Our quick stopover in Kandy before moving to Dambulla where we leave from to visit one of the most popular sites in Sri Lanka: Sigiriya. From here we keep heading north, stopping in Habarana, base for the safari at the Kaudulla National Park, home of the elephants.
Our first impression of Kandy is not the best one: the jam we’ve avoided so far hits us, together with chaos, noises and smells. A tuk tuk takes us to our guesthouse, squeezing through the traffic and going uphill. The stay is far from the city disorder and faces the mountains. At the beginning we consider staying in Kandy for 2 nights, but then the rush of getting away from the city wins, and decide to leave the next day.
We try to use at best the short time we have to change our mind about Kandy; we leave the backpacks and go out immediately. People suggest us to attend the ceremony taking place every night at the Tooth Temple, where it appears to be a Buddha’s tooth as a relic. The temple lies in front of a beautiful lake, and when we get there a flow of people is entering for the ceremony. We follow them but we are stopped for the our inappropriate dress code (we are wearing bermuda shorts, and even covering our knees with a sweater is not enough to convince them). A bit disappointed we continue exploring the city that we like the less and less. Very chaotic, very dirty. We go back to our room early, glad we decided to stay one night only.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress – Dambulla
The next day we go by tuk tuk to the bus station and from there we leave to Dambulla, centre used as base to visit the nearby Sigiriya Rock. We arrive after a 3 hour ride. Dambulla spreads along the main road and it’s hard to point out a proper city center. Guesthouses are all scattered in the parallel small roads around.
We settle in the room we booked and we decide to relax for a couple of hours to avoid the early afternoon heat. Later we visit the Rock Temple Caves. Going up on a staircase with monkeys, we get to the top where it’s possible to visit small nice temples extracted from the cave openings and decorated with paintings on the walls.
We are aware that hiking on top of Pidurangala cannot substitute the visit of Sigiriya with its gardens and citadel, but we choose this option anyway, considering that with 9000 rupees we could pay 4 nights in our remaining days in Sri Lanka.
We get to Pidurangala base around 5.30 am and after paying the ticket at a small temple at the entrance, we start hiking up the staircase following the directions. It’s very important keeping an eye on the directions drawn on the rocks because it’s really easy to get lost, mostly on the way back. The first part of the hike is pretty easy, always going up but not too hard. We get to a lying Buddha statue with a few cells used by hermits monks in the past. From this point the path gets more difficult and in the last part we have to climb on the rocks. Small challenge immediately satisfied by the stunning panorama.
We stay on top of this monolith for about an hour, admiring the silence and the vastity at our feet.
Sigiriya is a very interesting formation that appears to come out from nowhere. Travelling around this region we will see several similar rocks, that characterize it. The history tells Sigiriya was chosen to build up a royal palace and fortress for the new King who wanted to defend himself from his brother, legitimate heir later exiled.
We decide to go back walking to Sigiriya, a couple of km far, and from there take a local bus to Dambulla. We probably miss the nearest bus stop but eventually get to catch the shuttle bus that runs to Dambulla in 40 minutes.
Kaudulla National Park – Habarana
We find a safari tour leaving that same afternoon, best timing to spot the elephants gathering at the lake. They suggest us Kaudulla Park though, cheaper and less crowded than Minneriya. So at 1.30 pm we leave from Habarana and in half an hour we are at the entrance of the park.
The panorama is maybe less various than the one of Yala Park in the South, but likewise magnificent. Huge savannah stretches make us think of Africa, with a big lake where all kind of animals gather: from buffaloes to colourful birds, from eagles to crocodiles. The elephants make themselves wanted, but eventually we manage to see about 40 of them, even though we were hoping more (they told us “more than one hundred”). We are not very lucky and in the wrong season, considering that in Yala we couldn’t even spot the famous leopards that live in the park.
We get back to Habarana around 6 pm, we have dinner and rest in our room, thinking back to the busy and amazing day we had, full of new experiences and adventures: life is amazing!
WHERE TO STAY:
- Kandy Hill Escape, Kandy: 2000rs/night, fan-AC, huge rooms, private bathroom.
- Relax Guesthouse, Dambulla: 1500rs/night, fan, private bathroom.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND:
- Tuk-tuk, Kandy station-guesthouse: 250rs;
- Local bus, Kandy-Dambulla: 160rs/person;
- Tuk-tuk, Dambulla-Pidurangala (Sigiriya Rock): 1000rs;
- Local bus, Sigiriya-Dambulla: 40rs/person;
- Local bus, Dambulla-Habarana: 50rs/person;
- You can pre-book in advance your tickets to travel in Sri Lanka on amt.12go.asia
- Rock Cave Temple, Dambulla: free;
- Pidurangala Rock, Sigiriya: 500rs/person;
- Safari, Kaudulla Park: 2700rs/person, private jeep+entrance fees.
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