Within our first week in Sri Lanka, we just felt we were chasing the tourist track: Galle, Mirissa Beach and Ella. Don’t get me wrong, these places are all very beautiful–we just felt that we were missing the heartbeat of the country. We shifted our sails, and found some other wonderful destinations around the country.
To The East Coast: Trincomalee & Uppuveli
This part of the country has definitely seen a surge in attention over the years, but somehow maintains way fewer tourists than other beach destinations in Sri Lanka. Lucky for us, and always recommended to other travelers, we hit this area in the off-season. Not only were hotel rates cheaper, but it was just sleepy–in a wonderful way. We lounged on the beach (okay, I relax sometimes), and got to meet local fisherman there. We helped the men pull in their fishing nets and witnessed hundreds of small fish leap around on the beach as they brought in their daily catch.
A Sri Lanka Vacation In The Capital: Colombo
Typically I’m not a fan of cities, but Colombo has a distinct charm and diversity. We loved wandering the streets, sampling local snack staples like kottu, rotty, and hoppers. For our main meals, we sat down for rice and curry, eating with our hands as the locals do. At dusk, we strolled along Galle Face Green and saw families of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds spending time with one another, eating street food, flying kites, playing soccer, and swimming in the ocean. Colombo simply felt real, we could really feel its pulse.
To The North: Jaffna
Now we really felt like we were off the beaten path. Nobody mentioned Jaffna to us when we researched this trip, but somehow we became intrigued while on the ground. As we traveled by train into the country’s northernmost major city, the culture shifted also. Tamil culture in the north is vibrant: through the food, the people and the architecture. In many ways, Jaffna feels like a world away from the rest of Sri Lanka. We explored the surrounding region on motorbike and bicycle, witnessing parts of the city still recovering from the end of the region’s civil war in 2009. We were welcomed into temples (sans camera) and followed local customs. Similar to Colombo, Jaffna just felt like a real city that welcomed travelers to view their culture and nothing more. There were no over-the-top tourist attractions, and that alone made it more intriguing to us.
If you’re ready to get off the beaten track in Sri Lanka, I recommend reading beyond what you first see on Instagram. We did this during our honeymoon, and it made all the difference.
All photos by Emily Sierra Photography