I lost count of how many people asked me for traveling tips in Sri Lanka during my stay. But from all the westerners that lived with me there I'm probably the one that did less things and explored the least. Mostly because it wasn't my first trip to this island. I travelled here many, many years ago, like in another life, with my parents. So more than a guide of what to do or how to make the most of your stay, consider this as a list of the favourite things I did, saw and enjoyed on the Southern Province!
I can't describe the feeling that I got every time I scootered down the road to Madiha Beach. Seeing the light blue water in between the trees was instantly refreshing and soothing to my soul. Madiha is a quiet area with beautiful villas and houses, surrounded by palm trees (what else?!) and an occasional pine tree nearer to the beach. The beach itself is small but nonetheless one of the most beautiful in the area. There's a reef formation a few meters from the beach that makes delightful natural pools with calm waters and lots of sea life. A stop by either Coffee Point and the Doctor's House is mandatory, both places with a great vibe, food and drinks.
Surfing made my days! I was so lucky to have one of the best longboard spots just a couple of minutes away from home and work: a reef break, called Fisherman's Reef, right in front of where the fishermen anchor their boats (duh!), with the easiest, mellower and longer right I've ever surfed. It was a busy spot, but I realised that the best time to go there was on Sundays, very early in the morning, when all the other surfers were sleeping and tired from the Saturday night parties. There are other spots obviously, and you can read about them here, but Fisherman's was surely my backyard.
A gorgeous and secluded sandy bay, surf-able by all levels, very family friendly, it is the perfect whole-day getaway if you're based in Weligama and surrounding areas. It takes about one hour and a half to get there and spots to visit and enjoy include Dots Surf Cafe and Salt House.
Poya day and Buddhist Temples
Poya days are full moon days and considered public holidays in Sri Lanka. Each full moon is linked to a particular Buddhist event. Now, I'm not a Buddhist, or religious at all, but I consider myself quite spiritual and appreciative of some religious doctrines. In Sri Lanka I was very open to experience the Buddhist ones. I loved learning the Love and Kindness meditation with one of the monks, I cherished all the rituals of lighting incense, offering flowers, chanting, having a blessed white cotton thread tied around my wrist - aka Sai Sin - which is supposed to provide protection and good health to the person wearing it. Poya days were good days, blissful days, and every visit to any of the Buddhist Temples was the perfect escape from the busyness and noisiness of the typical Sri Lankan streets.
Weligama food market
This is such a vibrant local market to visit! It happens every Tuesdays and Fridays on the west side of Weligama and gathers mostly locals. Hardly anyone speaks English and almost everyone will want to give you something to taste or smell (and buy, obviously). This one's a deep dive into the local culture.
Visiting Galle Fort is like time travelling. There are colonial references everywhere, from the streets, to the buildings, the interior design, even the people! Although Galle Fort has several things to do and places to visit, as you can read here, I would normally end up at Poonie's Kitchen - their salad is a must eat!
I'm a foodie. I'll eat even if I'm not hungry. But I'd rather fast than eat something that I don't truly crave - I think it's a waste of appetite. And I'll travel long distances to eat at places that serve good food. Salty Swamis is one of those places. Located in Hikkaduwa - in my opinion, just worth going because of this cafe - which is about an hour and a half by train from Weligama, this place is smart, has a good selection of books and magazines, serves good coffee and tasty food. What else can you ask for?!
When my friend Joe sent me a message asking if I wanted to go on a bike ride at 3 in the afternoon I have to admit that it didn't sound very appealing... Just the thought of it made me instantly melt in sweat. But I decided to go anyway, mainly because I had hardly exercised my legs during the four months that I stayed in Sri Lanka. And I didn't regret one second of it! We went for The Paddy Trail, a small tour of an hour and a half through the rice fields and it was so beautiful, relaxing and joyful! Idle bikes offers lots of different bike tours, and you can also ask for a customised one.