Sri Lanka has been voted as one of the go to destination in recent years and with ancient ruins, safaris, tea plantations and gorgeous beaches, that are not overcrowded, one can see why.
Torn up in a civil war for years, Sri Lanka was off limits for travelers but tourism has picked up after the quarter century war ended in 2009. A beguiling mix of Buddhist temples and Dutch and British heritage sites coupled with its golden beaches, Sri Lanka is fast catching on as an alternative to its neighbors in Asia.
Restricted by time we chose to travel to two destinations rather than make a mad dash to see everything possible. Our first stop was Yala National Park, on the south east edge overlooking the Indian Ocean. We rented a home overlooking a private beach and the view was stunning! Not a soul in site and a golden stretch of beach visible from from our window.
Jet lagged as we were, the advantage of every sunrise was ours.
Our sitting area, beautiful!
The safari was a bustle of jeeps at dawn but once inside the park there were only a few in a group and we were lucky enough to see a herd of elephants up close in the wild, including this baby with his mother.
We took a few day trips from the area and my favorite by far was to Buduruwagala.
1000 year old statues carved out of the rocks with some original stucco still visible. A collection of 7 images in the Mahayana style, with a 51 foot Buddha in the middle. This is considered the tallest Buddha statue in the world after the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001.
I have always had a fascination with the Buddha and have painted several Buddhas paintings that later became scarves.
This gorgeous lake was on the walk up to the carvings.
The second leg of our journey was in the historic fortified city of Galle, the administrative capital of the Southern Province. The Fort of Galle is a world heritage site and was built by the Portuguese and then fortified by the Dutch settlers. 400 years later the ramparts still hold and are an architectural delight, ideal for walking, running and seeing some glorious sunsets over the ocean. The fort has a large multi-ethnic population and number of the hotels inside the fort are still owned by the Dutch.
We stayed at a boutique hotel inside the Fort Prince of Galle, which is a 300-year old Dutch stable that was restored and converted to a hotel in 2016. With the unique attention to detail, the hotel retains the charm of a bygone era with modern day amenities.
The stained glass window (in the featured image) was commissioned by the owner from a local artist. Given my love for elephants it was lovely to wake up to this every morning.
With the best brewed Iced Tea that I have ever tasted, with powdered cinnamon.
And the Vietnamese coffee outside our bedroom every morning.
The Fort area is worth exploring on foot, with the Dutch Reformed Church being one. The floors are paved with gravestones from the cemetery.
We brought in the new year by lighting floating paper lanterns over the ocean, against a beautiful full moon backdrop. A magical site, that no camera could do justice to.
New Year was spent nearby on Unawatuna Beach, a magnificent sunset to end our stay.
A trip to remember, inspired by the architecture, natural scenery and time well spent with family, food, warm weather, and the friendliest people.