What to see in Sri Lanka
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s superb beaches lie all along its coastline, with sandy coves and estuaries and long palm-fringed stretches. They vary greatly in character. Beaches on the west coast of the island, conveniently close to Colombo and the airport, tend to be the most crowded, but offer opportunities for water sports and buzz with busy bars and restaurants. Here, also, away from the package hotels, are some of the most exquisite places to stay, notably in Bentota. For many travellers however, the picturesque beaches of the south coast, often with magnificent sweeps of white sand, are the biggest draw. Quieter than the west coast, Unawatuna and Tangalla are the best established here, offering opportunities for diving and packed with reasonably priced accommodation. Picture-perfect, laid-back Mirissais increasingly
Arugambay Sri Lanka
popular with budget travellers, and there are plenty of other options in this area that you might just get to yourself. Further off the beaten track, but at last accessible once more, the beautiful and deserted beaches of the east coast are
worth seeking out during the off-season in the west coast. Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka’s surf capital, is the latest hotspot, while north of Trincomalee, Nilaveli and Uppuveli, with gentle clear waters perfect for swimming, are beginning to come alive again.
However, most of Sri Lanka’s beautiful and interesting sights are away from the coast. By venturing a few hours inland you can explore the island’s abundant cultural Heritage. ln lush verdant hills, the last Buddhist capital of Kandy is found. To the north are the other two points of the Cultural Triangle – the ancient capitals of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa – and the extraordinary royal citadel atop the giant rocky outcrop of
Pinnawela Sri Lanka
Sigiriya, decorated with its world famous frescoes. Close to Anuradhapura is Mihintale where the first royal conversion to Buddhism was inspired, while Dambulla has impressive paintings in its rock cave. While visiting Kandy you can also see baby elephants at bath time at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. Nearby, are interesting spice plantations and several temples.
The central mountains provide a refreshing break, with spectacular waterfalls and some great walking trails around Nuwara Eliya, surrounded by tea gardens. To the east,
The ‘gaps’ at Ella and Haputale provide spectacular views, while some travellers are lured by the attractive gem capital of Ratnapura.
Sri Lanka’s varied wildlife can be explored in its impressive network of national parks, such as Ruhuna or Yala to the southeast where the fortunate traveler may even spot a leopard, and Uda Walawe, famous for its herds of elephants. There is plenty of bird watching along the shallow coastal lagoons, while Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve is the last significant stretch of pristine rainforest in left in the island.
Choosing a route obviously depends on your interests, the time of year and to
Sri Lanka Tea Country
certain extents your mode of travel. Hiring a chauffeur driven car allows you greater flexibility. Using public transport may not be the best option for tourists as the systems are yet unorganised and fairly chaotic for travellers who are unable to converse in the native language. Even if you are staying at a beach hotel on the southwest or south coast it is easy to get up to Kandy and make that a base for further exploration.