- 1/ Climate
- 2/ Diversity
- 3/ The people
- 4/ The Hotels
- 5/ The beaches
- 6/ Food and Tea
- 7/ Festivals year around
- 8/ Cultural Heritage
- 9/ Adventure and Special Interest Sports
- 10/ Wildlife
Sri Lanka has a blissful tropical climate that offers winter sun to us northern hemisphere dwellers. It’s also varied, so you can go from sunbathing in the dry heat of the southern beaches to the cool breezes of the Hill Country in the same holiday. But you’ll need to plan your trip carefully if you want to avoid its two distinct monsoon seasons. The main south-western monsoon brings rain to the popular South West between May and September, whilst the dry season in this region runs from December to March. In the less-visited North and Eastern parts of the island, the weather is influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, which brings wind and rain between October and January, with drier weather between May and September. December to March is the most popular time to visit.
Island is a small miracle partly due to the compact physical diversity. It has the shape of a pearl. What you will realize is this diversity extends to virtually every aspect of life on the island. Fringed by long sandy beaches and coral reefs, the island possesses a coastal plain containing a host of geographic features such as lagoons, wetlands, rivers and various types of wildlife-rich jungle and rainforest. The plain ends in the central area where the land starts to ascend into mountains covered my misty clouds, covered in forests of wind-stunted trees (in fact there are seven different types of forest in Sri Lanka), plains known as patanas, and rolling tea plantations. In addition, the hillsides are invariably punctuated by dramatic waterfalls. For its size Sri Lanka has perhaps the largest number of waterfalls of any country.
The people of Sri Lanka possess a warm and friendly nature reflected in persistent smiling faces and eagerness to help those unfamiliar with aspects of local life. They are very hospitable. Travellers often return home saying they are hands down the nicest people in the world.
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, a reflection of the island’s encounter with successive foreign immigrants. But it all began with indigenous people, the Veddahs, hunter-gatherers who still exist today.
The main ethnic groups are the Sinhalese and Tamils. Then there are Muslims, who settled in the island from the time it became an ancient trading centre. Similarly, Malays and Chinese were also attracted to the island. The Portuguese and British brought with them Kaffirs from Africa, and the Dutch an assortment of European traders, the Burghers. There are other communities too, the Chetties from South India for example. . . the list is extraordinary and goes on.
There have been a spate of exciting new hotel opening in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has an assortment of accommodation options. They cater to all budgets. Colombo features not only a host of modern five-star hotels but also iconic colonial-era hotels from the bygone era.
land has impressive hotels usually situated in stunning settings. The coastal areas, especially the west and south, have innumerable resort hotels, where package tourists mostly stay. Several are designed by Geoffrey Bawa, one of the 20th-century’s foremost Asian architects. There are also an increasing number of boutique hotels on the west and south coast.
Hill country towns such as Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela feature colonial era hotels, and for those who venture farther afield, perhaps to indulge in adventure sports, there are beautifully converted colonial homes, tea and rubber plantation buildings, jungle cabins, tree-houses and eco-lodges as well as camping under canvas.
The beaches in the south and west are the most buzzing right now on this teardrop-shaped island. The beaches are a majestic golden-tan colour, fringed with swaying palm trees and backed by orchards, rice paddies and lowland tea plantations.
The southern beaches around the colonial town of Galle are the most paradisical, but if you’re after something a little wilder like, head west.
You will find best beaches of Sri Lanka in Unawatuna, Bentota, Induruwa, Arugam Bay, Uppuveli, Passikuda and Negombo.
Whales are also seen in other areas around the islands such as Batticaloa, Weligama , Negambo and Chilaw at a distance of 20 – 30 miles from the Island.
Lovers of a good cuppa will be in their element in Sri Lanka: the cool Hill Country is covered with tea plantations on every available slope.
The cultivation of many types of rice, spices, vegetables and fruit, coupled with past foreign influences, ensures that Sri Lanka enjoys a varied and select cuisine.
Seafood lovers will rejoice at the fresh fish, prawns, crab, squid and crayfish available. Desserts include buffalo curd eaten with palm-honey, and the Malay-derived caramel-like wattalapam.
Delectable fruit includes the popular mango, pineapple, banana and papaya, but also many lesser-known but distinctive examples such as sapodilla, mangosteen, rambuttan, woodapple, custard apple and beli.
Sri Lanka’s ancient civilization endows the island with a legacy of colourful festivals relating to the Buddhist Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions.Furthermore, these festivals are commemorated with the flair of a people with a genius for pageantry and ritual.
Vesak Poya – which marks the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and Pariniwana (passing away). Worth seeing are the illuminated pandals (bamboo frameworks), hung with pictures depicting events in the life of the Buddha.
Sri Lanka’s most tourist-oriented festival is the Kandy Esala Perahera, held in Kandy over 10 days in late July to early August and climaxing on Esala Poya.Perahera means “procession” and that’s exactly what occurs nightly – a magical passing-by of drummers, dancers, whip-crackers, acrobats and robed elephants. A caparisoned tusker carries the reason for the festival, the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha for the people to venerate.
Sri Lanka’s cultural depth is recognized by UNESCO, which has declared six archaeological World Heritage Sites in the country. From enormous dagobas (dome-shaped structures) and remains of ancient buildings in the ruined cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, to the awesome stairway to the temple at Dambulla and the sensual frescoes of heavenly maidens at the palace at the rock of Sigiriya, visitors can experience these World Heritage Sites within a compact area called the Cultural Triangle.
In the hill country lies the former royal capital of Kandy, home to the Dalada Maligawa or Sacred Temple of the Tooth, which houses the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha.
In contrast, experience the colonial heritage of the country by heading south to the mid-17th c. Dutch fort at Galle, the best preserved in Asia. With 14 massive bastions, a grid system of streets, and some original Dutch bungalows, the fort bustles with life just as it did when Galle was the country’s main port.
With over 1,600km of coast, Sri Lanka is an ideal location for wind-surfing, water-skiing, surfing, sailing,scuba-diving (including wreck-diving), snorkelling, speed-boating and banana-boating. Prime water-sports sites are located in the Negombo region on the west coast, Wadduwa, Kalutara and Beruwela on the south-western coast, and Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Unawatuna, Koggala, Tangalle and Hambantota.
Sri Lanka possesses over 100 hundred rivers, so there are plentiful opportunities for year-round kayaking and canoeing, perhaps combined with a camping trip. The Kelani Ganga near Kitulgala has fast headwaters and rapids ideal for white-water rafting (from November to April only).
Varied landscape, wildlife, and archaeological sites offers excellent opportunities for trekking. Nature trails of exceptional interest include the Sinharaja rainforest, the cloud-forests of Horton Plains, the Knuckles (mountain range), and Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve.
The need to conserve the environment was deeply ingrained in traditional Sri Lankan society: in the 3rd c. BC, the country’s first Buddhist monarch established the world’s first wildlife sanctuary. Today, this tradition continues with 13% of Sri Lanka conserved as national parks, reserves, sanctuaries and jungle corridors.
A safari in one of the 14 national parks offers the chance to see some of Sri Lanka’s 91 mammals (16 endemic) – elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambhur, spotted deer, hog, mouse- and barking-deer, wild boar, porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, loris, giant squirrel, and monkeys such as the macaque, purple-faced leaf monkey and grey langur.
The island is an ornithologist’s paradise, with over 233 resident species, (33 endemic) – but migratory species stretch the number to an astounding 482. There are 171 reptiles (101 endemic including two crocodile species). Thankfully, only five of the 83 snake species are lethal. In recent years there has been a surge in the discovery of amphibians, so that by the time you read this, the figure of 106 (90 endemic), will no doubt have risen.