Travellers’ tales: Sri Lanka at last

A group of people is cycling along a tarmac road in Sri Lanka. They are in a mix of cycling and non-cycling clothing, all are wearing helmets. There's a huge lake in the background.
Cycling through Yala National Park
After a two-year delay, Cycling UK members Robin and Yvette Youngs finally toured the island off the tip of India

Our journey had been long in the planning. We had been CTC Holidays and Tours volunteer tour managers, and this tour – originally scheduled for 2021 – was to have been our last.

The pandemic and the end of the tour company scuppered these plans. Yet we were determined to complete the trip. We travelled to Sir Lanka with a group of friends in February 2023.

The Foreign Office advice did not bode well. It told of the “severe economic crisis” in Sri Lanka, with shortages of medicines, fuel and food. It also warned of violence against peaceful protest, with possible curfews.

We wanted to visit the coastal areas, particularly on the eastern side where predominantly Tamil communities live. We started in Negombo on the west coast and were able to visit the sacred sites of Yapahuwa, Dambulla and Sigiriya. Our route took us through small communities, often along dirt tracks and occasionally accompanied by torrential, warm downpours.

We arrived on the east coast at the city of Batticaloa, with its lagoon, vibrant market and fishing industry. From there we headed south to the surfing centre of Arugam Bay, continuing eventually to Galle in the south.

During the day temperatures reached 40ºC, so early starts were essential. Along the way we saw elephants, crocodiles, turtles and amazing birdlife.

Tourism accounts for 12% of Sri Lanka’s economy, and we found a country desperate for the return of foreign visitors. A warm welcome and an unforgettable experience are guaranteed

An elephant in Sri Lankan countryside
Sri Lanka affords some impressive wildlife watching

A tale to tell

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