We braved a local bus for our trip East. Whilst fun and a great way to feel the thick of it, this definitely isn’t for the faint hearted! The driving is fast and reckless, with buses crammed full of people. We caught the bus from Galle to Mirissa and then on to Tissaharama.
After a relatively long and hot journey, we got a tuk tuk from Tissa bus station to our hotel, The Blue Turtle, which was down a small lane off the main road. The hotel was absolutely stunning, surrounded by greenery and with a gorgeous pool. Sitting on the balcony to our room, you could hear wildlife all around, which was so relaxing and made us even more excited for our safari the next morning.
Pool at The Blue Turtle Hotel
We organised our safari to Yala National Park through our hotel and paid around £55 for a half day safari and pick up for two people. We had heard mixed reviews about Yala. It is the most popular park in Sri Lanka, and as such, was pretty busy.
We loved it; the park wasn’t overly crowded and we saw so many different animals, including elephants, monkeys and wildebeest. The sunrise was incredible too!
Sunrise in Yala National Park
Elephants on safari
The only downside to our stay at the Blue Turtle Hotel was the food offered. The hotel was quite out of the way, so we ate at the hotel and to be honest, it was very disapointing. Most of the options were Western dishes, not what we were looking for at all.
Our next stop after Tissa was Hikkaduwa, probably our favourite place of the entire trip. We got there via another local bus, which again, was quite the (scary) experience.
We stayed at Refresh Hotel, which I’d highly recommend. Its really cheap by Western standards, the rooms are spacious and clean, the staff are friendly and the location is good. Plus, there’s a nice rooftop area with a pool.
Overlooking the jungle from the Refresh Hotel rooftop
Our time in Hikkaduwa was pretty relaxed. We ate breakfast on the hotel rooftop in the sunshine, then tended to go wandering down the beach and through the town.
We rented surf boards one afternoon but found that the waves were way too crazy for us novices, and promptly swapped these for body boards!
Hikkaduwa definitely felt like the most backpacker friendly place of the trip and although overdeveloped along the beach, we really liked the general vibe there.
We were sad to leave but needs must. We took a short train ride north to the more upmarket Bentota.