Sri Lanka has a whole host of options for the traveler, from lying on a picture postcard beach to scaling great rocks or mountains and seeking out ancient cities. There are impressive landscapes to take in, friendly native people to talk to, and free-roaming monkeys to keep an eye on. The world renowned photographer Roloff Beny had once said that he had never seen such a variation of greens anywhere in the world. Sri Lanka is often called the ‘Emerald Isle’. It is not only the scenery which would captivate you. Sri Lanka’s ancient cities with stupendous monuments, sculpture, cravings and huge man- made lakes; landscaped gardens, have taken pride of place among the treasures of the ancient world. Eight of these sites are listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. A grand list of fauna and flora, gem mines yielding precious and semi-precious gems, including the spectacular blue sapphire. And above all, a smiling, simple, hospitable people are a delight to any visitor to our shores.
In keeping with its range of sights and activities, it offers holidays for an array of budgets: five star hotels and boutique properties for those looking for luxury and exclusivity, to cheap guest houses or home stay accommodation among the locals for those seeking authentic Sri Lankan experiences.
Exploring the City of Colombo
Colombo is a functioning city, often moving at a frenetic pace,with fascinating sectors to discover. The district of Fort is the historic centre and boasts a number of old colonial buildings, which look classical and attractive next to more modern structures.To the east of Fort is the bazaar district of Pettah – a bustling sector full of market stalls and small shops selling a wide variety of goods which can provide the traveller with a genuinely Sri Lankan experience.
Typically, tourists only stay in Colombo for a day or two before moving further along the coast, or travelling inland to visit the ancient cities, but if tours of ancient cultures or finding the ideal beach aren’t foremost on the agenda, Colombo has a great deal to offer in the way of really seeing a different side to Sri Lanka, and is worth exploring, either on foot or by tuk tuk,
Visiting the Cultural Triangle
Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle is the name given to a selection of cultural and archaeological sites which are markers of an ancient and rich civilization. The most ancient capital city of Anuradhapura, the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa, the Cave Temples of Dambulla, and the famous 200 m rock fortress at Sigiriya – known as the – Lion Rock and the beautiful Hill capital city of kandy hosting the Sacred tooth relic of the Buddha at the Temple of the Tooth. All this sites boasts of rich ancient artwork, sculpture and architecture in rock, brick and wood. The 3 Giant ancient Stupas standing at over 100 meters in Anuradhapura are as awe-inspiring as much as the Giant Pyramids at Giza.
If you find yourself in Sri Lanka at the end of July and the beginning of August, you may be in time for the Perahera – a grand parade with elaborate costumes and a long procession of elephants, dancers and drummers, held in the town of Kandy.The festival is Buddhist in origin and is thought to have begun in the 4th century A.D.,when what is called the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha was taken to Sri Lanka from India by Princess Hemamala. The Perahera lasts for almost 2 weeks and is counted as one of the world’s more spectacular street festivals. Those wanting to see the Perahera should reserve their seats early or claim their roadside spots early in the day and be prepared to sit there until the parade begins in the evening.
A relaxing beach stay
It is generally agreed that the north east coast has the whitest sand to offer, but there are beautiful beaches to be found all around the island, and the south, in particular, has some picturesque stretches of coast to be stumbled upon.
Certain beaches are affiliated, to resorts or hotels, but it is also still possible to find a small, uninhabited beach simply by traveling along the coast and talking to the locals. Visitors can easily find themselves offered accommodation with a family who live next to the sea through previous friendly encounters. Although most of the locals are friendly, it is wise to exercise caution and a policy the more trustworthy with a room to let have is to carry books, filled with photographs and the handwritten testimonies of previous visitors.
When considering island-wide factors, tourists must be aware of before booking any tickets is that Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons and the tourist season is considered to be the period between these rainy onslaughts. This is November to April – the driest season – in the hills and on the south west coast. For those aiming to visit the east coast, May to September is considered the best time as this is when it’s dry.Which part of the island you visit will, eventually, probably depend on when you want to go but for those who are eager to explore Sri Lanka,there is the assurance that there will be an ideal part of the country for any time of year.
Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Wild Life
Apart from sunny beaches Sri Lanka is becoming world famous for its beautiful nature and wildlife. Mountains, Geo Plains, Dashing Water Falls, National parks, Rocks, Paddy fields, Tea Gardens, Rain Forests, Rivers, Landscapes, Streams are all part and parcel of the Sri Lanka package. Most of the nature reserves are found in the dry zone. Sri Lanka has 86 species of mammals from which 16 are indigenous to the island. From the 427 recorded species of birds 250 are resident and 26 are indigenous to the country. Some of the popular nature reserves are Sinharaja forest, Udawalawe reserve, Yala National Park and the Wilpattu National Park . One of the main species of mammals that could be found in almost all the nature reserves are the majestic elephants.
Sri Lanka has been leveraging its wildlife attractions as value additions to Sri Lankan Tourism promotion. Today, “The Gathering” of elephants at Minneriya National Park from May to October each year, is fast becoming a “must see” on the tourism itinerary. Whale watching off the Mirissa coast is also a popular tourist attraction. The fact that one can see the two largest mammals on this Earth, the elephant and the whale in one and the same place, in Sri Lanka only is another fact now being promoted.
Activities to try out
Apart from visiting and experiencing the sights and wonders mentioned above a visitor also has the wide array of choices to select activities which could range from scuba diving to whale watching in the ocean whilst trying out activities such as hot air ballooning, white water rafting or taking a sedate train ride across the country. A fun and action packed adventure package mixed with awe inspiring sight seeing is what’s in store for a visitor to Sri Lanka.