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8 Days Itinerary to Discover Sri Lanka With Kids in Tow
Sri Lanka is an ideal place to travel with children. There is so much to see and do for kids that one needs at least a month to enjoy it all. With 8 days in hand, we marked the places to visit with a baby in tow on a map of Sri Lanka and set off.
Here is our ultimate 8 day best sri lanka itinerary for you!
Colombo – Kandy/Sigiriya/Dambulla – Nuwara Eliya/Horton Plains/Udawalawe National Park – Galle (Mirissa Road) – Negombo (Bentota Road)
Day 1: Delhi to Colombo (Sri Lankan Airlines) / Colombo to Kandy (Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage en route) / Explore Kandy / Overnight in Kandy
We decided to skip Colombo and head straight to the sacred city of Kandy. Squashing at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on our way to Kandy served as a much needed break on the road. Mini-me couldn’t contain her excitement. It’s cute how kids don’t get bored doing or seeing the same thing over and over, rather they enjoy it analogically every time. I think the joy of predictability is unique to children. Having seen elephants in the untamed and wild nature of national parks in India, my husband and I were not really interested in Pinnawala. However, we were definitely interested in pampering our daughter’s happiness and excitement while feeding the baby elephant. Pinnawala is a wonderful nature reserve where children can have fun while spending time with one of the most gigantic and intelligent yet humble creatures.
Kandy looked beautiful and composed, drenched in the rain. Our driver stopped the car for us to enjoy a bird’s eye view of Kandy from Arthur’s Seat (Kandy Viewpoint) before dropping us off at the hotel. We had a wonderful time breathing in the mesmerizing views from our room’s balcony while sipping tea (one of my favorite parts of travel) while mini-me airily clicked hundreds of pictures (one of her favorite parts of travel.)
Our evening was topped off with an amazing performance at the Kandy Sri Lankan Cultural Show. It is full of life and colorful extravagance. With their energetic performances, vivid costumes, compelling folklore stories, constant jiggling, twirling and grand finale in the open air, the performers keep you jumping in the blink of an eye. Children and adults alike enjoy this charming spectacle.
We ended our day with a visit to the Tooth Relic Temple. The evening ceremony in the temple is really worth witnessing. Although we could not see the Buddha’s sacred tooth because it is housed in an ornate golden structure, the all-encompassing experience was beautiful. Walking the streets of Kandy was the highlight of our first day in Sri Lanka. Despite all the hustle and bustle, Kandy caught my attention with its tasteful buildings in classic Kandy and colonial style. Busy and lively markets are worth a stroll. Mini-me was in love with the tuk-tuks that became our preferred mode of transportation in Sri Lanka.
Day 2: Kandy to Sigiriya/Dambulla / Overnight in Kandy
If you want to do Dambulla and Sigiriya in a day, you have to wake up quite early. We left for Dambulla at 5 in the morning. But you won’t regret waking up crazy early once you visit Dambulla Cave Temple and Sigiriya Lion Rock. The trip is not as difficult as we thought it would be. When one reaches the top, a visual treat awaits. The eyes are confused whether to admire the ruins or enjoy the stunning surrounding views.
Day 3: Kandy to Nuwara Eliya / Overnight in Nuwara Eliya
Enough has been written about the scenic train journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and I would love to travel by train, but for some reason I prefer tours as they give you the freedom to stop wherever and whenever you want; touch and enjoy the amazing views; click on the pictures as and when you want and give a chance to join and get to know the local party. It’s just a matter of preference.
The road trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya turned out to be one of the most dramatic road trips I have ever experienced. With each turn, the magic unfolds. I breathed in the fresh air and relished the mesmerizing views of the enchanting mountainous landscape winding along the rolling hills covered with vividly colored flowers that mocked the palette of different colors and lush tea plantations, numerous waterfalls and streams. Drinking in beautiful nature will make you thirsty and hungry for more.
We had lunch at the restaurant at the Ramboda Falls Hotel. It really was lunch with a view. Eat authentic Sri Lankan cuisine while enjoying the beautiful view of Ramboda Falls, which has shadowy mountains in the background surrounded by luxurious tea gardens. Isn’t that an invitation? An absolute soulful and visceral experience.
There are many tea factories on the way to Nuwara Eliya and in Nuwara Eliya. You can visit any of them and see the whole tea making process from plucking to withering to drying. A tour of the tea factory led by a charming girl worker is an educational experience for children. Mini-me was surprised to know that six to seven types of tea like green tea, black tea, white tea and many more can be obtained from the same tea plant just by changing the combination of different leaves of the same plant. At the end of the tour, they will make you taste all kinds of teas so you can buy the one you liked the most. My experience is that the price of tea in the factory is relatively higher than in outside shops. So experience the tea making process and buy it from outside.
It was wonderful to take an evening stroll through the streets of Nuwara Eliya. We walk through Victoria Park, the golf club and pass by Lake Gregory; it was time for dinner. The Araliya Green City food court was the perfect choice to have dinner while listening to a live band.
Day 4: Nuwara Eliya to Horton Plains / Overnight at Nuwara Eliya
At exactly 5am we set off on the hour long journey to Horton Plains. It’s better to arrive before 6am and start hiking as soon as it opens as it tends to get quite crowded, especially on weekends, and it also gets misty and foggy most of the time after 10am. The journey to End of the World and back takes about 3-4 hours. a fairly easy hike. We stood on the cliff looking down into the valley in utter awe as we arrived at the end of the world. The deep gorge features small villages with beautiful tea plantation gardens and it is said that on a clear day you can see the south coast. But that is rare. It was an amazing experience. If time permits, you can enjoy longer hikes to Mt Kirigalpoththa and Mt Thotupola.
On our way back to Nuwara Eliya, our driver suggested a visit to Moon Plains which is a few km from Nuwara Eliya as we still had half a day to travel. Although we were worried, we asked him to take us to the Moon Plain. Once we arrived at the Potato Seed Farm, which is the beginning of the Moon Plains, our fears melted away into the mist. Driving through twists and turns became mesmerizing as breathtaking terrains unfolded before us. The view from the end of the other world was seductive. Yes! Mountains disappearing into the distance, forests shrouded in dancing mist, absolute silence every moment overcome by the sound of birds and views that give a new definition to beauty sum up the Plains of the Moon. One can see the colossal mountains of Sri Lanka viz. Pidurutalaga (highest), Single Tree Mountain, Kikiliyamana Mountain, Great Western Mountain, Konical Hill Mountain, Kirigalpoththa Mountain, Thotupola Mountain, Hakgala Mountain and Namunukula Mountain from the Bomuruella plains. One word. Spellbinding.
Day 5: Nuwara Eliya to Udawalawe National Park / Overnight at Udawalwe Resort
When traveling, we prefer getting up as early as possible. It’s always easy and hassle-free to reach and gain entry to major attractions that are otherwise crowded at peak times. As per our strategy as always, we left for Udawalwe National Park at 4am and arrived there at 8am. The best time to visit Udawalwe for safari is at dawn (gate opens at 6am) when you can also witness the mesmerizing sunrise. . We missed it but the park was relatively less crowded and mini-me enjoyed a 4-hour safari with an expert guide arranged by our resort in Udawalwe. We saw a herd of elephants with a cute baby elephant of several months, crocodiles, water buffalo, monitor lizards, spotted deer, monkeys and various species of birds. The highlight of the safari was the sighting of a beautiful live toucan. We ended our day with a beautiful sunset at Udawalwe which washed away my regret of missing the sunrise.
Day 6: Udawalawe to Galle (via Mirrisa) / Overnight in Galle
It was finally time for the beach, the main reason people visit Sri Lanka. We went to Galle with a highly recommended stop at the beach town of Mirissa. It took us a little over 3 hours to reach Mirissa. Mirissa beach lived up to our expectations. A beautiful and calm beach with a relaxed aura. My little girl was a little disappointed because we couldn’t do the whale watching trip due to bad weather. I was also sad because she was totally excited just thinking about seeing friendly dolphins in the ocean, and I think that is the best thing that children in Sri Lanka can enjoy. We promised to bring her back to Sri Lanka during whale watching season.
Day 7: Explore Galle / Overnight in Galle
Galle is a dreamy little Dutch colonial town. The dazzling mix of colors and architecture dazzled us. We explored the beautiful city on foot, but our eyes and feet were never tired. The beautiful white lighthouse, the lively streets with vivid hues of flowers, the bizarre shapes of windows and doors and the old Dutch Galle Fort which is the main attraction in Galle make it a perfect place. I would recommend keeping Galle as a base for most of your Sri Lanka trip. We spent the evening at Unawatuna Beach watching the sun set in the ocean leaving behind the perfect hues to color our time in Galle.
Day 8: Galle to Bandaranaike Airport (Bentota/ Negambo route) / midnight flight to Delhi
It was our last day and we wanted to make the most of it. Our flight was at midnight so we had plenty of time on our hands. The only reason to indulge in the Madu Ganga River Safari at Balapitiya was to see where the river meets the ocean, but the cruise was a surprise with many experiences. Stopping at the ancient Kothduwa temple inside the river, wading through the amazing mangroves, tasting authentic cinnamon tea at Cinnamon Island, taking fish therapy and witnessing the river end in the ocean; Madu River has a lot to offer.
We visited the Tortoise Hatchery with sheer enthusiasm, but left soon dejected. I imagined turtles waddling along the seashore and it felt like a real visual experience to witness these cute creatures in their natural habitat. But when we entered the hatchery, I felt that it was not what we had imagined. Seeing dozens of turtles of various sizes and ages huddled in small pools of dirty smelling water was appalling and terrifying. “When would you release those turtles into the ocean?” I asked. “Some after a few days and some after a few months, it depends. replied the guide. Mini-me denied holding a baby turtle. Harassing them just for a picture is not right, a girl her age could understand that too. What about us then? The whole thing seemed more like a money-making project than a conservation project. They literally torture tiny animals for their own gain. I would never recommend anyone to visit the Turtle Hatchery in Sri Lanka. Animals are better off in the wild, just as we are always happy in our homes. Let them be. Please.
During our journey from Galle to Bandaranaike International Airport, we stopped at various beaches (Hikkaduwa, Bentota, Mount Lavinia and Negombo). There is no such thing as too much at the beach! Negombo is a beautiful perfect place when you are waiting for your flight back home as it is close to the international airport (20 minutes away)
Before you leave, don’t forget to treat yourself to a shopping spree as Sri Lanka has a lot to offer in terms of local and traditional handicrafts. I also brought a piece of Sri Lanka with me in the form of wonderful souvenirs.
Sri Lanka, we will be back soon to enjoy the places we missed!
Sri Lanka has all the elements that make it a great destination for children. We hope our 8-day itinerary will help you better enjoy and explore Sri Lanka with kids.
Are you tempted enough to add Sri Lanka to your bucket list? What would you change about our itinerary if you have already been to Sri Lanka?
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