Tag: adventure

South America’s 8 Must Visit Places…

My love of travel began back in the year 2000, and in the past seven years since then I have traveled to countless places, had numerous adventures and made many memories.  Over time the details of these trips can begin to blur and the emotion and excitement originally felt can fade into a distant memory. However my experiences in South America are made up of rare moments that I will hold in my heart forever.

It is a continent of magic, enchantment, inspiration & love and somewhere which evokes a great sence of wanderlust within me.  Though I have traveled there extensively it is a place I always long to return to and on trips back I have always had the feeling of my soul somehow coming home.  For me, that’s the bewitching allure of travel, and the thing that always drives me to keep exploring new corners of the world.

So here is my list of South America’s 8 must visit places… May they be as awe-inspiring for you as they were for me!

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1 – Cycle the ‘Road of Death’ in Bolivia.

‘The Road of Death’ is a twisting 80km mountainside trail, considered the world’s most dangerous road. Get a major adrenaline rush as you dodge trucks and local filled buses while admiring the incredible views of the sweeping mountains.

2 – Visit the Amazon Forest.

Bolivia’s ‘Las Pampas’ is one of the lesser visited areas of the amazon where you can get up close and observe capybara, monkeys and caimens in their natural habitat.  Plus hike through the forest, fish for piranha and swim with pink dolphins.

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3 – Samba Dance Around Colourful Brazil.

A visit to Brazil any time between Christmas and mid-February guarantees you a party as they prepare for, or celebrate, the famous Carnival. From Rio de Janiero’s Bloco Parties & Sambadrome, to all-night beach parties in Bahia, or the soulful drum beats of street parties in Salvador.

4 – Dance the Tango in Buenos Aires.

Explore Buenos Aires, the city of colour, vibrancy and romance offering incredible food & wine, beautiful architecture, fascinating culture and of course tango dancing.

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5 – Experience the Power of the Iguazu Falls.

A cascade of hundreds of waterfalls emerging from the jungle in a powerful mass over the Brazilian & Argentinian boarders.  Explore the falls by boat ride or walk up to ‘The Devils Throat’ and see views from the top of the biggest fall.

6- Get Lost in Bolivia’s Salt Desert.

Uyuni’s salt desert was once a great lake that dried into giant mysterious salt flats.  Stretching as far as the eye can see the white of the salt reflects light in an amazing way, making it appear like you are walking through the clouds.

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7 – Hike to the Ancient Aztec City of Machu Picchu.

Walk along Peru’s ancient Inca Trail which winds through mountains peaks, cloud topped forests and old Aztec ruins to finish at the ancient city of Machu Picchu.   

8 – Explore Hidden Islands on Lake Titicaca.

For an off the beaten track experience take an over-night trip to the hidden islands on Lake Titicaca.  Hike across the island by day and stay in family run guest houses by night to see beautiful views of natures and experience local life.

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7 Must-Do’s in Cartagena…

Cartagena is an UNESCO World Heritage site located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast and is considered one of South America’s top colonial destinations, alongside Cuzco and Ouro Preto.

Though the most touristy place we visited in Colombia, the city has a lot to offer and I was drawn to promises of cobbled streets, sunny plazas and bougainvillea covered houses.  The magic of the old town conjures up feelings of romance, mystery and inspiration and our two nights spent here were filled with exploring the maze-like streets, photographing the beautiful architecture and drinking coffee in leafy plazas.

If you are planning to visit Colombia, a stop off in Cartagena is highly recommended.  Here are my 7 must-do’s while visiting the city…

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1 – Walk Along the City Walls.  Cartagena’s Old Town lies inside its 13km long city walls constructed in the 16th century to protect the city after attacks from Sir Francis Drake.  The walls are still well preserved and its possible to walk nearly all the way around, providing views into the old town on one side and the ocean on the other.

2 – Wander Around the Old Town.  The best way to visit Cartagena’s old town is to simply wander around and see what you discover.  As well as impressive architecture and cute cafes there is so much life in Cartagena’s streets so enjoying taking in the kids playing footballs, the fruit vendors wearing traditional dress or the families playing cards outside their houses.  There is always something exciting going on no matter what time of day or night!

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(cartagena’s cathedral covered with work from local artists)

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(flower filled balconies)

3 – Photograph the Bougainvillea Covered Balconies.  Almost all the houses in Cartagena’s old town have flower filled balconies spilling out into the street.  The colors create a beautiful, vibrant atmosphere and provide some great photo opportunities.

4 – Check Out Some Amazing Street Art.  Incredible street art adorns the walls around the cool neighborhood of Getsemani.  Still part of the old town, though outside the city walls, Getsemani has a more raw, gritty feel with colorful graffiti covering most of the walls.  Join the free Street Art Tour leaving each morning at 10am or walk around alone and see what you discover.

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(getsemani street art)

5 – Try Some Street Food.  Cartagena has a reputation for serving some of the best street food in Colombia and it’s specialty is Arepas – a deep fried bread made from maize and stuffed with cheese, egg or meat.  For something more healthy you can find fruit vendors all over the city.  Recognizable for their colorful, traditional dress they sell all kinds of fresh, delicious, exotic fruits.

6 – Soak Up the Shopping.  If you love bohemian fashion then shopping in Cartagena is definitely a must.  There are street stalls and boutiques all over the old city selling colorful jewellery, sandals and bags.  Make sure to check out Casa Abba Boutique for some unique accessories and clothes made by amazing Colombia’s designers.

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IMG_6693.jpg(casa abba gallery boutique)

7 – Find Local Life Depicted in Scrap Metal.  If you want to learn about local life, check out the series of statues dotted around the plazas of the old town.  The statues are made to represent the daily life of the Cartagenians with fruit vendors, shoes shiners, dominoes matches and guitar players all made of scrap metal.

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After ten days relaxing on the secluded San Bernardo Islands we loved the vibrancy and color we found in our two night stop over in Cartagena.  Have you ever visited Cartagena? Let me know what you thought in the comments below…

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How to Travel the San Bernardo Islands like a Pro…

San Bernardo is an archipelago of ten islands forming half of Colombia’s ‘PNN Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo’ and are situated two hours off the coast of Cartagena in the Caribbean sea.

The islands are a well known destination for holidaying Colombians however are pretty off-the-beaten track for the regular tourist trail.  While planning our trip to Colombia this summer I kept coming across mentions of them from backpacker friends but could find little information about them online.  All I knew was that they were secluded islands with paradise beaches and off the beaten track – exactly what I was looking for!

I read traveler forums which suggested staying on the main land in Cartagena or Tolu and visiting the islands on a boat tour.  The tours spend the day island hopping, finishing up on Isla Murcura for lunch and sunbathing time, before taking you back to the mainland before evening.

Following the crowds and organized tours aren’t really my vibe.  And I wanted to spend at least a week on the islands not one day.  So we decided to break away and visit the islands our own way.  Organization was a little difficult but the adventure meant we got to stay longer, bond with the locals and experience real island life.

Here is my guide to travel the San Bernardo islands like a pro…

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How to Get There…

From Cartgena take a two hour bus ride along the coast to Tolu.  (Side Note: Tolu makes a great place to spend the night if you want to see some authentic Colombia culture.)  From here jump on a morning boat tour visiting the San Bernardo Islands.  The tours last for a day but speak to your boat driver, explain where you want to be dropped off and schedule a day for them to come and collect you back.  It costs a little more for a ticket this way but the drivers are more than happy to oblige and its worth the extra cost to see the real beauty of the islands.

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(island vibes)

Where To Stay…

The main islands to sleep on are Isla Palma, Isla Tipitan or Isla Murcura and most of the accommodation options available are luxury resorts.  I much prefer hippie places with chilled out vibes, and after a lot of research I scouted out these three cool options.

Hostel Isla Murcura.   Our hostel of choice, we stayed here for ten days and loved it.  The hostel has a private beach and stilted cabanas overlooking the sea.  The bar and restaurant serve amazing food and the guys who work there are super cool.  There is no wifi so you can disconnect and spend the days swinging in hammocks and drinking fresh coconuts.

Casa En Nel Agua.  Located just off Isla Tipitan the hostel is build on stilts surrounded by sea and coral reefs.  This place looks cool if you want to stay somewhere totally unique.

La Playita Hostel.  Located on the more secluded Islas Furte this hostel is great if you want some adventure and action.  The hostel organize sufing, kite boarding and paddle boarding trips and offer private rooms, dorms and an open air restaurant and bar.

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(sunset views from hostel isla murcura)

What To Do…

Chill.  With no cars, roads or wifi there is little to do on the islands but chill, swing in hammocks and drink fresh coconuts.  Read books, journal, sunbath on white sand beaches and swim in crystal clear waters.

Discover the Beaches.  As well as our hostel’s private beach, Islas Murcura also has a public beach on the opposite side of the island.  Though it fills up with visiting tours over lunch the beach has a family fun vibe and come 3pm when the boat tours leave you will have the place all to yourself again.

Take a Night Time Plankton Tour.  Visit the mangrove lagoon on Isla Tipitan after dark and jump in the water to see the florescent plankton light up and glow around you.  It looks like your are surrounded by hundreds of tiny stars!

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(fishing and sunbathing on paradise beach)

What to Explore…

The Coral Reefs.  The islands are surrounded by coral reefs and it’s possible to see amazing marine life by snorkeling just off the island.  If you want something even more special organize a snorkel trip to ‘Chara’ an underwater gardens out at sea to view beautiful coral formations and groups of colorful fish.

The Coastline.  Isla Murcura is tiny and it’s possible get around the island pretty easily.  Go on foot to meet the locals and see the colorful shacks of the pueblo or rent a kayak and paddle around the islands for beautiful coastline views.  Bring a snorkel to see some fish or stop on the public beach for a coconut half way around.

Isla Sucre.  Neighboring island, Isla Sucre, is the most densely populated island on earth.  Its 350 sq m is occupied by 500 people who live in a mass of colorful shacks and concrete.  Explore the maze of alleyways weaving thought the community that is teaming with cooking smells, music, children playing, animals and generations of family living together.

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What To Eat…

Fresh Fish and Lobster Tails.   Head over to the public beach and try the delicious food being cooked up by the locals.  Choose from fish or lobster freshly caught and enjoy served with fried plantains, rice and salad.

Exotic Fruit Smoothies.  Visit the drink vendors on the public beach to sample delicious fruit smoothies freshly blended from fruits picked from the forest.  Choose guava, starfruit, passion fruit or mango – yum!

Local Seafood.  Befriend local fisherman and restaurant owner Joel who works on the far end of the local beach and organize a fresh seafood catch for dinner.  His home cooking is delicious and eating on the beach under the stars is a beautiful experience.

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What to Bring…

Money.  There are no banks or ATM’s on the islands so bring as much money as you need.

Snorkel and Mask.  The islands are surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and its not possible to rent snorkels on the island so make sure to bring one with you.

Sun Cream and Bug Spray.  Bring essentials like sun cream and bug spray with you from the main land.  There is a tiny shop in the Pueblo used by the locals but it isn’t always very well stocked so if you think you are going to need something, bring it with you.

Have you traveled to the San Bernardo Islands?  If you have any travel tips or fun experiences please share in the comments below…

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What to do When you have Itchy Feet…

If you read my blog regularly (thank you!) then you will know how much I love traveling and how I am always dreaming about new places I want to visit and discover.  Apart from fashion, traveling is my favorite thing to do with my time and I have invested so much time and energy into taking big trips and seeing the world.  That’s because traveling inspires me, the discovery and new experiences it brings helps me to grow and change the way I see the world and it makes me feel happy and excited about life.  I honestly feel so lucky for all the incredible places I have visited so far and I can’t wait for all the future trips I plan on taking.

Right now we are starting to research for our summer trip and we are thinking Colombia in South America!  So I have been reading a lot of travel guides and searching travel blogs for tips about top places to visit in Colombia.  All this makes me super excited because Colombia sounds amazing!  And it also brings back beautiful memories of my gap year traveling around South America! But it is also giving me pretty itchy feet and making me yearn for my South American travels right now.

I am lucky because it will only be about ten weeks until we take our summer trip but I know there have been times when there have been no trips on the horizon and my life has been consumed by day to day things and working.  And in times like this its easy to feel like travel is far away and out of sync with your lifestyle.  So today I wanted to share with you my five easy ideas to do when you have itchy feet and how to bring adventure into your life when you can’t travel anywhere.

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Research.

Even if you don’t have any trips coming up in the immediate future always keep yourself open to the idea of traveling by doing research.  Read travel magazines and blogs, save and rip out articles of places you want to visit, make a Pinterest Board of travel ideas or make a travel book of places you dream of visiting.  Keeping you travel dreams in mind increase the chances of you actually making them a reality and gives you things to feel excited for in the future.

Inspire Yourself.

Search for new sources of inspiration by watching travel documentary’s, reading magazines like National Geographic, visiting photography and anthropology exhibitions, reading travel books and journals and watching adventure films.  Following the adventures of others will open you mind and bring you inspiration for exciting things you can to do in the future.

Embrace Your Local Scene.

Find out what exciting things your local scene has to offer and make an effort to visit them in your free time.  If you are really busy dedicate one day a month to having fun and take off for an adventure in your city or local area.  Visit museum or exhibitions, soak up the culture in another near-by town, go hiking or cycling and explore the countryside or check out local festivals and events.  You may be surprised how much your area has to offer and it will give you appreciation of the amazing place you live in.  To find out about whats going on check Trip Advisors of your town, blog posts, facebook events and local magazines and newspapers.

Push Yourself to Try New Things.

Create adventure in your day to day life by pushing yourself to try new things and create new experiences.  Eat out at new restaurants, take some fun classes, try new sports, experiment with cooking exotic foods, visit parts of your city you haven’t seen before.  Including new things in your life keeps you feeling inspired and energized, helps you learn and grow and can even open doors to new opportunities and introduce you to new people.

Get Creative.

Remember and feel gratitude for all the amazing trips you have always taking by finding creative ways to honor them.  Create scrap books or your trips or make a photo wall in your home showing all your favorite trips and experiences.  Honoring your past travels in this way will help to keep them alive and fill your life with positivity and achievement.

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Positive Vibes – Dream Big

Ever since I was young I have always thought it was important to dream big.  That’s why I took a year out and went traveling around South America with my best friends.  That’s why I did a study exchange to Milan.  That’s why I started my career as a Fashion Stylist.  And its something I always try to share and encourage through this blog.

We only live once so I think it’s really important to make sure our lives are as beautiful and exceptional as possible.  And a great way to do that is to dream big, visualize our ideas and work hard to achieve them!   Even the biggest of dreams is possible to achieve if you believe in yourself, have a plan and keep focused.

When I turned twenty I wrote a list of dreams I wanted to achieve before I turned thirty.  Some of those (like living abroad, starting my own business & traveling Sri Lanka I have done) but I have still got quite a few things I need to tick off.  So for today’s posts I thought I would share with you nine dreams I want to achieve.  I hope it gives you some inspiration and I invite you to share your dreams in the comments below…

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(traveling in colombia)

1 – Climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Ever since one of my friends did this in her gap year I have been fantasizing about climbing to the summit of this incredible mountain in Africa.  It is the highest freestanding mountain in the world and from the top you can see beautiful views over Tanzania.

2 – Travel around Columbia.

Even though I have visited a lot of South American countries I have never had the chance to go to Columbia yet.  Everything I hear about this place sounds amazing and I dream about spending a summer backpacking here.

3 – Become a Master at Cooking.

This is something I am always working on.  I love trying new foods and I think a great way to learn about a culture is through the food.  Whenever I travel I like to study the food and learn how to cook something special.

4 – Go to Coachella & Glastonbury.

Ok I know this is technically two dreams.  But as a huge lover of both fashion & music I have always wanted to live the bohemian dream at these two festivals.

5 – Work in New York.

New York is one of the most inspirational cities for fashion and in the future I would love to work regularly over there styling Editorials and Photo Shoots.

6 – Visit India.

The colours, the food, the people and the culture.  Everything about India fascinates me and I have always dreamed about making a big trip around this country.

7 – Work with a Women’s Support Charity.

As a girl who is building her own business I believe it is so important girls & women are empowered and have the support they need to achieve their dreams and make a positive impact on the world and I would love to work closely with a charity who advocates this.

8 – Write a Book.

As a Blogger and a passionate writer, having my own book published and being able to inspire others would be incredible.

9 – Shoot an Editorial for Vogue.

As a Fashion Stylist who works with lots of international magazines working with Vogue is the ultimate dream!

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Why Traveling is Good for the Soul

Hello friends,

I hope you are all great after an amazing Easter weekend!

We had a really great time and five amazing days visiting my family in England! Even though I was technically going home, the whole weekend felt like a holiday.  I felt so excited all last week in the build up to going away and it was amazing to have long, fun filled days together without having to think about responsibilities or work.  We went out for lunch, watched the rugby with friends, ate amazing food, caught up with family at our big party on Easter Sunday and had long walks in the countryside.  It was so much fun!

And it reminded me of the main reason I love traveling – because it is good for the soul!  Having a packed out work schedule, a long to-do list and a whole load of boring responsibilities can sometimes mean we get stuck in the day to day stuff and forgot to make the most out of life.  Having an exceptional and beautiful life is something I am always working for and traveling reminds me of how important that is.  So just in case you needed a little reminder or wanted some inspiration to go traveling, here is my list of why traveling is good for the soul…

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(sigiriya – sri lanka – summer 2015)

Traveling opens your mind to new cultures, ideas and ways of thinking.

It allows you to build amazing memories with new people and places.

Traveling gives you the freedom to make the most of every opportunity and fill your day with exciting new experiences.

It can push you out of your comfort zone, boost your confidence and help you discover all the amazing things you can achieve.

With all the incredible experiences and challenges you are faced with, traveling helps you to get prospective and give you inspiration on the kind of life you want to live.

Traveling teaches you to live in the moment, enjoy every experience to its fullest and let go of negativity from the past.

Traveling lets you chill out and take a break from our crazy, fast paced lives…

which can give you the head space you need to reflect on your life and feel inspired to make some positive changes for the future.

And it teaches you to trust your instincts, your ability and your ambitions and goals, which leads to a full and happy life.

I decided pretty early on that I wanted my life to be adventurous, beautiful, exciting and interesting and traveling is one of my favorite ways to do that.  I hope it does the same for you!

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6 Must Do Things in Torino

Torino (or Turin in English) is located in the north west of Italy in the Piemonte region.  Originally the capital of Italy, it’s an elegant and grand city made up of wide boulevards, sweeping plazas and old marble arcades.  It feels less touristy than Italy’s other major cities and spending a day or two strolling around allows you to observe city life and local Italian customs without the heavy crowds of Rome or Venice.

I have visited Torino twice, both times with visiting friends and family, and found I fell in love instantly with the compelling mix of culture, architecture, restaurants and wine bars.  Located 120km from Milan it’s possible to arrive in under an hour on the fast train so makes the perfect place for a day trip.  Here are my 6 must-do’s while visiting Torino…

Visiting Torino - 6 Must Do Things

1 – Try some Chocolate from a Traditional Chocolate Cafe.

The Piemonte region is famous for growing hazelnuts and a result of this is they make really incredible chocolate! Torino city center is full of traditional chocolate shops and cafes, all of which have inviting counters displaying hand-made chocolate and treats.

2 – Take the Lift Up the Mole Antonelliana & Admire the City Views.

You can’t miss the beautiful and unusual architecture of the Mole Antonelliana towering above the city skyline.  Taking the lift up to the top of the tower allows you to admire the architecture up close and gives you panoramic views of the city below.

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3 – Visit the Film Museum.

Inside the building of the Mole Antonelliana is the Torino Film Museum.  One of the coolest museums I have visited in Italy, the museum features exhibits on cameras through the ages, optical illusions, famous film sets, movie props and 3D cinema.  It feels really crazy and as you walk through the rooms you don’t know what you might find next.

4 – See Mummies at the Egyptian Museum.

Torino also has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo housed in the Egyptian Museum.  See ancient Mummies, Sarcophagus, painted tombs, royal jewellery and even a Sphinx!

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5 – Stroll Through the Widest Plaza in Europe.

Torino’s ‘Piazza Vittorio Veneta’ is the widest plaza in Europe, with wide boulevards stretching between marble archways, elegant shop fronts and open air cafes.  The plaza finishes by opening up onto the banks of the River Po.  Take a walk around the plaza and finish up on the river where you can walk across the bridge and enter the beautiful church on the other side.

6 – Have Dinner in a Local Trattoria.

The Piemonte region is famous for being one of the best regions in Italy for food.  So make sure to eat in a little ‘trattoria’ – a simple style restaurant serving up local dishes from the region.  These places are frequented by locals and have menus based on the season so you are sure to try some authentic Italian cuisine.

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Sri Lanka Road Trip – Exploring Sri Lanka in One Week

After a relaxing two weeks at the beach we decided to spend our last week in Sri Lanka on a road trip. I am so happy we did this because there was so many interesting things to see and do.  And we really had the best time.

In case you are planning a road trip around Sri Lanka or just want some inspiration of nice places to visit I have shared our itinerary with you below.

Day 1 – Ella

AM – Drive from Arugam Bay to Ella passing through tea plantations and rice paddies.  Stop on the way at the Rawana Falls for a swim in the rock pools.

PM – Go trekking in the hills surrounding Ella.  Choose treks to Ella Rock, Ella Gap or like us, trek through the tea plantations to see Tamil families picking tea at sunset. Sleep at Ella Eco Lodge to have your own wooden cabin in the forest.

Day 2 – Nuwara Eliya

AM – Wake up early and catch the train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya.  The old trains pass though tea plantations and tiny, hill top villages with incredible views of the valleys below.

PM – Go exploring in Nuwara Eliya.  Explore the english colonial village, eat fresh strawberries, go for afternoon tea, relax by the lake and take a walk though the rose gardens in Victoria Park.

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early morning train

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sunrise at horton plains

Day 3 – Horton Plains & Kandy

AM – Wake up at sunrise and go trekking through Horton Plains.  Get to the park early and reach the Worlds End Viewpoint before 9am to see panaramic views of Sri Lanka’s countryside.  Have a picnic of fruits and coconut pancakes for breakfast on the cliff edge.

PM – Drive to Kandy, stopping along the way at a tea plantation to do a tea tasting.  We arrived in Kandy during the Perahera Festival so found seats in the streets and watched the two hour procession of elephants, fire dancers and drummers all wearing beautiful traditions costumes!

Day 4 – Kandy

AM – Visit the ancient Temple of the Scared Tooth Relic to see beautiful buddhist shrines and temples. Visit during the Perahera Festival to see pilgrims worshipping and visit the festival elephants relaxing in the gardens before their performance.

PM – Take a walk around the Botanical Gardens to see exotic plants and wildlife.  We saw snakes, birds and hundreds of bats sleeping in the trees.  In the evening we watched the festival again.  This time following the procession back to the Tooth Temple to walk with the free elephants around the gardens.

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elephants at the perahera festival

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monkies at the temple

Day 5 – Sigiriya

AM – Drive from Kandy to Sigiriya making a stop off at a Batik craft-factory to see local women making beautiful handmade batik clothes – great for some shopping!

PM – Visit the amazing Dambulla Cave Temples and explore the five painted caves filled with ancient buddha statues.   Then arrive at the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in the late afternoon.  Climb the huge rock-face and watch the sunsetting from the incredible view of the surrounding mountains.

Day 6 – Polonnaruwa & Minneriya Park

AM – Rent bikes and cycle around Polonnaruwa Ancient City.  Ruins date back to 2000 years but statues and shrines are incredibly intact and the atmosphere is beautiful.

PM – Take a jeep safari around Minneriya National Park and see huge families of elephants gathering around the lake.  We saw over 50 grazing together and two new born baby elephants!

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sigiriya rock fortress

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polonnaruwa ancient ruins

And there you have it, our road trip itenary around Sri Lanka.  Thinking of visiting Sri Lanka, let me know your plans in the comments below…

For more about our Sri Lanka adventures read my Arugam Bay Beach Town Guide