Located at the southern tip of India and surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a tropical paradise. With picture-perfect golden beaches and impossibly blue seas, tropical rainforests, cool mountains and manicured tea estates thrown in for good measure, as well as some spectacular wildlife, colonial history and delicious cuisine, it’s no wonder Sri Lanka is such a popular holiday destination, as you’ll truly experience it all on your Sri Lanka holiday.
Sri Lanka is teeming with vibrant and colourful life. From trees heavy with coconuts and mangoes to frangipani and bougainvillea abounding – and that’s not all. This small but mighty ‘teardrop’ island is also home to a whopping eight (count ‘em!) UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Sri Lanka has a long and fascinating history. The previously off-limits war zones of the north and east are now open, and visitors are flocking to explore this tropical destination that quite simply has it all. From mountainous terrains to lush jungle and palm-fringed beaches, read on to discover the different sides to Sri Lanka and what you can expect from your Sri Lanka holiday…
With its strong European influence and colonial architecture, Galle is like backpacking for grown-ups. Built by Portuguese colonists in the 16th century and later colonised by the Dutch and British, charming Galle sits on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka and feels like it’s in something of a time warp. With its pretty cobbled streets lined with Dutch-colonial buildings, the historic fort is only one of Sri Lanka’s eight World Heritage Sites you will experience on your Sri Lanka holiday. Here you can wander the grid of streets and explore artisan shops. Then, enjoy the coffee culture, or head to nearby Unawatuna beach to soak up the sun. If you fancy, you can even catch a cricket match at the International Stadium – it’s like a home away from home!
Kandy is without a doubt the culture capital of Sri Lanka, and there’s no better place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere while on your Sri Lanka holiday. Colonial buildings stand alongside ancient temples in this bustling market town that’s also an important centre for local artisans. We’d recommend starting your day browsing for souvenirs expertly made by local wood carvers, metal workers and gemstone jewellers. Next up, wander around the Royal Botanical Gardens with its 4,000 species of plants. These include spices, medicinal plants and a spectacular collection of orchids. In the evening, soak up some Sri Lankan heritage. Watch a cultural show and experience some traditional Sri Lankan dancing. And of course, no visit to Kandy is complete without a trip to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which is said to hold one of Buddha’s teeth.
Picture Perfect Beaches
If it’s beach life you’re after, Sri Lanka won’t disappoint. With beaches on the south, east and west coast, you’ll be spoilt for choice. In the west coast, you’ll find coconut palm trees and lush green surroundings framing picture-perfect sandy beaches, whilst the sun-drenched south coast is home to the tropical paradise of Tangalle. Think soft white sand, turquoise waters and a thriving fishing port – and if you head to nearby Rekawa Beach you can even spot up to five different species of turtles laying their eggs between January and April, so if wildlife is what you’re looking for, there’s no better time to book your Sri Lanka holiday.
On the other side of the country, the east coast is very different to the rest of Sri Lanka. It’s even got a different weather pattern, meaning it’s perfect in the European summer months. Quieter and more untouched than the south and west coasts, here stunning unspoilt beaches are fringed with swaying palms. It’s also a great spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. Once you’ve had enough beach time, the city of Trincomalee is more than worth a visit thanks to its striking combination of colonial history and colourful Hindu temples.
The Cultural Triangle
No Sri Lanka holiday would be complete without exploring a little history of the countries rich history. The Ancient Cities is a fascinating region full of history and civilisations that are more than 2,500 years old. During the Golden Age of the Sinhalese civilisation, it was known as “Rajarata”, the Land of the Kings. And thanks to its ancient cities and Buddha-filled temples, the Cultural Triangle is still a spectacular place to visit today. Anuradhapura was the first ancient city to be built, followed by the rock fortress at Sigiriya and then Polonnaruwa.
Perched at the top of Sigiriya, Lion Rock is an abandoned palace that has been described as the eighth wonder of the world. The ruins date back to the 5th century, when it was selected by King Kasyapa as his new capital. There are even some ancient frescoes still visible on the walls.
Up next, there’s Polonnaruwa, the second largest kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka. Whilst Anuradhapura, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities, is home to some of the most sacred Buddhist sites globally. Finally, the 80 cave temples at Dambulla are still used by monks today. The largest cave complex in Sri Lanka, with 153 Buddha statues, as well as carvings and murals on the walls.
Misty Tea Plantations
A Sri Lanka holiday wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the tea plantations, and from the Cultural Triangle, you can head on to the tea estates in the Central Highlands. With lush green hills and cascading waterfalls, the Central Highlands is the perfect region to explore. Wander on foot via the walking trails, listening to the sound of waterfalls crashing down nearby.
We love Nuwara Eliya – known as Little England – which is typically English in style with its manicured lawns and Georgian architecture. And of course, no visit to the Hill County is complete without a trip to one of the tea estates. Discover the history of Sri Lankan tea and find out about all the different types grown.
Exceptional National Parks
Thanks to its 22 national parks, Sri Lanka is one of the best places in Asia for seeing wildlife. There’s the Uda Walawe Nature Reserve with its 500 wild elephants (an elephant sighting is almost guaranteed here, even if you only go on one game drive), whilst at Yala National Park you can try and spot leopard amongst the ebony trees on a leopard safari.
Other national parks include Wasgamuwa, Sinharaja (undoubtedly the best for exotic bird spotting), Minneriya (the seasonal congregation of 300-strong elephants is a truly unmissable experience) Wilpattu, where you can try and spot the elusive sloth bear, and untouched Gal Oya for a boat safari. Basically, whatever your itinerary, there will be a national park somewhere on your Sri Lanka holiday that works.
Whether you want to experience the ancient mystery of Sigiriya, look for leopards and elephants on safari, visit some of the most important Buddhist relics in the world, or just enjoy simply stunning beaches, we weren’t lying when we said Sri Lanka has something for everyone. Ready to plan your Sri Lanka holiday? There’s nothing our resident experts Rebecca and Tracey don’t know about Sri Lanka and they’ll be more happy to share their expert advice and build a holiday that’s tailor-made for you.
Contact them today.