Katerina and I have been travelling together for more than 10 years now. With the exception of our trip to Egypt in 2010, we have only travelled within Europe. Which is great considering there are tons of things to do in Europe. But, once you catch the travel bug, there is no going back. So, early this year, we decided it was about time we went somewhere outside of Europe. I wanted to cross the Atlantic to the Americas but Katerina wanted to fly over the Indian Ocean and land in Asia instead. She won. But why visit Sri Lanka on this first trip to Asia of ours?
Why visit Sri Lanka for your first trip to Asia
We did a lot of research before actually planning our first trip to Asia. At first, we considered obvious choices such as Thailand or Vietnam. We’ve always wanted to visit both of these countries after all. And we will most certainly do, of course. However, being our first time in a new continent and all, we were quite overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a trip to a country of that size. We would need at least 15-20 days for a trip to either Thailand or Vietnam. Having already scheduled many other trips for the same year, well, this was next to impossible to be honest.
Moreover, I have certain
issues fears and I knew that, for my first time in Asia, I would feel a lot more comfortable in a more laid-back country rather than a super crowded one. On the other hand, Katerina and her fear of flying would appreciate a destination that wouldn’t require a 10h flight. She wants to take long-haul flights one step at a time. Therefore, two connecting flights of about 5h each sounded a lot better to her. All things considered, we still wanted to visit an Asian country that had it all: beaches, culture, history, the whole package. After a painstaking process of elimination, we had a winner. Sri Lanka ticked all of our boxes and was waiting to greet us with open arms. But let’s get into more detail about why Sri Lanka is the ideal destination for everyone’s first time in Asia.
1. Sri Lanka is compact
Sri Lanka is a very compact island country in the Indian Ocean. Its small size makes it easy for travellers to see and experience more of its treasures in less time. Contrary to other destinations in Asia, it is possible to see the best of Sri Lanka in just 10 days or so.
2. Sri Lanka is diverse
Don’t let Sri Lanka’s compact size fool you. The Pearl of the Indian Ocean is one of the most diverse countries in Asia and it definitely has something for all tastes. First of all, Sri Lanka is home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. That is quite remarkable considering the country’s small size. Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Dambulla Cave Temple, Anuradhapura and Galle Old Town are Sri Lanka’s UNESCO Sites which reflect the country’s historical and cultural importance. During our 10-day trip to Sri Lanka, we managed to visit not one, not two, but four of them.
There are also two natural UNESCO Sites in Sri Lanka, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Alongside those, there are 26 national parks in the country where one can enjoy nature and observe wildlife in the best possible way. We haven’t been on an Africa safari yet but we believe others when they say that Sri Lanka offers the best safari opportunities outside of Africa. Our close encounter with elephants at Minneriya National Park is one of the most memorable experiences we’ve ever had. Another fantastic way to marvel at Sri Lanka’s stunning landscapes is by enjoying some of the world’s most scenic train rides. Sri Lanka has no shortage of fascinating routes but probably the most exciting of all is the train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and Ella, right in the heart of the country’s beautiful tea fields.
One of the main reasons why travellers choose to plan a trip to Asia is because they want to spend time on the beach. Sri Lanka beaches are marvellous and utterly pristine. Think about endless stretches of golden sand as far as the eye can see, tall coconut trees moving gently to the wind and the wide blue ocean all to yourselves. Welcome to your Sri Lanka holiday! If, on the other hand, you are city people, then Sri Lanka’s vibrant capital will not disappoint either. Colombo is a modern city with a magnificent skyline and superb rooftop bars while it preserves its old-fashioned charm at the same time. This is most striking in Pettah, the oldest part of the city which is simply irresistible with its local touch and mesmerising sounds, smells and tastes.
3. Sri Lanka is authentic
Perhaps the most attractive thing about Sri Lanka is that it remains an authentic, almost entirely unspoilt destination. At least for now and, hopefully, for ever. Sri Lanka does not, even remotely, suffer from the bad effects of mass tourism. A drive across the country suffices to realise that the way of life, especially in rural areas, has stayed as it was decades ago. And I don’t mean that in a miserable way, no. Far from it actually. It seems that life in Sri Lanka still goes on at that sweet slow pace we only have a distant memory of as it is now long lost, even in Greece which used to be famous for its relaxed way of life.
Moreover, Sri Lanka is not a crowded country. Colombo may feel crammed at times but this is compared to other places within Sri Lanka rather than a general remark as it is undoubtedly way less crowded than other Asian capitals. What made a huge impression on us, though, were the beaches. Nowhere have we enjoyed such spectacular beaches without being surrounded by maddening crowds. This small country in the Indian Ocean is indeed heaven on earth.
All this doesn’t mean that the country is lacking in tourism infrastructure. Sri Lanka has high-quality facilities regarding accommodation, transportation and all other services related to the tourism industry. Yet it remains an off-the-beaten-path destination which offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy unique experiences and delve into the authentic local lifestyle.
4. Sri Lanka is a year round destination
No matter how cliché this may sound, it’s actually true. Sri Lanka is the perfect year-round destination. When planning your first, or any, trip to Asia, it is crucial to know the best time to visit each country in terms of weather. Otherwise you risk spending your long-awaited vacation in the confines of your hotel room, unable to enjoy the outdoors because of an annoying monsoon. But what if monsoon season coincides with the only days you have available to take some time off work? Then, it’s Sri Lanka to the rescue.
Sri Lanka has constant temperatures all year long (25-30°C in coastal areas, 15-18°C in the hill country). Furthermore and, perhaps, most importantly, there are two separate monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka. This means that there is always a sunny side of the island to enjoy the beach without worrying about rainfalls and strong winds. Specifically, head to the east coast from April to September and to the south and west coasts from December to March. There is always a chance of downpours in Central Sri Lanka. As far as beaches are concerned though, this plan works like a charm. So, no matter when you take time off work, book those flights to Sri Lanka ASAP. Later, you can figure out which part of the island to spend more time on.
5. Sri Lanka is easy-going and accessible to everyone
Sri Lanka is a very easy-going destination which is an appealing reason to visit in its own right. It has this superpower to make everyone feel at home. Since this would be our first trip to Asia, we thought we would somehow feel that we were strangers to this place. At least for the first couple of days. Yet we didn’t. Sri Lanka felt cosy and familiar from day one. No matter how different it is from the European countries we are used to visiting. Moreover, Sri Lanka is a destination that addresses all sorts of travellers. Be it super experienced travellers, adventure seekers or the average holiday-goers, Sri Lanka guarantees to satisfy everyone’s needs and wishes. Similarly, Sri Lanka is generally a budget-friendly destination but it’s also a paradise of affordable luxury. Superb hotels and spas wait to pamper their guests with infinity swimming pools and unique Ayurvedic treatments.
6. Sri Lankans may just be the kindest people on earth
We saved the best for last. When we got back home from Sri Lanka, everyone asked us the same questions. What did you like most about Sri Lanka? or Why visit Sri Lanka? Without ever giving it much thought, the reply was always the same: The people. It’s true. Even if, some day, for some reason, Sri Lanka’s jaw-dropping tea fields, breathtaking beaches or the elephants’ cute faces cease to reside in our memories, its people will never leave us because they live in our hearts.
Sri Lankans are utterly kind-hearted, polite and friendly. We spent 10 whole days in Sri Lanka and not once did we meet someone who was either grumpy or unwelcoming. For the entire duration of our stay in their gorgeous country, Sri Lankans did nothing but open their homes, arms and hearts to us. They always greeted us with the sweetest of smiles. And when it was time to say our goodbyes, we could see it in their eyes that they would genuinely miss us.
We are now friends for life. We’ve lost count of how many times we heard that. We were moved to tears each and every time though. Because it was crystal clear that Sri Lankans meant what they said. The thorough research we had done before finally choosing Sri Lanka for our first trip to Asia, did nothing to prepare us for the love that we’d receive in this country. Had we even the slightest idea about how amazing Sri Lankans are, we would have saved ourselves loads of time. We wouldn’t need anything else to convince us to choose Sri Lanka for our first Asia trip over any other destination.
So, we tried our best to summarise the reasons why Sri Lanka is the perfect destination for one’s first trip to Asia. We enjoyed our trip there so much that we can’t wait to see more of Asia now. However, we also know that we’ll never stop going back to Sri Lanka. We’d love to revisit our favourite places and discover new ones too. We’d cherish the opportunity to hang out with our lifelong friends and make some new ones as well. Our Sri Lanka trip feels like a dream. To be precise, Sri Lanka IS a dream. But don’t just stay there dreaming a little dream of it. Go live your dream in Sri Lanka now!
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Disclosure: We travelled to Sri Lanka on a press trip organised by Sri Lanka Tourism. That said, we always share our very own and personal opinions about places we visit and services we try. Under no circumstances would we ever recommend anything we didn’t actually enjoy ourselves.