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Sri Lanka Itinerary - Feedback appreciated

Sri Lanka Itinerary - Feedback appreciated

Old Aug 19th, 2009, 06:35 AM
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Sri Lanka Itinerary - Feedback appreciated

Hi, we are planning a short trip to Sri Lanka in Dec - probably the Christmas-New Year week. We'll be in India and wanted to fly over to Sri Lanka for a few days.

We are thinking of 7-8 days. The possible itinerary is this:

3 days in Nuwara Eliya, 3 days in Galle and 2 days in Colombo.

Hotel recommendations - we were thinking of the following. Can you give your recommendations?

1) Colombo - Colombo Hilton vs Taj Samudra

2) Nuwara Elia - Tea Factory vs Grand Hotel

3) Galle - Jetwings Lighthouse (we don't know any other places). I heard about the Weligama Bay Resort - is that close by?

Finally - can you please recommend a good local travel agency in Sri Lanka.

Also, do you have any recommendations for an agency that will supply a good A/C car and driver (who should be able to speak some English or can at least understand English) who will be with us while we are travelling?

Thanks to all for your feedback!
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 07:36 AM
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Tell us more about what you want from your time in Sri Lanka. You have chosen three very different places, and the drive times among them mean you'll spend a fair amount of time on the road. Galle is a long way from Nuwara Eliya - maybe 8 hours drive.

Do you have a Sri Lanka guidebook yet? If not, I'd recommend you get one (I liked the Lonely Planet).

There are a number of Sri Lanka trip reports here, including mine (click on my name and look under trip reports). If you choose Sri Lanka on the drop down menu at the top of the Fodors page, you will get a list of posts about Sri Lanka.

We used Boutique Sri Lanka to book our hotels and our car and driver. You might want to explore their website, as it has info on lots of lovely hotels. Other reports have recommendations for other travel agencies.

Before you settle on the locations you want to visit and the hotels to choose, do some more research. You have many, many wonderful options.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:40 AM
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We also used Boutique Sri Lanka for our hotels but hired an independent guide and driver. You haven't allowed yourself much time for this trip. I can't see visiting Sri Lanka without seeing the Cultural Triangle - Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla etc. There's a great place to stay in Dambulla - the Kandalama Hotel. An alternative in hill country to the Nuwara Elia properties is Tea Trails which has been a highlight for anyone that has visited. I also did a trip report (click on my name and look under trip reports). Also do a search for a trip report by Robbietravels...
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:50 AM
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I agree with Kathie in regard to logistics, although I confess that if I had but one week in Sri Lanka, I would choose the same itinerary. It will take you the better part of a day to drive from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya, and from NE to Galle, and from Galle to Colombo. Of course, for a newcomer, it is all interesting, even if time-consuming.

When I was in Galle in October, 2008, I stayed at the Lady Hill Hotel, which is on a hill not far from the fort. It is a fine place, with a nice roof-top restaurant looking out at the sea in the distance, gracious dining room on the main floor, good service, and a friendly cat, Coffee.

I believe that I mentioned in another post my experience with drivers and gave a personal contact number, if you want to know more. ZZ
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 09:14 AM
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I see that Craig was posting his message while I was writing mine. In regard to omitting the Cultural Triangle, it all depends how interested one is in historical Buddhism. Sri Lanka is a paradise for Buddhist pilgrims, but, for a westerner not steeped in the iconography, teleology, and other-worldly view of an ancient religion, what meaning is there in the statues, stupas, and caves honoring the Buddha? Would it not be better to visit places that are understandable and to see Buddhism in practice today, as at Seenigama Vihara on the south coast near Hikkaduwa (now, going there is an experience!) or even at Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo? ZZ
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 09:42 AM
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Thank you all for your replies. We would have preferred flying everywhere to save time but I understand that's not an option internally. I will definitely check out Boutique Sri Lanka.

Yeah, I know one week is not enough but we are spending 2 additional weeks in India which also will not be enough (and we are repeat visitors there). I had heard about the Cultural Triangle as well. For now, we thought just to concentrate on the 3 most visited spots. Maybe if we go back to Sri Lanka, we will focus on that for sure.

Will look up driver recommendations. Thanks again!
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 09:57 AM
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Kathie, in answer to your question, we are looking for some nice history and culture while we are in SL, with some R&R thrown in. Nuwara Eliya sounds nice, it sounds like Simla in India which I loved. There are supposed to be some nice waterfalls nearby and some other points of interest. Galle is just to relax, go see the old fort, etc. while Colombo is again just visiting the must-see sites. I agree they are all over the place. We are used to good internal air connectivity whenever we visit India so the thought of long drives will take a bit of getting used to. Having said that, I understand that the roads are decent and the scenery is very pretty which we can actually enjoy sitting at the back.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 10:20 AM
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If you are interested in history and culture, do consider the cultural triangle. I don't agree with Zambezi's assessment that it wouldn't mean anything to a westerner or that it doesn't reflect Buddhism today. It apparently wasn't of interest to him, but only you know whether it is of interest to you.

Our itinerary was quite different from yours. Take a look at my trip report and at our photos at www.marlandc.com which may give you some other ideas.

We stayed at Tea Trails up in the tea country and it was heaven on earth! It just depends on whether it fits into your budget.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 11:05 AM
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Zambezi is a "she" and she, having taught---from the historical angle---about Buddhism for a long time, has even been to Lumbini, the birthday place of the Buddha in Nepal. I didn't say there wouldn't be any meaning in visiting these sites; I just questioned how much. By "places that are understandable," I meant tea estates and historical towns like Galle, not Dambulla, etc. I did not say, either, that they don't reflect Buddhism today, although you might infer that. It looks as though I need to do a better job of writing. ZZ
P.S.
Kathie: At least you made a stab at gender. I didn't come out a "they."
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 11:25 AM
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I would not spend 3 days in Galle and I don't know that there are any "must see" sites in Colombo. I am sure there are those that would disagree but whether you love historical Buddhism or not, the cultural triangle is the most interesting area in Sri Lanka. For the amount of time you have, just pick two places, preferably close together. If it were me (and as Kathie often says, "it's not") I would do the cultural triangle and the hill country.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 12:19 PM
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Sorry, Zambezi for guessing wrong on gender. From what you wrote, I (wrongly) deduced that you had little interest in the historical Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. Given your interest in historical Buddhism, I'm surprised that you discouraged Baby Bear from visiting these sites. (or did I misunderstand that?)

I know that I am very interested in Buddhism and have actively pursued visiting Buddhist sites in Asia. I'm the sort of person who has never gotten "templed out" and I've said before that I've never met a wat I didn't like. So, while I don't assume that other travelers will want to spend as much time as I do at Angkor or visiting the wats in Luang Prabang or immersing themselves in the Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka, I do encourage other travelers to explore these places, and try to convey my experience of these places. I'd be interested in hearing about your experiences of Buddhist sites in Asia.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 02:28 PM
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I couldn't contemplate a trip to Sri-Lanka without including some part of the Cultural Triangle. You must find time to climb Sigirya Rock and, to see Dambulla Temple.

Both Galle and Nuwara Eliya are more about Colonial history and in your time frame I would skip Galle and include some time in Kandy and possibly squeeze in Pollonaruwa to get a better understanding of Sri-Lanka before the English and Dutch periods. This combined with some time on a Tea estate will give you a nice diverse taste of this magnificent country.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 06:14 PM
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I'm listening in.

ZZ I thought you were a 'he' too Something about the name.

I'm one of those who would probably skip the Buddhist sites (sacrilegious, I know), so I'm happy to hear both sides of the argument.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 08:26 PM
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A friend of mine just got back from SL.She happened to stay at the Cinamon Grand in Colombo.Seemed to like the place a lot.I would like to try on my next visit.Heres the link:
http://www.cinnamonhotels.com/Grand/CinnamonGrand.htm
Galle is ok.Can give it a skip,since you are hard pressed for time.Bentota was a little too commercial to my liking.Hikkaduwa was nice.So was Unawatuna.These are as far as beaches are concerned south of Colombo.Some lovely beaches in the eastcoast.
SL is steeped in culture.Considering you have just a week & travel would takes up a lot of time.Think of doing Colombo-Kandy-Nuwara Eliya back.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 09:35 PM
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I'm snooping too.

Nobody seems to have noticed that BB wants to travel over the Christmas/New Year period.

Be aware BB, that the drive from Nuwara Elia [if you must stay there] and Galle WILL be 6-7 hours. If you do this on a holiday just take sedatives and abandon hope.

IMHO you'll get more Sri Lanka vibe inland - unless you've never seen a beach and a palm tree. Why on earth no Kandy? It's on the way to Nuwara Elia. Remember too, there are some very cool boutique 'destination' hotels in Sri Lanka.

Ms Zambezi's comments are spot on. For the 'kinda interested' I'd say Sigiriya and Dambulla were the more approachable. Anuradhapura and Pollonaruwa errr... stretched my enthusiasm. Bang for buck [if you really want to climb one million steps gasp gasp wheeze gasp and then climb down again] Sigiriya.
Frankly, I'm still none the wiser about any of it.

You don't seem to have found a good resource to help you select hotels. Have a look in here too, just to see what's around.

www.reddottours.com
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 09:54 PM
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Hi Femi,
The appeal to me of most of the Cultural sites in Sri-Lanka was more the historical significance than anything religious.

There are many "WOW, HOW DID THEY DO THAT?" momments that take your breath away and the stories behind places like Sigirya are really interesting. It is not just all about Buddhism.
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 05:18 AM
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I'm definitely looking for wow moments like you describe Shanek. I love culture, and don't mind a bit of history, but am bored almost to tears when having to stand and listen to the significance of religious ruins.

I don't mind breezing in and out in a 'just the highlights' kinda tour, but guides don't usually feel like you're getting your money's worth if you don't climb every rock tourists tend to want to climb, and listen to them recite page after page of college textbook script.

Sri Lanka is very high up on my list of places to go, and I'm looking forward to learning about the tea and spice trades and wildlife.I'm almost certain I'll be skipping Kandy and Dambulla, not to mention the rest of those sites even though my visit would be about 3 weeks long.

Baby Bear hope you don't mind the wandering paths these threads sometimes take.
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 02:38 PM
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To me Sigiriya is to Sri-Lanka as the Pyramids are to Egypt. The Amazing stone carvings that remain and what is left of the fortress on the top of this sheer rock lays testament to the amazing engineering abilities of early Sri-Lankan civilisation. It rates up there with the 7 wonders, if there was a top 10 it would be in it in my opinion.

If you time your trip right, the Kandy Perahera is also a must see. A spectacular religious festival with a fabulous parade. Dont skip Kandy, it is a great place with fantastic gardens and buildings and is on the way to "tea country"
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 07:49 PM
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I'm considering going in Feb 2011, so I won't be able to see the Perahera, the only reason I would have considered Kandy.

You're argument for Sigiriya has made me re-examine the possibility of a visit.
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 08:19 PM
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Femi, as you know, we hired a car and driver in Sri Lanka. He was not a guide, but would arrange guides IF we wanted them. You might like to visit some of these places and not use a guide, which is very possible to do.
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