As Sri Lanka celebrates 70 years of independence, we highlight 23 great reasons to visit the country.
1. Get Wild
D.Watch with blue whales in season, or watch spinner dolphins leap in Kalpitiya. Sri Lanka also has 5,800 wild elephants and has the highest concentration of leopards in the world. See them along with sloth bears and buffalo in Yala National Park.
2. Play cricket in Galle
Sleepy Galle is a grown-up backpacker’s paradise, with its Dutch colonial architecture, jewellers, ice cream parlors and almost total lack of nightlife. Here you can also watch an international cricket match or hang out around the old fort.
3. Crabs have a whole ministry
Opened by two former national cricketers in an old Dutch hospital, Colombo Crab Department serves delicious, succulent, spicy Sri Lankan crab in one of the capital’s most beautiful buildings. The restaurant itself was also named one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2016.
4. Get lost in the cave
The Buddha Caves in Dambulla are full of Buddha statues, cave paintings and the atmosphere is amazing.
5. Elephant watching
The friendliest way to see elephants is to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. Working Abroad provides information on active projects across the country (workingaroad.com).
6. The scenery on the train is incredible
Newly reopened train route from Colombo to Jaffna promises eye-opening journey for Sri Lanka
The recently reopened Yal Devi (Queen of Jaffna) Express offers visitors to Sri Lanka an opportunity they haven’t had since 1990: travel from Colombo to Jaffna by train.
The rail journey between Kandy and Ella is also memorable.
• Sri Lanka from the air: Drones capture spectacular images of the island
7. They have the most adaptable snacks in the world
You can listen to music while eating and dancing. The dish consists of a thin, pancake-like batter that is infused with coconut milk and spices, then crisped into bowls for serving fried eggs. It’s versatile and can be served as breakfast, a quick snack, or a hangover cure, depending on your needs.
8. Tea and an early morning hike
Sri Lanka is famous for Ceylon tea. Take the four-hour hike through lush green tea plantations to Ella Rock for stunning views.
9. Exciting hotel
In recent years, a number of new hotels have opened, including beach resorts, including the modern KK Beach, which has its own beach club near Habaraduwa.
You can also visit the luxurious yet sustainable Tri, the chic Chena Huts, Anantara Resorts and the beautiful owl and kitty boutiques.
10 …There is also one in the Colossus
Visit an ecolodge on the Kumbuk River, next to Yala National Park. It describes itself as “unique” and is right.
11. Totally Tropical Greggs
Forget cheese lattices and soft sausage rolls, Perera and Sons sells delicious Chinese rolls, samosas and tasty snacks. They are available almost everywhere but are cheap and very popular in Sri Lanka.
12. Surf and Party
Arugam Bay, in the southeast of the island, is a crescent of golden sand that offers rafting breaks in summer and beach parties in the warmer evenings. In winter, lug your surfboard to Weligama.
13. This is “India Lite”
Traveling here is much easier than in India. The transaction became smoother, everything went smoothly, and most importantly, the train and plane left almost on time. There is a great hotel network here and all hotels can be booked online.
14. Visions of Hell
The Wewurukannala Vihara temple has models of humans boiled alive and sawed in half – oops! Tourists have to walk through these horrors before reaching the huge Buddha statue.
15. Think England
John Gimlette said the British-built town of Nuwara Eliya was “a place where the elite went to enjoy the cold and wet conditions and imagine they were in England”.
16. Tranquil beaches
Uppuveli and Nilaveli, both close to Trincomalee in the northeast, are secluded and stunning beaches. The few accommodation options are spread widely, making these beaches perfect for solitary strolls.
17. Good looking rocks
Considered a must-see, Sigiriya is an abandoned palace (its ruins have been almost completely razed) on top of a towering, colossal palace. Those who suffer from vertigo should avoid it as the stairs going up are very steep and narrow. Traces of ancient frescoes are still visible on some walls, and finally the unique design feature at the bottom of the stairwell is two lion’s paws hewn out of the rock, dating back to the 5th century.
18. Seaplane to Paradise
A growing network of seaplane routes offers flights from bustling Colombo to the country’s lush interior and the marine jungles of the island’s south.
19. The coldest period in Southeast Asia
While not as sleepy as Laos, the pace of life in Sri Lanka is calm compared to other popular tourist destinations in Asia, making it a great entry point for travelers to learn about the region.
20. Walk in the original rainforest
The Sinharaja Rainforest is a beautiful natural heritage site – the last active area of primary rainforest in the country – but remains largely unknown. You can hike, swim in the waterfalls, but keep an eye out for snakes and spiders among the various vegetation.
21. Elegant Full Moon Festival
The Boya Festival, which celebrates the full moon with Buddhist calm, is a particularly elegant festival in June, when people dress in white and make a pilgrimage to Mihintale – a sacred mountain – and light beautiful lanterns.
22. Kite Festival
Galle Face Beach is a great place to fly a kite or watch others take to the skies on a windy day.
23. Look in the footsteps of Buddha or Adam
The summit of Adam’s Peak is considered sacred by Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Vidas (the early inhabitants of Sri Lanka), who all believe that the footprints in the rock here belong to a very important person.
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