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

Selling Travel - - Contents -

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.

Anuradhapura

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.

Trin­co­ma­lee

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.

Ha­putale

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.

Galle Fort

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.

Colombo

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

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