There are an abundance of places we’ve all looked at longingly from afar. Living in Doha, though, with its prime spot on the world travel map, these distant destinations are well within our grasp.
One such clime practically on our doorstep is Sri Lanka – an incredible island that ticks a plethora of boxes for all types of traveller. To discover it all in a week would be a task even Hercules would have baulked at. Instead hire a car from Colombo and head to Galle and Tangalle.
Once in Colombo you could take the coastal train to Galle. But if you prefer something a little more modern, try a road trip down the excellent Southern Expressway.
Once in Galle, you’ll have plenty of accommodation options available to you. The standout for us, though, is the tremendous Tamarind Hill (www.tamarindhill.lk). This lovingly preserved example of colonial architecture is a joy to behold and has some of the most welcoming staff and fantastic local food you could wish to find. Try and grab the corner room (No. 4) as it’s the most spacious and has a huge en-suite, four-poster bed, high ceilings and its own courtyard.
If you can tear yourself away from the hotel, take the short tuk tuk ride to Galle Fort. First built in 1588, this Unesco World Heritage Site has received painstaking renovation work, the care of which shines through. After strolling along the ramparts and taking in the views of the Indian Ocean and neighbouring cricket ground, meander through the narrow lanes where you’ll find plenty of tea rooms, restaurants and boutiques in which many local artisans sell their wares.
If by now you’ve worked up a hunger, take a detour to A Minute By Tuk Tuk (www.facebook.com/aminutebytuktuk), a fantastic sea view restaurant in the Old Dutch Hospital. Try the Sri Lankan prawn curry, it’s an absolute triumph.
To see another side of the city, have Tamarind Hill arrange a river safari along the Gini Ganga for you. As well as a vast array of birdlife, you’ll spot some massive river monitors and water buffalo gazing at you from the fields. If you’re an ape fan, though, you’ll be amazed at the volume of monkeys majestically leaping from branch to branch over your head. Simply a fantastic way to end any trip to this great city.
A mere 80km along the coast you will find the up-and-coming beach destination of Tangalle. In stark contrast to the more hectic destinations you’ll pass on your way, this seaside town has more of a sleepy feel to it and is therefore ideal for some mid-trip relaxation. If you really want to feel your cares drift away in the sea breeze, head for Unakuruwa, a fishing village that has a smattering of great restaurants and some cracking coastline.
We suggest booking yourself into a villa at Aga Surf View (www.agasurfviewtangalle.com), a superb spot right on the beach, which is run by the fantastically friendly Najee and his buddy Sampath. Walk out of the gate here and you’ll find yourself at one of the most popular surfing spots in the area, which is also home
to a crew of fishermen whose catch of the day the guys at Aga Surf View will happily barbecue for you in the lodging’s café.
Tangalle is famous for its beaches, with Goyambokka, Silent and Medilla arguably the pick of the lot. There are also a number of festivals during the year so time your trip right and you can join the party.
Although most tourists to the south will be drawn towards Yala National Park in the hope of spotting some leopards, there’s nothing to say you have to follow the herds. So, for a night out, join the tireless gang at Rekawa Turtle Watch and, if you’re lucky, you’ll witness (and help) hundreds of hatchlings break for the sea. The experience will live with you forever.
The Sri Lankan capital is in stark contrast to the serene South, but absolutely worth a visit. One of the best (and most fun) ways to see it is by hopping from sight to sight in a tuk tuk. Colombo has great museums, galleries and colonial architecture to marvel at. If you’re in the mood for a sunset stroll, pop to the popular Galle Face Green, where you’ll find a number of trucks selling local cuisine. However, for a true taste of Sri Lanka, grab a plate of kottu from Hotel Pilawoos (www.pilawoos.lk) on Galle Road – a tremendously tasty and fabulously bargainous bite. Just down the road you’ll find Drift BnB (www.facebook.com/driftbnb),
a cheap, clean and welcoming place to rest your head at your trip’s finale.
Where to stay
Prices at Tamarind Hill Galle vary. Visit www.tamarindhill.lk or call +94 11 576 9500. Aga Surf View in Tangalle costs QR275 per villa, per night including breakfast. Visit www.agasurfviewtangalle.com or call +94 77 920 7322. Drift BnB in Colombo costs from QR245 per room, per night including breakfast. Book via
Etihad Airways flies to Colombo via Abu Dhabi from QR885. Visit www.etihad.com.