Overview of Sri Lanka
In many ways Sri Lanka encapsulates all that is special about the subcontinent in one compact package! Culturally fascinating with a variety of ancient cities, temples and shrines; golden beaches and turquoise waters complement the rugged beauty of the highland areas with their tea plantations and forest. With a colonial past and a turbulent modern history the people of Sri Lanka remain welcoming and incredibly friendly, adding greatly to the attraction of the country. There are plenty of wildlife opportunities; not only in the jungles but also water based with excellent snorkelling and diving plus whale and dolphin watching. Whether you are looking for activity or relaxation, Sri Lanka is able to offer both with the advantage of not having to sacrifice one for the other if you have limited time available.
For those only needing a brief night on arrival or on departure the seaside town of NEGOMBO is a good option. As a beach location it is rather busy, but it is still lovely to get the sand between your toes soon after you touch down, making you really feel the holiday has begun. The very active Fish Market is worth a visit and although the main street is pretty commercial it definitely has a lively vibe.
Having previously been a little ambivalent about Colombo we have revised our opinion and would suggest a night or two either at the beginning, or more suitably at the end, of your visit, would be a worthwhile addition. Over recent years there has been an increase in the number of good, stand alone restaurants, the art scene is vibrant and there are some good shops for last minute purchases.
Commonly referred to as the ‘Cultural Triangle’, the central plains area boasts ruined temples and ancient cities combined with national parks and glistening reservoirs. Home of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites the Cultural Triangle is pretty much a ‘must include’ for any first-time visitor to Sri Lanka. The ancient kingdoms of Polannaruwa & Sigriya and the Dambulla Rock Caves are all located in this area. The Minneriya National Park is an excellent location to spot wild elephants and there are attractive villages to explore.
The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is probably one of Sri Lanka’s better-known sites and certainly most people will want to include a visit to Kandy in their schedule. These days Kandy is a busy, sprawling town so many choose to stay out of the city in one of the more rural properties and then make a day visit. As well as the Temple of the Tooth it is well worth exploring the markets and lake area of Kandy, the Peredinya Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit, and not just for plant lovers.
THE TEA & HILL COUNTRY
Sri Lanka is justifiably known for its tea production and the tea country is one of the most attractive parts of the island with beautifully manicured tea gardens, dramatic scenery, waterfalls and a cool climate. There are many delightful properties in the hill country all of which will make a great base for treks and local exploration. There are opportunities for visits to tea factories, trekking, golfing & birding. Many of the properties in this area were former tea estate bungalows and these make excellent bases to relax and reflect on what life might have been like in earlier times.
Once a sleepy harbour town Galle Fort has over recent years metamorphosed into a bustling and attractive town with a wide range of accommodation, cafes and boutiques. Much of the centre is pedestrianised enabling you to wonder at leisure, discovering the decaying colonial buildings, the grand fort walls and enjoying the charm of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are some attractive properties inside the fort area but also others in the vicinity which are close enough for a day or evening visit.
THE JAFFNA PENINSULAR
As the centre of the civil war this northern part of Sri Lanka was off limit for tourists for many years. Since the end of the war in 2009 this area has slowly began to open up to visitors. Having suffered greatly during the war years the infrastructure is still a bit limited but for anyone wishing to understand a little more of the history and heritage of this fascinating area and travel a little off the beaten track it is well worth including in a tour. The topography and culture of the area is quite a contrast with other parts of the country.
TRINCOMALEE & THE EAST COAST
From April to September anyone wishing a beach experience is advised to travel to the East Coast. Here beautiful beaches, calm waters and some lovely hotels will await. Trincomalee is the main town on the East Coast, known for its attractive, large, circular natural harbour. The area is mainly Tamil and there are several interesting temples but the main attraction for most travellers will be the beaches, diving, snorkelling and whale & dophin watching opportunities. Arugam Bay, in the southern end of the East Coast is renowned for surfing.
Sri Lanka has a number of attractive National Parks, and even if wildlife is not a major attraction for you including one of the parks would certainly give a different dimension to any trip.
Sri Lanka is justifiably known for its glorious beaches and luxury beach properties. Although it is affected by both the south-west & north-east monsoons there is always a beach area that is possible to visit.