Sri Lanka In 8 Days: The Best Things to see (Plus My Misadventures!)

In ASIA, BLOG, SRI LANKA, USEFUL GUIDES by Clelia Mattana62 Comments


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It was the 8th of July, a day like any other day when I received a very exciting email: “Congratulations! you’ve been selected as a hosted blogger for the first TBC Asia Conference held in Sri- Lanka in November!”
Sri-Lanka? That email shouldn’t have come at a better time! I was in Sardinia at the time and  I was already planning to go back to Asia around those dates, and I always wanted to visit this mysterious land. Simply perfect!
But what exactly was I expecting to see in Sri Lanka? The first image that crossed my mind was a beautiful leopard in the wild, but not much more.
As usual, even if I wanted to visit the country, I never consulted any travel guide. In addition to that, there was not much information from other bloggers out there. Not that I knew about anyway.



I virtually put my Indiana Jones hat on, and the 12th of November, after some trouble with packing all my stuff, I was well ready to discover all about that beautiful land. Or at least that was what I thought.

I didn’t consider that other than my Indiana Jones adventurous side, I also hide (not very well in fact) a clumsy, unlucky Bridget Jones side.

I was feeling so confident, that at the moment of buying my travel insurance, I let it start at the time I was arriving in Thailand, immediately after the epic Sri-Lanka trip.

After all, the trip was less than 10 days long, an organized trip with tons of other people, what could possibly go wrong?!

I know you’ve already figured out that my trip wasn’t as smooth as I thought, but this fact is actually the main reason why I am 100% positive that I will be back to Sri-Lanka! I try to see the bright side in everything, including my travel disasters.

But first things first. Let’s talk about my first blissful days and the incredible experiences I still managed to have!







The pleasant surprises started as soon as I boarded the plane, greeted by the lovely hostess wearing the traditional uniform. Even though I’ve flown several times with Asian companies, the Sri Lankan Airlines‘ official uniforms were rather unusual for my westernized eye!




sri lanka airlines uniform

Hostess wearing the Osaryia, the traditional costume, showing the belly


What surprised me the most was  the fact that they were showing their belly. I have to admit that I was puzzled at first, as I thought that showing the belly in Asian countries was considered an outrageous practice.

It turns out that it’s not like that everywhere. See what happens when you don’t read travel guides? you will always be surprised!

As soon as I arrived at the hotel, the receptionist was also wearing the traditional Osaryia, with her belly exposed. Sinhalese women proudly shows their tummies, which don’t have to be flat or super skinny, as our western idea of beauty dictates.

This is one of the reasons why traveling fascinates me so much: each culture is unique, including the concept of beauty and body shape. Sri Lankan women with their tummies, Thailand, and most of the South east Asian countries with their obsession for white skin. 

Travel can really open your mind, and change your perspective. The world doesn’t revolve around our western standards after all (and I’m actually very grateful for that!).


Do you want to learn more about the traditional Osaryia, and read about interesting facts on Sinhalese typical dresses? Check out this article, it includes beautiful pictures and fascinating information. I loved it!







On our first day at Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, the plan was to take a tour around Colombo, but the lazy bum in me decided that I’d rather go for a relaxing afternoon, trying a mud massage in the hotel SPA (one word: AWSOME!).

What I didn’t know was that being lazy would have given me the fantastic opportunity to witness to a traditional Sinhalese wedding, also known as “Poruwa Ceremony”.

I went to my room and grabbed my camera to document the whole SPA experience. I then headed downstairs to sit outside and enjoy the pool with the lake view.

As soon as I reached the lobby, I instantly knew that something big was going on: Drummers and dancers were parading in traditional costumes, surrounded by a crowd of finely dressed people.

I was trying to find my way to the back exit, when I saw her: a stunningly beautiful bride, all dressed up in a traditional ivory dress, posing for the photographers. I was in awe, she was sitting just a few meters away from me, and I took some incredible pictures of her and the groom together. What an experience! The surprise, being in the right place at the right time, and being able to sneak into a traditional wedding. That was indeed my lucky day! (To see more pictures of the event, check out my Photo Gallery!)


I think I have a sixth sense for spotting weddings or wedding proposals on the road: It all started in NY, when I took some lovely pictures of a guy on his knee, proposing to his girlfriend on a sunny afternoon in Central Park. Then it was the turn of the Cambodian wedding,  in the suggestive frame of the Angkor Wat temples, and now again, here in a fantastic Hotel in Sri Lanka. I was so excited! Should I take this as a sign to change my mind, and finally overcome my aversion to getting married? who knows..

The “Poruwa” is the traditional decorated wooden platform, where the bride and the groom exchange their vows in the Sinhalese wedding (with Buddhist influences). To know more about this beautiful ceremony, the special rites and other interesting facts on Sinhalese weddings read here! By the way, after the event I took a picture on the Poruwa placed in front of the swimming pool, too bad that my mobile is crap and the picture was too dark!






Perfect timing indeed, as after the wedding pictures I was about to have one of the most relaxing experiences of the year at the AZMAAR SPA . When it came to deciding what kind of treatment to have, my first request was “Do you also have a Jacuzzi?”.

For those who don’t know me, I have a thing for swimming pools and Jacuzzis. No wonder why I loved my stay at Cinnamon!(and no, the fact that they kindly paid for our stay has nothing to do with that, I actually paid for my SPA treatment and was so worth the 25$!).

So, what about the Jacuzzi then? not only did they have one, but I was thrilled to discover that I had a PRIVATE ROOM just for me to use, meaning: I was in Paradise.

I was literally drooling! The massage took place in a room on the left of the Jacuzzi room, where I was covered in mud and wrapped like a spring roll with plastic and then covered with a blanket.

The lady massaged my head for a few minutes to release the tension and then left me alone to enjoy the music and the oriental scents.


The plastic wrap covered my entire body so I couldn’t move, but I felt so relaxed that I fell asleep for a few minutes. After the treatment, they left me alone to enjoy a jacuzzi full of bubbly water, candles and rose petals everywhere. Uhmm excuse me, I’m not the bride, but you can leave the petals and the candles, wow, I was giggling for the excitement πŸ™‚



For those who love SPA treatment, there is one serious side effect: you’re going to be late for any scheduled activity afterward, as you won’t want to leave. EVER!





Finally, after the first official day into my Sri Lankan trip, we were ready for some real adventure: the Elephant Safari in Kaudulla National Park, where these majestic creatures live freely in their natural habitat.

This was my  first safari ever, so you can imagine my excitement! I obviously already saw elephants before, but my feelings towards them were far from being exciting.

I only saw them being miserable, used to entertain the tourists in Thailand and Cambodia, mistreated and beaten up. Traveling long term changed me a lot. I’ll be honest with you: Before the trip, I didn’t give a damn about how animals were treated (that’s what ignorance does to people, and I’m very ashamed of admitting it now).

I grow up thinking that the elephants, lions and tigers performing at the local circus were doing just fine.Now that I know the truth, I appreciate their company only if it’s in their natural habitat. So I considered this safari as the first time I REALLY saw elephants in my life.

I could write a thousand words about my experience at Kaudulla Park, but I will only say that, after taking hundred of pictures of them for a good 15 minutes, I just stopped.I placed my camera on my backpack and felt a bit stupid. For the first time in my life, I could admire these creatures in the wild, and I didn’t want to see them through the camera lens!

So I sat back and simply enjoyed their slow movements through the window of the car. I had already taken many pictures, and I was sure they weren’t any different, let alone better, compared to the others. I wanted to keep this special moment imprinted in my memory, rather than just on a camera.

It was the wisest decision I made on that trip, and I’ll never forget those quiet moments inside the car enjoying their presence and forgetting about the frenzy to capture every instant on a camera.

elephants kaudulla park sri lanka safari


Elephants are some of the most incredible creatures alive, let’s spread a bit of awareness on how they should be left alone in their natural environment. Don’t be blind like I was. We might not save the world by avoiding riding them for fun, but we can at least show a bit of respect for them. Please take the time to read this article, it’s truly enlightening.



Or better known as “The Bollywood remake of Rocky Balboa’s movie”



Click on the image and see for yourself on the Gallery πŸ™‚

I’ve been hinting about my Bridget Jones’ side since the beginning of this post, so what in hell happened to me? First of all, I want to reassure you all: the misadventure I’m about to talk about has nothing to do with Sri Lanka. No, I wasn’t bitten by some nasty insect nor was I hit by one of the elephant’s trunk. You can relax!

So here’s the story: the morning after our epic safari, we had to climb the famous Sigiriya Rock. When the alarm woke me up, everything seemed to be normal. At least until the moment I opened my eyes: how can I put it? it was like someone placed a thousand of needles into my eyes. The pain was excruciating. I thought that maybe I could make it go away with some strong painkillers.


sigirya rock sri lanka

Photo credit:

When we reached the mountain by bus, the situation was totally out of control. I started tearing like crazy, and the light further increased the pain. I had to call one of the organizers of the tour and explain the situation. I couldn’t climb the mountain in these conditions. Hell, I couldn’t even think straight because of the pain.

I was in HELL! every time I tried to blink, the pain was unbearable.

The organizers, upon checking on my condition, sent me straight to the local hospital, but the doctor couldn’t tell me what in hell was wrong with me. I had to go 3 hours away, to Kandy, where a specialist could properly check me and hopefully give me the right cure.

On the back of that van, I experienced how right was Einstein with his relativity theory. Three hours stretched into “forever”. I will be eternally grateful to the TBC Asia organizers for taking great care of me. They called the hospital in advance, to make sure I was checked asap and booked a room for me at their local Hotel in Kandy, so that I could spend the night there and rest.



Turned out that they might have saved my vision. Yep, the specialist tried to check my eyes, but it was impossible. My tearing wouldn’t stop (to give you an idea, I used four full rolls of toilet paper in three hours). He had to put anesthetic drops in my eyes. After 1 minute, the pain was gone.

I was re-born! I didn’t care about my Rocky Balboa looks, screw the looks. THE PAIN WAS GONE!

He told me I had Keratitis, and that I severely ruined my cornea. He prescribed some steroid drops and stated that I had been lucky, and if left untreated, this condition could lead to total blindness.

Being a Hypochondriac, I was literally freaking out. I started googling this Keratitis (don’t ever do it) and read some horrible stories on wrong diagnoses, a few of them mentioning the same medicine the doctor gave me.



Shit, now what??! I was all by myself, the anesthetic effect was starting to fade and I was in pain again, with the nice prospect of getting blind.

Ironically I didn’t even need to cry as I was already tearing the whole damn day. I decided to trust the doctor and use the drops. It got worst than ever.

From a freaking out phase, I went straight to the panic phase. I was going to be blind forever. I was sure. The drama queen in me decided to have one last look at the world. I opened the curtains and went to the balcony, and I was greeted by this view..

I saw something that resembled a lovely swimming pool, and I thought that at least I had something nice to remember when I would be totally blind. I closed the curtains again, and before going to bed I decided to give the drops one last chance. This time it worked! I was quickly getting better and the pain finally subsided.

The next morning I still had a bit of a Rocky Balboa look, but I could finally see again (with my glasses on, not a chance I’m putting in contacts in the immediate future).

The Nightmare was finally over!

hotel-by-night blurred





Missing out so many beautiful adventures in Sri Lanka because of this problem, made me want to come back even more, and made the rest of the trip even more memorable. You don’t know what you have until you lose it. So true.






With my Rocky Balboa look finally behind me, I was ready to visit the lovely city of Galle. The day was fantastic, sunny and warm but to my disappointment, we only had less than one hour to visit this gracious small town.

Ah well, I learned my lesson well in the past few days, so I decided to make the most out of it and off I went for a short walk on the colorful streets and old colonial churches, to finally end up on the beach, where a surprise was waiting for me!

I should re-name this trip as:  “Sri Lanka, the land where the best and worst things happen when least expected!”

Below are 3 of the highlights of the Galle area. Even if I managed to stay just for a short time, I highly recommend it. You’ll fall in love with this pretty little town immediately!



Such a pity that I didn’t have enough time to explore the area, as this beach is just a few minutes away from Galle city. Beautiful isn’t it?! Galle is situated on the south coast of Sri Lanka and it’s a very good starting point to relax on some great beaches like this one!


Galle is a lovely colonial colorful town, famous for its fort and the beautiful lighthouse where you can admire the nearby rocky beach. You can easily walk around town where the atmosphere is so relaxed, with a mix of Catholic churches and typically Asian Tuk Tuks. 


I loved Galle because I wasn’t expecting it to be so different from the other Asian cities. It reminded me of some pictures I of South American towns. I also loved the variety of transportation: from old carriages parked on the side of the streets to modern buses and motorbikes.


monitor lizard similar to the one we saw in galle


Our time in Galle was very short, so we decided to take a quick walk on te pier to admire the lovely scenery, and there we found a weird surprise. My friend was looking towards the beach, when he spotted what seemed to be a very long tail.

He called me to have a look and, oh boy! was that a huge lizard?! I couldn’t  really say, as the mysterious beast promptly run away and hide behind a rock.

We tried to intercept it on the other side of it and after a minute, there it was: a huge monitor lizard clumsily running away on the beach. Like a four-year-old kid, I started chasing it to take a picture (mission failed, this one is not the one we saw, but it’s very similar).

So if you ever go to Galle, keep your eyes wide open as you could run into one of these beautiful creatures! 




-The things and activities I missed and want to see next time I will visit the country-

polonnaruwa sri lanka


My fellow bloggers colleagues who were able to see this Unesco Heritage site said it was an awesome experience, so it’s definitely on my “to do list” for my next Sri Lankan trip!



This one wasn’t difficult to guess! I’m so fascinated with the leopards, and Yala National Park is one of the best places to spot them. I’m willing to go there as many times as necessary to see one! That’s my mission.



Since I already had a glimpse of this majestic rock when my misadventure began, it goes without saying that I have to finish what I started. I’m going to climb it and finally admire the beautiful view from the top!

cinnamon red colombo sri lanka


Who wouldn’t love an infinity pool like that? Cinnamon Red was one of my highlights and I want to be back there ASAP! The place is really fantastic, modern and elegant. If you want to see the other amazing hotels we stayed in, you can check them in here (I created a special box for them, so worth it).



Together with swimming with the Whale Sharks, this is on of my biggest dreams ever. I love the sea, and its wildlife and whale watching must be an experience like nothing else!I checked out the reviews, and they convinced me to try it even more!



I admit it, when I was confirmed for the TBC Asia conference, I didn’t think about booking a flight to the nearby stunning Maldives, before heading to Thailand. How stupid of me! The flights from Sri Lanka are very convenient, so next time I won’t miss the opportunity!





Special thanks to Cinnamon Hotels who kindly hosted us for the trip, I truly enjoyed my stay. Below is a recap of where we stayed:


Conveniently located in the city center, one hour from the airport

Ok, Ok, you got it! I really enjoyed my stay at Cinnamon Red! The rooms have an incredible full wall window, while upstairs the infinity pool and the rooftop bar sealed the deal. Simply Awesome!



One hour south from Colombo and one 1 north from Galle

My goodness, what a place! right in front of the beach, a huge swimming pool, a few lounges with live music bars and comfy sofas. And what a dreamy view from the balcony: Palm trees and the beach!




Central location, 10 min from Crescat Boulevard Shopping Mall.

This Hotel has anything you’ll ever think of and even more: Swimming pool with lake view, lounge, conference rooms, night club, gym, Spa and a lovely floating boat with a restaurant and bar.



40 minutes away from Kaudulla National Park (Elephant Safari)

We didn’t sleep in here, but at a lovely hotel nearby: the Chaaya Village. We went to the Lodge for dinner and I was swept away by its beautiful swimming pool and relaxed vibe. To die for!





My trip to Sri Lanka was made possible thanks to: Sri Lankan Airlines, who paid for my flights, Cinnamon Hotels who kindly hosted us in their beautiful hotels, Mobitel who provide me with a super useful Sim card, CVisit Sri Lanka for organizing the transportation. Big thanks goes to  TBC Asia and the PTBA Association for the great learning opportunity. Special thanks to all the amazing organizers of this incredible event, in particular to Pramukshi Kariyawasam and the other staff members, including the lovely driver who escorted me to Kandy’s Hospital, for taking great care of me during my mis-adventure and for their awesome job!

Other Useful Guides:

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  1. It’s always so cool reading your articles! You have shared the information with beautiful pictures representing your story! I hope these are really helpful for me and the future trip planners.

  2. Hello!
    Lovely post about Sri Lanka vacation, including all the details! I want to travel there in the coming month and your post gives a lot of insight about the travel destination of the country with many things that need to be considered. This post is really helpful.

  3. Sri Lanks very nice island to visit in south asia. Its have fully natural places & eyecatching pic we take

    1. Author

      Sri Lanka is indeed a great place to visit, I highly recommend it!

    1. Author

      Yeah I bet they are, Would have loved to try one!

  4. Sri Lanka is an Eden for wildlife and wildlife lovers alike. The island may be small, but the animals are big. Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to see wild elephants, with over 5,800 Asian elephants roaming the green pastures of the Minneriya, Kaudulla, Wilpattu, Yala and Udawalawa national parks. I recently started my own Sri Lanka travel blog where I shared my experience so upcoming travelers can get ideas.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your comment Mani! Sri Lanka is such an incredible place! Can’t wait to go back πŸ™‚

  5. Me and my wife we had a great holiday in sri lanka and we got a such friendly cabs service in kandy.

  6. Heartwarming Article about Sri Lanka, In the article I noticed you trying out our traditional costumes and you look really beautiful in Saree. P.S the monitor lizard scene is hilarious. Keep the good posts coming. Cheers.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your lovely comment Rachita πŸ™‚ Sri Lanka is so beautiful!

  7. I am really surprised to see the wonderful facts that you have written about Sri Lanka.

    Pictures are so beautiful and information are useful to Sri Lankan Trip Planners

  8. No doubt Sri Lanka is a beautiful place and one can’t visit the beauty in a weak. By the way this was brief and well written article. I loved to read.
    I am also a travel enthusiast and love to explore. I have created a list of my own top 10 places in my country. I hope you will love to have a glance.

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  10. Love the pictures, Have to say you have put lots of information. Great stuff.
    BTW, I will be going to Sri Lanka soooon, sooo cant wait πŸ™‚

    1. Author

      Thanks Kathiya! I hope you’ll have an amazing time in Sri Lanka, beautiful place πŸ™‚

  11. I hope to visit Sri Lanka for my holidays. What are the places that you recommend me to visit , I just have 7 days.

    1. Author

      Hey Mary,

      In 7 days I’d say to go to the national Park to try and spot the leopards and then a visit to Galle and Sigiriya (if you have some time left,definitely go for a Safari to see the elephants!!)

  12. You’re blog is a goldmine filled with wonderful stories. And what a wonderful thing to find this Sri Lanka post as we’ll be heading there next year. We did read though that if we wanted to swim with the whales we’d a permit or go with an expedition since it’s either really expensive or illegal. Haha. But thanks for sharing the wonderful highlights

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    1. Author

      Awww thanks dear, you’re so kind! Too bad we just managed to properly talk the last day! πŸ™

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  19. I am in Sri Lanka at the moment, such a great place! It definitely is worth getting to Polunnaruwa, its great! The whales though were a waste of time. We only saw small slithers in the distance and put up with 4 hours of a rough boat ride for that with people vomiting everywhere. Head to Argentina instead – they are totally amazing there!!

    1. Author

      Seriously? such a pity! one of the other bloggers that attended the TBC Asia went to see the whales and she took amazing pictures! maybe it wasn’t the right season? And I will definitely go to Argentina, never been and it’s on top of my dream list! One of my friends just went back from Sri Lanka and loved it, but unfortunately she didn’t see any leopards, they were hiding somewhere, shy creatures! πŸ™‚

    1. Author

      Indeed it is, it’s in between the Indian and the South East Asian culture. Truly Unique vibe in there. So unique that one of my friends was convinced by this post to book her holidays in Sri Lanka and she’s flying to Colombo as we speak πŸ™‚

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  21. Very nice review of Sri Lanka. I think it’s refreshing and adventurous for travelers like to visit there. Some whole new experience will help me realize the beauty and wonder of that place.

    Thanks for sharing.

  22. Hi Clelia
    Nice report and I am glad that the doctor fixed you ;-). I was also surprised to see the belly showing with the Osaryia. Totally agree with your comment about not reading travel guides πŸ˜‰ Plus I would also advice people not to read the repetitive articles in the flashy magazines. Reports like yours are much more realistic.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Author

      Thanks Kristin! I love to write about the places I visit in my own way (aka the real deal!) Despite the misadventure and all, I loved the country and its particular way of life!

  23. Clelia my sweetie!

    It’s always so refreshing reading your articles, beautiful pictures and your story! Glad you are feeling 100% now

    Annie ox

    1. Author

      Thank dear! When are we going to travel together to some awesome place?! Miss you girl! xo

  24. Clelia, i need to tell you I devoured this post in a few minutes πŸ™‚ I can’t stop falling in love with your blog and your funny and disastrous little adventures around the world

    1. Author

      What can I say? when you have a trademark, it’s difficult to change it! I hope I won’t get devoured by a Leopard next time I’ll visit Sri Lanka πŸ™‚

  25. What an experience! Glad everything turned out okay with your eyes, that must have been very scary. Those hotels you stayed in look amazing.

    1. Author

      Thanks Claire! Yes the Hotels were awesome! well everything except for my misadventure was great πŸ™‚

  26. Oh my God, I would have totally freaked out as well! πŸ™‚ Really sorry you didn’t get to enjoy your stay to the fullest, but I like the attitude: it’s a perfect excuse to go back πŸ™‚

  27. Gosh, what an eventful time you had! I don’t know how I would have coped if it was me with the whole eye situation – but I’m so glad it turned out OK in the end.

    In any case, your beautiful pictures and summary of your trip have made me want to go to Sri Lanka (and the Maldives…) even more now! Those hotels look especially beautiful!

    1. Author

      Yes, pretty scary, but it ended well! as per Sri Lanka, oh I’m so going back! at least 2 weeks are the minimum (+1 in the Maldives of course!)

  28. Oh my gosh poor you and your eyes! I had pink eye once so that’s the only thing I can compare it to, and it was complete hell. I’m glad things were ok in the end! I also have a bit of a Bridget Jones side…something always seems to go wrong. Makes for a good story in the end though πŸ˜‰
    PS: your photos are gorgeous, love the elephants!

    1. Author

      The Bridget Jones side is actually a part of me that I’m very proud of. I don’t want to be the perfect traveler. So boring!! (as long as I stay alive it’s all good!) . The elephant experience was absolutely amazing, next time is the turn of my beloved Leopards!

    1. Author

      Great, so from the “antisocial” girl in the building, I’m now the “workaholic” one… I’m slowly improving my rankings πŸ™‚

  29. Author

    Thanks Erin, I was very lucky in the end! Can’t wait to go back πŸ™‚

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