:52 PM
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 1
I will be heading to Sri Lanka in a couple of weeks and will be following a similar itinerary. Can you help me understand your transportation plans? Are you going to have one driver for the entire time or will you find your own transportation between locations and hire a driver to get to the more off the beaten path destinations? Thanks for your help!
staceylo15 is offline  
May 9th, 2013, 02:04 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,892
We had one driver for the entire time. I have not heard of it being done any other way in SL.
Craig is offline  
May 9th, 2013, 04:54 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,366
We had one driver for the first half of our journey ( well two actually because the first was hopeless but thats another story!) . Once we hit the southern coast we just used tuk tuks and taxis to wend our way back to Galle and then to the airport. I remember reading that late dogster just hire drivers at each stopping point to get to the next but that this cost about the same. If limited on time, i suggest hiring a driver for the whole trip although do appreciate that some are very good and some not so much. Most drivers/ companies will charge a daily rate which is inclusive on a certain number of kms in addition to the planned route ( usually 150 km per day I think?)
crellston is offline  
May 11th, 2013, 09:55 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 105
Thank you all for the fantastic input...much appreciated. A few questions...

1. Does anyone know about the Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana? After reading the posts above I am thinking the Kandalama sounded fine - but BSL suggested the Cinnamon Lodge as an alternative. It looks nice on the web - and seemed a little more conveniently located.

2. Is it possible to do Sigiriya and Polunnaruwa both in the same day? From what I have read on trip posts...I dont think we will be interested in spending a long time in Polunnaruwa.

3. It sounds like we should stay in Galle and then drive to Columbo to catch flight - thank you all for that recommendation.

4. Has anyone done the Worlds End hike? BSL says it is a 3 hour drive from Tea Trails - and they do not recommend it. Wondering if it is worth cutting a night from the Cultural Triangle, and a night from the beach - and spending a couple nights in Nuwara Ella.

5. Has anyone hiked in the Knuckles Range?
chichichicago is offline  
May 11th, 2013, 10:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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It really isn't possible to do both Polunnaruwa and Sigiriya on the same day. We loved Polunnaruwa, in part because we had a fabulous guide hired at the site. That can make all the difference.

I don't know the Cinnamon Lodge, though I seem to remember someone here reported on it. Do a search here.
Kathie is offline  
May 11th, 2013, 11:26 AM
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If Polonnaruwa does not interest you, just skip it. We found it interesting and a worthwhile way to spend a 1/2 day. We were there for 2-1/2 hours. I think combining it with Sigiriya is possible if you do Sigiriya in the morning as it would be better to climb its 1200 steps during the cooler part of the day and see the other attraction in the afternoon.

I read some reviews of the Cinnamon Lodge on Tripadvisor - looks fine, although Kandalama location was pretty good, as far as I could tell...

If I was intent on the World's End hike, I would stay at Nuwara Ella as you propose.
Craig is offline  
May 12th, 2013, 03:59 AM
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we visited Polonnaruwa and Sigirya, and enjoyed both, though Sigirya was better probably because we had a guide.

if it's hot, I don't think you could do both on the same day - you really need to go as early as possible to avoid the afternoon heat.

We were going to do the World's End, but by the time we'd got to our rather isolated NE hotel, we really didn't want to move. other guests did do it and enjoyed it, but the impression I had was that it was really no better than the wonderful walks we were able to do just by walking out of the front door of the hotel.

can't help re Cinnamon Lodge as we stayed at the Kandalama.
annhig is offline  
May 12th, 2013, 05:17 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
I stayed at the Cinnamon Lodge. The rooms were nice, but guests arrive by the bus load which was a bit of a shock upon arriving from much smaller hotels. The food was good, but the scrum to get to it was rather off putting.

On the plus side there were lots of birds that are very difficult to see in other locations, e.g. the skulking Indian Pitta. I also really enjoyed watching the langur monkeys, macaques and squirrels that roamed the grounds.
Femi is offline  
May 13th, 2013, 02:38 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 458
Class V rafting for tourists? Seems unlikely. Let us know if you do find such an adventure in such a small place.
jobin is online now  
May 13th, 2013, 12:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 105
Thank you all so much for your help....I am most appreciative...and will certainly post the results when we return. A few things...

It sounds like Kandalama is the winner - the creatures don't sound like they are a big deal. Thanks for all of the input.

We are going to attempt Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa on the same day. I know folks have advised against it - BSL says it can be done? We will be the guinea pigs and report back.

Kandy House has a two night minimum stay - so we are going to Theva Residency.

Thank you for letting me know that the Botanic Gardens are on the way out of Kandy - we will visit them on the way to Tea Trails.

On the activities - as much as things seem very close by on a map - the drive times seem to be insanely long - as all of the trip reports suggest. The end of the world hike is not convenient from Tea Trails - I was considering doing a couple nights at the Tea Factory - but that adds enough driving (not only to get there but to get to the hike itself) - we have decided to skip it. Adams Peak and wandering around the property of the Tea Trails sounds like the current plan.

There is only class II and III rafting near Tea Trails. According to LP there is class IV and V rafting on the Kelaniya Gange near Kitulgala - which I would love to do - but there just seems to be a lot involved to get there (or anywhere)

Thanks to all of you who suggested bagging Columbo. We are now going to stay two nights in or near Galle (researching the hotel options now)- then head to Columbo for dinner and our midnight flight.
chichichicago is offline  
May 13th, 2013, 01:19 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,528
looks like your trip is coming together nicely, chichi.

I'm sure you'll love the Kandalama, and as for the Theva, we had some of the best food we've had anywhere there. the fish wrapped in banana leaf was so delicious, and their Sri lankan breakfast was terrific.

in Galle we liked the Fort Printers very much.
annhig is offline  
May 18th, 2013, 05:53 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 105
One of the trip reports mentioned Deco on 44- it looks like it is now the number one ranked hotel in Galle ( trip advisor) - website looks lovely- so I think we will check it out and report back.
chichichicago is offline  
May 18th, 2013, 06:58 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,826
Well, let us know how you like it. I'e never found TA's rankings to be useful - I'd much rather hear about a place from people I "know" here on Fodors.
Kathie is offline  
May 21st, 2013, 04:57 PM
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 202
You asked about World's End. It was one of the only "meh" aspects of my trip.

Between hiring a van and driver (I already had a driver for the trip but the hotel manager did not trust his car to make it there. In retrospect the car would have made it, but we would have gotten lost because of the lack of signage), the $30+ fee for non-resident admission, and a guide (recommended for solo female hikers on Lonely Planet)the hike cost me $100.

Yes, the view was beautiful...But it was nearly identical to the one from my room at the Melheim Resort.
Esme_Travels is offline  
May 22nd, 2013, 01:16 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,528
One of the trip reports mentioned Deco on 44- it looks like it is now the number one ranked hotel in Galle ( trip advisor) - website looks lovely- so I think we will check it out and report back.>>

we had a meal at the Deco - and I took a peak at the ground stairs of the hotel when i went to the loo. The food was not as good as the Fort Printers but I think that the hotel itself may be nicer, though I didn't see the rooms.
annhig is offline  

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