Highlights of Sri Lanka
It is rare to come across a country with a culture so full of colour and vitality and simultaneously a landscape so verdant and wild as that of Sri Lanka. The island country has been described as a “jewel in the Indian ocean” and it truly lives up to the name. From ruins of ancient civilizations, to living temples, from deep steamy jungle to verdant coastline, the country has something to offer everyone. And best of all, we will very soon be offering tours of the best parts (going live on the site in the next week or so!) In the meantime, let us let you in on the most breathtaking sites and scenes that this country has to offer.
1. National Parks
From parkland to jungle, beaches, freshwater lakes, rivers, and scrub land, Yala National Park has it all. Such diversity gives rise to a wonderful range of wildlife including bears, leopards and elephants. The main way to get around the park is a safari ride. Much of the extensive coastline is off-limits for animals to live undisturbed, a fact which we love. However there are areas where guests are welcome to stretch their legs and take a walk along the beautiful beach. There are also basic bungalows and a campsite in the park so those who want to get even closer to nature can stay to observe the nocturnal life.
It is also home to Sithulpauwwa (derived from the word ‘Chittalapabbata’, meaning “the hill of the quiet mind”. It is a rock temple which still plays a role as a place of worship. It is believed that in ancient times it housed an astounding total of 12,000 monks.
Somewhat out of the way, Maduruoya National Park is often overlooked by tourists so you will be able to enjoy true wild, verdant landscape without tonnes of built-up tourist attractions and people. There is stunning wildlife to see. It is an especially good place for bird-watchers and if you are lucky you may see entire herds of elephants wandering peacefully past.
2. World Heritage Haven
From Dambulla to Sigiriya, Sri Lanka is jam-packed with sites well worthy of UNESCO’s World Heritage Status. They tell of incredible civilisations gone by which have left art and architecture we would struggle to produce today. Soak up the culture and learn about the roots of this stunning country.
Sigiriya or “Lion Rock” is a place not to miss. This volcanic plug towers above the surrounding landscape and on its peak are the ruins of an ancient fortress. At its base you will see a network of gardens and waterways. Climb the 2000 steps, stopping in caves decorated with frescoes along the way. Atop, you will enjoy unparalleled views.
Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient civilization. The ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by monasteries covering an area of over sixteen square miles (40 km²). Anuradhapura is also significant in Hindu legend as the fabled capital of the Asura King Ravana in the Ramayana.The city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dambulla is also spectacular. You will visit the largest and best preserved cave temple complex of Sri Lanka. The city also boasts the largest rose quartz mountain range in South Asia, and the Ironwood forest, or Namal Uyana.
3. Unique Towns: Ella
Ella is blessed with some of the most beautiful views in Sri Lanka. It is a small town used as a base for plenty of trekking expeditions to the surrounding countryside. The Ella falls are both beautiful and culturally significant. The cave behind the falls are said to be the place the princess Sita was held when she was kidnapped in the famous Indian epic, the Ramayama. The waterfall and the pool beneath was where she would bathe. The train journey from Kandy to Ella may well be one of the most beautiful in world.
4. Food and Drink
Sri Lankan cuisine is one of the most complex cuisines of South Asia. It has South Indian influences yet retains its own distinct personality. As a major trade hub, it draws influence from colonial powers that were involved in Sri Lanka and by foreign traders.
Rice and curry are a staple but the variety is stunning and a single meal will likely consist of numerous dishes. Spicy curries are a favourite so for those without a taste for spice, just keep an eye out! Hoppers are an incredible breakfast dish: lacy coconut pancakes often with an egg in the centre, they make a delicious bowl for any filling you want.
Sri Lanka is also a country of tea. Its previous name, Ceylon has been given to a delicious tea today.