Cycling a lap around Sri Lanka

by tkos on October 3, 2012

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Sri Lanka is a fantastic place to cycle. As so many people go straight to India, it is not a common sight for locals to see cycle tourers. and always makes for interesting conversation. There is so much to do and see, with only a month visa, it’s difficult not to use every single day.  As it is virtually impossible to get a boat from Dubai to the sub-continent, we were forced to take our first plane to Negombo airport.

We started in Negombo and went south along the coast, to Matara, through Uda Walawe National Park to Batticaloa on the mid east coast, then north to Jaffna passed Trincomalee. From the northern point, we turned back through the middle to Kandy and back to Negombo for yet another forced flight to leave.

See the map below to see where we spent each night.


View Larger Map


What we loved the most:

  • We were lucky enough to get in touch with the United Nations in Jaffna and had a guided tour through the refugee camps from the war. It was a great insight into the world of charity and how so much international aid can be so complicated.
  • Beaches. A lot of people will tell you to go to Hikkaduwa or Aragum Bay. Both beaches are nice and are set up to accommodate you with great places to stay with enough local charm to let you know you’re away but enough Western comfort so you don’t miss home. But our favourite beach was Nilaveli, just north of Trincolomee. You share the beach with nobody other than the odd military personnel with a machine gun and a cow going for a stroll.
  • Lack of tourists. The best part of travelling by bicycle is all the places in between the places that Lonely Planet tells you about. We also cycled in the middle of the rainy season (June) but to our fortune, it did not rain a lot and the temperature was perfect for cycling.

What was like a 25 km head wind:

  • Tourist price. Everyday items are pretty much the same price and nothing you need to barter for. There is also a MRP (maximum retail price) on every item so you know how much you should be paying. What is a bit of a kick in the head is the difference in price at hotels. Sri Lankan locals will pay less than half for the same room than you will. It’s not too subtle and it’s pretty standard.
  • The road between Kilinochi and Jaffna is a battle. At the time we cycled, about 60km of it was under massive construction, but it was still open to use. We could not get passed 12km per hour and the dust was enough to make you cry. Tough day. No better on the way back. Hopefully it will be fixed before you go.

What you can’t miss:

  • The road between Kandy and Negombo is beautiful. Lots of downhill and very green with hardly any traffic.
  • Elephants. We took time out to go through Uda Walawe National Park in the south and were lucky enough to stroll through a herd of about 80 elephants. The next day when we were back on the bikes riding along the fence line, there were a few dozen on the side of the road posing for passers by. We even got to a point of not even stopping when we saw them a little further north!
  • Juiceez fresh fruit franchise. Lap it up as it gets rare in India.

What’s it worth?

  • We spent an average of £25.86 per day that we were there. It included sleeping with a couple of different families on their porch or outside their hut, couch surfing a little and staying in some hotels. We didn’t camp.
Cincopa WordPress plugin
TownKM'sNightsWhere we slept
Colombo382Couch Surf
Walasmulla552Couch Surf
Uda Walawe Park (outskirts)901Kind Stranger
Aragum Bay771Hotel
Akkaraipattu581Random Kind Stranger
Nilaveli172Kind Stranger
Kilinochi811Kind Stranger
Jaffna743Couch Surf



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