We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Esme, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Esme is from the United States, and submitted the following report about Sri Lanka. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: Sinhala, English, Tamil
Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is my favorite destination of over 50 countries visited because it is exotic, diverse and compact. In ten days a person can explore cities, the ocean, mountains, and the rainforest while experiencing a culture that feels like the best of laid-back Bali and dramatic India rolled up into one.
Sri Lanka's international airport is located in Negombo, nearly an hour's drive north of the capital, Colombo. As most flights arrive around midnight, book a hotel in or around Negombo. Colombo has little to offer other than chaos and congestion, but if you spend any time there I recommend the stately Galle Face Hotel if you prefer traditional properties, or the sexy Casa Colombo if your tastes run more towards contemporary.
Hire a car and driver prior to your arrival. Take the scenic route to Galle, a historic fortified city, stopping at the 2004 tsunami memorials along the way. Stay at the Apa Villas Thalpe if you enjoy a view of the ocean, or its sister property, the Apa Villas Illuketia if you prefer to be enveloped in the rainforest. I stayed at the latter, and loved the proximity to nature and the unusual architecture of the old colonial estate. A day is all you need to walk the walled city (sunset is best), sip a cold Lion beer on the porch of the Galle Fort Hotel, visit the Peace Pagoda and view the tombstones built into the floor at the Dutch Reformed Church.
Another drive takes you to Yala National Park, but break it up with some stops. A reasonably-priced one-hour massage at Unawatuna's Sanctuary Spa is an indulgence easily justified. For a laugh don't miss the cartoonish demons punishing sinners at the Wewurukannala Vihara Temple.
Stay at Chaaya Wild Yala, where wild boar may be sleeping below your bungalow, and escorts are required at dark, as the occasional elephant wanders through the premises. Start your day with a safari — if you're lucky you'll spy a leopard —and wind it down with cocktails and a view of the sunset from the rooftop lounge with your fellow guests.
Next stop: The Hill Country. Check in to the Melheim and spend your first night recovering from the harrowing drive up to it, enjoying the view of the mountains peaking through the clouds from your room and sampling an array of curries. Go to Horton Plains National Park the next day and hike to World's End, an escarpment overlooking the valley below, with a vista extending to the ocean.
Check out late, as your next destination is the sleepy town of Dalhousie, where the best place to stay is Slightly Chilled, a functional, if not luxurious, inn. You're not going to be sleeping long there, anyway. Set your alarm for 2:00 a.m. to trek the 5,200 steps up Adam's Peak, just in time to catch the best sunrise Sri Lanka offers. You'll meet other pilgrams along the way, and during “season” (roughly December through May) the path is lit by torches.
End your voyage at Kandy, a city famous for its Temple of the Tooth monument. Take the requisite tour, snap your photos, walk around the lake, sip a Three Coins on The Pub balcony, then escape to The Ellerton, a tea estate turned luxury hotel outside of town. Relax, swim, walk the countryside, allow your hosts to spoil you and mingle with other guests here for a few days.
Allocate one day for climbing the ancient rock fortress Sigiriya. Dine in one night (the wild boar curry is delicious) and put one night aside for returning to Kandy to dine at Helga's Folly, a wonderfully bizarre home, hotel and restaurant. The food is only ok, but you won't care because you'll be too busy processing the eccentric decor. Like the rest of Sri Lanka, go with an openness and sense of adventure and you'll have a marvelous time.
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 2 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 2 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 2 (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult)