Despite being about the size of Ireland, Sri Lanka is a vibrant country that’s rich in natural wonders, historic towns and downright gorgeous beaches. You may have already fallen in love with it during an extended gap year, an early 20s group getaway or perhaps even a romantic honeymoon – if so, Sri Lanka’s infinite appeal no doubt has you itching to return. But how do you choose the new hotspots for your second sojourn? We’ve got some top tips to help you discover anew this charming tropical island…
Done Yala National Park? Try Wilpattu
Famed for its leopard-dense wilderness, Yala is often considered Sri Lanka’s definitive national park, but it comes at a price. Although leopard sightings are high, it’s likely you’ll be observing these beautiful creatures amid a herd of other 4x4s. If you dream of a more peaceful encounter, head north to Sri Lanka’s largest national park, Wilpattu, where it’s not uncommon to go hours without seeing another vehicle. Leopard sightings may not be as sure as in Yala, but you’ll also be in with a chance of spotting crocs, eagles, sambhur, water buffalo, elephants and the elusive sloth bear, plus you’ll get the joy of a much more authentic safari experience.
Done Colombo and Kandy? Try the Cultural Triangle’s ancient cities
On your first trip to Sri Lanka, you probably spent a day or so in the bustling capital Colombo, and perhaps travelled inland to discover Kandy, the geographical, cultural and religious heart of the country. This time around, try stepping away from these high-profile urbanisations in search of Sri Lanka’s most ancient cities: Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Situated north east of the Hill Country, these magnificent sights contain crumbling temples, irrigation lakes and dagobas (solid mounds); Anuradhapura is also home to the scared Bo-Tree, believed to have grown 2,300 years ago from the tree under which Buddha became enlightened. Beyond, the Cultural Triangle region encompasses spectacular cave temples and rock fortresses, as well as elephant-filled national parks.
Done the south coast? Try the Kalapitya Peninsula
The south coast may boast sleek resorts and Galle’s colonial charm, but if it’s beautiful beaches you’re after, the Kalapitya Peninsula’s unspoilt sands and abundant wildlife are certainly not to be sniffed at. From November to February this is prime whale- and dolphin-watching territory, and all year round you can take boat trips out to colourful coral reefs to snorkel amongst tropical fish, stingrays and Loggerhead turtles. More active visitors also relish taking to the water for everything from kayaking to boogie-boarding; kite-surfing in particular is hugely popular between May and July. Back on dry land, the rhythm of local life is all around, and fishermen are often seen pulling in their huge nets with the day’s catch ready to go to market.
Done Sri Lanka? Add The Maldives!
Tried and tested by many i-escapers, our final tip is to round off your adventure with a few days in the Maldives. Flights from Sri Lanka take under 2 hours, and visiting as part of a short stopover makes this decadent destination much more wallet-friendly. The islands’ azure seas and powder-white sands also offer some unrivalled end-of-trip R&R; anyone who has spent the past few weeks hiking verdant tea plantations, discovering cultural wonders or wildlife spotting in dusty national parks will be thrilled to unwind here. After all, they don’t call the Atolls ‘paradise’ for nothing.