Explore spectacular ruins from ancient kingdoms, timeless temples, dense rainforests and verdant tea plantations. Dazzling beaches, mist-covered peaks and charming villages - Sri Lanka has it all!
Still identifying itself as a tourist destination, culturally rich Sri Lanka has a history that dates back more than 3,000 years. Sri Lanka offers the intrepid traveller spectacular ruins from ancient kingdoms, timeless temples, dense rainforests and verdant tea plantations, dazzling white beaches with world-class surf, mist-covered rocky peaks, charming villages and loads of elephants amongst other wildlife. The teardrop shaped island sits near the tip of India in the Indian Ocean, near the Bay of Bengal.
Its crowded capital, Colombo, is a port city with a rich colonial heritage and a population of over 5.5 million. Centuries ago, seafarers would trade exotic spices, elephants, peacocks, pearls and other precious stones. A city of contrast where east meets west; mansions, fine dining restaurants and designer brand shops sit alongside urban slums and local street markets and modern high-rises pop up amongst charming low-lying colonial buildings.
Visit the hectic Pettah Markets, Colombo’s vibrant open air marketplace and bazaar. Haggle for local fruit and vegetables, jewellery, fabrics, clothing and Ayurvedic herbs and roots. Visit the majestic looking National Museum or people watch on Galle Face Green, a long stretch of lawn facing the sea where joggers, kite flyers and food vendors gather on a weekend to enjoy the sunshine and the views out to sea.
With Sri Lanka’s population being predominantly Buddhist, there are some spectacular temples and monuments to visit. See the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, a golden-roofed temple which contains a tooth of Buddha within the confines of a golden casket. View the Aukana Buddha, a 12 metre high standing statue near Kekirawa. The best time to see it is at dawn when the first of the sun’s rays illuminate its finely carved features.
There are many ancient cities to explore, including Polonnaruwa and Digamadulla but the highlight for most is the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, founded around 5th century BC. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities, Anuradhapura is also one of the most sacred Buddhist cities in the world - where exquisite temples, monasteries, palaces and townships intricately carved out of stone, now peek up through dense jungle that in places, threatens to engulf it.
One of Asia’s most cultural and scenically dramatic sites is the Sigiriya Rock fortress, located on the Sigiriya rock plateau which was formed by the magma of an extinct volcano. The complex includes remnants of a ruined palace, vast gardens, alleys, ponds and fountains. If fit, it’s possible to climb the rock however the magnificent ruins and superb views from the base can be admired by all.
For natural beauty and wildlife, you can’t go past Sri Lanka’s beaches and national parks. As one of the most biodiverse island’s in the world, Sri Lanka has a strong focus on developing itself as an ecotourism destination meaning significant areas of the island are protected as national parks and reserves.
With 20 national parks and two marine parks at Hikkaduwa and Pigeon Island, the most popular park is Yala National Park. Take a game drive for the opportunity to spot elephants, leopards and over 200 species of birds. One of the best places to see elephants in the wild is in Uda Walawe National Park while some of Sri Lanka’s rarest birds can be found in the lush and unspoilt rainforests of Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
Lying in the midst of the hills of Kandy Valley is the city of Kandy, one of the most picturesque cities in Sri Lanka. The country’s second largest city, the beautiful centerpiece of Kandy Town is Kandy Lake – a manmade lake completed in 1807. Surrounded by precipitous green hills, the city has a regal feel about it with its graceful Kandyan buildings and elegant colonial architecture. Sri Lanka produces more tea than anywhere else in the world and Kandy is the perfect destination to go to a tea garden or visit a tea plantation, take a tour and sample some tea. See the Big Buddha on a hilltop overlooking Kandy and admire the magnificent view of the lake and city with the stunning backdrop of the mountain ranges. Wander around the serenely beautiful Botanic Gardens or take a guided tour of the Spice Garden, where you can learn all about the plants and delight your olfactory senses.
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