Guest post by: Laura Weenink
Why Go to Sri Lanka with Kids
If you like variety, diversity, action adventure, beach and culture, Sri Lanka is your thing. One minute you’ll be feeling the sand between your toes, the next you’ll be dancing in the rain forest, or standing face to face with an elephant.
When choosing a family holiday destination we prefer nature and wildlife to big cities and we love learning about different religions and people. We got all this and more in Sri Lanka.
In fact, in Sri Lanka families are welcomed as VIP’s and the locals’ love children. We found the atmosphere to be very relaxed wherever we went. The sun was always shining, the food was delicious and the natural scenery was simply wonderful.
We spent 16 days here and to make the most of our time we decided to rent a van and great driver for nine days and then spent four days chilling at the beach. We created our own itinerary and route and had a blast.
A Family-Friendly Route in Sri Lanka
Since flights are cheaper from Brussels we flew from Zavetem airport instead of Amsterdam. We flew via Doha straight to Colombo and spent a night in Negomobo, just north of the island’s capital, before jumping into our van to begin our tour.
The Cultural Triangle
First stop was the Cultural Triangle and we spent three nights in Dambulla so that we could visit the area including Polonnuwaruwa and Sigiriya.
Our kids loved climbing Sigiriya, otherwise known as ‘Lions rock’. This is a huge rock formation in the shape of a lion but according to my daughter Pip it is more like a Dumbo shaped rock: “No dad can’t you see it is an elephant?”
This UNESCO site is the former palace of King Kassapa, strategically located on top of the rock and surrounded by magnificent water gardens. You can walk up 1,500 steps to the top, which takes around 40 – 60 minutes, but it’s definitely not for people who are afraid of heights as the stairs are narrow in parts. Younger kids might find the dizzying spiral staircases a little scary but according to our eldest “the lion king rocks, and is a piece of cake”.
Polonnaruwa is the second royal city of Sri Lanka and is an easy place to explore by foot, bike, car or tuk-tuk; being Dutch, we naturally opted for a bicycle! We rented two bikes with child seats and a guide. Often a guide and kids are not the best combination but ours was fantastic and our girls easily spent three hours, if not more, in the park listening to his amazing stories.
The hill country of Nuwara Eliya, often referred to as “Little England”, was one of our kids’ favourites stops on our trip. This area is characterised by beautiful landscapes, rugged natural parks, lots of fog and “green gold”, otherwise known as tea! Tea plucking, and drinking is not a thing we normally do in Holland so this was fun for them.
Ella & Little Adam’s Peak
At 1,141 meters high, Little Adam’s Peak was a much better option for our family than it’s big brother, Adam’s Peak that sits at 2,243 metres and which is a much more challenging climb. We started out around 9.30am and enjoyed a leisurely two-hour walk through tea plantations, past cow fields and endless lush landscapes. The views from the top are stunning.
Udawalawe National Park
One of the highlights of our trip was definitely Udawalawe National Park and both girls were huge fans of Master Campers, a luxury Safari Camp located just a three minute drive from the entrance to the reserve. This place was amazing and our waterfront tent was equipped with every conceivable luxury: bed, shower, toilet, sink and terrace.
We enjoyed two game drives and, thanks to Master tracker Roy, we spotted a huge number of animals including crocodiles water buffalos, deer, jackals and many, many peacocks living in trees. But the best part of the game drive according to Pip was when our jeep got stuck and we had to wade through the water. Out of nowhere a herd of elephants passed by.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Rainforest is a national park in the south of the island home to an amazing variety of flora and fauna – more than 60% of the trees in the Sinharaja Rainforest are endemic and many are considered rare.
Several day tours of the rainforest are offered but we decided to create our own ‘kid-friendly walk’ instead and hiked to a nearby waterfall (a three-hour round-trip). We took a guide with us and he pointed out things such as a 100-year-old vine, a green viper snake (very venomous!), a hump-nosed lizard, a wood spider, large snails, enormous black centipedes and – leeches! It had been raining cats and dogs the day before we arrived and the leeches were out in force. They’re not painful, but definitely not our thing. Wear long leggings and rub your socks and (closed) shoes with salt!
We finished our stay with four days at Bentota Beach, which our kids loved. It felt like we where the only visitors, since we almost had our own private beach. The kids created ‘sand donuts, took a mud bath, jumped over the waves. It was the ultimate relaxation.
The Best Part
Our trip consisted of highlights, the only thing our girls did not like where the traffic jams. Distances are relatively small and it’s easy to travel around Sri Lanka but don’t let Google Maps fool you! Roads are windy, there is a lot of construction and traffic can be very slow. Sometimes you need to be patient, sometimes travelling sucks!
The Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka
We visited Sri Lanka in Feb/ March and the weather was great. From December until March it is pretty crowded, so prices increase. April is shoulder season, so prices are at its best.
July and August are good months to visit, but it is high season so bring your wallet along. August also sees the southwest monsoon pass through, which usually means bright and sunny mornings with the occasional late afternoon shower. November is inter-monsoon season and the weather can be quite unsettled.
Three Things You Should Definitely Do
1. Take a safari in Udawalawe, this is the best place to spot elephants.
2. Enjoy the train trip from Nuwara Eliya to Ella (about 3 hours). This route runs through the most beautiful parts of Sri Lanka.
3. Visit “little England” or chill at one of the lovely beaches, such as Bentota on the south western coast.
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