This blog has taken me longer than anticipated. For two reasons that are so crucial to my solo travelling experience.
1. I’m loving solo travelling and have met some incredible people so have found it hard to find the time to blog.
2. The Flashpack experience needed my FULL ATTENTION into making this review as it was such a life-changing experience, yet again… they never fail to deliver in every expectation as a solo female traveller.
Sri Lanka was such an incredible country and I’m sad its over, but what a FLASHPACK experience it was! The greatest trip in such a beautiful and inspiring place. I thought I would write a detailed review of my experience on the tour and hopefully it may inspire some of you to go try it yourself! I’m going to break my experiences into days to give you a full taste for what Flashpacking is really like, so I am able to give you a full flavour of everything I got up to. I hope you enjoy!…
Day 1 : Cocktails in Negombo
“Travelling solo means getting to know the real you”It’s true… when you get to a new destination, all alone, and make new friends in a completely different country to home… you find out WHO you really are!
As I am travelling solo for 6 months, I was amazed by the initial service from Flashpack, on arrival at the airport, I was greeted by my transfer driver with a bottle of cold water and a flower necklace…just what I needed after a long flight.
As soon as we got to the first hotel, I was met by the bell boys at reception and they whisked my backpack away to my room. In fact, for the whole trip I barely carried it myself. It was exceptional service from the hotel staff throughout the trip.
I wanted to ease myself into the tour and get to grips with the Flashpackers arriving I decided to book an extra night at the first hotel – Jetwing Lagoon. I was looking forward to a cocktail but what wowed me more was the incredible 100m pool…yes that’s right… 100 metres! The longest pool in Sri Lanka, I did 2 lengths, and then I’d earnt my cocktail for sure. Fantastic first impression of this hotel!
After that I quickly settled into my room and began meeting a couple of Flashpackers that had arrived before me and shortly after began relaxing by the pool with a couple of cocktails and got to know the others. Three of us early arrivals enjoyed a relaxing day and a tasty fish curry at the restaurant in the evening. After dinner, we wandered down to the spa to check out the treatments. One of the girls, Uta from Berlin had booked and received a 90 min Foot Reflexology treatment and highly recommended it. On leaving the spa, we were greeted by a little terrapin, who had got himself trapped in the stepping stones over the decorative spa pool… we did our good deed for the day and set him free before retreating back to our rooms.
The following day was the start of the tour and I strongly recommend staying an extra night at the beginning to make the most of this wonderful resort. As more and more arrived, it was great to meet everyone around the pool. Quickly exchanging travel stories and backgrounds, we made strong connections before the welcome meal was even near. My roommate Fiona arrived and we hit it off straight away. Flashpack are excellent at pairing you up with a suitable roommate when you book the trip by asking a few questions to make sure you are most compatible… perfect!
After taking Uta’s advice, myself and a Canadian girl Shawna booked the Foot Reflexology treatment and after 90 mins for less than £25, we came out fully relaxed and raving to the others about how good it was! I’d never had reflexology before and it was incredible! Give it a go!
5.30pm arrived and we all gathered by the lagoon to enjoy the welcome meal and meet Riz the tour guide! He was one of us straight away, funny and always laughing which immediately put us all at ease and fulfilled with excitement at what the next 10 days would hold.
Day 2 : Sigiriya Fortress at Sunset
“ You never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you”I love this quote. It’s too true, It’s what most aspiring solo travellers fear… but it is the greatest opportunity to meet people just like you.
So the first full day of the tour arrived and we were all buzzing from the welcome meal. After leaving the hotel, we visited a local fish market. It was breathtaking ( in more ways than one haha) but such an experience to see how the locals survived and provided for their family relying solely on this industry. All the members of the same family worked in sync to prepare and quickly turnover the fish from the sea and straight to the market in various stages. It amazed me how hard working they were and all had strong relationships between themselves which helped to reap the rewards of the days catch.
After experiencing the delights of local life we began our first bus journey towards Sigiriya Rock. A scenic route which was in exceptional comfort and for the whole 11 days our bus driver and first officer alongside Riz made our bus journeys the best time to relax, chat and joke around.
The driver Kaushi – most importantly negotiated the winding sometimes narrow routes in Sri Lanka, avoided traffic jams and always greeted us with a smile.
The First Officer Chami – provided us with copious amounts of cold wet flannels, anti-bacterial gel everytime we entered the bus, foot dips for when we had been on sandy beaches and walked up and down the bus regularly with mints and ice cold bottles of water! You really couldn’t have asked or expected more!
Climbing this magnificent rock was an amazing experience and allowed me to capture my FIRST ever Go Pro video, which I will post. I’m very new to using a GoPro so bear with and hopefully I’ll get it up soon.
Riz was great about telling us the history of the rock and how it became so famous! Before we all embarked on a 2,500 steps up the steepest and tallest rock in Sri Lanka. As you can see in my photo above, it was sooooo hot and very hard work at times with steep steps perched on the edge of the vertical cliff, so I was so pleased when I finally reached the top and stood on the old palace ruins – the final steps! It was a stunning view from the top and looking down, I could barely believe that my legs had carried me all the way up there…. but… what goes up has to come down right…! Going down as you can imagine was much easier and even more beautiful with being able to take in the green luscious views beyond the rock.
After, we took a short bus ride back to the next Flashpack hotel in Dambulla – Amaya Lake – which was again a brilliant hotel with vast facilities and woodland lodges set along lit pathways. A real JUNGLE feel and being able to watch sunrise the following morning over the lake after a swim in one of the resorts pools was very special indeed…
Day 3 : Temple Cycling in Polonnaruwa
“ A traveller should be happy, not perfect”Shouldn’t we all abide to this mantra – life isn’t about being perfect, its about being happy in everything we do.
Day 3 was great fun, as I hopped on this bike, I really had to think about how to ride one again! It had been too long! But I quickly remembered and being able to cycle around these opposing structures all of individual Sri Lankan design was a fab experience. If you do get a chance to visit, there is no better way to get around them all than to do it this way!
We then visited a local farming family who provided us with lunch after the bicycle ride, although all the food had been AMAZING throughout the trip, this was the BEST meal I had in Sri Lanka! See the pic below and full itinerary of dishes. One thing that this country completely delivers on is lighting up all of your taste buds in one meal! Incredible. If you like Indian food, you will definitely prefer Sri Lankan food I can assure you. It was DELISH!
That evening was also a memorable one – we were taken by tractor and trailer to the depths of the countryside near Dambulla where we visited a special location set up just for FLASHPACKERS. Such a unique experience to have the opportunity to party like a local. This is one of the many things that I believe Flashpack is unique for. What a stunning setting!
Plentiful cushions and rug space for us all to gather around, set alongside a large campfire which one of the Flashpackers – Josh took pride in lighting for the group. We all sat around and tried the local drink Arac before enjoying yet another delicious meal. What made this night was the band playing live music all evening ( and featured a blind guitarist who was super talented and inspiring to us all) after a few drinks we enjoyed climbing up the tree house built by the locals and singing our favourite songs to each other…
Afterwards, we took an even more enjoyable ride back to the bus on the tractor and trailer – I’m sure the amount of arac we had made no difference at all. Then a couple of us ( of course me included) provided entertainment on the bus on the way back to the hotel haha! Fab day – probably my FAVE. This is difficult to decide though. As it all was INCREDIBLE!
Day 4 : Sacred Sights and Street Food in Kandy
“ I travel because it makes me realise how much I haven’t seen, how much I’m not going to see, and how much I still need to see”This quote needs no citation!
On this day we visited a local Spice Garden which not only dealt with cooking spice but also herbal medicines. After being attacked by a few mosquitos I was pleased to hear they had something to help the bites so I bought some aloe Vera gel grown in their very own garden, and it worked wonders. Alongside this….another reason why Riz our guide was sooo great. He advised me that the local repellant worked better, and even gave me one of his own bottles to use. What better attention and caring nature could you ask for from a tour guide as a solo female traveller… I’ve since used this advice in Myanmar and Thailand and it works wonders.
We then drove onto Kandy and after checking into the hotel, took a short walking tour around to visit the Sacred Tooth Temple – a temple holding the Buddhas tooth which is visited by thousands of Buddhists every year. The city itself is a fortress surrounded by high mountains with a magnificent lake in the centre providing a perfect photo opportunity!
Day 5 : Into the Tea Hills
“ I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it”This is the most exciting thing about travelling. Full Stop.
This train ride was the best train journey of my life. Not just for the stunning a scenery and rolling tea hills but because of all of the new friends I had made joining together to get some great photos and of course the standard hanging out of the train pic that you see all over social media. Riz was definitely the PRO photographer on this instance and took countless photos of us all to make sure this was a memorable one. Time flew by this day and the photo above just sums up all the fun we had!
We boarded a train and headed for Ella ( the backpacker capital of Sri Lanka) On arrival we were transferred to the most beautiful hotel of them all – Jetwing Kaduruketha… just take a look at this beauty….
We all dined together with a delicious 5 course meal – all provided by Flashpack and explored what the hotel had to offer. This resort is set in the jungle surrounded by farming land and lots of winding and twisting trails. One that led down to the river was my favourite as we saw lots of wild animals and monkeys swinging in the treetops.
We stayed here for two nights and made the most of our detached jungle chalet with the BIGGEST bathroom you could imagine and a private raised open balcony opening to the jungle beyond. My roommate Fiona and I enjoyed evening cups of tea listening to the loud crickets and other jungle audible delights.
Day 6 : Tea Making & Mountain Walks
“Travel is an investment in yourself”…And its the only thing you buy that makes you richer!
This morning before leaving the resort, a few of us took part in a bird and wildlife tour at sunrise and it was wonderful. We were given a pair of binoculars and saw some beautiful birds, monkeys and peacocks. Alongside watching the local wildlife spring into their new day we also watched the sunrise over the mountainous view. I’m finding it hard to put into words how spectacular this was….so here are some pics
After we got ready for the day ahead, we had a very ACTIVE day planned with lots of hiking and famous sights to take in.
Our first visit of the day saw us climb up steeply on narrow unmade roads into the tea hills ( well done to the driver and first officer ), the driving skills needed here were unreal! I really don’t know how they drive up such steep terrain but the views were something else! On arriving at the Tea Factory we quickly learnt how tea came from the hills and was processed to the delicious daily delicacy we enjoy so much today in the UK. From drying to splitting the tea leaves into different types. This is an exceptionally specialised process and it was great learning how they did it, before trying it of course!
Afterwards having quenched our thirst we were ready for lunch, we visited a local restaurant in Ella and learnt how to make Koththu – a local delicacy – which is a mixture of wrap type bread curt into pieces and mixed with any protein of choice. I went for Chicken and Cheese Koththu. This type of dish is a FAST FOOD type for Sri Lankan’s. It is made by using big spatulas and all mashed together into a scrumptious delight.
Next the active part of the day began… with a short trek to the famous Nine Arch Bridge. An incredible structure joining the mountain sides together. You are able to walk along the tracks and wait for the train to steam through.
Even though this was a challenging hike, we then were quickly on our way to Little Adams Peak ( no wonder we were provided with a generous lunch) We zip lined down from the peak which was a super exciting ride. We made it up the peak before sunset and the views were well worth the climb.
Day 7 : The Road to a Sri Lankan Safari
“To me, travel is more valuable than any stupid piece of bling money can buy”Said every solo female traveller who took the plunge!
Today was a lovely chilled day, just what the doctor ordered after yesterday’s antics. We relaxed in the hotel and around the pool. Some of the group opted for another massage and then we left on the road to Yala National Park. So many of us were sooo excited about this, the chance to see wild elephants and possibly leopards.
On route we stopped to admire the largest standing Buddha statue/carving in the world. It was huuuge. A picture just doesn’t do it justice!. Again Riz filled us with lots of history and knowledge surrounding this highly religious statue and we went on our way.
The bus driver took a short detour to show us a famous tree, known as the “Bat Tree”, where thousands of bats decide to hang from the branches of only this tree. Nobody knows why this is, but we stopped and hopped out to get a picture…
On arrival at yet again another beautiful hotel, we had lunch and relaxed for the rest of the day by the pool. After all, we all knew our alarms would be going off at 4am the following morning for the Safari!
Day 8 : Leopard Spotting in Yala National Park
“ We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness”This quote sums up the anticipation and excitement in watching a sunrise! I prefer them to sunsets. Do you?
I’ve never been on a safari before, some of my fellow Flashpackers had and I was in awe of this experience. We were collected from the hotel reception at 4am and whisked off on a short bus ride to the safari jeeps. We split into three jeeps, were provided a packed breakfast which we could enjoy in the park and strapped ourselves in for the bumpy and exciting ride ahead.
It was pitch black, only the sounds of the country beyond, loud crickets and buzzing insects. Then suddenly as we queued to get into the park, the beautiful light and colours in the sky rose over the stunning landscape. It was one of those times where you are amazed at how the world changes so quickly from night to day. And with that moment, the animals came to life….
We saw a lot of beautiful creatures, and it was the perfect time of day as it seemed like they were all coming to life after a nice sleep. We did hear of sightings of leopards and I know that other flashpack tours have had the delights of seeing these wonderful cats. Unfortunately for us, we sat and waited once we had heard they were there but no leopards showed up for us this time.
Elephants, however, were in abundance and we got sooo close to them. We also saw huge ones roaming in the distance through openings in the trees and bald eagles perching on tree tops. Absolutely amazing!
We spent three hours bumping around the national park and it was nicely broken up when we had a break on the edge of the park next to the beach to eat our packed up breakfast from the hotel.
After the safari, we left to go and collect our bags from the hotel and then were taken to the next location Galle. Galle is a fortified seaside town with a lot of history. Some sad times too in the recent tsunami, luckily for Galle because of its high walls, the town was protected from the 15 foot waves that crashed into this Sri Lankan coastline.
Riz told us of the difficult times this country faced then. Many Sri Lankan’s and indeed other countries across the world didn’t know what a Tsunami was. So when the sea withdrew around 1.5 km, locals ran into the sea in amazement at what was happening, and sadly did not reach safety before it hit.
Being able to experience Galle and its history alongside the views was exceptional. Steps leading to the coastline high walls, overlooking the sea and famous cricket stadium. We enjoyed a beer at a local bar in our free time and watched sunset before enjoying a meal as a group at one of Riz’z recommended restaurants.
This was a jam packed day and looking back now its breathtaking how much the Flashpack tours allow you to experience in just 11 days. After a relaxing night in yet another comfortable and welcoming hotel, we were all ready for some beach time.
Day 9 : Beach Life in Kosgoda
“ Adventure should be part of everyone’s life. It is the difference between being fully alive and just existing”So do you feel fully alive or are you just existing at the moment? Think about it.
Nearing the end of our trip. We now were ready to relax and were blessed on arriving at this wonderful hotel, after fitting in so much in the previous days, the beach awaited us. On reaching the side of the ocean, we were all really amazed by what beauty the coastline of Sri Lanka had to offer. On the first evening at out hotel, after a FREE 30 minute massage supplied by Flashpack as a lovely surprise, we enjoyed the wonderful sunset above.
After relaxing by the pool with a selection of delicious lunch options and cocktails and a free 24 hours ahead of us, we visited the beach and decided to come back at sunrise also to make the most of this idyllic location. The restaurant and food at this pace was sublime and beautifully presented. On top of this the hotel provided a BBQ night for us where we dined outside with a saxophonist playing classic western oldies all evening. Such a romantic and peaceful evening with the sound of the waves lapping just beyond the trees.
Day 10 : Turtle Hatchery
“ Fill your life with tiny and large adventurous moments”This for me was a huge tick off on the list, a tiny and large experience.
EEEEEEEEKKKKK… sorry to scream but this day was the pinnacle for me! Even though all the days were exceptional! Releasing three day old baby turtles back into the deep blue sea for the first time was a REAL emotional moment.
Before this, we visited the biggest and most successful turtle sanctuary and hatchery in Sri Lanka. They had over 20,000 eggs in incubation in the sand and the sad thing is that only 20 % of the released baby turtle survive. However, without this wonderful place and the amazing things they do for deformed and disabled turtles that sadly can never be released, only 5% would survive once hatched.
Day 11 : So Long, Sri Lanka
New friends from all over the world… I think I might have typed that sentence a few times since my first Flashpack experience but for me this is vital. As a solo traveller a lot of my friends at home, have different lives, settled down, children, demanding jobs whatever it might be… But with these guys above, they are ALL like me. Following the same path in life, wanting to explore the world, worked really hard in their youth and in need of a break. So this makes it easier to connect and build life-long friendships with everyone. Get out of your comfort zone and do it!
It is always a slightly sad moment when you realise that the trip and experience is coming to an end. However, as I reflect back on everything, I have become truly amazed at what I have done/achieved/ticked off that bucket list in such a short time. Throughout the trip we regularly remembered events that had happened – funny moments, exciting things and of course as per usual for me… FOOD! Shortly after your brain realises that it was only 3 days ago these things occurred and it honestly feels like it was 2 weeks ago as you have done soooo much.
For me, this is the feeling that I have never experienced with any other travels. Flashpack have taken this and made it their own individual trait. Usually when you go away on holiday for a week or two, it tends to go sooo quick and then before you know it, you’re back in the 8.30am meeting at work…. NOT with Flashpack… it feels like you’ve been away for ages and you will return to normal life a different and more inspired person. That I can promise you!
Overview – Since starting this blog post…
Having recently travelled to Thailand and Myanmar since, I thought it was REALLY IMPORTANT to share with you the reasons that a FLASHPACK experience is life changing, and these are the things that have happened to me in the last two weeks since the trip has ended…
- I have made life-long friends, since leaving the group, I’ve been in close contact with three of the Flashpackers via What’s app and social media.
- I have become more confident at travelling solo – I’m more experienced in building and maintaining relationships with people from all over the world. Last night I met a Russian girl and three Israeli guys – we had a blast ion Yangon, Myanmar!
- One of the Sri Lankan group has booked flights to come and meet me in New Zealand in May! WOW! I’m so excited Shawna!!
- Another Flashpackers has recently text me to say she is now asking for a career break to take the solo travelling plunge!
- I’ve been away for just shy of a month, but it feels more like three! Due to all of the experiences I have had. Flashpack inspired me to and experience more since
- I’ve become more ‘Travel Savy” – taxi prices, market bartering, safety at night etc etc..
I will keep you updated on my travels and experiences and really hope to book another Flashpack soon. Please take a look at their website and tours they have on offer. It will be the best thing you have ever done.
See you soon 🙂
3 thoughts on “Solo Flashpacking in Sri Lanka – Review”
Great post Kat! Really enjoyed reliving the memories of the trip! Keep us updated on your solo travels 😃 x
Thank you! I certainly will do. Thanks for being the perfect roomie! Hope to see you soon 😉 xx
Kat, you have taken me right back to Sri Lanka and our brilliant trip, which is no mean feat given I can hear the rain on my windows. Helen xxx