Life and Food in Rural Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a tiny but diverse country, full of history, culture, and natural beauty and wildlife. Libby Spears from our UK reservations team recently travelled there on our Beach & Buddha. While she had heard many glowing reviews of Sri Lankan food, it surpassed all her expectations. Especially the food enjoyed in the village of Kayanwala, a highlight of her trip.


When visiting Sri Lanka, I was excited about visiting the cultural sights, beautiful beaches and national parks. But one thing I definitely wanted to experience was a local community, to see how they live their everyday life. On the third day of our trip we were lucky enough to visit the small village of Kayanwala.

Rural Sri Lanka

After climbing Sigiriya Rock, we headed out on a short canoe ride to Kayanwala. Thankfully, after our morning climbing the heights of Sigiriya Rock, no physical excursion was required. The local men canoed us across the lake making it the perfect time to relax and enjoy the scenic lake views.

Food Glorious Food

Upon arriving in Kayanwala, we were met by the friendly family who were welcoming us into their home. We were quickly impressed as the mother of the family showed us how to shell a coconut in lightening speed – something we had no hope of being able to replicate.

The cooking demonstration truly was the highlight of the day. Assembling in the kitchen, we watched as the mother and daughter cooked us a vegetarian feast over an open flame. Watching them work together as a team, quickly compiling the plates of food, was mesmerising. We all got the chance to contribute to this banquet, shaving coconut for the fresh coconut sambal. This was combined with chilli for a refreshing accompaniment to the main dishes.

Rural Sri Lanka

The 10 dishes of curry, dahl, spiced rice and pickle were served alongside rice and popadoms. After we cleaned up all this, plates of pineapple and buffalo curd with syrup were placed in front of us. We were absolutely spoilt rotten, eating as much as we could as our hosting family served us with wide smiles.

Natural Remedies

The father of the house returned to welcome us to his home. He played for us his recorder which he uses to keep himself awake and entertained at night while he guards the fields from wild boar and elephants. To give us an idea of what it would be like to spend the night protecting the fields, we were invited to climb up into his lookout. As we left the village, leaving on a local tractor to meet our bus, we passed local children leaving school with wide smiles and big waves.

Chatting with the rest of the group, we all agreed this afternoon was one of the highlights of the trip. Meeting the family and being welcomed into their home was a wonderful experience. Watching the incredible skill of the mother and daughter as they cooked a feast of authentic Sri Lankan food was superb. It was a very special and lovely glimpse into the rural life of this beautiful country.

Rural Sri Lanka

To finish the day we travelled to a local spice garden in Matale to learn about Sri Lanka’s different herbs and spices. We learnt about natural remedies and how herbs can be used to treat a long list of maladies. Hair and weight loss, hair conditioning treatments and natural remedies – I will never look at my spice cupboard in the same way again. Before we left we were treated to a short massage – a sought-after treat after the morning’s walk up Sigiriya.


If you want to experience this side of Sri Lanka, you can visit Kayanwala on our Sri Lanka group tours

Featured image courtesy of Eric Issac 

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