Touring the highlights of Sri Lanka

palm trees


Adrift in the ocean off the southern coast off India, Sri Lanka’s comparatively modest size belies the variety of experiences which await the first-time visitor. Lush plantations cover the misty mountain-sides, while elephants bathe in broad rivers and brilliant white beaches line every part of the coast. Though you may wish to stay much longer, the island is compact enough to tour the major highlights in a few weeks. Here’s a little inspiration to get started…

Whether you’re touring Asia or just looking for cheap holidays in 2013, the west-coast city of Columbo is the most common arrival point and from here, it’s possible to follow a number of routes to some of the best inland and coastal attractions. Make time for a journey north-west from the capital to see Sigiriya, the site of an ancient settlement built upon the ‘Lion Rock’ which towers some 200m over the verdant treetops. Along with the palaces of nearby Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya is a significant World Heritage Site.

Many visitors make the journey into the heart of the country, stopping in or around the city of Kandy. The dramatic setting of valleys and peaks here is marked by historic Buddhist temples, lush tropical gardens and the intertwining alleyways and marketplaces of the city itself. Travel out to Hatton to the famous tea plantations and see leaves picked by the colourfully-robed workers or try your hand at the task.

More energetic travellers should head southwards, where the region around Belihuloya offers nature trails along the river, cycling tracks to the 80-foot falls at Duvili Ella or canoeing on the Samanalawewa reservoir. Whilst on the road, don’t miss the chance to travel by three-wheeled ‘tuk-tuk’ and experience the winding rural lanes at breakneck speed, in true Sri-Lankan style.

When you’ve exhausted the interior, the beaches of Sri Lanka can provide days of peaceful relaxation in the year-round sunshine. The south-west is home to Arugam Bay, which is not only a favourite for beach-lovers, but a surfing hotspot and prime destination for fresh Sri Lankan cuisine, delivered to your plate straight from the Indian Ocean.

Lastly, don’t leave this part of the country without exploring one of the finest natural reserves, Yala National Park. A beautiful habitat, home to creatures as varied as leopards and elephants, the park also stretches down to the coastline and encompasses vast underwater coral gardens within its perimeters.

Naturally, there’s a lot more to experience on this characterful and irrepressibly friendly island than it’s possible to mention. But whether you find its magic in the cultural marrow of the ancient cities, the beauty of the mountain-filled panoramas or simply the welcoming smiles of the local people, Sri Lanka is one Asian destination that deserves as much time as you can spare.


Image (c) YoTuT

The Top Natural Attractions In Sri Lanka

natural_attractions_srilankaThe island nation of Sri Lanka lies off the south east coast of India, and was formerly referred to as Ceylon during the period in which the island was a part of the British Empire.  Boasting a large number of beautiful beaches and a wonderful tropical climate, it would have long been established as a beach holiday destination was it not for the internal conflict in Sri Lanka.  This small island is a truly beautiful place to go on holiday, and has some wonderful wildlife along with some of the most amazing natural sites to visit.

Hurulu Forest Reserve

This is one of the oldest and most important natural sites to be found in Sri Lanka, having first been founded in 1977.  This reserve is an excellent example of the evergreen forests that used to dominate much of the island, and also provides valuable habitats for the Sri Lankan Elephant.  Along with the elephants, there are a number of other endangered species also to be found in the park, including the Sri Lankan Leopard and the Indian Star Tortoise.

There is a limited nomadic population of natives actually living in the park, and one of the most difficult challenges is managing and balancing the habitats of these endangered animals along with the needs of the people.

 Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

When it comes to nature tourism, there are few animals as popular as the elephants when it comes to attracting visitors, and the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage attracts many visitors every year.  The main aspect of the site for visitors is that it allows people to see the native herds of elephants bathing in the MahaOyaRiver.

The orphanage itself was founded in 1975 because of the number of orphaned elephants being found in the country, but today is home to over eighty elephants.


Shortened to KDN by most people, this area of forest in the south of Sri Lanka is remarkable because of the diversity of plants and flowers to be found in the area.  Around half of all the species of tree to be found in this park are actually native to the area and are not found elsewhere.  The rainfall here is significantly heavier than in other parts of the country, giving the forest a different feel.  Many of the birds are endangered, including the Green-Billed Coucal and the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, but it is the Sri Lanka Junglefowl that is most commonly spotted as it mainly resides on the ground and is brightly colored.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve

The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is one of the most important and attractive locations in the country, and although it is small it is particularly important because of the rare species to be found in this lowland rainforest park.  For visitors to the reserve, nature spotting is particularly difficult due to the dense undergrowth, but the beautiful waterfalls and streams are superb.  The soundtrack to the forest reserve is provided by the superb range of birds that are native to the area, including the Orange-Billed Babbler and the Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo.

The Bar Reef

Although many of the most important natural sites to be found in Sri Lanka itself, the Bar Reef lies just off the west coast of the island, near the town of Kalpitiya.  The Bar Reef is not actually one reef, but a network of different coral reefs that boast some of the best biodiversity in the region, with over 150 species of coral and over 280 species of fish.  This is one area that is particularly threatened by activities in the area such as fishing and human agriculture, which is why it is now a protected Special Management Area.

The Top Historical Sites To Visit In Sri Lanka

ruwanwelisaya-chedi-in-the-sacred-city-of-anuradhapura-sri-lanka The island of Sri Lanka may lie only a short journey off the south-eastern coast of India, but its history and its culture are very different to its prominent neighbor.  Because of its location and its excellent harbors it was a territory that was greatly coveted by colonial powers, having been part of the Portuguese, Dutch and British Empires during its history.  Although each of these powers have left their mark, there are also plenty of historical sites related to the native people of the island to explore too.

The Sacred City Of Kandy

Although the city of Kandy is the second largest in Sri Lanka, the sacred city that is included in the name of the site refers to the predecessor of today’s bustling city, and is important because of the Palace of the Tooth to be found within its boundaries.  The city was the capital of the Kingdom of Kandy which ruled much of the interior of the island from the fifteenth century through to the early nineteenth century.

The Temple of the Tooth itself is a building dedicated to a relic housed in the temple which is said to be the tooth of the Buddha himself.  The sanctuary in which the tooth is housed is very ornate, and the temple is surrounded by a number of other gardens and palaces, along with the Museum of Kandy.


As with the city of Kandy, the modern city of Anuradhapura is also the location of a much older city that today boasts some of the oldest city ruins to be found in the whole of Sri Lanka.  The ancient city became one of the most important places in South Asian civilization, and this has led it to being among the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world.

Among the most important parts of the ruins to be found in the city are the bathing pools of Kuttam Pokuna, involving some beautifully preserved sculptures in the city.  There are also many Buddhist sites and monasteries to be found across the city.  One of the many traits of this architecture is the bell-shaped masonry, some of which are truly huge in scale.


The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is a testament to the superb planning of the kings that founded the city, and their emphasis on water conservation that helped the area to flourish.  The ruins of the city are a wonderful place to explore, including an old temple, some wonderful statues and well decorated walls.  The site was recognized by UNESCO as an important historical site, but was also used because of its beautiful site in a music video for Duran Duran.

Today visitors to the ancient city will usually stay in the nearby city of the same name, and one interesting aspect for visitors is that it can be significantly colder than other parts of the island in December and January.


One of the most interesting sites in Sri Lanka is the rock fortress to be found in Sigiriya, where some of the best examples of ancient art in the country are to be found.  It is estimated that when the fortress was in use a large portion of the western face of the rock in the fortress was dedicated to frescoes, many of which are still visible today.  These frescoes depict beautiful women and still retain many of their wonderful colors today.  There are also two giant lion’s paws to be found on each side of a stairway, which are the remains of where the king would walk between the forepaws of the lion.

Outside the fortress there are some remarkable water gardens and a beautiful mirror wall made of porcelain, which would have been polished to a high sheen so the king could see himself as he entered the fortress.  One of the interesting aspects of the mirror wall is that it has been written on by visitors to the site for centuries, showing that this has been a tourist site for many years.