Sri Lanka, you may have noticed, is a travel destination on the rise. That might just be because people have discovered just what the country has to offer visitors: never-ending white beaches, stunning archaeological ruins, world-famous tea, incomparable nature and flavoursome food are just some of the selling points. Packed in its 65,000 square km land mass are eight – yes, eight – UNESCO world heritage sites. Here we take a look at where to go in Sri Lanka.
After British colonialists arrived in Colombo, back in the 19th century, the capital city was known as ‘The Garden of the East’. Though you’re more likely to head to Singapore for that moniker nowadays, the garden roots remain between the streets.
Visit the country’s National Museum, looking back through the country’s 2000 year history, from ancient times through British rule. It’d be hard to miss the giant, ninth century stone Buddha that greets you upon entry – but you’re well advised not to miss it anyhow. The biggest park in the city, Viharamahadevi Park, is also notable. Superb flowering trees are the highlight, while elephants often roam these grounds when ceremonies are in action.
The Golden Valley
Possibly Sri Lanka’s most famous export is the delicately flavoured tea that comes from the Bogawantalawa valley. You and I know it as Ceylon tea. The region’s humidity, cool temperatures and rainfall are what make the climate favourable to production of the highest quality leaves.
Again, the colonial aspect gives this place an edge. It was a Brit, James Taylor, who brought the tea plant here – back when Britain was spreading the crop far and wide. And the imperial setting is no clearer than on the Tea Trails resort, perched atop the highlands at an altitude of 1250 metres. Here, several colonial-style bungalows are the setting for an opulent stay on what remains to this day a working tea plantation.
Jaffna and Around
The north of Sri Lanka can feel a world apart. The climate is dry and sun-baked all year round, while the ‘Tamil’ culture here comprises of its own language and cuisine.
The region might be most famous for its large, rainbow-coloured Hindu temples. Impressive to say the least. Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is the most imposing, topped off by a towering, golden gateway, decorated by all manner of gods. The Jaffna Fort meanwhile, offers quite the vantage point: overlooking the Jaffna lagoon. This vast citadel was fought over for centuries, but makes a wonderful architectural sight today.
Situated on the south coast of Sri Lanka, Weligama is most famous for its Cape. That is a collection of impressive private villas, rather than something you might see aspiring superheroes wearing. Set on a cliff that overlooks the Indian Ocean, there are few better places to view the natural beauty of the ocean’s bounty or the nearby Koggala Lake.
It’s not a bad spot from which to visit the region’s not-in-short-supply cultural attractions, either. Around the aforementioned Koggala Lake lie a number of Buddhist shrines, while the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Port Galle, lies nearby – a trading post which reveals the multi-cultural colonial history of the Island.