Ask Lonely Planet: Nature reigns in Sri Lanka

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Elephants roam in Udawalawe National Park. Photo / Getty Images
Elephants roam in Udawalawe National Park. Photo / Getty Images

I'm heading to Sri Lanka for four weeks at the end of this year and would love to know some good beaches and areas for trekking. I prefer a nature-orientated trip and would love to hear your ideas. - Nina

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

You can rarely travel along any stretch of Sri Lanka's coastline for long without coming upon a simply stunning stretch of sand.

For beaches a bit off the beaten track, head to the east coast. Consider Navalady, Vakarai, and the strip from Uppuveli and Nilaveli.

Pigeon Island, a national park off Nilaveli Beach, offers excellent snorkelling with its crystal waters, shallow reefs and colourful fish. Further south, Arugam Bay is the classic hangout for surfers.

On the south coast, Thalpe, with its boutique guesthouses and quiet sands, is a nice option for low-key mingling but for real solitude you can't beat divine Talalla Beach.

Sri Lanka offers plenty of walking opportunities for those looking to admire the country's remarkable natural beauty.

National parks offer a diverse array of climates, landscapes, wildlife and walking trails. All parks are detailed in Lonely Planet's Sri Lanka guidebook. Highlights include Yala National Park, where you can go on a leopard safari, and Udawalawe, where elephants roam.

The damp and densely vegetated Knuckles Range in the central highlands offers the most exciting hiking in the country. Treks in this Unesco World Heritage Site range from daylong to a week, with plenty of local guiding companies offering packages and referrals to activities such as wildlife encounters and mountain biking.

You are also well timed to climb Adam's Peak, also in the highlands. For over 1000 years, pilgrims have trudged up by candlelight to this place of special significance. They believe they follow in the footprints of Buddha, breathe the air where Adam first set foot on Earth, and see where the butterflies go to die. Visitors are welcome to join them.

My wife and I have a rental car for seven days and wish to travel from Vienna to Salzburg to Klagenfurt via the Austrian mountains. Advice on national parks and small towns to stay in en route would help. - Kay Mitchell

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Just a few hours from Vienna is Steyr, a pretty riverside town with cobbled lanes and candy-hued baroque houses. There are many walking tours and great tourist facilities. South of Steyr, the rugged wilderness of National park Kalkalpen would make a logical stop.

Salzburgerland is beautiful, so spend as many days here as you can spare. South of Salzburg towards Klagenfurt, it's a relatively short detour to the alpine splendours of Filzmoos, an out-of-the-way village at the foot of imposing Bischofsmutze peak. Serene walking trails abound amidst the jagged limestone spires and rolling pasture. The world's largest accessible ice-caves - the Eisriesenwelt - are nearby, as is one of the deepest and longest ravines in the alps, the Liechtensteinklamm.

Just across the regional border into Carinthia, Gmund is a delightful 11th-century village with a walled centre, 13th-century hilltop castle, and dense cluster of artist studios.

Carinthia is known for its beautiful lakes and excellent hiking. Only slightly off-route between Grund and Klagenfurt, the village of Hermagor is a great launch pad for hiking. The spectacular Garnitzenklamm gorge starts from here, and there are plenty of mountain-biking trails.

- NZ Herald

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