5 reasons to visit Sri Lanka
I knew very little about Sri Lanka before I visited. Tea, cricket and curry, right?
Yes but also: there is so much more. I spent my entire visit exclaiming about the exotic wonders that I had never heard about. The ancient cities, the colourful festivals and the British colonial hill stations. What is the Sri Lankan tourism board doing? Answer: not enough.
As such, I am appointing myself as the unofficial tourism board rep. Read on to find out why you need to go to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, known as Ceylon until 1972, is home to a rich history of tea cultivation and export. The mountainous areas are home to acres of tea plantations, complete with tea factories that you can tour such as Mackwood’s and estate houses that you can stay in like The Secret in Ella, also home to the blissful Ayurvedic 98 Acres spa. This five room boutique property is the height of elegance and your host, Sunil Makehelwala, is the epitome of hotelier charm.
Did you know that Sri Lanka is primarily Buddhist? In a refreshing twist, many Buddhist temples are positioned alongside Hindu temples and there are also mosques and churches dotted around the country. The Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy is a sight to behold. Line up with flower-bearing devotees for a glimpse of Buddha’s tooth, one of the seven remaining relics in the world. At 9.30am everyday, there is a ceremony where devotees bring food for the monks – definitely worth checking out in all it’s incense-infused, musical glory.
You don’t have to go to Africa to see all of the big five. Sri Lanka is home to herds of wild elephants, numerous species of monkey, stunning birdlife – including peacocks that are native to Sri Lanka – and leopards. We went on a safari where we saw over 100 elephants hanging out in the wild. We also visited an elephant orphanage funded by the government and Dilmah where visitors can watch feeding time (12 noon and every three hours subsequently until dark). This is a hoot as baby elephants are very greedy and get up to all sorts of funny hijinks to sneak back into the milk line.
- Old stuff
Pollononarawu, Galle Fort, the Golden Temple – pretty much everywhere you go, there’s some intriguing old stuff to look at. Whether it’s forts built by the Portuguese, churches built by the Dutch, country clubs built by the British or ruined ancient cities built by kings from 9AD – 12AD, there is a lot to see. In the caves at the Golden Temple, there are paintings dating from 1BC that look spookily like the paintings of saints you see in Europe.If you like your old stuff with a hefty slug of luxury, stay at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. It’s the oldest hotel in Sri Lanka and was founded by four Brits who wanted to build the ritziest joint in the subcontinent. Charlton Heston stayed there so why wouldn’t you?
The beaches in the south and on the east coast are great for surfing, swimming or simply appreciating with a cocktail in hand. Watch fishermen haul in their daily catch, sneak up on nesting turtles laying eggs or just chill out at one of the many beachfront resorts and spas. One little known fact is the Sri Lanka has overwater bungalows, similar to The Maldives but available at a fraction of the price and inconvenience. Forget about schlepping out to an atoll and spend a few days relaxing, honeymoon-style, before you head off on your next adventure.
I travelled on an Adventure World itinerary delivered by the wonderful team at Aitken and Spence, the local Sri Lankan company. Click here for the brochure.
I flew Scoot to Singapore aboard the brand new 787 Dreamliner. The service from Sydney is friendly, efficient, cost-effective and gets you into Singapore at the very reasonable hour of 7.05pm. While there is no in-flight entertainment, you don’t need it. The 7hr 40 minute flight passes without incident. Just bury yourself in a book, the ultimate travel luxury.