Taste of Paradise

Described as the “finest island of its size” by Marco Polo, Sri Lanka certainly lives up to the words of this intrepid explorer. Its people are warm, the food is exotic and its landscape is astounding, making it a melting pot of culture beckoning you to travel, explore and experience paradise like never before.

Once an important part of the maritime Silk Route, for centuries its shores have been visited in search of what the ground offers here. Its legendary spices – cinnamon, clove and pepper ¬– over which colonial nations have done battle and conquered over, still remain prized today. Matale, in the central hills, with its cool, damp climate is the nation’s spice capital. Learn the story of Ceylon spices and its many uses with a visit to one of the numerous family owned spice gardens here. Often called the City of Gems, Ratnapura, also in the low hill-country, is home to the legendary Ceylon Blue Sapphire. Gemstones from here have graced the jewellery of Royalty, and so, gives you the perfect opportunity to find a jewel truly “fit for a Queen”. 

From spicy street-food and traditional dishes, to its top-end restaurants serving cuisine from around the world, Sri Lanka presents a true gastronomic journey. As signature street food, the ubiquitous kottu-rotti takes top spot. If ever you hear a rhythmic clacking of metal on metal, that would be your cue that you have found this spicy stir-fry of rotti, vegetables and meats. But nothing screams Sri Lankan cuisine more than string-hoppers. Essentially a thin, steamed noodle cake and taken with spicy accompaniments, your trip wouldn’t be complete without having sampled it. Seafood here is a speciality, and for the gourmand in you, many top-notch restaurants, mostly in the capital Colombo, will not disappoint. 

Helped by its well preserved ancient wisdom, traditional ayurvedic medicine flourishes in Sri Lanka. Whether it’s healing you are looking for or simply rejuvenation, dedicated wellness centres use the gifts of nature to provide guided therapy and relief that address mind, body and spirit. The Southern Coast and Cultural Triangle are popular destinations for long term yoga retreats.

Sri Lanka’s cultural diversity is best seen in its religious pageants. Known as the perahera, it is a series of religious obeservances set amidst a procession of light, which include elephants clad in bright ceremonial regalia, fire dancers and traditional music troupes. Although peraheras are common around the country, the two most spectacular are the Navam Perehera held in February in Colombo, and in August, the Esala Perahera of Kandy. 

The South Coast of Sri Lanka is renowned for its colourful mask carvings. With each mask having a story behind it, they play an important role in elaborate folk-dance by helping to portraying the characters nature. For the best of artisanal craftsmanship in brass and silver, Kandy offers the best opportunity to pick up an intricately carved ornament, handmade by descendants of jewellers to the ancient Kings. 

If you would prefer a more urban, cosmopolitan experience, the capital Colombo offers excellent bars and cafes, good nightlife and shopping experiences to suit any taste. You could also immerse yourself in art and culture at its many galleries and museums.

Written by Jonathan Roelofsz for TLC.lk


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