Until I’d been to Sri Lanka, India was my favourite country in the world. I loved the colours, the affronting culture, the mess of it all. After I’d visited Sri Lanka, I knew I had a new favourite country.
Sri Lanka is every bit as culturally appealing, colourful and messy as India – but it’s less in-your-face, less guard-up-because-almost-everyone-wants-to-rip-you-off, and from what we could tell, much more genuinely friendly. Here’s a place where Tamil tea pickers will holler their ‘hellos’ at you as you walk by, cheery enough and not an ounce of distaste for the tourists taking in their backbreaking daily work. Here’s a place where children will run up to you and tease you for sweets, but will giggle and back away just as quick when you say you’ve got nothing. Here’s a place where the locals want to make you feel welcome, like you’re home.
Our favourite place in the whole of Sri Lanka was undoubtedly Haputale, which is interesting because it’s not exactly a place many tourists come to, and we completely stumbled upon it by accident. It’s home to the country’s most beautiful, vibrant tea plantations set atop rolling hills – from which you can just about see out over the plains to the sea.
Nearby, the tourist behemoth that is Ella is much like Haputale, but much more inhabited. While you’re there, be sure to check out Ella Rock, but don’t get lost in doing so. We’ve got you covered anyway with some better-than-nothing directions.
A close second is the elephant mecca of Udawalawe National Park, where your entire safari can be seemingly ruined by a torrential downpour and non-existent wildlife, until the sun comes out unexpectantly and Sri Lanka’s most famous mammals are there to greet you in abundance.
Don’t leave without staying at Thotalagala, either. Sir Thomas Lipton’s old bungalow is an escapist’s dream, and by far the nicest place we’ve ever stayed.