‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ – a title fittingly bestowed on the remarkable island nation of Sri Lanka. Besides its teardrop shape, Sri Lanka boasts countless pearl-like characteristics. Firstly, there are its unique colours – from the turquoise blue waters to the fiery orange sunsets. Then there’s the richness of culture, flavours and landscapes. And as far as beauty goes, it’s evident in the idyllic scenery and hospitable locals.

Unsurprisingly, this gem is home to some of the world’s best experiences. Go on a breathtaking train voyage from Kandy to Ella, or embark on a safari to visit the native Sri Lankan leopard. The sprawling coastline lends itself to unreal beaches and delectable seafood. And I’m not exaggerating when I say the food here will absolutely silence you.

But did you know that you can experience Sri Lanka for less with points? Fellow Point Hacks writer Brandon and I jet to Sri Lanka in Business Class and spend seven days exploring the diversity of this country. The outlay? Just 180,000 Qantas Points + $1,567 per person for flights and accommodation. This includes a direct flight to Colombo from Melbourne in SriLankan Airlines’ flagship A330 Business Class, plus a flight home in British Airways Club Suites. Talk about luxe!

The video below has all the highlights of our trip. Keep reading for all the details of our adventure. We’ve even compiled a downloadable itinerary so you can replicate this entire experience end-to-end. And if Sri Lanka has snuck onto your to-do list, you can bring this itinerary to life with the help of our experts at Point Hacks Concierge.

Flying to Sri Lanka from Australia

SriLankan Airlines flies direct daily from Melbourne to Colombo. With a flight time of around ten-and-a-half hours, it’s on par with the travel time to Japan, a destination I visit yearly. It’s such a simple route that I’m seriously wondering how I haven’t gotten around to Sri Lanka sooner!

The flexibility of Qantas Points allows for redemptions for a variety of cabin experiences, like SriLankan Airlines’ flagship A330 Business Class. Pleasingly, flying west with an afternoon departure means I’m mostly awake to fully enjoy everything on offer. This includes a three-course dinner, where I opt for the Sri Lankan-style chicken curry, with just the right amount of spice and flavour. It’s a substantial serve, but I make sure to save room for the caramel cheesecake – dee-lish.

I squeeze in a strategic nap on the flatbed, then whip out my laptop to catch up on some work. Hey, it’s a ten-hour flight in Business Class. There’s ample time – and comfort – for both leisure and productivity.

Upon arrival in Colombo, a warm blast of air greets us the moment we step out of the terminal. It’s my favourite way to be welcomed to a new country. I’m a fiend for the tropics, after all.

A taste of Colombo

Sri Lanka’s capital city isn’t just a convenient entry and exit point. Here, colonial history meets modernity, resulting in an eclectic blend of flavours, ideas and architecture.

And what better way to get a taste of the city – quite literally – than with a visit to the world-renowned Ministry of Crab? Now, I’m not crazy about seafood, particularly when it involves handling crustaceans. But when ‘fresh’, ‘award-winning’ and ‘best crab in South Asia’ are terms synonymous with this iconic institution, consider my curiosity piqued. Though the collective silence after our first mouthful of the butter soy prawn speaks more than words ever could. The buttery sauce infusing the rich, perfectly cooked prawn – my tastebuds are shocked in the best possible way.

When it comes time to traverse the sights of Colombo, we simply fire up the Uber app to hail a tuk-tuk (yes, that’s a thing.) Zipping from temples to bustling bazaars to the beach and even to Sri Lanka’s tallest tower takes just a few hours. Of course, if you adore warm climates like I do, there’s a peerless novelty of whizzing through a new city in an open-air vehicle in 30-something-degree weather that just screams invigorating.

Kandy to Ella: the world’s most scenic train journey

Dive deep into tradition in the sacred town of Kandy. By night, the lake glows under the gentle illumination of its surrounding temples. By day the city is a hive of activity, with an amusingly distinct charm nestled behind it. I mean, how often can you say you’ve been caught in traffic behind an elephant?

Kandy is the perfect base for a day trip to the ancient Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla cave temples. Dominating over the surrounding forest, Sigiriya Rock promises panoramic views for those game enough to scale its steep steps. Thankfully, the hike to the temple complex in nearby Dambulla is far less strenuous. Especially since I’ve already had a warm-up!

While there’s more to explore in and around Kandy – enough to warrant a few extra days’ stay – we’re positioned here to tick off an experience worthy of any bucket list (it’s certainly been on mine!) The iconic train that runs from Kandy to Ella, weaving through tea plantations, jungles and mountains, is known as Sri Lanka’s most scenic train ride – and easily ranks as one of the most spectacular in the world.

And it’s no wonder – the entire experience is a joy to the senses. The train rocks gently from side to side as it unhurriedly plods along the tracks. In the next carriage, a group toting a guitar and tambourines belt out local tunes as passengers eagerly clap along. Ceiling fans whir above, muffled by the murmurs of excitement that float through the air.

I’m a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. Yet nothing quite compares to the rush of standing in a train doorway with a balmy breeze blowing through my hair, the landscape dazzling at every twist and turn. This is a different type of adrenaline. Not the heart-stopping, stomach-churning sensation I’m accustomed to when free-falling from a plane or soaring over hills suspended under a parachute. This is the thrill of a truly once-in-a-lifetime journey.

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An unforgettable safari in Yala National Park

Despite my ever-increasing repertoire of travel experiences, and with over 30 countries under my belt, there’s one thing I still haven’t experienced: a safari. But that’s about to change – and as I discover, I don’t need to venture beyond South Asia to experience it.

Located on the southeast coast and spanning 979 km2, Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most famous wildlife reserve. Our base for two nights is Yala Safari Camping, an all-inclusive glamping resort right at the park’s doorstep. I spend a lazy afternoon swinging on the hammock, surrounded by views of the greenery below. At night, I soak in my private spa bath as the chorus of wildlife echoes around my luxury tent. It’s mesmerising.

A safari jeep scoops us up at 5 am, plodding along the uneven terrain in the twilight. Almost like a scene from Mario Kart, dozens of vehicles zig-zag around each other on the dirt paths, eager to be the first to showcase the beauty of the park to their guests. The early bird gets the worm – or, in this case, a chance at seeing the elusive leopards inside Yala National Park. Success? The images speak for themselves.

Sun, sand and history along the coast

Moving to the south coast of this island nation unveils the picturesque beachside town of Mirissa. It’s crazy to think that yesterday, I woke up in the heart of a lush national park, and today, I’m waking up to the sound of crashing waves. That’s the diversity of Sri Lanka.

After a jam-packed few days of sightseeing, I take the opportunity to mimic the vibes of Mirissa. Today’s agenda: chilling. And it’s easy to do when you’re perched along a pristine coastline abundant with coconut trees, with pockets of nature to explore. Or, venture to the main street for a mango lassi or barista-made coffee (my Melburnian tastebuds approve) and unwind with an expert deep tissue massage. After all the hiking in Kandy, my legs are beyond thankful.

Less than an hour’s drive from Mirissa is the historic port town of Galle. Taking influence from the Portuguese, Dutch and British, Galle’s famous fort is a nod to the blend of South Asian and European cultures. Conveniently, it’s a quick hop from a world heritage-listed Dutch Lighthouse to a 2,300-year-old Buddhist rock temple. Did I mention how diverse this country is?

From Galle, we make our way back to Colombo to fly home. And just like that, we complete a loop of southern Sri Lanka, where each and every city and every experience has been unique. But even over seven days, we’ve only scratched the surface. Who knew that a country smaller than Tasmania could offer so much?

Flying home in British Airways Club Suite

Flying in Business Class with points can require some creativity. And, happily, it means experiencing some cabins that you may not have otherwise. Our route home takes us from Colombo to Singapore, where we hop on an overnight flight to Australia in British Airways’ new Club Suite. This product only flies to Australia for half the year, so it’s a treat when its schedule aligns with our trip.

There are few things more satisfying than getting a good night’s rest after an eventful week of exploring Sri Lanka. Luckily, I don’t need to wait until I’m home. My seat – sorry, suite – has all the bells and whistles that make for a luxurious flight.

After my pre-departure glass of Champagne, I work my way through the mocktail selection. With a three-course dinner, it’s only fair to pair each one with a different beverage, right? Once the food coma inevitably hits, I convert my seat to a flatbed with a single button, curl up in my blanket by The White Company, and slide my suite door shut for ultimate privacy. Goodnight!

And here’s the real kicker. Despite a time difference of five and a half hours between Sri Lanka and Melbourne, I return home without even an inkling of jetlag. Try doing that in Economy.

Take off to Sri Lanka with points

One of my favourite things about using points to travel is that it makes so many destinations accessible. I’m guilty of letting Sri Lanka sit on my to-do list for far too long. But with Qantas Points, I pay a mere fraction of what it would have otherwise cost to fly there, plus I get to fly in the lap of luxury. That also means I can splurge on massages and dining at my destination. It’s a win-win.

And here’s a little hack. When redeeming Qantas Points for Classic Rewards flights, you’ll normally pay a little extra when mixing QF-numbered flights with a partner airline, as the points totals are drawn from different tables. But if you book this journey as a return fare, you can avail of a domestic connection with Qantas at no additional cost. Here’s the breakdown of flights:

  • Melbourne-Colombo in SriLankan Airlines Business Class
  • Colombo-Singapore in SriLankan Airlines Business Class
  • Singapore-Sydney in British Airways Club Suite (Business Class)
  • Sydney-Melbourne in Qantas Business Class

In total, our four flights cost just 180,000 Qantas Points + $796 per person in fees and taxes.

And even when you tack on accommodation, it’s still a super affordable getaway. Here’s what we paid (all prices are per person based on twin share):

  • One night at Ramada by Wyndham, Colombo – $92
  • Two nights at The Radh Hotel, Kandy – $156
  • Two nights at Yala Safari Camping – $404
  • One night at Villa Atulya, Mirissa – $80
  • One night at Fairway Colombo – $59

So, for a seven-night getaway, including accommodation and all flights in Business Class, we paid just $1,587 + 180,000 Qantas Points per person. That’s a saving of over $9,000 compared to the retail price of this trip!

But where do you get all these points, you ask? Believe it or not, you don’t even need to fly to earn Qantas Points. They’re easy enough to earn on the ground from everyday activities. One of the easiest ways to boost your points balance, sans flying, is with a credit card sign-up bonus like the ones below.

It’s time to dust off your passport and get planning. If you’ve got a stash of points and want to fly to Sri Lanka or any other destination around the world, get in touch with Point Hacks Concierge. Simply let us know your travel aspirations and we’ll help you find those elusive reward seats.

So, what will be your first stop in Sri Lanka? Will it be the wildlife oasis of Yala National Park or the historic temples of Kandy? Are cocktails by the beach in Mirissa more your calling, or is a breathtaking train voyage to Ella beckoning? There are endless experiences waiting to be explored – so why not discover the diversity of Sri Lanka for yourself?

Kandy to Ella train ride view
Seriously, does Sri Lanka get any more scenic than this?!

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Photography by Brandon Loo and Victoria Kyriakopoulos, who both travelled and journeyed at Point Hacks’ expense.

Discover diverse Sri Lanka with Qantas Points was last modified: May 16th, 2024 by Victoria Kyriakopoulos