Sri Lanka has truly earned its nickname of Pearl of the Indian Ocean. While a little off the beaten path, Sri Lanka offers visitors an opportunity to see exquisite beaches, beautiful forests tea plantations and more, while also enjoying its rich cultural heritage. Its tropical environment makes it a great destination all year long.
Here are our top must-see sights in Sri Lanka:
Colombo. Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, used to be known as “the garden of the East”. Today, it is usually the first stop on visits to Sri Lanka. Originally a seaport town, Colombo has changed significantly over the years and now is a mix of a bustling, modern city combined with historical sites from ancient times through British, Portuguese and Dutch colonization. Take some time to explore the National Museum to learn about ancient Sri Lanka, and then stroll around the Fort area to see remnants of British and Dutch colonization, including the Old Dutch Hospital and the Old Galle Buck Lighthouse. For a bit of shopping and people-watching, head over to the Pettah district to experience the markets and the Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque. And if you get tired of walking around, don’t forget to take a Tuk-Tuk ride!
Nuwara Eliya and Tea Plantations. Sri Lanka is known for its tea, so no trip is complete without a trip to the tea plantations. And there is no better place to go than Nuwara Eliya, known as the Little England of Sri Lanka. Enjoy the colonial architecture of the post office as you explore the city. Then, head over to the Pedro Tea Estate to participate in the tea tasting ritual, roam the plantation, and see the intricacies of the tea-making process. You can also explore the beautiful Hakgala Botanical Gardens, take a boat out on Gregory Lake or visit the waterfalls at St. Clairs Fall.
Galle. About 130 kilometers south of Colombo is the coastal city of Galle. This seaside city is the home of the Galle Dutch Fort, a Unesco World Heritage site. This unique walled fort is surrounded on three sides by ocean. The Dutch East India Company used the fort as a major spice trading port for nearly 200 years. You can explore the fort and still see much of the Dutch influence in the area architecture. While in Galle, visit the beautiful sandy beaches of Unawatuna. Go surfing, relax on the beach, go scuba diving or visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda.
Yala National Park. A visit to Sri Lanka wouldn’t be complete without spending time exploring the wildlife reserves. At Yala National Park, take a safari to see buffalo, elephants, monkeys, and, most importantly, the leopards!
Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Another Unesco World Heritage site, Sigiriya, or Lion’s Rock is an ancient palace and fortress complex built into the rock formation designed to resemble a lion. It’s a remarkable fete of architecture, featuring extensive networks of fortifications, canals, gardens and fountains. It is one of the best-preserved examples of urban planning, and is not to be missed. Make sure that you take one of the guided tours to understand the full impact of what locals call “The Eighth Wonder of the World”.
Anuradhapura. For a bit more history and culture, take a trip to Anuradhapura, one of the most ancient cities in Sri Lanka. Home to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a fig tree purported to be the oldest tree planted by a human about 2,300 years ago. It’s the center of the Sinhalese Buddhist civilization, and the monasteries and ruins are well worth the trip.
Kandy. Last, but not least, is the city of Kandy. It is the home to the country’s most holy relic – a tooth of Buddha, which can be seen at Sri Dalada Maligawa. If you are their during the time of puja, you may be able to see the golden casket that holds this sacred relic. You also might want to visit the Giragama Tea Plantation, where you can tour the plantation and see a variety of teas in the making – from green tea to Earl Grey. While you are in Kandy, don’t miss a trek up to see Bahiravokanda Vihara, the giant Buddha statue overlooking the city.
It’s time to start planning your trip to Sri Lanka. Let Luxury Destinations Concierge take care of all the details. Give them a call at (805) 236-4437 to get started.
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