Photo by Hansueli Krapf licensed under CC
The pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is fast becoming a popular island destination. Formerly known as Ceylon, and now one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the country is quickly recovering from the turbulence of a civil war and the devastation of the 2004 Tsunami.
From its beaches and coasts, to its central highlands, any visitor will enjoy the relaxing lifestyle, friendly people and spicy curries in a country steeped in ancient history and natural beauty.
Explore the island’s coastline
With over 1,300km of coastline in the middle of the sparkling blue Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has magnificent beaches. The best are found on the south and southeast coasts and are well known for fishing, snorkelling, whale watching or just relaxing. The beaches are not just for tourists, at Weligama you may see traditional stilt fisherman, perched on poles for hours waiting for their catch.
Visit one of the most sacred Buddhist relics
Take a cool break on a hill top oasis in the centre of Sri lanka. The city of Kandy was the former capital of a Buddhist kingdom. It houses one of the most important Buddhist relics in the world, the sacred tooth of Buddha within the Temple of the Tooth on the grounds of the old Royal Palace. It’s best to visit Kandy in August when the city hosts the Kandy Perahera, a grand Buddhist festival which includes a nightly parade of colourfully decorated elephants, fire dancers, and traditional musicians.
Have a cuppa on a tea estate
Sri Lanka is the world’s largest tea exporter in the world. Visit the region of Nuwara Eliya, a hill resort at the centre of Sri Lanka’s tea industry. Founded, as a hill top retreat for British civil servants and tea planters, Nuwara Eliya resembles a small English village frozen in the past with cricket grounds, rose gardens, and English cottages. The relaxing town has refreshing views and good transport links to many tea plantations that provide tours and tastings for the public.
Enter the Lion’s Rock fortress
Sigirya, is an ancient fortress built on a large rock formation, 200m up from the plains of north central Sri lanka. The structure includes water gardens, palaces and even a large mirror wall built out of polished porcelain. Also known as Lions Rock, the entrance to the structure was built in the shape of a lion’s mouth, with two giant paws at its side. And make sure you explore the caves that are home to precious 5th-century frescos that depict voluptuous female figures.
Walk among majestic elephants
Sri Lanka is home to 6,000 elephants, a population that is slowly growing after being halved by game hunters in the 19th and early 20th-century. An important cultural symbol to the people, great effort is taken in protecting the Sri Lankan elephant. Tour or rent a cottage in Udawalawe National Park for wildlife safaris featuring elephants, leopards, crocodiles, peacocks and monkeys in their natural habitat. You can visit the Elephant Transit Home where orphaned elephant calves are brought in for rehabilitation before release into the park.