Q: I have just booked a ten-day trip to Sri Lanka in June and need some suggestions on how to spend my three weeks there. I would like to visit historical sites, national parks as well as unspoiled beaches that not too touristy. I would also like to know about the situation there. Which part of the country should I avoid? Thank you, Pensiri
A: Sri Lanka is one of the most interesting countries in this region and well worth a visit now the civil war is over. Although memories of the conflict are still fresh, tourism to Sri Lanka is flourishing with more than 500,000 visitors a year. Parts of the North and the East are not developed for tourism though and the infrastructure is still limited.
As you’re a first timer, I’d recommend seeing the popular attractions along the road from Colombo to Kandy as well as the hill stations before heading to the beaches and national parks. However, the itinerary very much depends on your personal interests. The popular Cultural Triangle includes the Dambulla Cave Temples, Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Polonnaruwa City Ruins and the religious capital of Kandy.
This route is wonderful and should be your main focus if you are interested in the island’s history and religious culture. The tea plantations are beautiful, offering dramatic mountain ranges and deep valleys. This hill country is well worth experiencing and is ideal for hiking and mountain biking. Take the scenic railway from Kandy to the hill country.
You can spend half of your trip in this area before heading to the West coast for some beach relaxation. Or you choose to travel further and go to Galle and its beaches as well as visit the National Parks in the south. Uda Walawe and Yala in the south are among the best national parks for safari camping. There are also a number of Ayurveda resorts along the southern coast.
Q: I am travelling to Bali in June for a conference in Ubud for three days and plan to extend my stay on the island for another week. I’m looking for a resort near the beach with a spa and nice pool to relax, and from where I can go sightseeing to nearby attractions. Which area would you suggest for a solo female traveller? Jane
A: Bali is a beautiful and easy place to be. There are any number of small places to choose from, simple to luxurious, and I’d recommend one of these over a large resort as it’s a more personal experience, particularly if you’re on your own.
Kuta is the most touristy spot in Bali and the best as regards location, as it’s ideal for getting transport and transfers to other parts of the island. There are good beachside spa resorts in Kuta as well.
Another coastal area to look for spa resorts is Nusa Dua, which is not too far from Kuta. Nusa Dua is more upmarket with big brand hotels combined with luxury spas including Banyan Tree, Westin, Conrad, St Regis and Grand Hyatt. You can also look at the Seminyak and Jimbayan areas for more high-end spa resorts and private villas.
Actually in Bali almost every hotel, no matter how many stars it may have, has its own spa. And if not, there are several reasonable independent spa operations around the island. Sanur has more budget spa resorts as well as easier to access restaurants and local shops than Nusa Dua.