Sri Lanka

Travel Bulletin - - CRUISE REPORT -

No longer dis­missed as “In­dia Lite”, Sri Lanka has emerged to claim its place among the high­lights of South Asia.

If there’s one prob­lem with ex­plor­ing Sri Lanka, it’s find­ing a place to start. This com­pact is­land barely ri­vals Ire­land in size, yet some­how seems to cram as much as the rest of South Asia into its small but ver­dant back­yard. It’s a land of aro­matic and vividly spiced foods, an­cient Bud­dhist and Hindu tem­ples, colo­nial his­tory from the Dutch, Por­tuguese and Bri­tish, and jun­gle wildlife from leop­ards and mon­keys to ele­phants. It’s a place of surf shacks and yoga re­treats, lux­ury re­sorts and Ayurvedha spas, rail­way jour­neys and tea plan­ta­tions, and elab­o­rate tra­di­tions and fes­ti­vals played out with colour and pageantry. Now sta­ble af­ter the civil war that plagued its north and the tsunami that dev­as­tated its east, Sri Lanka is en­joy­ing a vis­i­tor re­vival. From its cap­i­tal Colombo, most vis­i­tors dis­perse along Sri Lanka’s west coast where the ma­jor­ity of its beaches and re­sorts are found, from sim­ple sea­side shacks to ex­clu­sive five star re­treats. The south-west is home to the old Dutch city of Galle, per­haps the pret­ti­est of Sri Lanka’s coastal cen­tres with a rich le­gacy of old colo­nial build­ings. In­land, Sri Lanka’s true ro­mance comes to the fore. Hill towns and tea plan­ta­tions flour­ish in the cooler al­ti­tudes of the moun­tain in­te­rior, edged by lush trop­i­cal forests. Here the city of Kandy serves as the cul­tural heart of the na­tion, famous for its Tem­ple of the Tooth where a sa­cred tooth of Bud­dha is se­cured. The city is also the site of one of Asia’s most spec­tac­u­lar fes­ti­vals, Esala Per­a­hera, in which pro­ces­sions of dancers and dec­o­rated ele­phants are held dur­ing July and Au­gust. Fur­ther north, the im­pos­ing Si­giriya Rock Fortress is one of the coun­try’s great land­marks - an an­cient Bud­dhist monastery and a fortress, perched upon a mono­lithic rock out­crop. Else­where wildlife lovers can ex­plore na­tional parks in­clud­ing Yala, with the is­land’s largest pop­u­la­tion of leop­ards.

Gior­gio Min­guzzi

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