The coast of Colombo is packed with culinary-led days, adventures and plenty of sights to tick off your bucket list. The country is just under five hours away from Dubai, and is seriously affordable. FlyDubai offers direct flights to Colombo, for a quick holiday from the UAE
Featured below: Colombo, Weligama, Mirrisa, Koggala and Galle Fort.
Ideal holiday duration: From four days to weeks or a month
Currency: Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). At the time of writing, AED 1 = LKR 41.71
TAKE A PICTURE…
Gangaramaya temple: Contemporary architecture, gold structures and a man selling candles and lotus bouquets, to place as offerings, meets the eye at first glance. Pick up a candle to light at one of the grottos and explore the temple’s collection of vintage cameras and items that have been gifted to the monks. If you’re there on Poya Day (a public holiday celebrated in Sri Lanka every full moon), one of the temple-goers will most likely tie a white band around your wrist as a blessing.
Galle Face Green – a strip flanked by the ocean, dotted with food carts.
Galle Fort (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) sited at the Bay of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. It harks back to 1588, when it was first built by the Portuguese and further fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century (from 1649). The fort’s ambience isn’t anything like we have experienced around Sri Lanka. In fact, it’s almost like Europe, with street-side bars, a mix of traditional and international eateries, gemstone shops, five-star hotels for high tea, coupled with nurseries and universities (housed in buildings) along the way.
Kushta Raja Gala sculpture carved into a rock between the 7-9th centuries. According to forklore, a foreign king who suffered from a skin diseases was treated by a doctor in Weligama bay, and when restored back to his original strength, had a sculpture of himself (the Kushta king) carved into the rock. Another version states the King made an offering to a certain God when he was sick, and then made a statue of the God he believed in, as a gift for his cure. The most common belief, however, is that the statue represents the “Awalokitha” or the “Avaloktheeshvara” Bodhisattva of the Mahayana Buddhism, due to the four meditating Buddha figures on his head dress and the lotus in the hand. “Avaloktheeshvara” Bodhisattva is one of the most powerful bodhisattvas of the Mahayana Buddhism, thought to be one of the most significant healers of mankind.
TOP TRADITIONAL FOOD TO TRY
- Kothu roti – (pieces of flatbread shredded and mixed with eggs and veggies).
- Sri Lankan curry with prawns
- Appa – a type of pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk
Discerning travellers with a palate have plenty of culinary offerings to pick from in Sri Lanka
- Ministry of Crab in Colombo (listed in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list) is owned by Sri Lankan cricketing legends Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakkara. Nestled at a 400-year-old former Dutch hospital, the hotspot makes for an intimate dinner with dim lighting, striking chandeliers and windows that allow a cool breeze to make its way through the restaurant and the outdoor courtyard. Dharshan Munidasa – one of the country’s most celebrated chefs – is at the helm of the kitchen, serving sustainably-fished export-quality crabs for crustacean lovers. We tucked into a plate of tender shrimp doused in butter, to whet our appetite, followed by a garlic chilli crab and wood-fired traditional kade bread to soak up the moreish juices. A side of crisp garlic fried rice perfectly complemented the sweet, fleshy crab meat, living up to its hype and making the visit to the city worthwhile on every account.
- Dewmini in Mirisa (15 minutes’ drive from Weligama) offers some of the most affordable and delish Kothu Roti and Roti (flatbread) with curry, and toppings such as chocolate and ice cream. The restaurant is nestled right below a guest house and is apt for budget-travellers. Judging by their TripAdvisor stickers and ratings, it seems to be everyone’s favourite.
- Ocean Terrace at Cape Weligama offers the best Sri Lankan curry meals you will taste in the city. The Sri Lankan curry is a dish which usually comprises of four to five curries including dhal and green bean fry). The prawn curry is mouthwatering, and one of the best dishes we tried, with a hint of coconut and flavours that linger on your palate. We loved the curry so much, that we even ordered it for breakfast the next morning with Appa (a crisp, curved-up rice batter bread). You can also order a plate of fresh fruit for breakfast and egg specialties, which arrive with croissants and fresh juice.
A TIPPLE & MORE
Dutch Hospital in Colombo is surrounded by bars that offer a relaxing vibe. You can enjoy a pitcher for around Dhs28! Try Lion lager, the country’s local beverage.
Galle Fort is home to plenty of restaurants and bars. Stop by Tap House and Sugar Bistro & Wine bar for breakfast, lunch and creative concoctions. Those craving an authentic Sri Lankan curry, can head to Galle Things Roti for spicy prawn, chicken and meat dishes. Most hotels can arrange a tuk-tuk ride to and fro.
Luxury and budget stays for a quick holiday from the UAE, to Sri Lanka
You may have spotted this sustainable resort on Instagram, known for its infinity pool that looks out to the lush hills across and Koggala lake. Perched atop a hill, with cinnamon trees and rice paddy fields dotted along the trail, this luxury design hotel is built on the premise of catering to those looking for tranquillity. With just 11 suites comprising rooms in the central water tower, and villas with a private pool, the spot is ideal for those who want to catch up on reading, laze by the pool, pack in a yoga session, and literally do absolutely nothing for days.
Wellbeing is placed at the forefront, with a sustainable philosophy carried throughout – from the tropical surroundings to the rooms and dining experiences. Our days were spent by the private pool in the villa, with a quick trip to the library nestled amongst foliage for a coffee and lazy afternoon reading session. Group yoga takes place a few mornings per week, and you can add on various excursions and activities including whale watching, a visit to cinnamon island and a cooking demonstration. Due to weather conditions, we opted for an authentic Sri Lankan culinary class which took place by the lakeside – instead of under the banyan tree. Sri Lankan meals are quite healthy with fruit and vegetables we don’t even come across in the UAE, used for cooking. We interacted with the chef, assisted with vegetable slicing and indulged in a banana blossom curry, passion fruit leaves salad, dhal and green bean coconut gravy with red rice.
The expansive villas feature a day bed, open-style bathroom, private pool and terrace complete with a coffee table. Draw the drapes before you sleep, as you will want to wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and serene view of the lake. On Poya Day, you will be able to hear soothing chants from the nearby temple. Note, the hotel rooms aren’t equipped with a TV, so do make sure to carry a book along. When heading to the city, don’t forget to take the provided mobile along.
Room service isn’t available for breakfast, so no dining in bed here. However, with a stunning landscape to relish while tucking into a feast for a breakfast, we didn’t mind the walk to the hotel’s restaurant. The meal begins with fresh exotic fruit, granola and frozen curd ice cream, followed by coffee and pastries, a comforting kurakkan (red millet) porridge and your choice of dish from the a la carte menu – we ate egg curry with string hoppers and sambol (a chutney condiment). A nutritious smoothie is served as an energy booster, apt for those who are about to venture off on a cycling tour or surfing adventure. Dinner takes place at the same restaurant and is served as a multi-course menu comprising seasonal ingredients with mango showcased in a curry with green bean fry, quail eggs with miso and tofu, and grilled spiced fish with rice – dishes changes daily.
The hotel is approximately 30-40 minutes away from Galle Fort. If you are looking for a tucked-away abode – almost a forest escape – that offers great hospitality with magnificent food to complement, you can’t go wrong at Tri Lanka. Those who’ve explored Sri Lanka prior to this trip, and have more time on hand, can indulge in an Ayurvedic massage and private yoga sessions. However, for those merely here for a quick holiday from the UAE, we suggest touring the city.
To book: Visit trilanka.com
Palm trees line the shore of this expansive resort that pays homage to legendary explorers such as Marco Polo, Ibn Batuta, Robert Knox and plenty more, with clusters of villas and rooms available within each explorer’s unit. Just under thirty minutes away from Koggala, this hotel from the Relais & Chateaux group, sprawls over 12 acres and is nestled 40 metres above the Indian Ocean. Children will love this resort, with its family pool and manicured lawns. Similarly, couples can enjoy complete tranquillity at the vantage viewpoints during sunrise and sunset, by the 60-metre crescent-shaped infinity pool and within the villas that are quite spaced out, making you feel as though you are the only guests within the premises.
Walking up and down the cobbled path, within the resort, packs in a bit of a workout as you head to the pool bar for a cocktail, a quick dip, or the gym complete with a sauna and steam room. Each room is equipped with Tiffany-coloured umbrellas for rainy walks to the facilities and restaurants nearby.
Epicurean offerings on offer suit all taste buds, with Ocean Terrace for authentic and international-inspired dishes that complement the views of the shimmering waters. Ocean Grill for those looking for a memorable dining experience at the live-cooking Teppanyaki station and Cape Club for afternoon tea. We dined at Ocean Terrace, as the sea breeze beckoned on the first night, and tucked into a spicy ramen broth with chicken, and Sri Lankan curry (which usually comprises of four to five curries including dhal and green bean fry). The prawn curry is mouthwatering, and definitely one of the best dishes we tried on the trip, with a hint of coconut and flavours that linger on your palate. We loved the curry so much, that we even ordered it for breakfast the next morning with Appa (a crisp, curved-up rice batter bread). You can also order a plate of fresh fruit for breakfast and egg specialities, which arrive with croissants and fresh juice.
The ocean-view and garden villas for couples are large enough to fit a family of four, stretching from a bedroom and outdoor terrace towards one corner, moving to the walk-in closet, bathroom with steam facilities, and bathtub with views of the outdoors towards the other corner of the villa. Novels and history books act as accessories around the room, and make for a great read, while postcards on the desk allow you to send a memorable souvenir to loved ones back home.
To make our trip all the more noteworthy, we were gifted a Dilmah tea box, filled with specialities from the region – the hotel is owned by the founder of Dilmah, and is under the Resplendent Ceylon chain of luxury resorts in Sri Lanka.
To book a quick holiday from the UAE: Visit resplendentceylon.com/capeweligama
Sri Lanka is home to plenty of guest houses and hotels, some of which are available for just $10 per day, in certain areas. Weligama and Mirisa are apt for surfers and those who love life by the seaside. Stay at W15 (http://www.w15.lk) for a lavish yet affordable stay, when in Weligama.
Click here for our video tour of Colombo and book your quick holiday from the UAE