The sun, sand and sea are what most visitors come for when they visit this island — and they are never disappointed
Once known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is an island located in the Indian Ocean at the southern tip of India.
It should not be confused with India.
Sri Lankans are justly proud of their country — its hospitality, history, culture and the multitude of things to see and do; plus it is cleaner, less crowded, affordable and more prosperous than India.
Sri Lanka is an exciting mix of beaches, ancient sites, wild animals, various cultures, tasty food and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
All travel starts in the capital city of Colombo where there are several interesting things to see and do. All of this packed into a country the size of West Virginia.
Colombo has many British colonial buildings plus an ornate Hindu temple and Slave Island.
Slave Island was originally a place where the Dutch kept slaves that they brought to Sri Lanka to build the canals needed for transporting goods from inland to the harbor.
Today it is a relaxing little island in a large pond that was once home to crocodiles that deterred slaves from trying to escape. Eventually the slaves were returned to Africa. Sri Lankan culture has been influenced by the Dutch, Portuguese, English, and Indians.
The unique sites include the Golden Temple of Dambulla, which dates to the 1st century BC and where a long row of saffron-robed monk statues bearing alms are heading toward the giant golden Buddha. At the iconic Sigirya, built in the 5th century, the hearty can climb to the top of the 600-foot-high Lion Rock to see the ancient city and gardens.
The panoramic view of the surrounding plain is impressive as are the moats surrounding the rock.
Polonnaruwa archeological site is home to 900-year old ruins with palaces, temples, statues and murals. Especially impressive are the beautifully carved statues of Buddha at Gal Vihara, one of which is 21 feet in height. In a more modern vein visit the 17th century Dutch fort in the coastal city of Galle. Within the walls there are many Dutch-style buildings, museums, and other attractions. Galle Fort is a living, functioning World Heritage Site.
Sri Lanka is a great destination for naturalists. Each day at 9 a.m. the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage visitors can watch the elephants being bottle fed. The 80 elephants were either orphaned or injured. Later in the morning the elephants are led down to the river for what is their favorite activity, cavorting in the water. The young elephants wrestle in the water like children dunking each other.
Most people never associated the word “safari” with Sri Lanka but that is the most popular activity at Chaaya Wild Resort located on the edge of Yala National Park. While on safari it is possible to see wild elephants, monkeys, wild boar, sambars, deer, crocodiles, water buffalos and, if you are lucky, leopards.
The sun, sand and sea are what most visitors come for and they are never disappointed.
Beaches encircle the island so there is a beach for everyone and accommodations range from basic to luxurious. The resorts offer a wide variety of activities, including many fascinating day trips boat trips on the Madu River and more. The boat stops at Cinnamon Island, a temple, and a fish farm where visitors can get a fish foot massage. Other day trips include a visit to a Turtle Hatchery dedicated to the turtle conservation; the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, one of the most sacred sites in Sri Lanka; mines for moonstone and other gems for which the country is noted; and a tour of a tea plantation to learn about famous Ceylon Tea.
It is best to apply for a visa online to avoid delays on arrival. Weather wise the best time to visit is between December and March but it is also the most expensive. For the best deals with a chance of great weather consider April and September.