It’s 4pm on a weekday and I get the Facebook message, meaning my single (or Solo) friends are sitting on the couch in Australia watching Dancing with the Stars at 7.30pm.
They are dreaming of a holiday some place magical where the jungle meets the ocean and the back tracks have never felt a traveller’s foot.
My phone starts to ping with all the weird and wacky questions…Can I visit? (stupid question…I run a hotel and we generally accept ‘Visitors’) When should I come? Is it safe? How many days do I need? I usually tell them, “look I will call you tomorrow. It costs me 10c a min to call an international mobile number and I need some time to explain this place I call home.”
After quite some back and forwards across some 250 messages, my solo friends jump on a plane and head for the airport ready for their Sri Lankan experience. I’ve told them all about this cool stuff we are going to do, yet little do they know Facebook lies and I actually have to WORK 12 hours a day, most days, so they will be doing all of this great stuff on their own.
To truly experience Sri Lanka, you would need many months to travel. This is an island of blended cultures where religion and ethnicity create a melting pot of diversity. Travelling a mere 50km can take you from a Buddhist fishing village, to Muslim trading markets and sacred sites.
After landing in Colombo at some ungodly hour I always recommend my friends grab a cab to Colombo city and stay at the one and only Black Cat. This cozy colonial BnB Villa/Cafe situated in the super affluent Colombo seven district is a great way to ease in to your holiday. Wake up refreshed and enjoy a breakfast to die for (not easy to come by in Sri Lanka).
Next, I have to help my friends navigate their way down South to our secret hideaway in Hiriketiya Bay. Most of them opt for the private vehicle transfer, however if you are happy to take a less direct route you can jump on the train and head south to Matara. It takes a few hours but you are guaranteed to immerse yourself in Sri Lankan culture pretty quickly. You can even buy some dried fish to snack on. The train and bus network, although not overly comfortable, is pretty reliable. It is responsible for transportation of nearly 2 million commuters a day.
Once you hit the Southern beaches, there is plenty to see and do. I always recommend my friends spend a night or two at Hang Time Hostel in Weligamma. The owners have created one of the first cool surf and yoga hostels in South Sri Lanka and have done a great job. The ocean views from the roof are amazing and the food is as good as you will get in any swanky Australia café. Hangtime has plenty of communal space and the drop in Yoga classes are always a great way to meet new friends.
Most of my friends have all done a lot of beach holidays in Australia or Indonesia so when they get to Sri Lanka they are often looking for a more unique and rustic holiday experience. This is where Sri Lanka has something to offer everyone.
Recently I sent a friend packing in his little rental car. I pointed him in the direction of Ella and wished him well. He called me that evening to rant and rave about cruising through the rice patties and jumping into the waterfall just outside Ella. He was off to Chill Restaurant to watch the All Blacks V Wallabies game. I didn’t hear much for the next 48 hours. He had made friends with a cool group of girls and was wise enough to offer them a ride to the infamous A Bay (Arugam Bay). The next few days were spent sunning himself, and his new friends, on the amazing South East coastline. Sunset dinner and drinks at spots like Hideaway and Bay Vista made the trip all the more special.
The centre and highlands have much to offer and I can say first hand that Sigiriya is a MUST see. This ancient rock fortress is simply amazing and blew my mind. I rated my trek to the top more enjoyable than my time at Machu Picchu. I had a friend tagging along that weekend, who had flown in from Japan. I picked him up from the airport and he said “how are you buddy? We’re off to see a rock or something?” A few hours later his jaw was hanging from his mouth. For a guy who has hiked Antarctic, and many many other wild terrains, to be in awe was something special. I couldn’t help but say “not a bad rock hey!”
Galle Fort is a must see. It offers more insight into Dutch and Portuguese history than any other site in Sri Lanka. It is well managed with plenty of amazing museums and shopping for gems, art, souvenirs and boutique clothing. I know all my girl friends have walked out of there having spent half their travel budget! Be mindful that the fort is now heavily occupied by Muslim families and culture and you should always have shoulders and knees covered. Short shorts are definitely frowned upon.
Now I know that most of this article doesn’t sound all that SOLO, but I think to date I have had approximately five friends come to Sri Lanka on their own. Each has loved every minute of their time and none were ready to head home. Some I accompanied on day trips here and there, but all spent the majority of their time Solo.
Sri Lanka lets you do that. It picks you up and sends you in the opposite direction you had planned.
Do I recommend traveling solo in Sri Lanka, most definitely! I know you will experience more and take more away from your travels due to the people you meet and the places you end up. Take to unbeaten path! Sri Lanka has it all to offer!
Fancy a trip to Sri Lanka yourself? Check out SaltHouse and why it is the perfect base.