7 Reasons You and Your Children will Love Sri Lanka
Now is the perfect time to visit Sri Lanka. It is undiscovered enough that you will find empty beaches, authentic cuisine and low prices, yet tourist-driven enough that you will find everything you need to plan the ideal family trip with little ones. Sri Lanka also offers an excellent balance of travelling vs holiday; if you want a restaurant with a kids menu, a beach with shower facilities and resorts with laundry service you can have it all. And for the true Sri Lankan experience you can intersperse these luxuries with hikes around ancient ruins, unspoilt views, street-food to die for, elephants at the side of the road and 5p train journeys to the beach. Here’s a run-down of my top seven experiences of family travel in Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka is bursting at the seams with long stretches of beautiful, unspoilt beaches. Golden sand, dramatic waves and small coastal resorts bathed in warm sunshine are never too far away. It’s worth remembering that parts of Sri Lanka were badly hit during the 2004 Tsunami and seaside towns are now bittersweet pockets of resentment, kindness, sadness and hope. Many of the iconic stilt fishermen we were hoping to see had long since hung up their gear; if you pay them enough they will pose for you, but more interesting are the conversations you can have with them about the long, economical recovery process in these places and the effect it’s having on the locals. Now is the time to visit – there is a growing fear that the south coast will soon be a haven of upmarket high-rise resorts. Unawatuna, Mirissa and Weligama beaches provided us with picturesque views, pretty markets and a fearlessly refreshing surf.
The local trains
We’ll never forget the look of excitement on our children’s faces as they leaned out of the windows on the iconic blue trains which weave serenely around the luscious, green hillsides, smelling the misty air and waving to tea-pickers filling their baskets. Having early-risers in tow goes in your favour when you’re up at sunrise, walking along the train-tracks in search of Nine-Arch bridge in Ella – just make sure you jump to the side when you hear the familiar ‘toot toot’ coming your way!
Galle Old Fort
The adults in our gang loved walking along the ramparts of this eclectic old town, admiring the colonial architecture and window shopping for pretty shiny gems, while the kids explored the lighthouse and the Maritime Museum and ate all the ice cream in town!
Climbing the 1,200 steps to the top of Lion Rock in Sigiriya is doable with kids – baby-wearing has never been so picturesque. Our four-year-old managed with a combination of stamina, shoulder-rides and smarties and the ancient lion statues just before the final ascent make for great motivation too.
At some point on your Sri Lankan adventure you’ll be sipping freshly-brewed tea like an expert. Taking a tour of a tea factory is incredibly enlightening and very hands-on. Not to mention the tasty chocolate cake we were served alongside our taste test teacups. The flora in Sri Lanka is so vast and interesting; you can pick peppercorns at the side of the road and watch locals lug giant-sized cinnamon sticks on and off lorries.
Going on safari with children is one of the most precious experiences. The sparkle in the children’s eyes as they see the animals from their storybooks come to life a few feet in front of them is priceless. We saw hundreds of elephants in Minneriya National Park; it was a close-up education in these graceful giants and we were all kids again watching them move, eat, play and even play fight, alarmingly close to our vehicle. Approach with caution, however; the impact of tourism on the safari culture here left me with mixed feelings and I can’t say these humble elephants are entirely ‘wild’ anymore, sadly.
Most importantly, Sri Lanka is a celebration of culture at its finest. On our way to Kandy our driver pointed out a trio of temples from different religions standing side by side. The people are so friendly, honest and kind. The food is authentic, rich, clean and tasty. Being part of the Pujas ceremony at the Temple of the Tooth is a multi-sensory cultural feast – the music, the colours, the lotus flower offerings, and you can even pay your respects to Buddha’s precious tooth relic by bringing money and cake. The cave temples at Dambulla and ancient ruins at Polonnawura are great examples of the island’s hands-on educational experiences you won’t want to miss and, with a little research and understanding, are perfect for introducing your children to a beautiful part of the world’s history.
Sri Lanka is undergoing something of a transition. In some areas, such as the beaches and safaris, the changes are more evident and it’s worth taking the time to speak to the locals and gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which sustainable tourism could affect the community spirit so evident here. Sri Lanka is a good place full of good people, and if you take the time to appreciate its raw beauty, immerse yourself in its history and be mindful of its cultural relevance it will melt your heart and the memories you make with your family here will stay with you forever.
Our tailor-made holidays to Sri Lanka can include all these incredible activities – make an appointment to meet one of our Travel Experts or take a look through our range of Family Holidays for more inspiration.