How to travel Sri Lanka’s Southern Province with kids.
Sri-Lanka is one of the most popular places for families from both the UK and Australia to holiday.
Families with members in both countries are choosing it as a destination almost half way between the continents to meet up and have an adventure filled holiday.
Your trip can be as rough and basic or as upmarket as you like. Sri Lanka caters to all budgets and tastes.
Colombo; Plenty of tourists swipe right when it comes to Colombo, but with the new Shangri-La Hotel now open as well as a fair offering at the Taj Hotel, I don’t mind it for a night or two to recover from jet-lag, have a swim, chill and eat some amazing food.The town is certainly dusty and lacking in infrastructure, so tuk-tuks are the only way to get around.
Kandy: You get to Kandy by local train leaving early in the morning. The train ride is an easy 2.5-3 hour journey and pretty. Book first class. Kandy itself is nothing to rave about, there’s a gorgeous temple, a pretty lake to walk around, and that is literally it.
An elephant’s orphanage around 2.5 hour drive away is talked about but with so much negative PR on the internet about it, and the way the animals are treated, we side swiped it.
The restaurants here are poor, enough said, so street food is the only way to go, and can be fun and super tasty. Meals such as hoppers, bright yellow crepes with coconut filling and so on, were intriguing for the kids.
Ella: The train from Kandy to Ella is written about as the most beautiful in the world for the scenery, and it is definitely pretty. But given it is a long 7 hours, it would want to be when travelling with kids.
My kids made friends with others on the train, and we packed our own food bought at a supermarket in Kandy after our hotel warned us not to eat the food at either the stations or on the train.
Ella itself is a super cute little town, which reminded me of Bali’s Ubud, about 20 years ago. There are a handful of bars and restaurants along a main road, and loads of great food for the kids including fresh juices, burgers, pastas and salads.
The Tea factories nearby are excellent for the kids to visit, and be educated about tea plantations, and there are loads of hikes, including a four hour one to Ella Rock, and the scenery is stunning.
The hotel 98 Acres Resort and Spa is one of Sri Lanka’s best for families, and is spectacular – but you need to book well in advance to get in.
Two nights here can be easily filled with walks, food and adventures.
Yala National Park: This is where you see elephants on a purpose built safari. Accomodation in the area is patchy – most is very basic. The eco-lodge at Kumbuk River is a unique one of a kind lodge the kids will love.
Safaris are over-priced, but seeing elephants in a fairly natural environment is worth it, and you can man your own safari car which will fit 8 people.
Jetwing: This luxurious hotel is a little bit in the middle of nowhere, but is such amazing value for money for the entire family, and so much fun, it is worth a mention. Located right on the edge of a spectacular piece of coastline, there are ocean views as far as the eye can see.
There are leopard safaris available in the nearby national park, but the five star resort itself has plenty to keep everyone happy.
It sits on the edge of a beautiful beach manned with lifeguards and with sunchairs, a volleyball court and outdoor showers. Service here is exceptional.
There’s a huge pool including a swim-up bar, a stunning huge bar/games room within the hotel with pool table and board games, and two restaurants.
Galle: The Colonial Dutch architecture and huge fort around the entire perimeter here gives Galle an elegant feel.
This whole southern coastal area was a highlight of the trip and somewhere you can spend a week or more. Think Bali 20 years ago. Ribbons of dazzling white sand, glistening emerald, blue water, and a country steeped in traditions.
Accommodation ranges from super cheap to five star. Some of the more expensive hotels include food which can be a relief if you have had enough of haggling, tuk-tuks and dust.
There is home stay accommodation on offer, always a positive way for children to see first hand the way other cultures and people live.
Around every corner there is something to discover. There’s the little town of Mirissa, with surfing lessons, bike riding, scuba diving and snorkelling, seafood restaurants and little local diners.
At dusk fisherman stand on the old style stilts in the water catching fish. Then sit on rustic tables on the sand to eat the catches of the day.
Back to Galle -this main town is definitely worth seeing, and has loads of bars and restaurants, and jewellery shops. A walk along the coast at dawn is entertaining to watch the fisherman assemble their morning catches.
We got around this area using tuk-tuks and ubers.
You could simply organise a car from Colombo to this area and have a brilliant holiday.
We are all keen to go back to Sri-Lanka as there is so much to see, and the whole trip was so refreshingly cheap.