Resting like a pearl on the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a tropical marvel home to beaches, wildlife parks, rainforests, ancient ruins, and tea estate-covered mountains, making it one of the most varied destinations on the Asian subcontinent. Whilst this paradise island presents an ideal getaway for honeymooners and couples, it is also one that promises an unforgettable experience for families. In this blog, we share invaluable tips, insights, and recommendations from Rosie Birkett, Mike Davies, and Karen Edwards, three parents seasoned in planning adventures to Sri Lanka with little ones in tow.
But, why Sri Lanka?
In the words of London-based food blogger Rosie Birkett, Sri Lanka is fundamentally a family-focused, family-friendly destination where children are generously welcomed. Having travelled here in 2017 with her husband on honeymoon, she came away utterly besotted with the country and its cuisine and vowed to return.
“Do you want to wake up with your family to the sound of naughty monkeys clattering across your roof, eat the best curry you’ve ever tasted for breakfast and drink your afternoon tea to a symphony of rambunctious birds? Or sip iced, local gin and tonics with curry leaf crisps as bats the size of geese fly overhead and fireflies twinkle in the twilight? Do you want your kids to marvel at wild peacocks strolling across the lawn, or giant squirrels (the size of large cats) scrambling up trees to eat the ripe avocados hanging from the branches? I know I do.” – Rosie Birkett, from her most recent blog on Sri Lanka.
Having never been to Sri Lanka with the kids before, Instagram influencer and blogger, Karen of Travel Mad Mum (@travelmadmum), had no idea what to expect, but in her true adventurous spirit, she moved her family of 6 to Sri Lanka at the end of 2022. Now based in Galle, Karen and her family have been ‘playing tourist’ most weekends over the last year.
When travelling with a toddler, it’s wise to create an itinerary which doesn’t have you travelling long distances for hours between each destination, apart from travelling to the hills. Even with limited time, there’s plenty of opportunity to take in a variation of landscapes and experience an interesting mix of properties. For a sample of a family holiday, our dedicated Journeys team have designed a curated collection of itineraries which can be viewed here.
Karen believes that packing essentials should include: suncream, mosquito repellent, familiar snacks for long journeys as well as games and swimwear. Rosie’s top tips for the flight, if you’re at all new to taking a baby/toddler long haul, would be:
- If applicable, to request a bassinet
- Make sure you pack loads and loads of snacks/toys/books/stickers/stuff to keep them occupied
- A spare set of clothes for all of you, in case of any unfortunate events (as we had with some ill-timed strawberry yoghurt and turbulence).
Activities that the kids will absolutely love
Based in Hong Kong, Mike Davies has been travelling to Sri Lanka for well over 15 years. A real estate expert in both commercial and leisure properties, Mike says, “For us as a family in Sri Lanka it is all about ensuring we can maximise activities for the kids but still find time for the adults to have some fun too.” Mike’s advice for the best child-friendly experiences includes:
- Surfing lessons in Weligama: “Go early and beat the rush, dads then head off for coffee at the rooftop of Hangtime Hostel, and the kids can join after for yummy food!
- Train through the hills: Our kids love this form of travel and I’ve noticed that the seats often recline so that if they want, they can sleep on long journeys.
- Museum and antiquity shops in Galle Fort: “We spent a whole day doing this last year and the kids loved it. Especially when they found the old coins and bought themselves some semi-precious birthstones from Laksana.
- Most importantly, kids love to swim, so having a good pool or access to the beach when on the coast is critical. To finish the day, we love full family sunset gatherings on the beach for pizzas and sundowners. The kids love all the fresh fruit, fresh fish, egg hoppers and fresh vegetables, but we haven’t got them hooked on the curries yet.
So far, Karen’s four children have enjoyed swimming with turtles in Dickwella, safari drives, cultural dance performances in Kandy, and boat rides near UNESCO Sigiriya. In terms of trying local cuisine, her kids recommend dosa, hoppers and roti. Karen’s favourite Teardrop Hotel for families is Nine Skies. She explained, “I love the lawn for them to play on, the small personable space and it’s a great location with surrounding activities, incredible views, interconnecting room, and all-inclusive aspect.”