Exploring: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is more accessible than ever with more of the island open to tourists looking to explore the culture and history of this teardrop-shaped island, says Benjamin Coren
No photograph can do justice to the awesomeness of Sigiriya, or the 'Lion Rock'. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is all that remains of a once huge palace and fortress built on top of the rock.
Today, much mystery surrounds Sigiriya, which only adds to its allure. Estimated to have been designated around 477-495 CE, questions remain as to how those in power reached the fortress at the top, how elements of it were built and the design of the sophisticated hydraulic systems, some of which works to this day.
Sri Lanka’s first capital this city, with its well preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilisation, is the main centre of religion in Sri Lanka. The sprawling complex can be easily explored by bike, either with a guide or via a self-drive, allowing visitors to witness the stone stupas and the Jaya
Sri Maha Bodhi, a branch of the sacred fig tree which Buddha found enlightenment beneath. The temple this is housed in is quite a sight to behold and is visited regularly by large numbers of worshippers.
The natural harbour of Trincomalee was formerly a no-go zone during the vicious Sri Lankan Civil War, but today, it is one of the island’s emerging hidden gems, with a developing tourism industry and home to some of the country's most unspoilt and beautiful beaches.
Plenty of regional resorts have access to private beaches, including nearby
Uga Jungle Beach. The holy Koneswaram Temple situated atop Konesar Malai, overlooks the Indian Ocean and offers an insight into Hindi culture.
Sir Thomas Lipton built his first tea factory in the Dambatenne Tea Plantation, near the town of Haputale. The town is surrounded by lush green hills covered with cloud forests and tea plantations. Suggest clients stay in Thotagala Bungalow with its views across the valley and authentic feel.
Yala National Park
Bordering the Indian Ocean in the country's south east, this park is a popular safari location. It’s home to wildlife such as sloth bears, elephants, crocodiles and abundant birdlife, but is most visited for its leopards – it claims the highest concentration of this elusive cat of any national or private park worldwide.
On Sri Lanka’s southwestern coast are the 16th century fortifications of Galle Fort, originally built by Portuguese colonists and expanded by the Dutch.
Today the fort is home to restaurants, bars, quirky boutiques and luxury hotels.
There’s plenty to see in terms of culture, be it in one of Galle’s museums or by viewing local art on display and for sale.
A popular activity is walking the fort ramparts at sundown, for beautiful ocean views on one side and colonial architecture on the other. Located in a former Dutch mansion and warehouse, Galle Fort Hotel is one of the only hotels within the fort that has a swimming pool.
Sri Lanka's capital mixes colonial architecture and open peaceful spaces with high rises and shopping malls. Visitors should consider the National Museum of Colombo, housed in a grand building and filled with artifacts and the country's cultural history.
If your visitors are interested in temples, Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, is a peculiar temple which includes a strange museum of gifts to the temple ranging from motor cars to furniture.
SIGIRIYA ROCKGALLE FORT'S RAMPARTSTEA PLANTATION, HAPUTALE