There’s so much more to Sri Lanka than cricket and tea! Few islands in the world offer the diversity that exists in Sri Lanka; from ancient cities to rich religious festivals, colonial memories to rolling tea plantations and some of the best beaches in the Indian Ocean.
Colombo, like many capital cities in developing countries, is fast changing its face. Skyscrapers arise where old buildings once stood. Yet in some parts, the old world charm is retained, with colonial buildings, traditional bazaars and Buddhist or Hindu temples.
Nearby Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was founded with tourism in mind, but has evolved into a highly respected conservation centre operating a scientific captive-breeding programme, the nearby river allowing the herd freedom of movement. The success story of Pinnawala has drawn the attention of scientists from all over the world, and is an equally fascinating experience for visitors.
The city of Kandy was the last royal capital, and many of its traditions, arts and crafts are still lovingly kept alive. A great way to explore Kandy is on a tuk tuk tour, taking in the lake, the bazaar and various arts and crafts centres.
Arguably the most iconic Sri Lankan sight is Sigiriya, a 5th century rock fortress, now a World Heritage Site. Built in 477-495 AD, the ‘Lion Rock’ is a citadel of unique beauty rising 200 metres from the jungle. Once the innermost stronghold of a 70 hectare fortified town, you can still view the moat, rampart and extensive gardens around its base.
The rock temple of Dambulla, built in the 1st century BC, is also a World Heritage Site. The most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples, the ceiling of this complex features the largest area of paintings found in the world, and a colossal figure of Buddha carved out of rock spanning 14 metres.
Natural beauty and a surprising array of wildlife can be found in Sri Lanka’s National Parks. In the wetlands of Minneriya National Park are wild elephants, plenty of amphibians reptiles and prolific birdlife. Horton Plains, on a high windswept and misty saddle shelters the unique sambhur, leopard and endemic bear monkey. Take in one of the finest views in Sri Lanka at World’s End, a jaw-dropping 4,000 foot high escarpment.
Spice and tea plantations are also a highlight. The spice gardens of Matale allow a glimpse of how the spices are grown and processed, and also offer cooking demonstrations. Sri Lankan cuisine is renowned worldwide, dominated by fiery curries, sweet caramelised onion relishes, sour lime pickles, bitter melon, coconut, and fresh seafood on the coast.
Take the train to Nanu Oya to visit tea plantations growing some of the best tea in the world. Enjoy tea tastings and pluck your own tea on the estate to take home with you as a memento of this extraordinary land.
Packed with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, legendary temples, beautiful people, glorious beaches and some delightful national parks, Sri Lanka is a truly spectacular and intoxicating destination.