“There is no island in the world … that has attracted the attention of authors in so many distant ages and of so many different countries as Ceylon….Ceylon, from whatever direction is approached, unfolds a scene of loveliness and grandeur unsurpassed, if it be rivaled, by any land in the universe.” ~ Sir James Emerson Tennent, Ceylon, 1845.

This bold statement was on a copy of an ancient map our TheTravelYogi.com group was given at our first meet-up. As we followed that map over the next two weeks, we found first-hand, Tennent’s statement was not hyperbole.

We’d all done our homework and knew we’d see beautiful beaches, lush green mountains and valleys, ancient and active temples, warm and humble smiles and of course, fabulous food. But we were still overwhelmed to find the reality even more extraordinary than our expectations. Our adventure began with a 300′ climb to the cave temple complex at Dambulla (2nd century BCE). Here we saw over 153 ancient buddhas! This was just a warm-up for the next day where we climbed 1200 steps to the Lion Rock Fortress of Sigiriya and later to the lush jungle temple of Ritigala.

Throughout the week, we visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic, the Gal Oya National Park, the Yala National Park and…..the beautiful, pristine beach of Talalla. Sandwiched between these adventures, we enjoyed the hospitality of locals who taught us how to make Sri Lanka specialities (one home meal offered over 15 curries).

As this was the Buddhist New Year, we got to share these experience with many locals who always treated us with warm smiles and friendly hospitality.

Easter morning, we had just returned from a safari trip where we found ourselves surrounded by a family of elephants, when we learned of the tragic bombing in Colombo and Negombo. The Travel Yogi’s team on the ground hustled to meet the situation, altering our travel plans to allow us to feel very safe. First, we traveled to the sweet beach town of Tallala and then spent our last day and night in Galle where we visited a medieval fort city and stayed in a 100 year old chateau.

Our trip to Colombo was a bit tense, but the extra precautions that were being imposed on us left us feeling safe and not “put out”. After numerous friendly but thorough check-points, we arrived at the airport to be greeted by this sign:

I think it, like Tenant’s quote, says it all…..Sri Lanka is a very special place. It’s been such an amazingly awesome trip…both the people & landscape are beautiful, the food spectacular & of course, the chance to see elephants, leopards, crocodiles & other animals in their natural environment, an opportunity of a lifetime. We are so sad for the tragedy wreaked on this country by a senseless, violent, hateful act. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones. But I am confident that Sri Lanka will persevere & continue to offer her special gifts! I hope you get a chance to visit “The Emerald Island”.