Travel Guide To Sri Lanka
Jonny here, right now I am at the magnificent 5th century UNESCO World Heritage citadel of Sigiriya and in this short film I am going to talk about tourism in Sri Lanka.
For a relatively small island, Sri Lanka packs a big punch. With three distinct climatic zones, from the coastal region through the rainforest and jungles of the interior to the impressive central highlands, the country’s varied and spectacular landscapes are matched by the island’s fascinating history and cultural diversity. From highland tea plantations to cave temples, from golden buddhas to abundant wildlife and endless beaches, the country has a plethora of sites and experiences with which to attract the visitor.
The nation’s capital, where most trips to the country will start, is Colombo, a sprawling city, mixing modern skyscrapers with an old colonial heritage. One of the best ways to explore the city is on a walking tour where you can learn about the country’s passed, sample the street food, or get stuck into some of the country’s more serious culinary adventures.
From here heading north the next place you’ll come to is Dambulla, home of the 1st century BC cave temple, packed with golden Buddhas, and the amazing UNESCO World Heritage site of Sigiriya. Developed first for the kings of the 5th century as a fortress and pleasure dome – as evidenced by the raunchy frescos on the walls of some of the caves – it was later used as a monastery and place of meditation for the country’s Buddhist monks. Climbing to the top does require a degree of effort, particularly if you happen to be doing it in early summer, but the views from the top, overlooking the surrounding countryside, are breath-taking.
From here, if travelling in a clockwise direction, the route takes you passed the former 12th century capital of Polonnaruwa – home to a number of impressive sites including one of south Asia’s biggest stupa – before continuing north to Kandy, the stepping off point for the central highlands. Set amongst surrounding hills, Kandy has many attractions including the famous temple of the tooth, said to house the tooth of Buddha and an incredible botanical garden, where you can witness everything from towering palm adventures to delicate tiny orchids.
A train journey is a fundamental part of any journey to Sri Lanka. The British… I prefer to sit by the door and watch the world drift by.
Similarly, it was the British that brought tea to Sri Lanka in the early part of the 19th century and now tea production is a major part of the island’s economy with hundreds of square kilometres under tea plantations. Here you can see all aspects of the industry from watching how the women pick the leaves, to visiting a factory to learn how those leaves are dried, rolled, graded and turned into the tea we drink.
For those interested in wildlife, heading southeast we come to Yala National Park. Split into five separate zones and covering a total area of over 1200sqks, here you can witness all manner of exotic birds and animals from wild elephants, and wild boars, to axis deer and storks. But the national park’s star attraction is undoubtedly the leopard. With zone one of the park home to 104 leopards, meaning one leopard for every 2.7sqks, Yala National Park has among the highest density of this beautiful animal anywhere on earth.
Now heading west and coming almost full circle we arrive at the old colonial fortress town of Galle. The Portuguese, the Dutch and the British – all of whom ruled the town and the island at one time or another – have all left their mark on this fascinating and easy to navigate walled peninsular. To walk through the old town enjoying narrow alleyways of the Arab quarter, the fine colonial architecture, or along the fortified city ramparts, particularly at sunset, offers today a tantalising glimpse into the island’s varied past.
And of course being an island, Sri Lanka is home to beaches… miles and miles and miles of beaches.
Of course, there are many other places in Sri Lanka one can visit. Adams Peak in the centre of the southern half of the island, the former ancient capital of Anuradhapura, some of the pristine beaches of the east coast, or Jaffna and the north are all worth visiting. The food of the island is delicious, and for me was a real highlight, particularly the delicious crab. And the accommodation is among the best I have seen anywhere with my two favourite hotels being the Water Garden near Sigiriya, with its fabulous pool and great views of the UNESCO World Heritage site and The Last House on Sinimodara beach, so named as it was the last house that the famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa designed.
I’ve loved my journey around Sri Lanka…