Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka’s economic center is a colorful and bustling city. It’s an interesting mix of Moor, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences with a history of over 600 years.he heart of Colombo is known as ‘Fort’, but there is little sign of any fortifications today. The Fort area today is a collection of marble and glass structures along such venerable buildings such as the Miller’s, building and the General Post Office.Most of the important government buildings are housed here, including the Janadhipahi Mandiraya (President’s residence, known as the Queen’s House in old times), but the President no longer stays here.The clock tower in Fort is a familiar landmark, which was a lighthouse 140 years ago.

Anuradhapura – The First Capital of Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka established in the 4th century BC. It was the royal capital for 119 successive Singhalese Kings and lasted for about thousand five hundred years. Many historic monuments and buildings still remain in the acres of this sacred land. The historic city of Anuradhapura is an essential stop on any tour of Sri Lanka. This city, located around 205 kms north of Colombo, is one of eight World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.Anuradhapura currently serves as the capital city of the North Central Province, and is considered the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Its vast network of ancient Buddhist temples, monasteries and places of worship which cover over 40 sq kms has made it a sacred site to Buddhists around the world.Located on the banks of a river, Anuradhapura is now a picturesque ruined city, filled with mystery and steeped in a rich Buddhist culture. Tour groups and pilgrims alike visit this city, and this diverse and versatile city caters to a locals and visitors alike. The ancient city lies adjacent to the modern, and ruined buildings, ancient temples, cobbled streets, and even crumbling fort walls are spread out and interspersed with all signs of modern life in this bustling and thriving city.

Sigiriya – The Palace and Fortress in the Sky

Sigiriya (The Lion Rock), also known as the ‘Palace and Fortress in the sky’, was built by King Kassapa (477 – 495 AD). Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located in the central district of Matale close to the town of Dambulla.The Sigiriya complex is considered one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning, The fortress is outlined with a web of gardens, tanks and structures.

Polonnaruwa | The Medieval Kingdom

Polonnaruwa (Sinhalese – ?????????? Tamil – ???????? was the country’s capital from the 11th – 13th Century. Polonnaruwa is considered one of the best preserved historic cities in the world. Located approximately 140km from Kandy, Polonnaruwa was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its abundance of historic remains. Most commonly referred to as Sri Lanka’s second ancient capital, the city of Polonnaruwa is nevertheless a magnificently preserved city with rich archaeological monuments and natural beauty. Located in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, Polonnaruwa has both its ancient city, an adjoining “old town” as well as a “new town” located about 6km away. The archaeological sites are in a compact layout, within easy distance of each other, and tours are easily arranged either on foot or more popularly explored on bicycle.

Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

Rajamaha Temple of Rangiri Dambulla (Also known as the Golden Rock Temple or Dambulla Cave Temple) is located north of Kandy and considered by most to be the centre point of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass and a World Heritage City, declared by UNESCO. The name Dambulla derives from Damba – Rock and Ulla – fountain. One sees the incessant drip of water from the fountain within the main image house. The cave complex at Dambulla is one of the most impressive Buddhist Temples in the world. It was here that King Vattagamini Abhaya (Valagamba) took refuge in the 1st century BCE. He later turned the caves into a rock temple. Later kings made further improvements, including King Nissanka Malla who had the temple interior gilded, earning it the name of Ran Giri – Golden Rock.

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Negombo (Sinhala: ?????? ; Tamil: ????????????) is a bustling city close to the Bandaranaike International Airport; and second largest city in the Western province, after Colombo. Located at the lagoon-mouth, Negombo is a major tourist destination with an old, large and thriving fishing industry.The beach here is quiet and peaceful, and the sight of the fisher folk out at sea on their oruwas (outrigger canoes) is a particularly charming sight. It is not always safe to swim here, but diving enthusiasts can explore the wreck of a World War II British cargo plane in nearby Marawila.A boat trip winding through the lush mangroves down the Dutch Canal or Muthurajawela Marsh will reward you with sightings of monitor lizards and flocks of migrant birds.The Munneswaram Hindu temple is 20kms away, and can be combined with a tour of the famous fish market and the seaside town of Chilaw. The larger hotels in the area also have equipment and facilities for water sports such as windsurfing, sailing and skiing.

Kandy – The Hill Capital

Kandy is the charming hill capital of Sri Lanka and the island’s second largest city. At an elevation of 465 meters above sea level, Kandy is located 129 Km North-East of Colombo. Nestling midst low hills, and looped by the Mahaweli river; Kandy is the country’s religious and cultural center and a World Heritage City. The city was born in the 14th century and became the capital of the Kandyan kingdom in the 16th century. It was the seat of much of Sri Lanka’s culture. The Royal City fell to the British in 1815, when the last Kandyan King, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe was captured.

For Buddhists, Kandy is the sacred city. The focal point is the Dalada Maligawa also known as the temple of the tooth, where the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha is enshrined. There are many shrines and temples in and around Kandy, where you will see rare paintings, frescoes, wood and stone carvings. Kandy is still the home of the arts and crafts, music and dance and song which flourished under the patronage of the Kandyan Kings. The highlight of the year is the Kandy Esala Perahera, when a replica of the relic casket is taken in procession accompanied by exotically costumed drummers, dancers and about 80 – 100 caparisoned elephants during ten glittering nights in July/ August. The beautiful city, surrounded by hills and valleys, rivers, lakes and cascading waterfalls, boasts of the Royal Botanical gardens at Peradeniya . Kandy is an exciting place for shopping with souvenirs of wood, copper, silver, brass and bronze. Ceramics, lacquer work, handlooms, batiks, jewellery, rush and reed-ware too could be purchased. While in Kandy, an outing to a tea factory as well as a tea plantation should also be made to witness first hand, the process that leads to the creation of the famous ‘Ceylon Tea’.

Nuwara Eliya – The City of Lights

Nuwara Eliya (City of Lights) is a resort city in the Central Mountain Range of Sri Lanka. Blessed a with salubrious climate, breathtaking views of valleys, meadows, mountains and greenery; it’s hard to imagine that Nuwara Eliya is only 180 Km from the hot and humid Colombo. Nuwara Eliya, also known as ‘Little’ England’, was the favorite hill station of the British who tried to create the resort into a typical English Village. The old brick Post office, country house like hill club, with its hunting pictures, mounted hunting trophies and fish, and it’s strict formal dinner attire; the 18 hole golf course, race course etc., evoke nostalgia of Colonial British Ceylon.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is probably the best kept secret in Asia – Sinharaja is one of the least disturbed and biologically unique lowland rain forests in Sri Lanka.Sinharaja is a vast forest which covers an area of approximately 11,000ha, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located quite close to Ratnapura with approaches from other directions as well, this dense rain forest has an amazing variety of flora and fauna, and this has caught the attention of scientists as well as nature lovers who make excursions into the jungle to explore and appreciate its many natural wonders. Among these are cool waterfalls, rushing streams and crystal clear freshwater streams. A lot of attention and emphasis is now being placed on the conservation of this precious treasure that is Sinharaja. This rain forest covers an extent of about 11187 hectares from east to west of Sri Lanka. The length of the Rain forest is about 21km and width from North to South is about 3.7km. It was declared a National wilderness area in 1988 and lately a world heritage site in 1989. It is situated in the southwest lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka in the districts of Ratnapura, Galle and Matara. The average annual temperature of Sinharaja is 23.6 C. Rainfall figures show values ranging from 3,700 to 5,000 in and around the Sinharaja forest.

Ratnapura – The City of Gems

Ratnapura is a city in South-western Sri Lanka. Known as the ‘City of Gems’, Ratnapura lies at the foot of Adam’s Peak and close to Sinharaja Rain Forest. 101 Km Southeast of Colombo, Ratnapura is also the gateway to the hill country from the Southern plains. The scenic route takes you passing paddy fields, rubber plantations and tea estates. Ratnapura Gems Featured Throughout history, Sri Lanka has been known as a land of gems. King Solomon was said to have procured a great ruby for the queen of Sheba from Serendip (Sri Lanka’s former name). Marco Polo (1293 AD) wrote about the ruby that once graced the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba at Anuradhapura…”a flawless ruby a span-long and quite as thick as a man’s fist”. It is believed that Sinbad’s visit to the mountains of Serendib, refers to Ratnapura in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has produced three of the world’s largest blue sapphires, including the “Blue Belle of Asia”‘ (which adorned the British crown and holds the world record for any Sapphire sold at an auction); as well as the ‘Star of India’, displayed at the New York Museum of Natural History.

Ella, Sri Lanka

Ella is blessed with some of the most beautiful views, you could find in Sri Lanka. Only 8 km from Bandarawela, this small town is used as a base for plenty of trekking expeditions to the surrounding countryside. A taste of the breathtaking scenery of Ella could be had, if you just walk into the Garden of the Grand Ella Motel (Formerly Ella Rest House), where you seem to be standing at the edge of the world, and everything around you seems to disappear at your feet. Another fine view is from the Ambiente Hotel, where the wide doorway, opens out to the mountains, creating a dramatic cinematic like experience, on entry. Some of the places you could see in Ella are the Ella Gap, Ravana Ella Falls, Little Adam’s Peak and Bambaragala Peak among the other many varied pleasant walks with stunning scenery.

Uda Walawe National Park

Uda Walawe lies South of the central hills of the island, and it surrounds the man-made reservoir of Uda Walawe, which is part of the park. It is a mixture of abandoned teak plantation, scrub jungle & grassland. The dry season is best to watch the many herds of elephant that roam the park; which is usually between May & September. Almost the entire park is covered with tall, reedy Pohon grass, which grows all year round, except during the months of June and October. Similar to Yala, Uda Walawe is a superb place to watch elephants. An estimated 500 elephants in herds to up to 100 live here. One of the reasons is the elephant-proof fence that surrounds the perimeter of the park, which keeps the elephants in and the cattle (also humans) out.

Hambantota, Sri Lanka

Hambantota (Sinhala: ?????????, Tamil: ?????????????) town is often considered the heart of the “Deep South” of Sri Lanka. Located nearly 170 km south of Colombo, Hambantota is the main town of the district by the same name, in the Southern Province. It’s a coastal town which has seen rapid development in recent years and promoted as a second commercial hub of the country after Colombo.

Yala National Park

Yala is the most visited National Park in Sri Lanka and is home to a variety of fauna. Yala National Park is the largest collection of area that is protected in the country. Yala is also considered as one of the 70 most Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka; expected since it is home to about 215 bird species which includes six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The dry season falls between May and August. The Kumbukkan Oya and the Menik Ganga provide a source of water to animals during the entire year, keeping the Park healthy.
Yala National Park is geographically located in Sri Lanka at latitude 06°16' – 06°42' North and longitude 81°15' – 81°42' East. The Park can be visited via the town of Tissamaharama in the Hambantota District of the Southern Province. The Block I boundaries of the Park, take in 19 kilometers of sea coast in the southeast from Amaduwa to Yala, 19 kilometers from Yala up the Menik Ganga to Pahalahentota, 19 kilometers from Pahalahentota to Bambawa, and 3 kilometers from Bambawa to Palatupana.
Being located in one of the dry regions of Sri Lanka, the climate of Ruhuna National Park is usually hot and dry. The area receives its annual rainfall during the north-east monsoon from November to January, and unpredictable inter-monsoonal rains in March/April and September. The annual temperature near sea level is 27 C, although in the dry season a daily maximum of 37 C is not uncommon.

Galle – The Walled City

The Walled City of Galle (Sinhala: ?????; Tamil: ????) is a major ocean-side city, and located in south-western Sri Lanka. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Galle was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The city of Galle is the capital of the Galle district as well as the administrative capital of the Southern Province. Galle is located 116 Km., southwest of Colombo.The main A2 highway from Colombo to Galle, as well as the railway line are both picturesque routes following the coastline closely for much of the way. Although contemporary Galle has grown into a major city and spreads into the hinterland, the Fort is still the slow-beating heart of Galle’s history. The walled city has stood since the early sixteenth century, through the Colonial periods of the Portuguese, Dutch and British and in our present times is proclaimed as an Archaeological Reserve and been identified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Bentota, Sri Lanka

Bentota (also spelled Benthota) is a coastal town in Sri Lanka. Located 65 km south of Colombo, Bentota is a popular and fully geared tourist resort. Before the era of mass tourism and the consequent construction of the National Tourist Resort of Bentota, the first foreigners to stumble upon this charming spot, must have been Arab merchant sailors, who also discovered Beruwala (also spelled ‘Beruwela’) in the 11th Century a little further north. However it was the Portuguese who in the 17th Century, built a small fort at the mouth of the Bentota or Bentara Ganga. This wide river marked the southern extremity of Portuguese held territory in the island, as Dutch sails appeared on the horizon further south. The Dutch used the fort during their rule, as a resting place for stagecoaches plying between Colombo and Galle. Later the British converted this simple halt into a rest house for travelers. Its idyllic location and tranquility made it a popular haven. By the 1970s, the rest house had become a hotel, opening the door to the commercial strip marking the resort today.