If you’re looking for an exotic and eclectic travel destination, then you could do a lot worse than Sri Lanka. This small island nation has been overlooked for decades in favour of more well-known and well-travelled Asian countries (we’re looking at you India and Thailand) and that’s doing it something of a disservice – because whatever it’s more popular cousins can do – Sri Lanka can do it just as good.
In spite of it now being the 21st century and most destinations of a similar calibre have been frequented by travellers and tourists numerous times, for some reason, Sri Lanka seems to be an island you pass over when journeying somewhere else. Well, this just won’t do, so our friends Agness and Cez over at eTramping have put together what you can expect from this diverse cultural and environmental smorgasbord.
A Brief History and Location
Sri Lanka is known as “the teardrop of India,” so called because of its distinctive shape, off the South East coast of its larger and better-known cousin. Settlements here can be traced back an astonishing 125,000 years, which might go some way in explaining the diversity you’ll find on these shores.
Its history has not always been plain sailing though, and a 30-year civil war threatened to tarnish the country for life until it finally came to an end as late as 2009.
British colonialism originally named the country Ceylon, but it’s now clocking up 70 years of independence and flourishing in the wake of a turbulent past.
As the title suggests, what more could you want apart from beaches, elephants and tea? Sri Lanka is more than famous for all three and a lot more besides. From wildlife to ancient ruins, adventure holidays or scenic, relaxing train journeys – the choice is yours. For such a relatively small island, Sri Lanka caters for every taste and it’s also extremely friendly if you’re on a budget too. So, have your Sri Lanka visa completed before your holiday and get yourself there. But, what should you see and do?
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Let’s start with arguably the reason you came here in the first place, to get up close to these gentle giants; except they’re not so giant just yet! The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is exactly that, a shelter and rescue centre for ickle baby Heffalumps! Of course, they grow to be big ones too and the centre has a wonderful range of rescued and rehabilitated animals.
Volunteering at elephant sanctuaries is very popular in the country too – but don’t even think about riding them. As we always say – make sure whatever animal experience you’re having is 100% legit. No riding elephants and no lying on drugged up tigers!
Located near the cultural hub of Dambulla in the very heart of the country you’ll discover the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya – which used to be the capital of the country many years ago. Known locally as the eighth wonder of the world, this huge 200-metre-high monolith was formed from an extinct volcano’s magma and contains the ruins of the fortress of King Kassapa. Today you’ll find frescos and graffiti here dating back to the 5th century, as well as a dizzying climb to the top that isn’t for the faint of heart.
While volleyball is officially the country’s national sport, cricket is, in fact, it’s most popular. They’re pretty good at it too, winning the World Cup in 1996 and runners-up in 2007 and 2011. Not bad at all considering their size! And there’s nothing locals like doing more than getting involved in a game, so even if you hate watching it – it’s a lot of fun to play on a pristine, sandy beach as the sun goes down!
Our mouths are watering at the very prospect of Sri Lankan food – and you’d be mad not to dive right on into this eclectic and delicious cuisine. From high end eats to incredible street food, this country has got something for every palate. It can be as spicy as you like while also being light and throws in a real hotchpotch of flavours and influences. Expect delicious curry and rice dishes for the most part, with extensive vegan and seafood options too.
A conical mountain stretching up 2,243 metres is one of the most famous and popular attractions in the country, the summit of which is believed to be the Buddha’s own footprint. As you might expect it’s a site of pilgrimage for many believers and non-believers alike, and it affords some breathtaking views from its peak if you have the energy to attempt it.
Tea is synonymous with Sri Lanka and Kandy is the region known as the birthplace of Ceylon and a good place to start if you want to see colourful tea pickers almost lost in a carpet of green leaves across the mountainsides. There are plenty of plantations to try your hand at picking your own brew, but The Ceylon Tea Museum will get you on your way.
With 1,340 kilometres (833 miles) of coastline in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has got some of the best beaches on the planet. Don’t just take our word for it, see for yourself in places like Unawatuna Bentota and Hikkaduwa – all with the kind of sand you see on postcards trying to make you jealous you’re not there.
You can be as energetic or as relaxed as you like here, with locations that cater to party people and world-class surfing, to those looking to read a good book in a quiet beachfront fishing village. And as well as the diverse wildlife inland, whale and dolphin watching is also extremely popular if you haven’t already had your bountiful fill of the natural world on the island.
More! More! More!
We haven’t even begun to describe what else is on offer here, including temple caves, golden Buddhas, stunning national parks to rub shoulders with 35 leopards, romantic and exotic train journeys and not to mention some of the friendliest people you’re ever likely to meet on your travels. There isn’t the time or the space to do it justice, so we’re going to have a cup of tea instead!
Where would you like to visit in Sri Lanka? Let us know your thoughts!
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