3 weeks in Sri Lanka. Part 6: The Hill Country, Kandy and Negombo with kids.
We reached our penultimate destination after a spectacular 4.5-hour drive which included the famous Daha ata Wanguwa (18 bend road) and eventually wove through tea covered hilltops backed by the mighty Knuckles mountain range. Our accommodation was a luxury tent perched on the side of a mountainous tea estate, about 30km north of Kandy city. The estates main house and restaurant offered alfresco seating areas, adorned with floating flower displays and little fish ponds, and a roaring open fire for cooler evenings in the mountains. A huge manicured lawn led to an infinity pool that overlooked row upon row of tiny tea shrubs, steeply sloping into the distance. The brightly coloured clothes of the tea pickers the only distraction in a lucid sea of green. The kids loved running around on the lawn, kicking a football or whacking a croquet ball before diving onto one of the giant bean bags slumped at the lawns edge.
Our tent had a roomy king size bed and an extra camp bed for the children to share. It also had the 'best' shower we'd had in our 3 week trip of Sri Lanka...who would have thought! With sweeping views across the valley, towards the Knuckles mountain range, the tents veranda was a fabulous place to sit with a cup of Ceylon's finest (whilst the children squabbled over colouring pens at the desk inside the tent!) There is an onsite spa, a restaurant in the main house, cooking up delicious cuisine using produce from the organic garden, and a team of incredibly friendly staff who were happy to fit activities and meals around our timings.
Whilst relaxing in the tea plantation garden and dipping in the pool was hugely tempting, we arranged for a tuk-tuk to take us down to the local tea factory to gain a better understanding of how the leaves growing next to our tent are turned into a perfect cup of tea. The tour of the working factory was very interesting, and the kids were giggling away as our host threw tea leaves around with abandon. It was great to see the big machines working away, sifting, heating and curling the leaves and the whole place felt like it had barely moved on from the fifties.
We also opted for a guided trek to mini Worlds End, which was a spectacular walk through green and black tea plantations, past little villages to a breathtaking lookout point. A toddler carrier and sugar-based bribery was essential, but four little legs managed the majority of the 3-hour round trip and filled a Tribe bag with countless scavenged treasures.
Kandy fell at the very end of our trip and as we were trying to reduce car journeys before our epic flight home, we only allowed for one day in the city, enroute to Negombo. We'd read about several child-friendly activities in Kandy and would happily have considered a couple of days there, but as it was, we decided on two main areas. Firstly, we went off to explore the central market, in search of edible souvenirs. Our 5-year-old had lost a tooth the day before and had found 500 rupees under her pillow, so she was also eager to spend her magical money! A handcrafted photo frame won over tea, cinnamon and even Sri Lankan marshmallows! It's a decent food market and a great sensory experience if you are yet to visit a market in Sri Lanka. We then drove across town to the beautiful botanical gardens; an oasis of calm in a hectic, traffic-filled city. We spent the afternoon wandering past manicured lawns, stately trees from around the globe and giant Burmese bamboo. We dodged sprinkler systems, admired brightly coloured orchids and read up on herbs in the Ayuverdic garden. The children played tag on the giant lawn, home to a large café offering snacks, drinks and ice-creams.
Had we had more time, we would have also visited the central lake, located next to the Temple of the Tooth. A walk round the perimeter will reward little ones with wildlife sightings including monitor lizards, monkeys and fruit bats. At the far end of the lake there is a well-maintained playarea, which we now realise are few and far between in Sri Lanka! The lake is surrounded by colonial houses peeking out from the forest-clad hillsides that climb steeply creating a unique and picturesque setting.
Our adventure was unfortunately coming to an end. We spent our final day in Negombo, relaxing at the two pools and the grounds of our accommodation, built around Negombo lagoon. The lagoon feeds a small river which winds between the hotels three buildings, and a kayak and traditional Sri Lankan boat await anyone feeling adventurous enough to go for an explore around the mangrove roots and out into the lagoon. There is also a small craft shop on-site where locals, often the wives and daughters of fishermen, create handicrafts that they sell in a small shop. We had an explore and the kids eyes lit up when they were allowed to try their hand at painting some beautiful hand-designed cards. After a quick trip into town to see a bustling fish-market and gape at the sheer number of colourful rickety boats surrounding the lagoon, we shared a final pair of golden-yellow king coconuts and said a very fond farewell to Sri Lanka.
Head to Tribe Family Adventures and take a look at our Sri Lankan example itineraries. We'd love to help tailor a similar trip for your Tribe, so please do get in touch.