Our closest island neighbor harbors some secret indulgences.. and yet we haven’t ventured to the fabled land of tea plantations, exotic spices, coconut palms, elephants and beaches as far as the eye can see. Can you guess which place this is? Once upon a time it was known as the island of Ceylon.. It’s more than a drop in the ocean. I’m talking about modern day Sri Lanka.
“If it’s so close to India won’t it be just like our country?”
you may wonder… but nope! It’s got some pretty interesting sights and experiences in store for those who land on this island’s pristine shores. You will be greeted by the ever smiling faces of the friendly people and the mouth watering aromas of delicious local food. It is similar to Indian food so those travelling with children can rest easy as it is a safe, family friendly and fun destination for all.
Ancient historical sites, cheap shopping and bustling cities just hours away from tropical forests packed with wildlife, animal sanctuaries, awesome nightlife, beaches and what not. Yes, you can do the typical Colombo – Kandy – Bentota- Nuwara Eliya itinerary that most tourists opt for, but for something offbeat, you should definitely check these out as well.
Whale watching in Mirissa
Who wants to see a blue whale up close? Me! Me! I want to see them gliding along, playfully swimming with their pods. Blue whales, killer whales (Orcas), sperm whales, flying fish, dolphins and much more. The waters around Sri Lanka are teeming with wildlife and its a magnificent sight to see them in their natural habitat.
The best time to catch sight of these majestic creatures off the coast of Sri Lanka is from November to April.
There are a few tour operators in Mirissa and Trincomalee. Choose one that respects the whales and is eco friendly too. ‘Raja & the Whales’ and www.whale-watching-mirissa.com are good choices. I bet you’ll have a whale of a time! (couldn’t resist that one!)
Whales are not the only majestic sights to see on this island. What once was the seat of an ancient thriving empire, Polonnuwara still retains its majestic essence in the many ruins and architectural structures you will find in the sacred city.
Amble through the Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu I who ruled his kingdom from here.
The gigantic Buddha statues carved in the rock face, the eight petaled lotus pond in four tiers is gorgeous when it fills up with rain. Its brimming with so much culture and history to wander through that you could easily spend a day or two here. Hire an easily available bike and explore at your own pace. If you crave some city life Kaduruwela is just a short drive away.
Sigiriya near Dambulla
The past beckons as you walk through the gigantic lions feet guarding the entrance of your hike up to the Sigiriya rock fortress. The imposing monolith is 200 meters high and dates back to the 5th century AD. Its a fun and challenging hike up and will leave you in awe.
Ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll in Sigiriya?
If you crave more towering feats of architecture, the cave of the Golden Temple of Dambulla is nearby and stands at 600 ft high. A UNESCO world heritage site, it is the largest and best kept cave complex in Sri Lanka. A king once took shelter here from an invasion, and as a thanksgiving gesture he later dedicated it as a temple with murals and more than 100 statues of Buddha all over the cave complex depicting Buddha’s life and teachings.
With plenty of beaches to relax in tranquility and swim all over the world, what makes Sri Lanka stand out are the breathtaking surf beaches dotted over the coast.
You mustn’t leave Sri Lanka before riding the waves at Arugam bay, Welligama bay or Madiha.
Mirissa and Hikaduwa are popular tourist surf spots as well. If you’ve never surfed before go to www.surfsrilanka.org which is a cool surf school to learn some fancy moves first. Check out the surf forecast and weather reports at www.magicseaweed.com when you plan your trip.
Yala National Park
How can you leave Sri Lanka without seeing their thriving and lush forests and wildlife? Yala National park, one of the biggest in the country has it all.
Purple faced langurs, sloth bears, leopards, elephants, deer, peacocks and the whole multicolored jungle extravaganza just outside your safari jeep.
The park is generally closed for maintenance during the drought season from September 1 – October 15th. Keep that in mind when planning your trip if you are a wildlife enthusiast. You could visit the Pinnawala Elephant orphanage and the Kosgoda Sea turtle hatchery during that month. Book your Yala campsite or safari in advance and be prepared for an exciting sojourn into the forests of Sri Lanka.
Galle is a little colonial remnant of the Portuguese and Dutch occupation in Sri Lanka. Galle Fort, located in the southwest corner of the island was a significant trading port and now its distinctive sea walls and fortified town are a UNESCO World Heritage site. One could easily spend a few days here walking around the Dutch fort, the cobbled pathways and visit the museums and quaint boutiques that have popped up.
Another sight not to be missed is the Dondra octagonal lighthouse. The tallest lighthouse in Asia standing at a towering 50m height at the tip of the mainland, it watched over seafarers for decades. Its tranquility and calm atmosphere is perfect for reminiscing at the end of your trip
If you are planning your Sri Lankan holiday now, you may like THIS post as well!