Vacations SriLanka
Good reasons to visit Sri Lanka for your holiday

Diversity

Sri Lanka is a small miracle partly due to the compact physical diversity of this pearl-shaped island - but, as we shall see, this diversity extends to virtually every aspect of life. Fringed by variously-shaped sublime beaches, from straight expanse to rocky cove, the island possesses a coastal plain containing a host of geographic features such as lagoons, wetlands, rivers and various types of wildlife-rich jungle.

The plain ends in the central area where the land starts to ascend into mist-shrouded mountains, covered in forests of wind-stunted trees (in fact there are seven different types of forest in Sri Lanka), plains known as patanas, and rolling tea plantations. In addition, the hillsides are invariably punctuated by dramatic waterfalls.

People

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, a reflection of the island’s encounter with successive foreign immigrants. But it all began with indigenous people, the Veddahs, hunter-gatherers who exist today.

The main ethnic groups are the Sinhalese and Tamils, both originally from the Indian subcontinent. Then there are Muslims, who settled in the island from the time it became an ancient trading centre. Similarly, Malays and Chinese were also attracted to the island. The Portuguese and British brought with them Kaffirs from Africa, and the Dutch an assortment of European traders, the Burghers. There are other communities too, the Chetties from South India for example . . . the list is extraordinary.

Whatever their situation in society, the people of Sri Lanka possess a warm and friendly nature reflected in persistent smiling faces and eagerness to help those unfamiliar with aspects of local life. You’ll find that Sri Lankans are very hospitable and take pride in inviting people to their homes, however modest they may be. So don’t be surprised if a driver or guide, or indeed virtually anyone encountered, requests the pleasure of your company. And don’t decline, as Sri Lankan hospitality is taken very seriously!

Cultural Heritage

Sri Lanka’s cultural depth is recognized by UNESCO, which has declared six archaeological World Heritage Sites in the country:

  • The sacred city of Anuradhapura
  • The ancient city of Polonnaruwa
  • The golden temple of Dambulla
  • The ancient city of Sigiriya
  • The sacred city of Kandy
  • The old town of Galle and its fortifications

(The seventh World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka is an ecological example, The Sinharaja Forest Reserve.)

From enormous dagobas (dome-shaped structures) and remains of ancient buildings in the ruined cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, to the awesome stairway to the temple at Dambulla and the sensual frescoes of heavenly maidens at the palace at the rock of Sigiriya, visitors can experience these World Heritage Sites within a compact area called the Cultural Triangle.

In the hill country lies the former royal capital of Kandy, home to the Dalada Maligawa or Sacred Temple of the Tooth, which houses the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha. With its distinctive architecture, art and music, Kandy is a bastion of traditional culture.

In contrast, experience the colonial heritage of the country by heading south to the mid-17th c. Dutch fort at Galle, the best preserved in Asia. With 14 massive bastions, a grid system of streets, and some original Dutch bungalows, the fort bustles with life just as it did when Galle was the country’s main port. It’s simply one of the most unique attractions in Sri Lanka.

Wildlife

The need to conserve the environment was deeply ingrained in traditional Sri Lankan society: in the 3rd c. BC, the country’s first Buddhist monarch established the world’s first wildlife sanctuary. Today, this tradition continues with 13% of Sri Lanka conserved as national parks, reserves, sanctuaries and jungle corridors.

Sri Lanka possesses a high degree of biodiversity. Indeed the island (together with the Western Ghats of India) has been identified by Conservation International as one of 34 world biodiversity hot spots. In addition, The Sinharaja Forest Reserve, the country’s last viable area of primary tropical rainforest has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What’s remarkable is the high proportion of endemic species.

A safari in one of the 14 national parks offers the chance to see some of Sri Lanka’s 91 mammals (16 endemic) - elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambhur, spotted deer, hog, mouse- and barking-deer, wild boar, porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, loris, giant squirrel, and monkeys such as the macaque, purple-faced leaf monkey and grey langur.

The island is an ornithologist’s paradise, with over 233 resident species, (33 endemic) - but migratory species stretch the number to an astounding 482. There are 171 reptiles (101 endemic including two crocodile species). Thankfully, only five of the 83 snake species are lethal. In recent years there has been a surge in the discovery of amphibians, so that by the time you read this, the figure of 106 (90 endemic), will no doubt have risen.

Adventure and Special Interest Sports

With over 1,600km of coast, Sri Lanka is an ideal location for wind-surfing, water-skiing, surfing, sailing, scuba-diving (including wreck-diving), snorkelling, speed-boating and banana-boating. Prime water-sports sites are located in the Negombo region on the west coast, Wadduwa, Kalutara and Beruwela on the south-western coast, and Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Unawatuna, Koggala, Tangalle and Hambantota on the southern and south-eastern coasts. Water-sports providers are run by local and foreign professionals (including PADI-qualified instructors) and rent state-of-the-art equipment.

Sri Lanka possesses over 100 hundred rivers, together with lagoons and ‘tank’ (irrigation lakes), so there are plentiful opportunities for year-round kayaking and canoeing, perhaps combined with a camping trip. Two popular locations are the Kalu Ganga and the Kelani Ganga (rivers).

The Kelani Ganga near Kitulgala has fast headwaters and rapids ideal for white-water rafting (from November to April only), with names such as Virgin’s Breast, Head Chopper, Killer Fall, Rib Cage and Slot and Drop.

Varied landscape, wildlife, and archaeological sites offers excellent opportunities for trekking. Nature trails of exceptional interest include the Sinharaja rainforest, the cloud-forests of Horton Plains, the Knuckles (mountain range), and Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve.

Hotels

Sri Lanka has an assortment of accommodation options. Colombo features not only a host of modern five-star hotels but also iconic colonial-era hotels with the charm and romance of a bygone era.

The island is generally blessed with impressive hotels usually situated in stunning settings. The coastal areas, especially the west and south, have innumerable resort hotels, where package tourists mostly stay. Several are designed by Geoffrey Bawa, one of the 20th-century’s foremost Asian architects. Bawa’s vision encompasses a style referred to as ‘tropical modernism’ in which forms of modernism are beautifully softened and enriched by traditional influences and surrounding landscapes. There are also an increasing number of boutique hotels on the west and south coast, mainly centred at Galle.

Hill country towns such as Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela feature colonial era hotels, and for those who venture farther afield, perhaps to indulge in adventure sports, there are beautifully converted colonial homes, tea and rubber plantation buildings, jungle cabins, tree-houses and eco-lodges as well as camping under canvas.

Ayurveda & Spa

Sri Lanka has always been a place that refreshes not just the mind and body, but also the soul and spirit. And for thousands of years, the most popular method used to restore and rejuvenate tired bodies and weary souls has been Ayurveda – the oldest and most holistic medical system

available in the world Sri Lanka has been a centre of spiritual and physical healing for 2,000 years. Ayurvedic programmes consist of a range of herbal treatments and various types of baths and massages, together with cleansing and revitalization techniques such as yoga, meditation and special diets.

Sri Lanka now has a number of spas, mainly on the west coast, which not only provide Ayurveda but also other Eastern and Western therapies, such as Thai massage, hydrotherapy, herbal baths, reflexology and beauty treatments. For those seeking spiritual nourishment, meditation courses are also available.

Shopping

Shopping in Sri Lanka can take many forms: haggling with a handicraft-seller while sunbathing on the beach; choosing fruit from the traditional village store, the kadé, while side-stepping sacks of rice; or checking out the bargain-priced latest international fashions (Sri Lanka is a major garment exporter) while enjoying the ambience of a luxurious shopping centre in Colombo.

CWS