The emerald isle has many places that will captivate you – and thrill your wallet. After landing in Colombo, make your way to Unawatuna – stopping at the Sea Turtle Sanctuary and Research Centre, Kosgoda.
If you’ve missed it, never mind – Unawatuna has its own bijou turtle sanctuary in Habaraduwa about 20 minutes away. Splash about off Unawatuna Beach, or go snorkelling and diving off Hikkaduwa (35km) with Poseidon Diving Station.
Galle, a short drive away, has attractions like the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is beautifully preserved. The Dutch Reformed Church and National Maritime Museum are little oases of calm and knowledge. Mirissa, down the coast, is justly famous for Mirissa Beach, from where you can take boat rides to spy on whales and dolphins.
Remember to sign up with responsible operators who don’t flout the rules; we recommend Mirissa Water Sports.
Surf’s up at Weligama, where you can take lessons at Surf n Lanka. Take a walk on Weligama Beach, known for its sandy bay, with lovely stretches around the island of Taprobane, and get a gander at the famous stilt fishermen there.
LEAVE ON A JET PLANE: Return flights to Colombo start as low as 202USD from Chennai or Bangalore, from Mumbai and 230 USD from New Delhi.
GET AROUND: Local tuk-tuks are fast and furious (from 1.5 USD). You can also hire local bikes or a car. Local buses are cheap, but are usually full. Private bus services are better and more comfortable (prices vary). Trains are great for inter-city travel – try the first-class observation decks.
STAY: Sri Lanka has plenty of fantastic options. We love Highbury Colombo, Colombo, The Dream House, Unawatuna, The Spice House, Mirissa and The Green Rooms, Weligam.
EAT AND DRINK: Outside of Colombo, eat locality delicious and cheap! At Unawatuna, head to beach- adjacent Kingfisher Restaurant to lounge on the beach with a beer. Definitely try the Arrack Attack cocktail and the cheesecake at Wijaya Beach Restaurant nearby. In Galle, you must visit Crepeology for the yummy French staple done right.
Mirissa’s No1 Dewmini Roti Shop serves a mean kotthu rotti (roti chopped up and mixed with veggies) and also holds cooking classes. Zephyr Bar and Restaurant is well known for cocktails. In Weligama, head to Meewitha Cool Spot for lipsmacking seafood. It also has plenty of vegetarian options.
WHEN TO GO: December to March is the busiest, driest, most expensive season. Aim for the shoulder seasons -the period before and after the monsoon – to be safe.