Declared as one of the great great vacation spots in the world by the New York Times, ranked by a Newsweek survey as the 5th best Asian Country and selected as the second best travel destination by National Geographic, Sri Lanka is no stranger when it comes to delighting with her array of bountiful landscapes, diverse history, breathtaking beaches and overall ambience.
Here is our top 10 reasons for you to get intimately acquainted with the gem of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka.
1. Cultural Heritage.
Boasting of six archaeological World Heritage Sites recognized by the UNESCO, Sri Lanka has a lot to offer in way of national heritage.
Anuradhapura , founded in the middle of the 5th century B.C, and considered one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, it was the heart in Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The ruins consist of three classes of buildings, dagobas (brick stupas), monastic buildings, and pokunas (ancient bathing pools). The city also contains a sacred Bo-Tree, which is said to date back to the year 245 BC.
Following the decline of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa was the city that saw Sinhalese Buddhist civilization reaching yet more significant heights. Whilst the city holds glorious stately palaces, enormous Buddhist shrines and unbroken monumental sculptures, the city is also a delight for wildlife lovers as the wildlife sanctuaries and the ancient reservoir Parakrama Samudara or Sea of Parakrama, offers one the ability to observe wild elephants and a variety of birdlife at close range.
Dambulla is home to the largest and best preserved cave temple compound in Sri Lanka. While the rock towers over the neighboring grasslands, the major attractions consisting of numerous statues of Lord Buddha, Hindu Gods, and Sri Lankan Kings are spread over 5 caves whilst the surrounding site boasts of over 80 caves.
Sigiriya (Lion rock) is an ancient rock fortress built by King Kashyapa. King Kashyapa eliminated his father King Dhatusena by walling him up alive and seized the throne from the rightful heir, his brother Moggallana. Moggallana fled to India to escape his assassination, raised an army and vowed vengeance upon his brother. Fearing his brothers’ wrath and his inevitable return to Sri Lanka, King Kashyapa built Sigiriya fortress which served as a safe heaven and a pleasure palace. Precipitous walls ascend to a flat-topped peak that contains the ruins of King Kashyapas once glorious palace. The palace is said to have the world’s oldest known graffiti which compromise of a mirror wall on which the contemplations and poetry of many travelers is etched into the rock. The palace also proudly displays 1600 year old paintings of the beautiful women who resided in King Kashyapas harem. King Kashyapa was ultimately challenged to war by his brother Moggallana and the ill-fated King committed suicide by falling upon his own sword after his army deserted him mid battle.
Kandy was the last royal capital of Sri Lanka. Formerly an impenetrable natural citadel, secured by loops of mountains and the River Mahaweli, the Kandyan kings managed to triumphantly hold out against foreign powers until the last free king of the kingdom, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha was captured and subsequently lost his throne. Kandy is renowned for the temple of the tooth, Dalada Maligawa, where the relic of Lord Buddha’s tooth is housed. The Kandy Esala Perahera, which is held in either July or August is a spectacular annual pageant and is held in honor of the Buddha’s Conception, his Renunciation and the First Sermon.
With the earliest mention of Galle tracing back to Ptolemy’s World Map in the 2nd century AD, this exotic former trading port was initially a Portuguese stronghold until the Dutch, with a force of 2500 men captured the fort in 1640. The Dutch continued to make improvements to the fort and even used it as their main base. Many of its buildings are still in pristine condition. Wander its winding lanes and you will see everything from old churches, Dutch colonial Villas to many administration and commercial constructions which have endured the test of time. With an atmosphere of picturesque but stunning nostalgia, this city hasn’t failed to seduce all who visit.
Fancy sunbathing anytime of the year? Look no further than the striking beaches Sri Lanka has to offer. Unawatuna , Bentota and Induruwa, Arugam Bay , Mirissa and Uppuveli make up five of the many relaxing beaches for relaxing. From golden sandy beaches backed by palm trees gently swaying in the wind, the warm waters encourage all water sports from swimming, scuba diving, sailing, and surfing to whale watching or even swimming with dolphins!
3. Safaris galore!
With a wide range of national parks, reserves and safari lodges, Sri Lanka offers wildlife enthusiasts the opportunity to get up close and personal with the natural world. Savor the graceful mannerisms of a leopard at Yala or Wilpattu National Park . Gal oya national park is the one place you can take a safari by boat and treat yourself to the unique sight of elephants swimming across Senanayake Reservoir in search of food. Consider yourself a keen birdwatcher? Bundala National Park is a wetland and home to large flocks of migratory water birds. While the elephants at Bundala National Park are considered more hostile due to human-elephant conflict in the area, Udawalawe National Park is renowned for its herds of grazing elephants, Water Buffalo, Wildboar, Spotted Deer, Sambur Deer, Jackal, Samber, Black-naped hare, mongooses, bandicoots, foxes, the endemic Toque Macaque and Gray Langers.
4. Resorts and Hotels
Accommodation around Sri Lanka is easy to find. Laden with a number of lodgings from homestays, budget hotels to iconic colonial-era hotels and boutique hotels most of these lodgings are situated within spectacular surroundings. Geoffrey Bawa, one of 20th-century’s foremost Asian architect has designed several resort hotels where many a traveler have marveled at his architectural style of tropical modernism’.
Jokingly referred to as the island of rice and curry, we dissuade the timid eater from straying from the known. Consisting of lavishly aromatic and spicy cuisine, the staple diet is rice which is consumed with an assortment of intriguing curries. Scrumptious fruits for consumption range from mango, pineapple, banana and papaya, but also many lesser-known but unique examples such as sapodilla, mangosteen, rambuttan, woodapple, custard apple and beli.
In Sri Lanka, shopping can happen anywhere and at any time. From handcraft shops that produce ornate souvenirs, ritual masks, batik and handloom textiles, wood carvings and brass work items, the village kade that sells fresh fruit, the quintessential lifestyle store, to the street vendors who after a bit of haggling may reduce the charge of his good, there is plenty a bargain to be found!
Considered amongst the world’s gem producing countries as holder of the widest variety of precious stones, not only is Sri Lanka a major garment exporter, we have a history in jewelry making.
7. The people
It all began with the indigenous people, the Veddahs, who exist to this day. Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society carrying forward the influences of her foreign immigrants.
Sri Lankan people are known for their friendly temperaments, their eagerness to help and are known to take their hospitality quite seriously!
8. Ayurveda & Spas
For those who wish to take a holistic approach to rejuvenate, Ayurveda, the oldest medical system existing in the world has been used by Sri Lankans for over 2000 years. Consisting of an assortment of herbal treatments you can choose from a variety of various types of baths and massages, cleansing and revitalization techniques such as yoga, meditation and special diets.
Unlike most of her neighbors, Sri Lanka can truly lay claim to being the ideal holiday destination and is favored by sun worshippers from around the world. The key is understanding her monsoon seasons.
The seasons are divided into three with the Low season (May to August) promising sun to North and East regions while bringing out showers, pouts and mumbles to those relishing the atmosphere of a sunny holiday in the South and West coasts.
The High season (December to March) is where the sunshine smiles upon the hill country and the west-coast and south-coast beaches. The cheerful weather consequently brings about the busiest season. Accommodation and lodging is hard to come by and prices are at a premium. The Maha monsoon (October to January) brings down the showers on the East, North and ancient cities like Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa.
Though small in size, Sri Lanka has a vast range of flora and Fauna and is considered one of the top 25 biodiversity hotspot by the Conservation International (CI). Comprising of a diverse ecosystem, the country boasts of forestry, grasslands, inland wetlands, and coastal and marine ecosystems. Many species of animal and plants are endemic. The wet zone is alleged to have more endemic flora and fauna compared to the dry zone