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Sri Lanka - How long overall and how long in Galle

Sri Lanka - How long overall and how long in Galle

Old Aug 17th, 2013, 08:22 PM
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Sri Lanka - How long overall and how long in Galle

After much deliberation, I'm close to booking a trip to Sri Lanka over Christmas. I can't decide if we need 7 or 10 full days on the ground. One set of flights gets me in on a Saturday night and leaves the following Saturday at midnight, giving us 7 days on the ground, the other gives us 10. We are coming from Hong Kong so I don't need time to adjust for jetlag, etc. Of course a longer vacation is always nicer...but I want to see how long we really need.

I am mainly interested in Galle and the Central Tea Growing area / Mountains. Sadly can't afford Tea Trails on this trip ($729 USD a night!). Not sure if we want to add in Yala. We want to focus on natural beauty rather than temples, so not sure if we need to stop at the cultural triangle. Would 1-2 nights in Colombo, than 3 in Galle, than 3 in the central mountains before back to Colombo be sufficient? We are excellent packers so moving around a lot isn't an issue.

Thanks in advance for any advice; this is a very last minute decision to maybe go to Sri Lanka - we were struggling to find somewhere to go - and I want to book my flights ASAP

Another option is Kerala, but Sri Lanka looks...a bit more interesting I guess, and a bit more relaxing.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 02:56 AM
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I definitely think I answered my own question - 1 week certainly won't cut it! I want to sketch out an itinerary before booking flights, please provide any advice / comments...all the advice on this forum is greatly appreciated.

We can add on extra day in here, any suggestions?

Day 1 - arrive Columbo 8pm, overnight Columbo

Day 2 - Drive to Nuwara Eliya

Day 3 - Horton Plains

Day 4 - Nuwara Eliya

Day 5 - Nuwara Eliya to Yala

Day 6 - Yala

Day 7 - Yala to Galle

Day 8 - Galle - whale watching

Day 9 - Galle free day

Day 10 - Galle - Columbo, leave midnight
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 08:11 AM
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10 days is the minimum I'd spend in Sri Lanka. I can't imagine going there and not spending some time in the cultural triangle. The historic sites are stunning. You may not want to spend several days exploring all the major sites, but you might appreciate, say, Sigirya or the Dambulla Cave Temples. A day or two in the cultural triangle would also give you the chance to visit one of the parks in that areas, which are known for the herds of wild elephants.

Personally, I'd cut Yala. By recent reports, it is now very crowded.

If you are looking for whale watching, other beach areas are better known for whale watching than the Galle area.

I would skip Columbo. Even people who had specific reasons for visiting the city have wished they skipped it. You have better things to do with your time.

Take a look at our Sir Lanka photos and see if anything strikes your fancy: www.marlandc.com

We loved Sri Lanka and would like to return.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 08:43 AM
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Hi Kathie, Thanks for your response. I will definitely check out your photos. We aren't planning to spend any time in Colombo, but we are there for a night because our flight arrives late, and I know we will just want to go to bed.

Thanks for the advice on Yala; I did some research and people said it's definitely not comparable to an African safari, so I think I might take your advice and cut it.

Would we then go from Colombo straight to Kandy and the cultural triangle / elephants and then to Nuwara Eliya? I think we could then take the train.

It seems you can drive 2 hours or so from Galle to go whale watching, not sure if this is what you mean or if it's somewhere we'd have to overnight....?

I am on day 2 of research on Sri Lanka so clearly I don't know too much at this point! I hate the pressure of traveling at Xmas and feeling like I need to rush to book.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 09:44 AM
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3 nights in Galle is way too much and while I know little about whale watching, it would make sense to stay close to it. We spent an afternoon in Galle and that was plenty. There are others that would give it more time, but I fail to see the attraction. Cultural Triangle is a must and a highlight of any visit to Sri Lanka. Tea Country is also a great area - we stayed at Tea Trails, but there are other places as well. Kandy is a fair distance from the Cultural Triangle so you would want to head to the Cultural Triangle directly from Colombo and stay there. When you refer to elephants, are you talking about the orphanage near Kandy or doing a safari from the Cultural Triangle? If you are interested in seeing elephants, I would recommend the later - you can do it in an afternoon. Get yourself a map and see where things are located. You may need or want to spend the night in Kandy on the way to Tea Country from the Cultural Triangle.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 11:07 AM
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well, I'm one of the people who would give Galle more time - 3 nights would be about right for me, though 2 would be ok. we loved the chance to see such an intense mixture of cultures at close quarters, the exotic atmosphere, the friendliness of the locals, etc. also its position is stunning, being a town sat right on the coast.

obviously Craig and I are never going to agree about this, so you'll just have to see how it would fit into your itinerary.

ideally you would head straight to the cultural triangle from the airport, and as Colombo is an hour at least away from the airport I would opt to spend the night in a hotel near the airport and then do this:

Day 1 - arrive - night near the airport.

Day 2 - drive to cultural triangle. Stay 3 nights to see Polonuwerra and Sigiriya. [Kathie recommended the hotel Kandalama at Dambulla - and it was wonderful]

http://www.heritancehotels.com/kandalama/

Day 5 - drive to Kandy. Stay one night. See temple of tooth, etc.

Day 6 - see botanical gardens in the morning, then drive to NE. spend 2 nights.

Day 8 - drive to Galle - spend 1-2 nights, depending on time available

Day 9/10 - drive to Colombo for flight home. the new road takes 2 hours from Galle to Colombo, but you need to allow another 2 to get from colombo to the airport, so depending on your flight time, you may need to stay overnight near the airport [or in Colombo] before you fly.

I also agree about dropping Yala - too many people chasing around in too many vehicles trying to spot too few animals.

but whatever you do, it's hard not to enjoy Sri Lanka!
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 11:31 AM
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annhig,

We are planning to visit Sri Lanka on our next trip. What do you recommend seeing in Galle? To me the city looks more interesting than Kandy. The elephant orphanage does not appeal after spending a month in Africa though the botanical gardens sound good. DH comment was "not another temple!" when I mentioned the temple of the tooth as the thing to see in Kandy.

Thanks.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 11:58 AM
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We were not as charmed by Kandy as many are. We did like the visit to teh Temple of the Tooth, but if it doesn't interest you, skip it.

tansmets has tea country as a priority, so Ann's itinerary may not have enough time there. I'd suggest something like

one night near the airport
drive to cultural triangle - 2 or 3 nights there
drive to tea country - 4 nights (as per the original itinerary)
Galle - 2 or 3 nights
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 01:20 PM
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Thanks all, I wasn't aware of the distance from Colombo to the airport. Is there a recommended hotel near the airport?

I think we also would like to skip Kandy - my husband feels the same way about temples! I do not want to skip Galle - colonial architecture is a highlight for me personally.

The itinerary could now look like this, which is 2-3 days shorter than intended. I suppose I could add a night to Tea County and Galle. Where would I fit in whale watching, after Galle? Whale watching is a definite priority for my husband. Are there other recommended stops aside from Kandy, maybe near Galle or can we base ourselves in Galle and do more day trips to beaches and such?

Thanks for the Kandalama recommendation. They have availability when we plan to go, and it won't break the bank. Though the regular rooms look small (19.8 sq m) - I think we'd have to book a luxury room.

1 -arrive, stay near airport
2 -drive to Cultural triangle
3 - Gultural triangle
4 - drive to tea county
5 - Tea county
6 - Tea county
7 - Tea county - Galle
8 - Galle (whale watching?)
9 - Galle to airport, leave on a late flight (1am), so we would have at least until 6pm or so in Galle if the drive is maximum 3 hours.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 01:23 PM
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Are you using a local agency to book your hotels and a car and driver? They can often get better hotel rates.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 02:02 PM
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Not yet - do you have a recommendation? I was browsing through Red Dot and thinking about contacting them about a driver. Do we need one the whole way?

I have been looking through past TRs and found this recommendation for Galle - http://www.villa-srilanka.com/index.html - looks like a nice relaxing alternative to staying actually within Galle.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 02:35 PM
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We used Boutique Sri Lanka and they were excellent. Red Dot has gotten very mixed reviews here.

You will need a driver the whole trip.

If colonial architecture is a highlight for you, I'd certainly stay right in Galle. We didn't get to Galle last trip, but I've done research for our next trip, and I would choose Fort Printers.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 04:01 PM
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We used BSL also, but with our own driver, which yes you will need for the entire trip. If I had to do it again, I would just use a BSL driver. I think you would be happier breaking up the journey from the cultural triangle to tea country with a stop in Kandy. You could take the train from there and your driver could meet you at your next destination. That villa looks great. We stayed in a similar accommodation, although farther west and loved it.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 04:05 PM
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Correction: the villa we stayed at was in Tangalle, which is farther east, not west.
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 01:57 AM
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we used BSL and their driver and were very happy with them.

if you are pushed for time and not over-enthused about temples, it's a long way up into the cultural triangle - a good 4 hours from the airport, whereas Kandy is a bit closer and you can get Temples, colonial architecture [the Queen's hotel in the centre is a prime example] and the gardens in one fell swoop. and you have to go through Kandy to get from the Cultural triangle to the Hill country anyway.

i would definitely stay IN Galle - we were going to stay out along the coast but when we got there it seemed pretty remote [we'd had enough of that] so we got our driver to take us into Galle and found the Fort Printers which we liked vey much.

however if you stay outside, getting a tuk tuk into town would be a lot of fun. We used them for getting round Galle and colombo and they are definitely a great way to travel. [get you hotel to tell you how much the fare should be before you start bargaining with the drivers]. But the villa looks great.
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 05:16 AM
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Thanks all! Frankly after looking through the main attractions in the Cultural Triangle area, the only one that really interests me is Sigiriya. I don't love Buddhist temples; mosques however are a different story. To each their own! So after an overnight from the airport, that would probably be our first stop, and then Hill Country from there.

Thanks for the Galle advice. It seems some of the villas are only 5-8 km from the town, which is ok for me. I'll see what is available for Xmas.

We are based in Asia so this trip is partially a relaxing winter holiday for us. Any other recommended destinations to spend a night? Mirissa?
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 07:36 AM
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Ah, good. I thought Sigirya might interest you. The Kandalama is quite close, and you'll want to start very early in the morning so you are climbing during the coolest part of the day.

If this is to be a relaxing winter holiday, I'd suggest you simply slow down, add a day to each of the places that interest you.
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 08:21 AM
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Yes, Sigirya looks perfect - just what we like - a bit of a grueling hike with the reward of amazing views and scenery. Adam's Peak might be a bit much though, especially since we want to hike Horton's Plain. And I'm sure we'll fit in a temple or two Maybe it's due to being a (somewhat homesick) expat in Asia, but I'm always happy to find Western architecture in Asia. The Bund is my favorite. I am more than excited to go to Sri Lanka, but if it wasn't so cold and dark at this time of year, I'd go back to Russia or Paris in a heartbeat.

I guess Sigirya would be our first stop, then is it too far in a day to get to Hill Country / Nuwara Eliya? I have read conflicting reports on the length of the drive. I've been browsing Boutique Sri Lanka for hotel ideas; Tea Trails looks amazing but I can't swallow the price for our dates.

I've done some browsing through itineraries various travel agents have put together and need to decide if we just stay near Galle and do day trips to see whales, anything else, or stay in Bentota or Tangalle and take a day trip to Galle...
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 08:58 AM
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I guess Sigirya would be our first stop, then is it too far in a day to get to Hill Country / Nuwara Eliya?

in a word, yes. i made a fool of myself on some threads here opining on the length of road trips in Sri Lanka before I'd been.

It's a "good" [ok, make that very interesting] 4 hours from the airport to Dambulla; you could then use the rest of the day to explore the hotel, swim, and possibly visit the Dambulla caves. the next morning, go to Sigiriya as early as you can get up and tear yourselves away from the delicious Kandelama breakfast. you could then spend another afternoon lazing about [nothing wrong with that] or drive to Kandy. [I don't know how many days you've got]. if you miss out the spice gardens [your driver won't like it, but you're in charge] it should only take you 3 hours or so from Dambulla to Kandy.

spend the evening and next morning there, then drive to NE in the afternoon- reckon on its taking 3 hours to do the 84 km [yes, really!] plus another hour for the tea planation, which is well worth it and very interesting.

alternatively, you could drive from Dambulla to NE in a day, but you'd be fit for nothing the next morning! if you like Tea Trails [we didn't stay there as we couldn't afford it either] but like the idea of a place in the hills, you could try where we stayed:

http://www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwingwarwickgardens/

there's not much there but it's in a fabulous spot [once you get over the drive!] and the service is wonderful. 2 nights would probably be enough though.

after all that peace and quiet, I'd want to stay in Galle itself [we definitely did and didn't regret it as we liked being able to wander around the town at night which isn't something you can do everywhere in SL] but being out on the coast might also be nice.
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 09:57 AM
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Given your love of colonial architecture, I'm not sure why you wouldn't want to stay right the the heart of the historic district in Galle. You might want two night there and one or two at the beach for whale watching.
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