Sri Lanka: Anuradhapura & Habarana
5th month on the road and a new destination: Sri Lanka!, we landed in Colombo from Madurai, India. The flight was only one hour and we got through immigration very quickly. First stop Negombo. The city is very close to the airport and is on the coast, super touristic as almost everyone arriving on the island spends the first night(s) here and we did too! Then we wanted to go north and hit the so called “Cultural Triangle” of Sri Lanka. Connections from Negombo were not very good despite what we had read in several guidebooks and online. Also we got hit by another bacteria before leaving India and we were not feeling very well so we were looking for some convenient transportation. A car: too expensive! A motorbike: would have been quite fun but how to manage with our backpacks (10kg each)?, Daniel said “why don’t we rent a tuk tuk?” He had just read a few blogs about it and the idea looked perfect! Also the tuk tuk rental office was only 2 min. from our hotel in Negombo. Deal! The owner explained us the process to get a temporary Sri Lankan driving license (Daniel spent half a day at the transportation administration to get it but this is another story) and then the tuk tuk was ours!
Anuradhapura here we go!
After 6 hours of driving including a few stops, we finally arrived in Anuradhapura. The city has a lot of ruins and beautiful buddhist temples. The weather was very hot but we still managed to see most of the sites. The entrance fee is rather expensive (about 25 Swiss francs or US Dollars) for one single day per person. It was a bit of a shock to understand that almost every Sri Lankan historical site registered at the UNESCO is under the same regulation. For us, this meant a huge amount of our daily budget would be dedicated to the visits. This is the first time since we left that we encounter such high prices to enter the sites.
Our second stop was a little closer and only 60km away, Habarana. It was a perfect place as a base to explore the surroundings. There is a lot to see and do around here and it is not always easy to decide where to go.
One of the highlight of our stop in Habarana, was our Jeep Safari at Mynneria National Park to watch elephants in the wild. A beautiful experience even if we would have liked to see less vehicles around the elephants. Some of the jeeps were only transporting 2 people but the car had a capacity of 4 to 6.
We also visited the Dambulla Cave Temple and liked it very much. Our walk to the Habarana lake at sunset was so peaceful, the place is well known for birds watching and we saw quite a few interesting ones. And also to be/remain fit, our little exercise climbing the Pidurangala rock!
we did specifically enjoy
- Anurhadapura: the dagobas (or buddhist stupas) huge mystic domes found in the ancient city. The water tanks or ponds where people bath and where they collect lotus flowers for the offerings at the temples.
- Mihintale: one dagoba on top of a rock and a magnificient view on the jungle at sunset.
- Habarana: the lake for birdwatching!
- Dambulla: the cave temple, its dozens of buddhas and the beautiful frescoes on the walls.
- Sigiriya: The hiking-climbing of Pidurangala, “the other rock” of Sigiriya, from which there is a nice view of the Lion rock.
- Anuradhapura: Montana Rest a friendly B&B. The staff was nice and the food excellent.
- Habarana: Weaver Bird Villa a brand new guesthouse of only two rooms. The owner and its staff are friendly. The room was large and comfortable, it is located in a very quiet location only a few hundreds meters away of the Habarana junction.
We mostly ate at the B&B or guesthouses we stayed and enjoyed the local home cooked food!
Best Kept Secret Tip
Rent a tuk tuk to explore the beautiful Sri Lanka!
Alma Tours in Negombo was our rental company. The vehicle cost about 14 Swiss francs or US dollars per day. Also be prepared and arrange an international driving license (which we didn’t do before leaving our home country!) this will ease the process of getting a local license for you to drive the tuk tuk.