Sri Lanka - Surrounded by tropical seas
Planning a trip? here's the best time to go.
The taste of the exotic
From world-famous tea plantations to national parks made for safaris, Sri Lanka has plenty to tempt you away from the beach. This tropical island poised above the equator, South-East of the subcontinent is often described as ‘India light’ and it offers the perfect introduction to this part of the world. There is enough of a culture difference to make you feel like you're somewhere probably exotic, elsewhere, more than 2,000 years of history of left their mark in Sri Lanka, an island that’s smaller than Scotland, it packs and astonishing amount into its borders. One minute you can be sipping a cup of traditional brew at a tea plantation, the next wondering around a vast ancient city or intricate temple.
The food is fantastic, English is widely spoken, and the islands bijoux size means you can fit a lot into a small amount of time. There’s a wide array of things to see and do such as trekking and hiking, diving, deep sea fishing, rock climbing, hot air ballooning, spas and massages, and whale watching are just a few of the many recreation activities you can do in Sri Lanka.
Things to see and do….
Palm lined beaches
With nearly 1,600km of palm lined beaches lapped by the warm clear Indian Ocean this is the ideal location for beach bums. The main tourist zone runs along the south-west coast of the island, from Negombo to Galle. Negombo lagoon is a favourite of the locals and foreign visitors and is famed for lobster harvesting. In parts, rivers and lagoons run into the sea, providing the ideal conditions for watersports like kayaking, yachting, water skiing, scuba diving and paddle boarding. If you just want to laze around and top up a perfect tan then head south to Tangalla, Beruwala, Mirissa, Bentota and Unawatuna beaches.
Trek to the top of Sigiriya rock
This is Sri Lanka’s number one attraction and for good reason. Sigiriya rocks 600 foot high summit hosts an ancient palace, which boasts UNESCO World Heritage status and some of the best views in the country. The star attraction here, though, lies halfway up the rock, where the walls are adorned with impressive frescoes of glamorous women. Sri Lanka is host to six World Heritage sites which you can visit they are:
The sacred city of Anuradhapura
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa
The golden temple of Dambulla
The ancient city of Sigiriya
The sacred city of Kandy
The old town of Galle and its fortifications
Sip a piping hot cup of Ceylon Tea
Formerly known as ‘Ceylon’, Sri Lanka is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world and has been producing tea since 1867. If you want to treat your tastebuds to possibly the finest ethical cuppa on the globe, you have to take yourself 6,200 foot above sea level. The island’s famous tea plantations nestle high in the hills of central Sri Lanka, and lots of them open their doors for tours and tastings. Nuwara Eliya is one of the best known plantations in these parts. Not only do you get to try the heavenly brews but the head spinning views over the pleated hillsides are worth the trip alone.
Admire mother nature’s handiwork at the Royal Botanical Gardens
On the edge of Sri Lanka’s second city Kandy, this 60 hectare oasis is a real respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the country. You can easily while away a few hours here, strolling the grounds and checking out the manicured lawns and overflowing greenhouses. Be sure to pay a visit to the orchid house and the spice garden.
Spy on elephants at Minneriya National Park
4 PM is safari time Minneriya national park in the heart of the country. Your pile into a 4x4, and then start the bumpy, dusty ride into the wilderness. When you reach the watering hole, you’ll pull up on the grassy banks and wait for the elephants to sneak up on you. Watching them drink, bathe and coolly stroll across the plain is just simply mesmerising. Seen enough elephants then keep an eye out in Yala as it has the highest density of leopards in the world.
Visit the temple of the sacred tooth
Catch a glimpse of the gold casket containing Buddha’s gnasher at the Temple of the sacred tooth in Kandy. Every day, the heavily guarded room housing the casket is open to visitors who bring gifts of fruit and flowers. When you’ve finished touring the temple, the rest of Kandy is worth a wander. Set around a huge manmade lake, it's a real scenic part of the country.
Best time to travel
Sri Lanka’s position close to the equator means the temperatures are pretty constant throughout the year. Along the coast, average daily highs climb into the 30s. Monsoon season hits this side of the country in the summer, which means the winter months are lovely and dry. If you're planning on venturing inland to Kandy or tea plantation territory, it's a good idea to pack a jumper - the high altitude brings cooler weather.
Sri Lankan Cuisine
Sri Lanka cultivates a wide variety of crops from vegetables and fruit, spices and rice coupled with its history of foreign influences the food is varied and select. Main meals consist of rice and an amazing range of colourful and spicy curries. These can include potato, green banana, chicken, fish, eggplant and range from mild to ‘Blow your head off.’ Try the local favourite hoppers (a pancake-like snack), string hoppers (steamed rice noodles) and pittu (a mixture of flour and coconut). Lamprais - rice and accompaniments baked in plantain leaves. If you are a lover of seafood you won’t be disappointed with fresh fish, squid, crayfish, prawns and crab.
For those with a sweet tooth try the buffalo curd eaten with palm-honey, and the Malay-derived caramel-like wattalapam. If you love fruit you will be in heaven with delicious mango, banana, papaya and pineapple, but also many lesser-known but distinctive fruits such as mangosteen, sapodilla, woodapple, rambuttan, custard apple and beli. If you need a snack during the day Sri Lanka has you covered with snacks known as short eats, named cutlets, malu pang (fish bun), patties, and kimbula bunis (crocodile-shaped bun!)
Sri Lanka facts
Time Zone: five and a half hours ahead of GMT
Visa: you can obtain a 30 day Visa before you travel via the web and cost around US $35.
Approximate flight time 10 hours 45 minutes from the UK
Destination airports Bandaranaike International airport
Key resorts the Negombo, Bentota, Kammala and Ahugalla
Shopping: Department stores and shopping malls can be found in Colombo