3 Destinations You Won’t Want to Miss in Sri Lanka
Picture this: tropical rainforests, scenic beaches and ancient ruins. Sound appealing? If so, it’s time to plan your tour of Sri Lanka. This thrilling paradise, a haven for every breed of world-traveler, offers such a wide variety of experiences that before you’ve even turned in your hotel key, you’ll be planning a return trip for all that you couldn’t see the first time.
There’s so much to do in Sri Lanka that starting with a couple of the country’s major cities, and even squeezing in one awe-inspiring ancient civilization, is enough to fill a week’s vacation. The short distances between seemingly everything here mean you aren’t at all restricted. You can hit a beach (and maybe do a little surfing) in the morning and a temple in the afternoon. It’s all up to you.
If you asked 10 travelers who’d been to Sri Lanka about the single most astounding place they’d visited, nine of them would probably say Sigiriya. In a country of incredible sights, these ancient ruins perched atop a mountainous summit overlooking miles of lush and hazy plains stand in a category all their own.
A word to the wise – it isn’t easy to get here. To reach the ruins, you’ll have to climb steep staircase after steep staircase. Unless you’re braver than most, you’ll do your climbing pressed against the rock wall telling yourself not to look down. But you should try to, because the view of hundreds of water gardens veined with fog stretching to the horizon is absolutely breathtaking.
A landscape of bright, colorful houses dominated by the elegant lake at their center, Kandy was once the capital of the Sinhalese kingdom, a defiant monarchy that fought the Portuguese and Dutch for centuries. That history of resistance lives on in the city’s proud culture.
Furthermore, Kandy’s long history supplies plenty of temples. Tourists and worshippers alike gather at the Temple of the Tooth, where Sri Lanka’s most sacred Buddhist relic, a tooth of the Buddha himself, is housed beneath a golden roof. You won’t see the actual tooth, however. It’s protected by a series of gold caskets, each smaller than the last, which are under constant guard.
At one point not so many years ago, Colombo was considered little more than a way station on the path to Sri Lanka’s southern beaches. Through time, however, the city has evolved into a laudable destination, retaining its colonial architectural legacies alongside dazzling new hotels and restaurants. Art galleries, museums and local eateries are in abundance.
If you like your gift hunting fast-paced and crowded (think perpetual Black Friday), a visit to the Pettah Markets is worth your time. There isn’t better shopping anywhere in Sri Lanka. Some of the loveliest saris in the country are sold in the markets’ bustling shops, along with thousands of other goods.
Colombo, Kandy and Sigiriya are only a few of the places you can start with in Sri Lanka. Cheap prices, friendly people, and trains that cross the countryside make every sort of attraction easily available to you.