Mambo Jambo in Negombo
Updated: Feb 21
Sri Lanka: You can visit Negombo at any time of the year. So there is really no excuse to say it doesn’t suit your annual sun fix.
I prepare to go any time between April to December, as this is the time you will get the best deals if you are looking for one. It is ‘off-season’ as they say, but I think this period has plenty of advantages and I recommend you exploit the moment!
To get to Negombo, I fly into Bandaranaike International Airport. The airport is only 30 mins from the Dutch-influenced city, which is situated on the west coast of Sri Lanka, north of the capital, Colombo.
Bandaranaike is a small airport and it really doesn’t take long to get thru it. Which for me is great because the worse part of any trip is standing or hanging around in the emigration line once I have landed.
As a general rule, the Sri Lankans are lovely hard-working people. My first impressions of their country was of a clean and tidy landscape, decorated with never-ending fluffy white beaches which could easily be straight off the pages of a Robinson Crusoe story.
Pre-arrival I book a driver to pick me up... AKA... I pre-booked a taxi. The driver is standing in the arrivals hall with a message board with my name on it. Once we find each other, the driver scopes up my bags and I give-in to complete and utter 5-star luxury as I am ferried off to my hotel.
You can really spoil yourself in Sri Lanka. For a very affordable price, you can stay at some pretty, stunning properties. I like the Jet Wing Beach Hotel. I usually try to book a room on the ground floor facing out onto the beach. That way I can throw open my bedroom door of a morning and walk straight out onto the beach for my morning swim. I also find these rooms to be bigger.
After a quick shower and change upon arrival, I feel refreshed. I head out to meet up with some Irish friends who live and work in Sri Lanka. It’s amazing how we Irish always gravitate toward each other where ever we are.
Walking into Rodeo Bar is something out of a Guinness advert. Pure Genius with a little bit of everything, atmosphere, food, music, and friendly faces from around the world.
Dinner on my first night, and maybe on the second night, in fact, it could be every night if I want, has to be at Lords Restaurant. It is an art gallery, it’s a spa, it’s a late-night venue and it is also great value for money.
If you want to grab a quick bite during the day, I would suggest the Greek Grill or Toro at the other end of the street. If you want something more leisurely, then take a front-row seat at one of the beachfront hotel restaurants and watch the hawkers and surfers as you sip an ice-cold drink…
There are a few places to shop in Negombo but if you are a real keen shopper then you will have to travel into town to the souq or markets. The fish market is also interesting to experience and makes for some wonderful photos.
If culture is your thing then here is an interesting trip to take at your leisure. Head south to Mount Lavinia and specifically to Mount Lavinia Hotel and Museum. There you will find a fabulous old colonial world and learn about the history of this prestigious property which stretches over two centuries. I recommend you check that the Museum is open before you visit. If you want to stay the night here, it’s not outrageously priced at 150US$ for a standard room during the low season.
The next stop is Bentota, which is 45 minutes south. It offers coral-rich dive sites and long stretches of pristine beaches. One such popular dive site is called Canoe Rock. Bentota is a resort town and one of its sandy strips is known as Paradise Island, which is parallel to Bentota Lagoon. It is a great place to stay as it offers lots of choice for your wallet.
On Bentota River, you will find the centuries-old Galapota Temple and its imposing Buddha statue and several other interesting archaeological finds on display.
Galle is full of amazing history, sights, and sounds. You could spend many an hour exploring the car-free town of beautiful Galle. It is an important historical landmark with its fortified city, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later developed in the 17th century, during the Dutch Colonial period. The Dutch Fort in Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.
The longest drive of the trip is to Kandy. It up to you which route you take. You can taste your way around on the longer scenic route and include a stop at Ella rock. Or you can just take the short 4-hour trip.
Kandy as its names suggest is a very sweet place to visit and spend some time. It is the second-largest city in Sri Lanka and a shopping mecca.
The topography is obviously different from the coastal areas because it is in land but it does boast a rather large lake. It is home to the Temple of the Tooth, which is the world’s most sacred place of worship for Buddhists.
The city is set on a plateau about 500m above sea level and is surrounded by vast tea plantations, and always bring to mind Rudyard Kipling stories when I see them. Kandy was declared a World UNESCO Heritage site in 1988. There is a lot of history to Kandy and records show it was established as far back as 1357 AD by the Kotte Royal Family.
The main roads of Colombo-Kandy and Kandy-Nuwara Eliya are two of the most scenic roads in Sri Lanka; Colombo-Kandy road passes through rubber plantations and rice paddies, while the Kandy-Nuwara Eliya road cuts through paddy fields and endless tea plantations. Both roads hook their way up and over winding hilly countryside.
My final suggestion is Ella Rock. It's a 4-hour uphill trek which is not for the faint-hearted, I would say. But if you plan to make the trip that I am suggesting, then Ella Rock is a stop en route and a chance to burn off some of the calories you have collected on the rest of your trip... Have fun exploring Sri Lanka xx