Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)

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Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)

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The peak tourist season in Sri Lanka runs from December to April. If you avoid these months, particularly December, January, and April when local New Year and holidays begin, you can save on accommodation. May to September is the northwest monsoon season, but don’t fret: Sri Lanka’s tropical climate means monsoon downpours don't last long. If you’re looking to stay put in Sri Lanka for a while, keep in mind that imported products like chocolates, biscuits, cheese, and cosmetics are expensive and hard to find. Shop for local brands at supermarkets and grocery stores. It’s always cheaper to buy fresh vegetables, fruits, and cooking ingredients from small stalls by the road or the local market. Seek out women-run health food outlets for vegan and vegetarian meals A watery wonderland of coastal lagoons and bird-thronged wetlands, Bundala National Park speaks to lovers of all things aquatic. Flamingos (who number in the thousands) and crocodiles are the stars of the show, though vividly colorful bee-eaters and openbill storks will titillate the more discerning twitcher. Elephants are another draw – the high season around December is the best time to see the park's jumbos. Between May and September, the south coast and west coast of Sri Lanka are lashed by the southwest monsoon, which brings plenty of rainfall and choppy seas, while northern and eastern parts of the island are fine and dry. When the northeast monsoon hits Sri Lanka between November and March, the south and west are at their best, and it's the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka that see the showers. On most trains, the best spot is on the floor in one of the open doorways between carriages, with the warm breeze blowing through your hair. What should I bring onboard?

Look out for Hela Bojun outlets across the country – also known as Ammachchi in the north. If you find an open-air kitchen full of female chefs dressed in green aprons and hair covers, you are at the right place. Run entirely by local women, these restaurants were created by the Ministry of Agriculture to promote regional, homegrown ingredients and healthy eating, while encouraging women's entrepreneurship. They mainly sell nutritious vegan and vegetarian dishes. You can grab a filling meal with a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice or a cup of herbal tea for less than a dollar here. Join other travelers to save up on wildlife safaris The hike will take you over rivers, past waterfalls, and through lush cloud forests before you arrive at a vantage point that is famed for sightings of whistling thrushes and Sri Lankan bush warblers. You won’t see much in the way of mammalian wildlife up here, but that doesn’t matter when the birdlife and flora are this seductive. While Sinharaja Forest Reserve is Sri Lanka's top destination for birders, small Lahugala National Park is well worth visiting for avian encounters. Come in the late afternoon, when you can also watch elephants and buffalo grazing peacefully in the water-logged beru grass. The park's forests of tall satinwood, rosewood, and palu trees are home to dozens of species of forest birds, including the rare red-faced malkoha. Where to try it: For a pol roti meal in Colombo, drop in at the ever-popular Culture Colombo. Not far away is The Cauldron, a charming cafe that dishes up kotthu made with pol roti. Go for a lamprais brunch on Sunday If there’s one thing to try before you leave Sri Lanka, it’s hoppers ( aappa in Sinhala; appam in Tamil), bowl-like pancakes made from rice flour batter. With crispy edges and fluffy centers, plain hoppers are eaten with curries or a spicy sambal (chili paste) called lunu miris made with onions and dried red chili.The Vedda are the indigenous people of Sri Lanka. Originally forest-dwellers, their numbers have dwindled over the years due to migration, habitat loss, and assimilation into the nation's dominant Sinhala-Buddhist culture. Now scattered across the island in small numbers, some Vedda families still preserve their native language, cuisines and rituals in places like Dambana, an indigenous village and museum in the southern part of Maduru Oya National Park. Ride-hailing apps only work in Colombo and Kandy, but they are the most practical way to travel within the two cities while saving money. You have the option to book bikes, tuk-tuks, basic cars, and luxury vehicles. The monsoon season is also a great time to explore the country’s east coast with sandy beaches, a vibrant surf scene, and abundant wildlife. The period between June and August offers world-class conditions for kitesurfing in Kalpitiya. Things get quiet during the shoulder season in October and November, but you’ll be able to find cheaper accommodation options when the south coast slowly opens up. Take the airport bus Sri Lanka's landscape is impressively varied. Grand national parks are home to safari adventures, otherworldly coastlines circle the perimeter, and hilly tea country is at its heart.

Sri Lanka was one of the countries worst affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which swept away more than 35,000 people and devastated many coastal areas. Following the disaster, early warning systems have been put in place in major towns and resorts, but not in rural, isolated areas, so be alert to signs of earthquakes and tsunamis.

As the financial capital, Colombo is a transport hub from which trains spring off across the whole country. They travel east to the city of Kandy and down into Nuwara Eliya – a town in tea country. Northbound trains reach the cities of Anuradhapura and Jaffna. Most Lankan curries are based on coconut milk, with a blend of spices – including but not limited to chili, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, lemongrass, rampe (pandanus leaves), curry leaves, mustard, and tamarind. While elephants are the main attraction, Kumana is also a bird lover's paradise; keen birders might spot 100 species in one day. And, with an estimated 40 leopards roaming around, this park offers a very real chance of spotting Sri Lanka's most famous predator without being surrounded by other jeeps. Here are some additional ways to cut your expenses and visit Sri Lanka on a budget. Book your flights well in advance In Sri Lanka, buses fill the gaps train infrastructure can’t, connecting much of the country. There are both public and private buses to choose from.

Village buffalo curd: Sri Lanka’s go-to dessert, traditional village buffalo curd comes in clay pots and is traditionally topped with sweet, earthy kithul palm treacle. Goodfolks in Colombo sells kithul palm treacle in bottles.On the way there, you’ll rattle past rolling hills, paddy fields, lush stands of tropical forest, palm trees waving like giant hands and miniature village train stations with tin roofs and station attendants standing at attention in immaculate uniforms. You’ll also feel the air cool as you leave the baking coastal plain for the more pleasant climate of the hills. With such versatility, there are many different transport options. It’s nearly impossible to define a singular "best" way to move around Sri Lanka. Rather, it depends on where you are, where you're headed and what you enjoy. It takes a surprising amount of time to travel around Sri Lanka thanks to winding routes and the limited number of roads crossing the interior of the island. Traffic also has to navigate a variety of hazards including badly surfaced roads and roaming wildlife (buffaloes, cows, feral dogs and even elephants). To do the island justice, don’t rush. You’ll need at least a month for a circuit of the island with detours to national parks, ancient cities and tea plantations inland.

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