Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

For a tiny raindrop of a nation in the Indian Ocean dwarfed by its giant neighbour to the north, Sri Lanka punches well above its weight, packing enough sights, experiences and unique adventures in to its island home to compete with the great tourism destinations on the planet.

After many years of turmoil, the whole of the country is again accessible - the greatest challenge is working out where to start, but the wonderful advantage is that travel is so easy you can pretty much see it all! The capital Colombo is the busiest part of the country and by far the most developed, while further down the coast, the sleepy colonial environs of Galle feature the Unesco certified (one of eight such sites in the country) Fort, and arguably the most picturesque international cricket ground in the world. Inland, and set amongst the highlands, Kandy is the cultural capital and the home of the most recent kings of Sri Lanka. Further to the north, the ancient capital of Anuradhapura features the incredible temple complex that rivals any through SE Asia.

But, it’s outside the cities that Sri Lanka really comes alive. The spectacular landscapes and scenery of the hill-country and the tea plantations draw travellers from all over, and can also be experienced via Sri Lanka’s great, slow moving rail network. In Sigiriya, the country has a pilgrimage site that also builds your fitness, with the staircase route to the top of the 5th century fortress a great way to walk off all those curries you’ve been eating in the evenings.

And, did someone say elephants? Sri Lanka arguably has more elephants per square kilometre than anywhere else in the world, with numerous opportunities to commune with these fascinating creatures. Head to Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka’s finest, with a stunning array of wildlife on offer, abundant birdlife, buffalo and the greatest herds of elephants in the country, including an elephant orphanage for those very cute Insta shots.

Being an island, there is of course an incredible collection of picture-perfect palm-fringed beaches. For top quality surfing, the very laid back Arugam Bay is a magnet for surfers and independent travellers, while Mirissa, Berawa and Hiriketiya consistently vie for the mantle of the country’s best beach. The reality is, there are so many patches of sand all around the island, and there’s a handful of other places equally worthy of your attention.

Alongside all of this, the people, culture and the food are an amazing complement to your trip. Sri Lankan cuisine aligns closely with the region, but with a much closer focus on (not surprisingly) seafood as a major staple. The markets of the country are awash with the aromas and spices that create such a flavourful cuisine, and it’s here you’ll see Sri Lankan culture at its most authentic.

Image by Val Shevchenko, Shutterstock