Why travel to Sri Lanka?
- Golden beaches
- Amazing wildlife
- World’s finest tea
- Lush green misty mountains
- History and culture
- Biggest animal on earth and ocean
- Great people
- Natural & cultural diversity
Sri Lanka transcends the traditional experience and expectation of the traveler with what it has to offer within its tropical shores in the Indian Ocean. Why travel to Sri Lanka is the best travel experience one can expect on this planet? Well there are many reasons for this. Many other destinations offer only select set of options based on their landscape. But Sri Lanka, quite amazingly, provides such a wide range of what you can see and do. So that just one visit won’t be enough and you want to keep coming back for more. From sandy beaches, a prolific assortment of wild-life both on land and sea, lush green beautiful hill country, rich heritage and cultural locations all accessible within a matter of hours travel through the country.
Let’s dig deeper into the possibilities…
The Beaches and the Ocean
Sri Lanka being an island nation, keeps its ever-growing fame for its wonderful beaches. Everybody identify scenic beaches as the main attraction in Sri Lanka. So it probably does a disservice to all the other options available in the country. Nevertheless, they are pretty darn good and an essential part of your trip to Sri Lanka.
Just out from the Airport there’s a great stretch of beach with some great hotels and guest houses. That is a town called Negombo which is popular among foreigners. This is a great spot to visit as soon as you land on the island or on your way out as it’s so close to the airport.
Further towards the south of the country you get a much larger stretch of beach with a much wider selection of hotels and much more options of what you can do. This beach spans a large area and it’s always best to check what kind of experience you would like best. Accordingly you can choose your hotel and location. There are hotels which are available for a wide range of budgets from low cost guest houses to the most luxurious resorts on the planet.
Major beach attractions
Wadduwa and Kalutara are closer to Colombo (just one hour’s drive away). Hikkaduwa, Galle and Unawatuna stretch further down, while Mirissa and Tangalle are deep south. Each location offers its individual charm and unique experiences.
The east coast has probably some of the beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka. While being a longer drive out of Colombo, the white pristine beaches of Trincomalee, Pasikudah and Arugam Bay are definitely worth it. Surf enthusiasts will love the beaches of Arugam Bay during surf season while Pigeon Island – Trincomalee has great snorkelling.
The North Western part of the country also has a great stretch of unspoiled beach in Kalpitiya. Kalpitiya is better known for dolphin watching and whale watching. These beaches remain a great relaxing location with quaint exotic hotels and evenings with fishermen dragging their catch for the day.
From the largest mammal on land to the largest mammal in the ocean, Sri Lanka offers you the opportunity of witnessing these beautiful beasts up close in their natural habitat.
The island is home to several national parks with some of the most diverse wildlife which includes Elephants, Leopards, Bears, Crocodiles and a stunning host of birds. Sightings of Elephants and Leopards are considered to be some of the most sought after adventures for wildlife enthusiasts.
The most popular sanctuaries for viewing elephants include Yala, Wilpattu, Uda Walawe, Minneriya and Kaudulla. There are ample safari services available at these parks across a wide budget range from a basic safari jeep ride with an authorized tour guide through the park to a high end luxury camping experience inside the parks with highly qualified and experienced wildlife experts. You can spend hours staring at a large herd of elephants lazing around a waterhole. Or you can witness a mother elephant guide its calf safely across the road while driving through the park in your safari jeep. Is it all? no you might even be startled by an agitated lone wolf elephant who doesn’t enjoy you getting too close.
When it comes to elephants you can also visit the Uda Walawe Elephant Transit home which takes care of orphaned baby elephants until they are released to the wild. The more well known Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is also an option, but has been frowned upon by animal rights groups for its poor treatment of the animals and is probably less enjoyable compared to Uda Walawe. When it comes to the beautiful big cat – the leopard, the Yala National Park is known to have one of the highest densities of leopard population in the world and sightings are becoming increasingly common. This beast is a feast for the eyes and some fortunate travelers have even seen them on the hunt for prey.
The bird population in Sri Lanka is remarkably diverse and you will no doubt see countless numbers of them in the mentioned parks. For those who would like to delve more deeply into the birds of Sri Lanka there are dedicated bird sanctuaries such as Kumana, Kalametiya and Wirawila. From the giants of the land to the giants of the ocean, you can witness the giant humpback and blue whales in abundance in the waters of Sri Lanka.
The southern city of Mirissa is the most popular spot for whale watching. Whales are also regularly seen in the oceans bordering the north western part of the country which can be approached through the city of Kalpitiya. Launching out into the oceans of Kalpitiya you will with utmost certainty also encounter hundreds of dolphins who will swim alongside your boat and perform a load of antics like diving and somersaulting. Organized safari boat rides are available with locals that know the waters and are certain to take you exactly where the action is.
If beautiful scenery with epic views, lush greenery, misty mountains, bubbling streams and roaring waterfalls is what makes you come alive then the hill country in the center of the island is a must visit. Get away from the hot temperatures into a colder climate and be amazed at the diversity which Sri Lanka has to offer.
Hiking & Camping
One of the most popular hiking and camping locations is Horton Plains which gives you breathtaking views, chilly winds, some different wildlife and cooling streams. For those who prefer less camping, there are also several hotels and guest houses in the area where you can stay overnight and return to once you’ve enjoyed your hikes. If you want a more adventurous hike with a more exotic experience then you can also try out the Knuckles mountain range or even one of the most beautiful parts of the country which is untouched by commercial tourism – Meemure.
If you’re up for a challenging mountain climb then climbing Adam’s Peak is also a great experience. Use locals advice and time you are climb to reach the summit by sunrise to witness probably the most epic sunrise you will ever see. Beware that this climb is also part of a pilgrimage among locals, so during the pilgrim season from December to April/May, especially towards the end of the season, you will find it quite crowded. But while going during the pilgrimage, will give you insight into local culture and the people.
Picture perfect central hills
The center of the country also has some beautiful laid back cities with lots of attractions nearby. One of the most popular such locations is Ella. It’s a beautiful and quiet laid back town with stunning views and really interesting things to see including some mini mountain climbs like Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. Ella is also home to a fantastic piece of colonial architecture which is the nine arches bridge. This huge bridge which serves as a crossing for trains in the area which was built in colonial times. Being at the bridge when a train chuffs by is truly a mesmeric experience.
The center of Sri Lanka is also home to its prestigious brand of tea. You will be able to see large tea plantations which stretch across mountains. And if it so interests you can even visit a tea factory to get to see firsthand how the finest tea in the world is made available to consumers.
Getting there would be one of the most memorable experiences about the hill country. If you travel via road, beautiful views will treat your eyes as the road winds its way through the mountains. However the most beautiful journey to the hill country is not by road, but by rail. The train ride into the mountains of Sri Lanka has been rated the most beautiful train ride in the world by those who have experienced it. The train makes its way up the mountains through stretches of tea plantations, local villages, forests of pine trees and waterfalls offering magical views of the mountains as you go by. While the train ride can be long drawn out (up to ten hours), it’s completely worth it. And it will surprise you at how little it costs to ride first class too.
History and Culture
Sri Lanka is a country with a very rich cultural heritage and history. Its written history stretches across 2500 years and if you feel so inclined there’s lots to explore and learn.
The majority of the Sri Lankan population is Buddhist and their history’s link with Buddhism is so deep. You will be able to witness this undetachable connection first hand if you visit historical locations.
World wonders in Sri Lanka
One of the most popular historical sites visited by travelers is the Sigirya rock fortress. This gigantic rock that King Kashyapa used as a fortress to stay safe from his enemies. The climb to the top can take a couple of hours but is full of things to see that probably amaze you. Fresco paintings on the walls and the remnants of the king’s palace brings amazement for all viewers. Also two giant lion paws chiseled out of the rock as a symbol of grandeur signify the royal palace entrance. Once you get to the top you have a great 360 degree view of the area and makes the climb well worth your time.
Close to Sigiriya be sure to stop by the Dambulla Rock Temple. This is a unique temple which has been built into the large Dambulla Rock. It includes many masterfully sculpted statues of Lord Buddha and rich paintings. You will see many Buddhist devotees visit and pay homage at this sacred site.
World Heritage Cities
The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy which is said to house the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is another revered place for devotees.Tourists have much to see at this beautiful temple which lies alongside one of Sri Lanka’s most well known landmarks – the Kandy Lake. During July/ August, this temple hosts the grand Esala Perahera which is an extremely colorful parade along the street of Kandy featuring traditional dancers, whip lashers, fire stuntmen, acrobats and colorfully adorned elephants. This once in a lifetime experience draws visitors all over the world to witness a truly Sri Lankan sacred pageant.
You should note that when visiting sacred sites it is always important to ensure that you dress appropriately. In order to be respectful for these sacred places, you should avoid wearing shorts or any other revealing clothing. If not, chances are like authorities won’t allow you to enter there(or they provide clothes to cover, at times.)
Ancient & magnificent kingdoms
Two of the biggest kingdoms in ancient Sri Lanka were Annuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Many kings ruled the land from these capital cities of the time. They built castles, temples, well planned cities and statues that amaze explorers even today. Some of the architecture and engineering finesse present at the time will be mind-blowing for someone who explores them.
Main industry in the ancient Sri Lanka was agriculture. Therefore the kings set up irrigation systems with large water tanks to provide water to the farm lands. Behind their picturesque views, there are lots of historical stories you’ll hear with amazement.