East of Tangalla, a barren landscape sits in the middle of an otherwise heavily forested area. Dark red soil and an utter lack of trees are the hallmarks of Ussangoda, a region thought to have been hit by an ancient meteor. It's hard to imagine another explanation for this strange anomaly of nature.
Twenty kilometers north of Tangalla lies the large rock of Mulkirigala, reminiscent in shape to Sigiriya. The rock houses an impressive series of cave temples dating from the third century, similar to those of Dambulla. A mix between Sri Lanka's two most famous sites, Mulkirigala sounded like a winner.
We arrived in Tangalla with mixed emotions. Now on the southern coast, we were undeniably in the final stretch of our tour through Sri Lanka. There was still a lot to see -- the attractions of the country's southern extreme are considerable -- but our journey's approaching end was tangible for the first time. Still, we'd only have a few days in Tangalla, a small town which occupies some of the island's most beautiful coastline and offers a number of memorable excursions. No time for moping.
In some places, you have to work hard, catch a lucky break or be extra creative to get great pictures. And then there's Ella. I didn't even have to move from our porch. Or look at what I was taking pictures of. Or hold the camera. That would have required putting my drink down! Nope, from our incredible veranda overlooking Ella Gap, I was able to place the camera on a table and once in while press the shutter button. Violà instant magic! Chameleons, sudden storms, atmospheric moon rises, amazing nature. This is a kind of photography I could get used to.
A hike up the conical Adam's Peak is one of the top things to do in Sri Lanka. Legions of people complete the hike daily, both pilgrims and travelers. Jürgen and I are always primed for an adventure... as long as it's convenient. After learning that you must embark for the the summit at 2am, we immediately, instantly scratched Adam's Peak from our list. Call us lame if you want, I won't protest. But no way. Besides, we had just read about another hike called Little Adam's Peak, near Ella. "Close enough!"
On the second of our three days in Ella, we hopped onto the morning train, having decided that we couldn't pass up a visit to nearby Haputale (ha-POOT-a-lay): a town on the southern extreme of Sri Lanka's hill country celebrated for its beautiful surroundings and tea plantations.
With an unbeatable setting high in the hills, tiny Ella has earned a reputation as one of Sri Lanka's most beautiful villages. With its views over the Ella Gap and some incredible nature walks, the town has become one of the most popular destinations in the southern hill country. We spent a few days here, and had a wonderful time.
The Lahugala Reserve, occupying a mere six square miles in the jungle east of Arugam Bay, is one of Sri Lanka's smallest national parks. We combined a short tuk-tuk excursion to the reserve with a visit to the remains of a legendary queen's palace.
The bulk of our stay in Arugam Bay was spent in the comfortable confines of The Danish Villa. Tucked back far off the town's main road, this small hotel has just five rooms, all with attached bathrooms and most with air conditioning.
There's more to do in Arugam Bay than just surfing and chilling out in beachside bars. The village is surrounded by some amazing and largely undeveloped nature. One sunny morning, we took a tour of the Pottuvil Lagoon, just to the north, hoping to see the elephants and crocodiles which make their home there.