Ancient cities, Archaeological wonders, white sandy beaches, coral reefs galore, the art of making the champagne of teas from the colonial times of the British over 300 years ago, beat of traditional drums and folk dancers, majesty of her elephants, leopards and peacocks, 100s of endemic birds, butterflies and amphibians and garlands of breathtaking flowers will fascinate and mesmerize you.
The political and economic center of Sri-Lanka. A bustling commercial capital blending east and west. Quaint old shops vie for trade with oriental bazaars and modern shopping malls. Strategically located in the middle of the Southwest coast and easy access to the International Airport (30 kms north of the City) allows easy access to the rest of the country.
The gateway to ancient Sri-Lanka. Starting around the 4th Century BC this areas was home to many of Sri-Lanka’s early kings who built massive temples, reservoirs and irrigation systems to water the rice fields, various palaces and monesteries.
For our 1500 years Sinhala Kings ruled from these great cities making them the most extensive and important of Sri-Lanka’s ancient cities. These ancient capitals are famous for ancient domed temples known as Dagabas, vast man-made reservoirs that irrigated the rice fields and historic religious monuments.
A world heritage site, the rock fortress of Sigiriya was built in the 1st century AD. The flat topped ‘Lion Rock’ juts abruptly 200 meters from the jungle floor. At its base a surrounding moat and ramparts protects this ancient palace fortress. Inside, the fort has extensive gardens, stone swimming pools with secret passageways, water fountains that still function, stone mirror walls and beguiling hand painted frescoes of the king’s concubines.
is home to the largest area of cave paintings to be found anywhere in the world. Built in the 1st century BC, this world heritage site has 7 caves with more than 2,000 square meters of painted walls and ceilings and over 150 sculptures of Buddha carved out of rock.
hosts the monolith 12 meter standing Buddha, one of the largest sculptures of the Buddha in the world. Sculptured out of one single rock, it is said that this sculpture was carved as a competition between master and student with the master’s more detailed Aukana Buddha finished first. The best time to view the sculpture is when the first rays of sun illuminate its elegantly carved features, hence giving it its name “Aukana” – meaning sun eating or dawn.
is first place where Buddhism touched the ancient Sri-Lanka. Buddhism was brought to Sri-Lanka in the 1st century BC by the son of the great Indian emperor Ashoka. It is also home to the ruins of Sri-Lanka’s most ancient hospitals built around the same time. Mihintale also houses a temple, monks refectory, assembly hall, ponds, caves temples all being connected by 1,840 ancient granite slab steps.
Kandy – Served as the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom, which fell to the British in 1815 after defying the Portuguese and Dutch for three centuries. It took the British 11 years to build a road linking Kandy with Colombo, a task they finally completed in 1831.
The town, and the countryside around it, is lush and green and there are many pleasant walks from the town and further afield. The town centre, close to Kandy’s picturesque lake set in a bowl of hills, is a delightful jumble of old shops, antique and gemstone specialists, a bustling market and a very good selection of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. As night falls the city becomes eerily quiet.
Kandy is particularly well known for the great Kandy Esala Perahera, held over 10 days leading up to the Nikini poya (full moon) at the end of the month of Esala (July/August), but has enough attractions to justify a visit at any time of year.
Nuware Eliya, meaning the city of lights, sits at a height of 1,900 metres above sea level, amidst lush vegetation. It was built as a retreat by the British to escape the sweltering heat of the coast. The area is famed for its tea plantations, cascading waterfalls and its colonial buildings resembling charming English cottages. The 18-hole golf course around which the city is built is also considered to be Asia’s oldest.
Literally meaning city of gems, it is located in most famous gem mining area in Sri Lanka situated in the foothills of Adam’s Peak. Precious stones such as Rubies, Sapphires, Cat’s Eyes, Amethysts and Topaz are all mined locally.
Adam’s Peak – is the country’s holiest mountain and a pilgrimage center for people from all religions. Legend has it that it was here that Adam first set foot on earth after being chased out of heaven. The Buddhists refer to it as Sri-Pada – where the Buddha is said to have left his sacred footprint. Christians consider the footprint to be that of St. Thomas the apostle. It is also known as Samanalakande or Butterfly Mountain – where Butterflies go to die. Whichever myth you care to believe, it has been a pilgrimage center for over 1,000 years. Climbing the 2,243 meters peak takes 4-5 hours and the best time to begin is at midnight in order to reach the summit by dawn to witness the spectacular sunrise.
Horton Plains – World’s End and the beautiful Bakers Falls are located on a high windswept saddle, approximately 2,100 metres above sea level. “World’s End”, an awesome escarpment with a 1,200 metre vertical drop, provides some of the most stunning views in Sri-Lanka. The plains are an expanse of misty grassland, scraggy trees and ice-cold rivulets. These forests and grasslands are home to a thriving wildlife including Sambhur, Wild Boar, Giant Squirrel, Black-napped Hare and Leopard.
The East Coast boasts the most breathtaking beaches of Sri-Lanka. While the west coast is soaked by the southwest monsoon rains during the months from May to October, the east coast remains dry with tranquil seas. Arugambay – a surfers paradise is considered one of the top 10 surf hotspots of the world. Trincomalee is a large town built around a harbor, described as one of the finest in the world. There are also some hot-springs in the area and some wonderful old temples. Elephants sometimes roam freely in the surrounding countryside which is beautiful and at times wild.
Jaffna and the North – Jaffna lies in the north-east and is a peninsula, almost an island, dotted with shallow lagoons and many tiny islands that surround it. Unlike most of Sri-Lanka which has coconut trees, Palmyrah trees dominate the landscape here. Jaffna is as famous for its delicious mangoes as it is for its toddy from the Palmyrah plant. Spared the onslaught of modern developments, a large part of its distinct cultural traditions has been preserved. It is closely linked to southern India in language, culture and religion. Special places of interest are the Jaffna Fort built by the Portuguese in the 1600’s, the Nallur Temple which is the most impressive of Hindu temple in the country, and the Jaffna Library which is constructed in moghul style.
The south coast is part of the ancient Ruhuna kingdom and is blessed with secluded cove-like beaches and shimmering turquoise seas. This region has fascinated travelers for centuries. During the 17C, Galle and Matara was occupied by the Portuguese who built garrisons in both towns which were later developed into forts by the Dutch. Today these coastal areas are a rich blend of the modern and traditional lifestyles. Stilt fisherman, cinnamon peelers and Beeralu lace weavers continue with their age-old traditions passed down generations whilst alongside them an exclusive selection of villas and boutique hotels caters for the upmarket tourist trade. Matara and Hambantota in the deep south are gradually becoming important commercial hubs.
At Ahangama, Midigama and Weligama, surfers prowl the shores in search of some of the best waves in Sri Lanka. No beach is more magnificent than Mirissa, a crescent-shaped strip of beach flanked by green vegetation. Mirissa is popular for surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, sailing and sea-kayaking. Matara is a bustling town possessing two Dutch forts and a decent Resthouse. Three miles further on, Dondra Head, with its octagonal lighthouse, marks Sri Lanka’s most southerly tip. Close-by to Matara you can enjoy the beaches of Polhena and especially Talalla, a gorgeous beach that remains relatively unknown. Dickwella is famous for its beaches and scuba diving. Tangalle offers a glorious, uninterrupted stretch of beach. Closer to Tangalle, seek-out the small and often deserted cove of Seenimodera (Sugar Bay). Further to the west is Kahandamodara a remote area close to the Kalametiya bird sanctuary and Rekuwa where the endangered marine turtles come ashore to nest. The southern coast also serves as an ideal base to explore the south’s wildlife parks including Yala and Uda Walawe National Parks and Bundala and Kalametiya bird sanctuaries. Experience the ancient southern heritage with a visit to the Mulgirigala rock temple in Tangalle, Tissamaharama or the jungle shrine of Katragama.
Galle – Is the capital of the south and one of Sri Lanka’s most cosmopolitan places. With a spectacular setting on the south western tip of the island, Galle is surrounded by palm fringed beaches and forest clad hills towards the interior.
The city has had a chequered and varied history, with a plethora of influences and cultures crossing over the centuries, leaving a vibrant and diverse way of life. Famous for its 17th century Dutch Fort, the old part of the city is home to some of the island’s best craft shops, restaurants and bars. Some of the best accommodation can also be found within the walls of the fort and the surrounding region.