Sri Lanka and Maldives (Honeymoon)

Old Dec 31st, 2017, 01:49 AM
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Sri Lanka and Maldives (Honeymoon)

Traveled to Sri Lanka and Maldives for our honeymoon.
August 9-23

Day 0 Flight from U.S. to Colombo, Sri Lanka
Day 1-5 Dambulla (Kalundewa Retreat)
Day 5-8 Hatton (Ceylon Tea Trails)
Day 8-9 Kandy (OZO Kandy Hotel)
Day 9 Travel from Kandy to Colombo, flight to Male, Maldives
Day 9-14 Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives
Day 14-15 Flight back to U.S.


Day 0: IAD-DXB-MLE-CMB on Emirates
This was my first time traveling with this airline. Phenomenal. Dubai is a huge airport. The flight leaving IAD was late, so we nearly missed our connection.

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo. Private car from Colombo to Dambulla to our hotel, Kalundewa Retreat. Arrived around 8pm.

This retreat/resort is located on a working farm alongside a creek. We stayed in the Kumbuk Chalet, which sits privately on the lake, surrounding by trees. While chilling out in our plunge pool, we say a caiman swim by, and birds came in to roost in the trees outside of our room. Fabulous. The food was outstanding. We walked around the grounds in our free time. Peaceful and stunning.

Day 2: Recovery day. We walked around the resort and caught up on sleep. We had a guided walk through the grounds where we encountered a large snake, large sleeping fruit bats, and huge monitor lizard.

Day 3: Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa
We did the ascent to the top of Sigiriya (Lion Rock), the site of an ancient capital. The king adorned the rock with beautiful frescoes that are still visible today. It was a very hot/humid day, but we made it to the top. We were rewarded with wonderful views of the countryside. UNESCO World Heritage site. Great example of urban planning.

From there, we traveled to Polunnaruwa, the site of another ancient capital. This is another vast structure with remnants of urban planning (irrigation, pools, other structures). The main stars are the four Buddha statues—all four carved from a single large granite slab. The largest is 46 feet long, and the tallest 23 feet high. There are other sites that are in ruins, but one must still remove shoes before entering. UNESCO World Heritage site.

Day 4: Anuradhapura and Rock Temple at Dambulla
Anuradhapura has the best preserved ruins of those we visited in Sri Lanka. It has enormous dagobas (similar to stupas), in addition to other structures that are well-preserved. It also has a Bodhi tree that is the oldest human-planted tree in the world (from 288 BC). We were fortunate enough to see hundreds of Sinalese bringing offerings – fruits, elaborate flower wreaths and other gifts. UNESCO World Heritage site

The Rock Temple at Dambulla
After a gradual ascent, we reached the Rock Temple which houses hundreds of paintings and statues of the Buddha inside of caves (really more like carve outs in the side of the mountain – no spelunking required). A sacred place with bright, beautiful depictions of Buddha, other gods and goddesses (including Ganesh and Vishnu) and Sri Lankan kings. UNESCO World Heritage site

Day 5: Travel from Dambulla to Hatton by private car. Arrival at Ceylon Tea Trails

Ceylon Tea Trails takes awhile to get to, but this is simply one of the best hotels/resorts I’ve ever stayed in my life. It is pricey by Sri Lanka standards, but it transports you to another era. Think Downtown Abbey. The bungalows are restored from those built by British tea plantation owners (now plantations are owned by Sinhalese). The resort is all-inclusive (except for excursions), and this includes everything from morning tea (“bed tea” because it’s served to you in bed if you want), breakfast (and more tea), lunch (more tea), afternoon tea (which is a big meal in itself), and dinner to alcohol and anything else you can think to ask for. You can schedule your morning tea service, or press a button by your beside to ring for it. There is sherry and port available in the parlor whenever you like. You get the drift. I’ve never felt so spoiled. The views are fabulous. You are surrounded by tea plantations in a ravine that looks down onto a beautiful lake. There is an infinity pool that you soak in to enjoy the view. You can hike through the plantations and lunch at other bungalows. We have the Greig Master Suite located in the Dunkfeld Bungalow.

Day 6: Horton Plains National Park
We took a hike into the nearby national park, which required getting up pretty early. The park has beautiful views, but I have to confess, if you’re accustomed to the scenery and trail maintenance you’d see in a U.S. national park, you might be disappointed. It was nice to get a break from cultural sites and take a hike, but this is not a national park I’d go out of my way to see. There are beautiful vistas, and steep changes in elevation, which was a welcome change for us. We drove through Nuwara Eliya on the way back – an interesting little British town.

Day 7: Adam’s Peak/tea factory/lounging aroung
My husband woke up super early to do Adam’s Peak with a guide. It is a very steep ascent and this being the off-season, there weren’t too many other tourist/hikers because it was rainy, and therefore slippery (in addition to having to start in the dark). There is a season during which Sinhalese make a pilgrimage to the top to make offerings and ring the bell. My husband really wanted to go up to the peak, given the site’s religious significance. It is said to have the footprint of Adam or St. Thomas, Buddha, or Vishnu. I knew I was in no shape, so I stayed in bed enjoying my tea. I spent the day hiking around Ceylon Tea Trails, enjoyed lunch with my husband, lounged around the pool (although it was drizzly). He was glad he did it. I think I could do it now, but at the time, I was in pretty poor shape. He came back with some strings from a Hindu to bless him. Pascal’s wager, right?

In the afternoon, we did a tour of the nearby tea factory and learned about the planting, picking, and processing of the tea plant.

Day 8: Travel from Hatton to Kandy for a one-night stay at OZO Kandy Hotel
Instead of returning to Colombo to catch our flight, we decided to stay in Kandy for two reasons. First, this is an ancient capital which has the temple housing the Buddha’s tooth. Second, it just so happened that we were traveling through during a huge festival (Esala Perahera) in which different group parade with elephants, musical instruments, demonstrations, etc. at night. It was quite a show (we reserved seats so we wouldn’t have to try to make room among the locals). It lasted a long time, so I am glad we prepaid for tickets to sit and enjoy the show.

Day 9: Temple of the Tooth and travel to Colombo for late flight
In the morning, we visited the Temple of the Tooth, said to house a relic tooth from the Buddha. The night prior, the tooth was moved from a site into the temple, carried on an adorned elephant. UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Travel from Colombo to Male, Maldives.

Our resort, Gili Lankanfushi met us at the airport which opens up onto docks with boats to transport travelers to their respective atolls. On our boat, they ask you take your shoes off – you won’t need them again until you leave. Our butler showed us around the property and then surprised us with a full moon dinner, just the two of us, on the beach. Seriously.

Gili Lankanfushi is a spectacular resort. There are over-water bungalows everywhere in Maldives, but the service here is second-to-none. You pay a hefty price, but having a porch that opens into the water, with bat rays and sharks swimming by nonchalantly is pretty special. The bungalows are simply enormous. There is a huge bedroom, a big bathroom – with a shower that overlooks the water below, and upper deck with a bed and cover if you want to hang out, and a large open living area (between the bedroom and bathroom) which opens out onto the patio, with steps leading into the ocean.

Did I mention you have a butler? Not unlike Ceylon Tea Trails, if you need something, they’ll get it for you. The breakfast was something I’d never seen before. Sure there are huge buffets in Las Vegas but this place has something for everyone – I would have been wowed by the fruit selection alone, but they have smoothies, your usual muffins/cakes, eggs, dim sum, salads, meats, etc. We ate only breakfast and dinner – the breakfast is enough to hold you over for the day until you eat dinner. The dinners change theme each evening.

Day 10: Lounged around the villa, spa treatment for me and paddleboard for him
We explored our villa before walking back to the resort where I got a facial while my husband took up paddleboard.

Day 11: Group snorkel out to a nice reef where we saw all sorts of sealife: octopus, sharks, rays, and lots of fish. Maldives suffered significant damage to its reefs after a storm, so the snorkeling here isn’t as spectacular as elsewhere, but the waters are very calm, so it’s pretty easy.

Day 12: We were stuck in our villa all day because it was very rainy and windy. We had planned to go out on a short cruise, but no such luck. We snorkeled a little around our villa when the rain broke.

Day 13: Same as previous day. We got a few movies to watch in our room to pass the time and snorkeled a bit. We got pretty close to reef sharks (harmless).

Day 14: Our last day. They moved us into a day villa – a small room on the beach because we had a late night flight out of Male. It was a very nice gesture – perhaps because we got so unlucky with the weather. We swam out to a nearby island – yes you can do that - and did some more snorkeling there where were encountered lots of sealife again. We came back and enjoyed lounging by the pool. In the early evening, we went out on a cruise to see the infamous spinning dolphins at sunset. Thankfully the weather cooperated finally.

Day 14-15: Flight home with overnight in Dubai. We stayed at a hotel in the airport which was definitely worth it. MLE-DXB-SEA-SMF
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Old Dec 31st, 2017, 01:50 AM
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I neglected to mention that this trip was completed August 9-23, 2016.
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Old Dec 31st, 2017, 01:59 AM
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Some tips:
1) We used private drivers everywhere we traveled in Sri Lanka. When visiting historical sites, the drivers would offer to hire a guide. We usually did - they were not very expensive and having someone to tell us about the sites and the history was well worth the added cost. We typically arranged for drivers through the hotels we were staying at. I would not recommend trying to drive yourself in Sri Lanka and it appears as though public transit is not prevalent between places (especially remote ones). I've driven in Europe (Iceland and Italy) and New Zealand, and I would not have attempted to drive in Sri Lanka. Even though it is a relatively small country, driving times are pretty long given the condition/location of roadways.

2) While Maldives is temperate, we were there in the off-season and got unlucky with weather. While you will save some on cost by traveling this time of year (it was convenient for us to do so), be prepared to be stuck indoors one or two days - I'd stay at least four nights to maximize your likelihood of being able to take advantage of the activities.
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Old Jan 7th, 2018, 08:42 AM
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Thank you for your report. There have been so many recent TR on Sri Lanka! Did you plan the trip yourself or did you use a company? If a company, which one? Did you feel you planned adequate time in each place? Would you have done it differently? Thanks again.
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