Sand between my toes,
The ocean’s salt in my hair.
Deep breaths, namaste,
Stretch and focus, become aware.
Sri Lanka misses the backpacker’s radar. There’s no standard route here, which makes traveling from city to city a bit more difficult than it would be in Vietnam or Thailand. This is one of the reasons travelers tend to skip out on such a unique country.
Sri Lanka quickly became one of my favorite countries. The locals will go out of their way with their smiles and friendly “hellos” to make you feel welcome. The hiking trails in hill country offer spectacular views of the lush countryside. The rickety trains with peeling paint and broken fans crawl along the tracks and show some of the most beautiful views of the country. Surf and yoga classes splash the southern coast, and, when combined with cheap food, big waves, and national parks, makes it a popular spot for backpackers.
One of my favorite spots in Sri Lanka was Mirissa. I found it to be an ideal location for backpackers looking for a detox, some physical activity, and the chance to try out a new hobby and experience Sri Lanka’s beaches. Although it’s quite touristy, it’s a great home base to explore the other nearby parts of Sri Lanka and spend a week doing yoga, surfing, and indulging in the delicious local food.
Take Yoga Classes
You’ll find a ton of spots around Mirissa for morning, afternoon and evening yoga classes. Most classes cost between 1,000-2,000 LKR (rupees). Classes are suitable for anyone from beginner to advanced.
Take Surf Lessons
New to surfing? A seasoned vet? Mirissa is the perfect place to learn how to surf or to show off your skills. Companies offer surf lessons all along the beach in Mirissa, and cost anywhere from 2,000-3,000 rupees for an hour and a half. You can also rent boards for around 200-300 rupees per hour and head out into the ocean on your own.
Snorkel with Turtles
This cheap activity is a great way to spend your day on the beach. You can rent snorkeling gear for around 200 rupees per hour. The snorkeling spot is a little ways down at the end of the beach, past the sunset spot. If you’re lucky, you’ll see massive turtles skimming the surface of the sand!
Go Whale Watching
Mirissa is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to go whale watching. If you’re unlucky and don’t see any whales, you’re almost guaranteed to at least see some dolphins!
Dewmini Roti Shop
Thanks to TripAdvisor, this family owned roti shop was quickly brought to the spotlight, and for good reason. All of their homemade kottu and roti is delicious. They use fresh ingredients and offer some of the cheapest prices in Mirissa. Try their European breakfast: coffee or tea, 4 slices of homemade bread, eggs, and a plate of fruit, all for 330 rupees!
I am a (very) beginner surfer. The waves in Weligama are smaller and easier to tackle as a beginner sufer. The beach is also quieter than Mirissa’s. I rented a board for 250 rupees an hour and jumped right into the ocean and into the waves.
Jump onto a local bus going to either Weligama or Galle on the main road in Mirissa. The ride is about 20 minutes and costs 20 rupees.
Visit Ahangama and the SOS Animal Shelter
Feel like giving back to the community? The SOS Animal Shelter is a shelter for 700 stray dogs, most of which have been hit by tuk-tuks and are now paralyzed. Many of them are disabled, suffer from mange, or cannot use their front or back legs.
Jump onto a local bus going towards Galle. The ride is 30 minutes and costs 60 rupees.
Where to Stay
Hangover Hostel: This hostel is great and right across the street from the ocean! For $13 USD a night, you get a comfortable bed with electrical sockets, a locker, and air conditioning. The staff is extremely friendly and they serve some of the best burgers on the beach.
Train travel in Sri Lanka: This is the best way to travel in Sri Lanka. The trains run through hill country and along the southern coast, making those towns easily accessible. I hung out the door on the train and took in the sites, smells, and sounds. It’s a great way to interact with locals, eat local food (the vendors walk up and down the aisles selling food), and travel around the country for dirt cheap!