Known as the Emerald Isle, Sri Lanka is a pearl in the Indian Ocean. Located just off the coast of southern India, recent evidence suggests that a bridge of shoals connected Sri Lanka and India in ancient times; however, the two countries are now worlds apart. Far from the fast-paced modernisation of India and her huge cities, Sri Lanka is a microcosm of diversity – palm-fringed beaches, ancient Buddhist cities, verdant tea plantations and lush national parks are amongst her many highlights and it is possible to design an itinerary that perfectly blends these into one unforgettable adventure.
War & Peace
Now welcoming an era of peace after decades of civil war, Sri Lanka can at long last show off her beauty to travellers and with some of her hidden treasures now once again accessible, the best time to visit is now – before mass tourism really takes off. The capital city of Colombo is where Sri Lanka’s many cultures and influences fuse together and is a real joy to explore, from the colonial architecture to the many markets and gardens. Visit the cultural triangle with its ancient religious monuments dating back thousands of years, climb the rock fortress of Sigiriya, witness the Dutch colonial heritage at Galle, visit the Temple of Tooth, cool down in the tea stations in the hills and, finally, relax on the endless white sand beaches.
If you have travelled in Africa before, please do not expect the same frequency and volume of wildlife. Sri Lanka is, after all, a tropical island. However, offering some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia, Sri Lanka is home to Yala National Park, where you can go specifically to track leopards, and Minneriya National Park, where the renowned elephant gathering takes place. There is also some fantastic whale watching from the Port of Mirissa where you might see dolphins, as well as blue whales and other ocean mammals.
Sri Lanka is by and large a relaxed and friendly country and, although it still bears some of the scars of its more turbulent recent history, the infrastructure is progressing all the time. Traffic can still be somewhat unpredictable, but the road quality is improving. Outside of the main cities of Colombo and Kandy, facilities can be more basic but the standards of accommodation and food are high throughout the country; Natural World Safaris has access to some beautiful boutique lodges.
Sri Lanka is a relatively small island, but there is plenty to discover and you can easily spend ten days to two weeks exploring. Combining well with India, particularly the south, and the Maldives, due to frequent flights between Colombo and Male, many people choose to visit the cultural and wildlife areas of Sri Lanka first before heading to a paradise island to relax in splendour and reflect on their time in the region. But Sri Lanka does have its fair share of stunning sandy beaches that are not to be missed!
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