TikaWeeks #39/2023: Sri Lanka update

Posted by John on 27th September 2023

Lighthouse and mosque within the Dutch colonial era fort, Galle, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is definitely making a comeback. With confidence building, 2024 should be a very positive year. Where better to start than the revitalised Galle Literary Festival, which runs from 25 to 28 January 2024. This now fabled event last ran in 2020 and has been attracting authors and visitors from across the world since the inaugural festival in 2015. The full programme of events includes talks, debates, gourmet lunches and dinners, workshops, an art trail and a full children's programme, set in the vicinity of Galle's historic 17th century Dutch colonial era fort. Speakers this year include booker prize-winning Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka (The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida), Sebastian Faulks and Anthony Horowitz.

And there is more. Between January and March 2024, Gourmet Galle will host a series of culinary experiences along the south coast of Sri Lanka. An eclectic line up of international chefs will curate menus to elevate local flavours. Gourmet destinations include on the beach, amidst paddy fields and in intimate gardens. There will also be celebrity masterclasses within Galle fort.

January is already starting to get busy and we imagine that once news of the festival gets out that availability will become tight in and around Galle. Tickets will be available for single talks or events, or you can get a full festival pass (all online). In and around the main festival site is a bookshop staffed by friendly volunteers, and a variety of food outlets.

Where to stay? These are our favourites within walking distance of the festival inside the fort ramparts.

41 Lighthouse Street – Sensitively renovated 17th century Dutch colonial era villa boasting a walled internal courtyard bedecked with lush tropical vegetation surrounding a crystal-clear pool and terrace.

Fort Bazaar – An 18-bedroom Moorish-influenced boutique hotel with a quality restaurant, which is highly likely be hosting a literary event or two.

Fort Bliss – Comfortable four-bedroom town villa with courtyard garden and sit-out veranda overlooking the ramparts, an excellent budget alternative.

Galle Fort Hotel – Renovated 17th century Dutch colonial era villa with delightfully eclectic rooms and suites set around a fabulous colonnaded courtyard swimming pool.

Taru Villas – Rampart Street – Restored and sensitively renovated four-bedroom villa boutique hotel with an elegant combination of antique charm and modern amenities.

The Fort Printers – Magnificent 18th century mansion villa turned printing facility now housing five stylish suites furnished with antiques and fitted with copper-lined rain showers.

The Merchant Galle Fort – Dating back to 1710, this grand and impressive boutique hotel, with a spacious alfresco bar and dining area, is housed within a cobbled courtyard.

Yara Galle Fort – Smart and stylish boutique hotel exquisitely marrying the traditional Dutch colonial architecture of the fort and fresh modern interiors with ocean hues.

Please contact us for options a little further afield if you would prefer ocean views or countryside.

The Pekoe Trail – Stage 21: Uda Pussellawa to Kandapola

This challenging stage of 16.7 km, which includes 1008 metres of ascent and 358 metres of descent and peaks at over 2000 metres, may take up to 5.5 hours from end to end. Starting in Uda Pussellawa at an elevation of 1275 metres and ending in Kandapola at 1936 metres is well worth the physical effort as the scenery is fabulous, and walking on well-worn tea trails means the elevation is gradual and manageable. It is worth taking plenty of water with you.

Follow the main road out of Uda Pussellawa towards Ragala for 700 metres and then peel off to the left, ascending a well-trodden dirt track. After 1.7 km, the trail turns back on itself and saddles the ridge to enter another valley. Zig-zag through the verdant tea fields of the Gordon Estate on the border of Central and Uva Provinces for 3 km to the highest point of the first section of this stage. From here, descend for another 2 km enjoying the spectacular views of the valleys below until reaching Ambalama Junction after 6.7 km.

The trail now traces an old south-facing secondary road uphill to an area of vegetable plots at the top and affords panoramic views of the Uva ‘bowl’. On a clear day, Haputale, Lipton’s Seat and Ella Rock may be spotted quite easily wrapping around the bowl. After 10.1 km, leave the vegetable plots behind and enter a forest, continuing for approximately 3 km. This is a patch of autochthonous high-elevation rainforest. You are now on an old, virtually abandoned secondary road connecting Kandapola with Uva Province. The forest is teeming with wildlife – birds, monkeys and leopards. The change in temperature as you ascend is noticeable, especially as you traverse and exit the forest.

After 13 km, leave the forest to reach the highest point of this stage at 2009 metres. The next section of the stage continues on tea trails of the Hethersett Estate with the iconic Heritance Tea Factory directly ahead. The trail loops around the hotel and heads down towards Kandapola. This exciting stage ends in front of the petrol station in the centre of town.

Categories: Accommodation, Culture, News, Sightseeing, Sri Lanka, Travel tips

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