The southern tip of the island is an addictive cocktail of tropical idyll and colonial posh.
It’s the long Diwali weekend, so of course, I’ve planned a family getaway from the smoke and cacophony that will undoubtedly takeover Mumbai. Mindful that I’m travelling with a three-year-old, a quick flight at a decent hour with short drives is the priority as is going to a destination that’s new to the family.
Sri Lanka is the unanimous choice, including the three-year-old’s, whose only criteria was ‘beach’ (mine was the same, with a little bit of local culture thrown in for good measure, and the husband’s add-on was good food). Many familiar faces on the flight confirmed that I wasn’t the only one who had honed in on spending the holidays on the beautiful island nation.
Colombo is where most travellers will arrive into the country. The truth is that a day here is plenty. When I asked the concierge of our recently refurbished, sea-facing colonial hotel how to spend the day, she marked out a few names on the map and told me we should be done in a few hours.
We headed straight for some retail therapy at Barefoot on Galle Road. A colour bomb of a lifestyle store, which seems to go on forever until you discover a most charming courtyard café, where you want to sit and watch the world go by. Continuing on the retail route, it’s to Paradise Road next. The perfectly stylised gallery, café and shop offer the first glimpse into the work of the world famous Sri Lankan architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa (whose Colombo residence, Number 11, is also open to visitors by appointment). Paradise Road is a great spot for a leisurely lunch and a bit more unnecessary, yet irresistible shopping.
Transiting between towns on the west coast of Sri Lanka couldn’t be more pleasant with the recently built expressway. Galle Fort is 100 km away but takes less than 2 hours from Colombo.
If moving on from Galle, one can head further south towards Weligama, or like I did, go north towards Bentota. We put up at a gorgeous luxury boutique villa right on Induruwa beach with the most magical view of the ocean enhanced by excellent staff, service and local food. Many spots along this coast are safe for swimming and water sports like wind surfing and diving, weather permitting. There are also several services offering whale and dolphin watching boat trips. We, on the other hand, just decided to take long walks on the beach and vegetate.
But it was right here that I experienced the highlight of this trip (other than eating my body weight in hoppers and curry). I realise I’ve only just scratched the surface of this island. I’ll undoubtedly be back soon, for some wildlife spotting at Yala National Park, the tea plantations in the central plains of Nuwara Eliya and the untapped beaches on the east coast. With a short flight, online visas, pristine beaches, delightful boutique hotels, friendly locals, family centric luxury resorts and delectable fresh seafood, could Sri Lanka be the new Goa? If you’re planning your next short break, look no further.
(Courtesy Pune Mirror)