Our first taste of Asia was a taste we will never forget. In 1998, we booked flights to Sri Lanka, armed with the latest copy of Lonely Planet and not really knowing what to expect. The sights, sounds, experiences and people we met on this trip will live with us forever, we were in love with Asia and we were in love with Sri Lanka. Fast forward nearly 25 years and we now live in Asia, and have returned to Sri Lanka many times, never getting bored of what we consider the perfect island escape. Want culture and history? You have it. Want to dive and surf? You have it. Want to explore ancient religious sites, tea plantations and national parks? You have it. You get the picture, Sri Lanka is simply the perfect island escape as it has so much to offer, literally something for everyone.
Sri Lanka has fallen on hard times post-Covid, as tourism showed signs of returning after a financially devastating hiatus, the country found itself plunged into a political and economic crisis. Protests and travel restrictions have once again caused travel to suffer, and in turn all those who depend on tourism for their survival have also suffered. We were convinced that despite these challenges, now was more than ever the time to visit Sri Lanka. Our decision turned out to be correct, as we were welcomed with open arms, smiling faces and a general sense of overwhelming appreciation that we had stood by Sri Lanka when it needed it most. The current crisis has led to fuel shortages across the country, with people queuing for days in the hope that there will be a delivery of much-needed fuel. More than ever we needed a professional transport service, and the team of Yenara were exemplary in their communication, reassurance and most importantly the transfers across the country they provided. We used them four times during our trip and each time we couldn’t have been happier. Modern vehicles, courteous drivers and punctuality, everything you need from the carrier you have chosen. We paid a little more than the “normal” rate due to rising fuel prices, but this was communicated on first contact.
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For this last trip, it was normal for us to start from Negombo. Not only is this where our first Sri Lankan adventure in 1998 began, it is where many people start their own Sri Lankan adventures. Proximity to the international airport makes it the perfect ‘first stop’ on any Sri Lankan itinerary, and there are plenty of hotels, resorts and restaurants to choose from to suit all budgets. If you have time, be sure to explore the town of Negombo, the Dutch Fort and the Old Quarter; if your stay is only short, don’t miss the beautiful golden sunsets, which blend perfectly with the wide stretches of golden sands of Negombo Beach.
Our home for a few nights in Negombo was Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions. It turned out to be an inspired choice and provided the perfect start to our trip, a true hidden oasis in the heart of Negombo. We embraced the immersive concept including Ayurvedic consultations with the doctor, multiple steam treatments, massages and oils, daily yoga classes and, last but not least, the most creative and delicious vegan food. All of our meals have been created by the talented Executive Chef and his team, based on the results of our Ayurvedic consultation. This thoughtful, medicinal and nutritional approach to food is something we greatly appreciated.
No trip to Sri Lanka would be complete without spending time in the historic 16th century walled city of Gall. We spent endless hours wandering the streets of the UNESCO-listed old town, with intriguing views around every corner, it’s a place we’ll never get bored of. We watched cricket at one of the most unique cricket grounds in the world and explored the beaches that bless the surrounding coastline. As a base, Galle is a great option for exploring South West Sri Lanka and we were excited to return.
When our trip was to coincide with the Sri Lanka v Pakistan test series there was of course no choice but to add this to our itinerary. Thanks to the media team of Sri Lankan cricket who hosted us for an exciting few days of cricket at this truly iconic stadium. Where else in the world can you watch world class cricket, overlooking the Indian Ocean while being overlooked by an old and historic fort. The Galle International Stadium has to be one of the greatest international sports arenas on the planet.
While in Galle we stayed at Jet Wing Lighthouse which, being located a few miles from the Galle Heritage Centre, makes the perfect base from which to explore. This Geoffrey Bawa-designed hotel offers a selection of well-appointed rooms and suites, all with views of the Indian Ocean. Choose from the two large pools for an early morning dip or to enjoy after a day of sightseeing, and be sure to visit the spa during your stay. For those of you who wish to eat plant-based foods, we are happy to report that there were a number of vegan dishes clearly marked on the menus, including a vegan pizza at Lorenzo’s Pizza Bar which was delicious.
We always plan our trips the same way. We love going back to some of our favorite places from past trips, reminiscing and reminiscing about everything we’ve experienced before. But we’re also trying to visit a new place, a place we’ve always intended to visit, but for some reason never happened. This time our “new” location was yala, the legendary national park in the southeast of the island. We have visited other national parks in Sri Lanka, but never Yala, and we are delighted to have finally landed in this remarkable place where elephants and leopards call home.
Our last port of call was the wonderful Jetwing Yala which provided a memorable end to our latest travel adventure in Sri Lanka. We loved our stay at this stylish hotel, located on the edge of Yala National Park with inspiring ocean views. Their commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly tourism is second to none with multiple innovative initiatives. Respect for the environment and the community is also important, you will find local villagers working with the kitchen team, sharing their years of knowledge of traditional ingredients and cooking, and during your stay you will most likely spot wild elephants roaming the grounds. Jetwing Yala did not surround themselves with an electric fence like many other hotels and resorts in the area, they agreed to share their land with those who were there long before them. It was hard to leave Jetwing Yala, we absolutely loved everything.
The problem with traveling is that there’s never enough time, but the good thing about it is that you always have to plan a return trip to keep exploring. Our latest adventure in Sri Lanka took us to three unique places, each with something very different to offer. Much like the island of Sri Lanka itself, often referred to as the ‘wonder or Asia’, it truly offers something for everyone and we can’t wait to return.
Paul Eyers is the founder of Vegan food quest. Vegan Food Quest has become a specialist in luxury vegan travel as it continues to find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world.
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