For three weeks, using numerous trains, buses and the ubiquitous tuk tuk, we toured relentlessly through the major sites of the island known as the “Pearl of the Indian”, finding during our way a good portion of natural beauty and considerable cultural wealth, seasoned with frequent friendliness of its inhabitants, always curious by the presence of tourists and foreigners.

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This report is a brief summary of the memorable and intense journey that we made around Sri Lanka, giving priority to visual inspiration over information and data. In the case of some topics and places, we will complement this with other more specific stories.

From Pinnawala to the Cultural Triangle

After landing in the capital, Colombo, and visiting the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage – from which we extract a disappointment that we will explain in detail in another article -, we headed to an essential part of the trip, known for its cultural heritage and its significance in the history of the country, being linked to important events in their past and development.

Known as the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, it is an area that requires several days for being explored and enjoyed, as it forms an interesting route that includes temples, remains and ancient monuments in places like Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Sirigiya, Kandy and Anuradhapura, where we started to visit.

Worth a visit and mention, and impossible to summarise in a few words, many of these locations are UNESCO´s World Heritage Sites, such as the Ancient Cities of Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa, the Golden Temple of Dambulla and the Sacred City of Kandy. Some are illustrated by the images of this article and all have something that makes them interesting for the curious traveler, especially for those interested in the cultural aspect of a country marked by colonization, frequent wars and ethnic conflicts.

Notably, for animal and primate lovers, some of these areas are inhabited by the Toque Macaque of Sri Lanka, also known as “The Monkey Temple”. Because of the relentless destruction of their natural habitat, it has been forced to frequent urban areas for visitor’s curiosity and risk of their existence threatened, as we report here.

Nuwara Eliya and Safari in Udawalawe

From Kandy, medieval capital of the kings of Ceylon, located in the heart of the island, we continue the journey and embark course to Nuwara Eliya, where green reigns on the heights and temperatures drop considerably.

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Although slow, because of the terrain and the condition of the trains, we enjoyed a magnificent journey that is justified by the chance to see and photograph the generous landscapes that adorn the highlands of the country. It is here, in a land with no similarity to the rest of the territory, where the ideal environment is created to cultivate the considered as best tea in the world.

After visiting the plantations and trying the exquisite tea in Nuwara Eliya, among other various activities, we can not pass up the opportunity to make one of the available safaris in Sri Lanka. The popular Yala Park is closed, due to water shortages, but we are informed that Udawalawe is less crowded and is on our way to the south, so we choose it to spend a pleasant morning watching wild elephants and the rest of the local fauna.

South Beaches and Villages

We continue our way south, with the idea of investing several days to enjoy the good weather and spectacular beaches, in some of the mythical fishing villages in the area, especially desired by those travelers interested in practicing some surf.

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Such is the case of Weligama, known by the popular stilt fishermen, who work from a single pole in the chest-deep water on the beach, and for Taprobane Island, once residence of the popular writer Paul Bowles. We were also pleased with Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna, where you can appreciate the wild beauty of the Sinhalese coast, even though they are still working to recover the lost normality after the devastating tsunami of 2004.

Galle and Full Moon Day

After three weeks without hardly any rest, journey’s end is approaching. We take this opportunity to slow down and enjoy a relaxing stay in Galle, a major city whose bay is in use since ancient times, witnessing the passage of different European cultures, as evidenced by the significant colonial heritage that you can breathe in some areas.

To our surprise and enjoyment, one of these days is national holiday and commemorates the Binara Poya full moon day, of great importance for the female sector of the Buddhist community, as it marks the first time that women were accepted as nuns. Much of the local population meets in Galle Fort – also UNESCO World Heritage Site – where we are fortunate to live a wonderful and unforgettable experience that we recount in this other more detailed feature.

Once in Colombo, before taking the flight back to Madrid and put end to a unique and unforgettable trip, we decide to visit Guru Karunapala, great master and living legend of Angampora, the ancient martial art of Sri Lanka. Banned for years, by the British government, it is still alive thanks to those who brave enough to continue practicing this discipline in secret.

Text and Images © Nano Calvo
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