Following on from our first big family travel adventure to Costa Rica, we have just returned from our next big trip- Sri Lanka! Travelling with a baby in tow most certainly does bring with it new challenges (Where can I find space in my luggage to pack all of the nappies? Will baby sleep on the plane? What will I do without my perfect-prep machine?!), but it is so much more fun! OK, so I no longer have time to read the obligatory holiday fiction or have afternoon naps by the side of the pool, BUT I get to watch how excited my baby girl gets when she sees a monkey run past us, see how fascinated she is by the local people who don’t look the same as we do and watch her face when she first tries all of those delicious exotic fruits! Baby sensory eat your heart out!
If you’re worried about taking your little one to Sri Lanka, don’t be! Sri Lankans love babies and in many cases my daughter was the biggest tourist attraction around with locals lining up to kiss her and to say hello! There are medical facilities all over the place in case of an emergency, there is a variety of food available and there are plenty of baby shops in the cities to buy any supplies that you need.
There are so many wonderful places to visit and things to do in Sri Lanka and we couldn’t possibly do it all in 2 weeks… but we gave it a good try! Here is our itinerary-
Our first visit was to the elephant orphanage in Pinnawala. This was the first time Isla had seen elephants and she was fascinated, her little face was adorable! It was lovely to show her elephants that were not being paraded around for tourists and that were well treated.
This is a huge complex of active temples and stupas. The architecture was beautiful and it was wonderful to experience the serenity and peace of the Buddhists in this area.
Sigiriya rock plateau, formed from magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters high and is surrounded by jungles. It is home to an ancient fortress complex which includes remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys and fountains. The climb is a good work out (especially with an 8kg baby on your back!) but the views on the top are worth than worth it!
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is one of the best planned archaeological relic cities in the country and is declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. You can hire a bike or have a driver to take you around to see all of the individual sites on the complex.
Kandy is a large city and we travelled here to see the temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa) shrine. The temple houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. According to Sri Lankan legends, when the Buddha died in 543 BC, his body was cremated and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral by his disciple. A belief then grew that whoever possessed the tooth relic had a divine right to rule that land. The temple was heaving with Sri Lankan tourists during our visit as there was a special ceremony being held. There was music, incense and candles and we queued for an hour to get a 15 second look at the tooth relic through a small hole in the temple wall. It was a truly authentic experience which isn’t something you always get as a tourist. It was also a complete attack on the senses… who needs a baby sensory class when you can visit an active temple in Sri Lanka?!
Nuwara Eliya is a city in the tea country hills of central Sri Lanka. The drive here was stunning and had the opportunity to visit some tea plantations and factories. It was like stepping back into the Victorian era and to be able to see such strong evidence of British colonialism in the area was like stepping back in time! Liptons anyone?
This was one of the highlights of our trip (and excellent Kilimanjaro training!). Adam’s Peak is a 2,243m tall conical mountain located in central Sri Lanka. It is well known for the Sri Pada, or “sacred footprint”, a 1.8 m rock formation near the summit, where it is believed that Buddha once stepped. It is also believed by the Christian community that this is the place where Adam first set foot on earth. The climb takes between 2 1/2 – 5 hours and we were super impressed to do it in 3 hours whilst carrying baby Isla! With around 5500 (very steep!) stairs, it was rather torturous on the thighs, but I did achieve my highest ever daily step count on my Fit Bit with over 30,000 steps!
Our next stop was Yala national park which is home to wildlife such as leopards, elephants and crocodiles, as well as hundreds of bird species. We visited in the hope of seeing a leopard as this isn’t common on safaris but unfortunately they were all busy hiding on this day… It was a lovely area however and we did get up close to some elephants and buffalo though which was pretty cool.
We finished our trip with some ‘down time’ by visiting a beach resort near Bentota. We more or less had a private beach which was lovely and completely unspoilt- exactly what we love from a good beach! Whilst here we visited a turtle hatchery where they rescue turtle eggs and then release them into the sea once they are ready. We also paid a visit to the famous Unawatuna beach which had a cool hippy vibe and great shopping opportunities.
All in all we had an action packed two weeks that was great fun not only for mum and dad but for baby too. Isla might not remember this trip in years to come but it was amazing for her development- she still gets excited when I say ‘monkey’ (although I am generally referring to cuddly toys here in the UK), she learned to point at interesting things and she even started crawling during this trip! This leaves me with fantastic memories that I will share with her when she is older.
Thinking of taking your children to Sri Lanka? Do it!