Marco Polo described Sri Lanka as “the finest island of its size in all the world”, and he was on to something.
Positioned along ancient trade routes, it blends a 2,000 year-old culture with a colonial legacy left behind from the potpourri of European traders, spice merchants and sailors who once used its shores. Shaped like a jewel it boasts many riches, and with so many things to see and do we have curated a list of top experiences.
CLIMB SIGIRIYA ROCK FORTRESS
This extraordinary rock citadel rises a dramatic 200 metres from the central plains and perched on top is the fifthcentury palace-fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country’s most memorable attraction. Pass remarkable frescos on the way to the top, from where you can see the outstanding landscapes below with symmetric pools and lily-pad covered moats creating a beautiful water garden.
Just north of Sigiriya, Minneriya National Park is positioned in the Cultural Triangle and forms part of the elephant corridor linking Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa National Parks. Hop in a jeep safari to explore tropical forest, grasslands and wetlands and seek out the huge numbers of Asian elephant which roam freely, along with other wildlife such as crocodile, macaque and purple-faced langur monkeys and a huge variety of birds. Widely regarded as one of the best places to spot leopard and sloth bears in their natural habitat, Wilpattu National Park is one of the largest, oldest and most scenic in Sri Lanka. Dense scrub jungle and dry zone forest open onto small lakes (villus) surrounded by grassy plains – where you won’t see many other visitors, despite its size and wonder.
SIP TEA AT THE SOURCE
Reaching dizzying heights, the rolling hills of Sri Lanka’s tea country offers charming tea estates and plantations, first introduced by the British in the 1800s. Colonial-era trains still wind their way from Kandy to the misty peaks of the hill country where you can stay in beautifully restored planter residence. Meet with a resident planter who demonstrates the age-old tea making process and enjoy a good cuppa while taking in breath taking emerald panoramas.
KANDY CHILL OUT
The picturesque town of Kandy was the last stronghold of the Kandyan Kings and is the symbolic heart of the hill country. With the charming Kandyan architecture, scenic highland setting and cooler climates, Kandy is a great place to take in old customs, arts, crafts and a way of life all so well preserved here. Kandy is also home to the fabulous Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of Buddhism’s most sacred shrines.
DISCOVER GALLE FORT
Perhaps Sri Lanka’s most atmospheric town, the marvellous old Dutch fort in Galle is magically time-warped and a delight to ramble through. Explore the richly preserved, UNESCO-listed 16th century Dutch-period villas, imposing churches and cobble-stoned streets.
With a 2,500 year-old history, the ruins of Anuradhapura are one of Sri Lanka most evocative sites. The sheer scale of the complex could keep you busy for days as you delve into a collection of archaeological and architectural wonders: beautiful yet crumbling palaces and temples, giant stupas and ancient pools.
Kings ruled the central plains of Sri Lanka from Polonnaruwa 800 years ago. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is home to many stone carved Buddha Statues. This great ruined capital is one of the highlights of the Cultural Triangle, renowned for its remains of former palaces, temples and tombs.
Sri Lanka offers a true culinary treat with many cultures having influenced the cuisine through the years of colonisation and trade. The English, Malay, Dutch, Portuguese and Indian have all played their role in creating a spice filled cross cultural fusion of tantalising dishes. We highly recommend you try egg hoppers, sambol, lamprais, watalappan and, of course, a variety of curries.
TAKE A HIKE
Like a mini Matterhorn, Adam’s Peak, is the country’s fifth highest peak. Jutting skyward from the lush jungles of southwestern Sri Lanka, the mountain features a rock formation thought to be a footprint – considered to be Buddha’s by Buddhists and Hindus, or Adam’s by Muslims and Christians. It is a popular pilgrimage site for devotees of all four religions, and ascent is traditionally made at night so you reach the summit in time for sunrise.
To find out more about Sri Lanka and where we would recommend you stay please get in touch and speak to one of our experts.