Five free things to do in Sri Lanka

2012-12-20 14:46

When Lonely Planet announced its top 10 destinations for 2013 earlier this year, it was refreshing to find the little tear-drop shaped island of Sri-Lanka at the top of the list.

Although the well-loved travel site dubbed it a cut-price paradise, a lot of budget travellers seem to disagree, citing exuberant prices to enter some of the country's most famous attractions. So, while we do suggest that you splash out on at least one or two extravagant spends (perhaps a visit to the Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary, which will cost about R200 or entering the famous citadel of Sigiriya for about R216), here are five awesome things to enjoy without spending a cent.

1. Visit the pretty village of Ella

Surrounded by tea plantation-covered hills as well as burgeoning jungles, the highlands village of Ella is located 23Km from capital city, Colombo at a Elevation of 1041m and provides the perfect spot from where to explore Sri Lanka's natural bounty. Walk all along the railway line, through lush vegetation, and discover hidden waterfalls and temples or spend some time finding out more about the way your 11 o'clock brew comes into being.

While you could make it a cheap and pretty easy day trip, you may want to stay on for a day or two in one of the numerous guesthouses run by locals.

2. Climb Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak is a mountain located a few hours from Colombo in the south-central hill district. What makes it special, however, is the fact that it's considered to be a ‘holy mountain' and also a religious pilgrimage site for Hindus, Christians and Buddhists. Between December and May every year, thousands of pilgrims make their way up the mountain after dark, with the idea of watching the sun rise from their and witnessing the legendary sri pada shadow, which forms a perfect triangle. Visitors are welcome to join in the annual trek.

While you could also climb up during the day, sticking to the way locals do it is probably best - as you avoid the heat of the day, and also get to experience the picturesque procession of lights. The climb takes about 3 hours, and warrants a bit of effort.

3. Visit some of the old colonial buildings

Colonised by both the English and the Dutch at different times, Sri Lanka still carries the vestiges of these European cultures in various forms. One of the most pleasing ways to explore this part of the country's past is to check out some of the beautiful old, colonial buildings dotted around Colombo, the hill district and the south west coast.

Many of them are currently being used to hotels, giving visitors the opportunity to explore free of charge. Galle Face Hotel in Colombo and The Grand Hotel in Nuara Ellia are two examples of grand British colonial architecture.

4. Hike to Lipton's Seat

Lipton tea has become something of a household name in tea drinking countries across the world, however, what many may not know is that it has its humble origins in the hills of Sri Lanka.

The original plantation can be found close to Haputale and still produces and sells a variety of teas. While you may be charged to do a tour of the plantation, visitors can hike up to the spot where mr. Lipton himself used to sit and look out over rolling green terraces free of charge. The hike takes between two and three hours and has been described as somewhat strenuous. The hike takes you up along steep back roads, through fragrant tea bushes and right among the plantation workers.

5. Bum around on the beach

Like one would expect from any island worth its salt, Sri Lanka is rimmed by a treasury of incredible beaches.

As with most coastal areas, some have become overly commercial in the past few years, while others are known as a paradise for laid-back surfers and sun-seekers.

If you want to experience Sri Lanka's coastal living at its best, head to the town of Unawatuna in the Galle District. A huge variety of beaches, coral reefs and mangrove forests are easily accessible from here.


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