Cycling Sri Lanka: Tracing the Coastline on a 2200-Kilometer Adventure

Join me on an incredible 2200-kilometer cycling expedition through the enchanting emerald landscapes of Sri Lanka. In May, my adventure began, driven by a simple yet exhilarating plan: to trace the breathtaking coastline of this picturesque island nation on two wheels. The journey commenced on May 4th when I boarded an Indigo flight from Goa to Chennai, connecting me to Colombo, my starting point and the most convenient gateway for this thrilling endeavor.

In the preparations leading up to my expedition, I came upon two remarkable Sri Lankan cyclists, Nuwan Kumara and Shenelle Rodrigo, who had previously circumnavigated the island. Their insightful videos became invaluable guides in planning my route. Serendipitously, I had the privilege of meeting them in person during my ride. To follow their inspiring journeys and insights, check out their YouTube channels: Days of Nuwan and Sheneller. Along the way, I also crossed paths with fellow cyclists Crystal and Thinuwan in Mannar, Martin Mondo on the road to Arugam Bay, and Russian cyclist Evgeniy Sigaev, along with a host of amazing people.

On May 7th, my Sri Lankan cycling odyssey commenced from the historic Independence Square in Colombo. Forty-nine days later, on June 24th, I completed my epic journey, having covered a staggering total distance of 2152.51 kilometers, predominantly tracing the picturesque coastal routes and gaining a unique perspective on the diverse landscapes of Sri Lanka.

To make my expedition more accessible to fellow enthusiasts, I divided my adventure into four distinct parts. My initial leg took me from Colombo to the northern gem of Jaffna along the west coast. A week’s stay in Jaffna allowed me to explore the city and its surrounding places, including the islands of Nagadeep and Delft. Subsequently, I embarked on a southward journey from Jaffna to the idyllic surfer’s paradise of Arugam Bay along the east coast. Finally, my return route saw me cycling from Arugam Bay back to Colombo, including a ride to the enchanting Ella, which involved cycling up 1000+ meters of elevation, unlike the pancake-flat coastal route. In each segment, I documented my route, distance, accommodations, and noteworthy sights for the benefit of future adventurers.

Cycling enthusiasts setting out on their own Sri Lankan escapades are in for a treasure trove of discoveries. The island beckons with opportunities to reach its four extreme most points, offering a comprehensive exploration of its geographic diversity.

Lighthouses dotting the coastline serve as picturesque landmarks to seek out, while clock towers in every city, town, and village add a charming touch to the landscape.

Don’t miss the opportunity to appreciate the captivating street art adorning Sri Lanka’s walls, vividly illustrating its rich history and culture. Some walls even display the place’s name painted in ornate, eye-catching lettering.

Finding food and essentials on the island is easy. Supermarkets are conveniently located throughout major destinations, ensuring you’re well-provisioned for your journey. Bottled drinking water is readily available at local shops, and along the way, you will find friendly locals selling coconuts, fresh seasonal fruits, and even boiled corn as delightful roadside refreshments. If you happen to work up a hearty appetite while cycling, listen for the unmistakable sound of Für Elise playing on Choon Paan, heralding the arrival of local pastries that are impossible to resist.

Sri Lanka’s roads prove to be a cyclist’s paradise. Once you venture beyond the urban centers, traffic thins out significantly. While a few rough patches can be encountered at Point Pedro, Sri Lanka’s northernmost point, and on the route to the islands of Nagadeep and Delft, the overall road quality is just amazing.

My expedition was not without its challenges. Fortunately, rain-related delays only occurred twice, once when approaching Negombo and the other on my final day of riding as I departed from Galle for Colombo. Nevertheless, the rest of the journey remained dry, and I sometimes had to pedal in temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius. If you plan to embark on your own cycling odyssey in Sri Lanka, it’s advisable to closely monitor wind conditions, as fierce winds batter the island, and the headwinds can present a substantial challenge.

Here are a few interesting statistics from my journey:
35 days of cycling.
Longest ride in a day: 152.54 kms – Wellawaya to Dondra Head
Highest elevation: 1163mts – Wellawaya to Ella
5 rides over 100 kms
10 rides over 75 kms
6 rides over 50 kms
0 tyre puncture

The cycling route encompassed the following places:
Colombo – Negombo – Anawilundawa – Kalpitiya – Puttalam – Anuradhapura – Mannar – Thalaimannar – Jaffna – Point Pedro – Nagadeepa Island – Delft Island – Kilnochchi – Mullaittivu – Trincomalee – Batticolao – Sangamankandy – Arugam Bay – Dombagahawela – Wellawaya – Ella – Wellawaya – Dondra Head – Galle Fort – Colombo.

Cycling in Sri Lanka 1 – Colombo to Jaffna
Cycling in Sri Lanka 2 – Jaffna and around
Cycling in Sri Lanka 3 – Jaffna to Arugam Bay
Cycling in Sri Lanka 4 – Arugam Bay to Colombo

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