Exotic Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s tea plantations are just one of its many attractions

By Danny Thomson

If you’re only taking one holiday this year, make it a good one. How about uncovering the splendour of Sri Lanka, known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean. This incredible island has natural beauty and rich history, but that’s not all …

The pearl shaped island of Sri Lanka in South Asia is astoundingly diverse, with dramatic green hillsides and wild jungles, glistening lagoons and exotic wetlands, awe-inspiring caves, grand waterfalls and picturesque beaches. It’s a picture-perfect destination.

The cultural depth of the country is impressive too. Home to numerous UNESCO protected gems. These World Heritage Sites include the sacred city of Anuradhapura with its huge dome-shaped dagobas, the golden temple of Dambulla with its welcoming ancient stairway and the historic cities of Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy. The fine ecological example of The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is also a World Heritage Site.

For historical contrast, you’ll find the colonial heritage of the Galle Fort, the best preserved Dutch fort in Asia. If traditional sightseeing is your thing, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied on a one week stay.

Then there’s the exotic wildlife to discover. It’s deeply engrained in Sri Lankan history that the environment should be conserved with the country’s original wildlife sanctuary established by their first Buddhist monarch. There are 14 national parks to choose from – yes, 14 on one island – so you’ll have plenty of chance to see some of the 91 mammal species at home here. Expect elephants, hogs, wild boar, sloth bears, porcupine, ant-eaters leopards, deer and macaque monkeys.

The people of Sri Lanka are a highlight in themselves. If you want to get a grip on their culture, you’ll be pleased to experience a wealth of colourful festivals throughout the year. Embrace the vibrant ritual and pageantry that they do so well. A favourite local celebration is the Vesak Poya – a May public holiday that celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha. Look out for the illuminated bamboo pandals that hang across the island depicting the life of this spiritual icon.

Later in the year the Kandy Esala Perahera is another worthwhile festival loved by locals and tourist alike. It includes a nightly procession of drummers, whip-crackers, dancers, robed elephants and acrobats – quite a spectacle.

After a hard day of sightseeing, delicious grub is all part and parcel of the perfect break. Sri Lanka will tantalise in this department too. The cuisine is varied from the gently spiced to the explosively hot. Dishes are colourful and fragrant, taking inspiration from foreign foods that have influenced the country throughout time. Fresh seafood is ready in abundance and unusual fruits are a speciality too – the sapodilla, woodapple, custard apple and rambutan – so be brave and try something new.

Sound appealing? Sri Lanka certainly has plenty to offer. Don’t miss a thing on your stay, take the tours offered by Sri Lanka locals provide and experience the real fascination of the island. Before that don’t forget to apply for sri lanka visa.

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