“Small is beautiful” they say, and no other country with a landmass as small presents such a varied landscape and climate. From sun drenched beaches, to cool misty climes within hours, here you can actually have the best of both worlds. Each part of Sri Lanka has developed its own unique identity and attractions which certainly helps when planning a holiday here.

On its west coast and to the north of Colombo, the fishing town of Negombo is quintessentially tourist and has an interesting pub culture. Its proximity to the airport and excellent beaches have helped it gain an almost cult following with faithful visitors returning every year. South of Colombo, the areas between Beruwela and Galle are generally upbeat. Bentota has long been a favoured destination for watersports, offering a mix of flatwater and surf, perfect for water skiing and wind surfing. Further south, Hikkaduwa, once drew hippies and surfers, but is now more the hotspot for all-night beach raves which are held regularly and see international artists play. Galle with its historic Dutch Fort, is an experience not to be missed. Being a World Heritage Site, much of its unique Dutch colonial architecture has been preserved and many old houses built and occupied by the Dutch have been restored and now operate as exclusive boutique properties.

Away from Galle, the southern beaches of Weligama, Mirrisa and Tangalle, offer a more relaxed experience and are perfect for a holiday of unwinding. Lying on a sparsely populated area of pristine coastline, its beaches see very little activity other than fishermen going about their daily chores. If you are looking for an intimate beach vacation, then this is your ultimate destination.

The East coast presents an atmosphere all of its own. Its beaches of white sand are extremely quiet and the shallow, reef protected seas are ideal for long swims in its clear waters. The most popular destinations are Nilavelli off Trincomalee, and Passikudah off Batticaloa, both excellent sites for snorkeling and diving and also a whale watching hotspot. Arugam Bay, at the southern end of the East coast, is a surfers Mecca. Three popular surf points, provide both low and high swells making it perfect for the beginner and veteran alike.

Nowhere is Sri Lanka’s long history better seen than in the Cultural Triangle. Buddhism first took root in this part of the country, and was celebrated with the building of magnificent stupas. The cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, were centres from which ancient Kingdoms were ruled and date back to 5 BC. The size and complexity of their ancient stupas and buildings are a testament to the engineering genius of the time. The Cave Temple of Dambulla, is an exhibition of artisanal craftsmanship with over 150 statues of the Buddha to be seen in its five main caves. Lying within the Cultural Triangle is the marvel of Sigiriya. An ancient fortress built atop a massive granite rock protected by a moat, the doorway to the ancient palace grounds is through the belly of a lion carved into rock. The view from the top is magnificent, with elaborate water gardens and royal bathing ponds spread out far below.

The Northern regions are largely underdeveloped, but at the islands northernmost point Jaffna, is a prime attraction. Once an ancient kingdom, it is a historically significant link between India and Sri Lanka and has maintained a strong Hindu culture, seen in its numerous large kovils. On the north-western coast, Kalpitiya is a favoured haunt for kite-surfing and whale and dolphin watching.

If you’d like to escape the heat and humidity, then an escape to the hill country is what you need. Kandy, is the hill capital, and was home to the last King of Sri Lanka. The Temple of the Tooth which holds the tooth relic of the Buddha, lies here and is an important part of Buddhist pilgrimage. Further up into the hills, Nuwara Eliya with its misty mountains and bright green, carpet like tea fields soothes the senses. The brisk climate here helps to produce prized Ceylon Tea, and a visit to a tea garden will source you the finest tea the country can offer, factory fresh. The picturesque hill station of Bandarawela, with a milder climate is also a tea growing area, and its old-world charm is redolent of colonial times.

Written by Jonathan Roelofsz for

TLc listing of ColomboTLC listing of GalleTLc listing of KandyTLC listing of AnuradhapuraTLC listing of SigiriyaTLC listing of PolonnaruwaTLC listing of NegomboTLC listing of Nuwara EliyaTLC listing of Bentota


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