This was a big travel day. From Nuwara Eliya you have to take the 25 LKR bus back to Nanu Oya Station and jump back onto the train bound for Kandy. Once arrived we weren’t feeling the city thing so we jumped on a bus to take us north. As per usual there are a few different ways to get to the Habarana depending on a few things. Firstly, people normally stay in Sigiriya to do the cultural triangle and to see the Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park . We opted for Habarana as it was a cheaper place to stay and closer to the national park.
Firstly, this is how we did the trip then I’ll tell you another way. We headed to the bus stop and jumped on the air conditioned bus from Kandy to Dambulla for 2.5 hours and 300 rupees each (you can negotiate this). To find this bus head to the bus station, just down from the train station (this can be found on the offline map called Maps.Me called the Good Shed Station). Head towards the covered platform, as you reach the platform turn right and there are smaller buses marked ‘AC Bus’ with closed windows. We then changed and took the local bus heading for Karuruwela and jumped off in Habarana. Other options include getting on any local bus from Kandy to Dambulla or Anuradhapura then changing for Trincomalee, Kantale or Karuruwela or taking a direct bus to any of these second places listed and jumping off in Habarna.
If you opt to base yourself in Sigiriya there are buses direct to there. Just trust the locals and follow your online map (we use Maps.Me) and its simple.
There is no train line here although there is a station in Habarana. This is a northern and eastern line taking you to these places.
Habarana has mostly local eats which we loved or most home-stays will offer meals. Pop into any rotti hut for hoppers, kottu or rottis for a cheap local prices. We asked for vegetables just fried on the hot plate than ordered a few egg hoppers each and it was the best meal. Otherwise, look for accommodation with a kitchen.
We stayed at Lake Breeze Sigiriya Guest house, cheap, breakfast, wifi, hot water and with a good safari. The owner was the loveliest Sri Lankan with perfect English. Stay anywhere close to the main road or junction so you can walk around to get food rather than taking tuk tuks.
Things to do:
We only went to Habarana for the Safari. There are actually two national parks. Minnierya and Kaudulla, we had in mind that we would go to Minnieriya. However, they both have a large lake where the elephants gather, so depending on the day, one maybe better than the other so ask local people which is the best National Park to visit (maybe get a couple of opinions) or trust your accommodation and they’ll take you to the best one. We ended up going to Kaudulla last minute and there was about 70 elephants in 2 different herds and the entry fee was cheaper! It’s always best to go in the afternoon as that is when the gathering takes place.
We chose to take a private jeep for this tour as we had already done a group. We preferred this a lot more as we had the freedom to move around the jeep to get the best view of the elephants and to ask the driver to take us back to herds or stay longer. The total cost was 9500LKR.
This is the only activity in Habarana but you can do day trips from here to Polonnaruwa, Sigirya and Dambulla to see the Big Buddha.
Most people come here on the train from Colombo or Ella direct however we came from the north on the bus and managed to get a direct bus to Kandy, same applies as getting to Habarana.
We only stayed one night but we did stumble across a great little café near the train station called café Buono, great for a vege burger and coffee. There did seem to be a lot of good cafes and eat outs but we didn’t stay long enough to hand out suggestions. We went to the big fruit and veg market in the evening and cooked up a stir-fry for the night.
I would recommend close to the train and bus station as possible so you can easily walk to and from, this puts you in a good area to the shops, cafes, markets and temples then all the cafes and sights are about 1.5km away which is a good walking distance without your bags.
We only used Kandy as a stopover but the suggestions we heard were good was Temple of the tooth and Knuckles ranges.