Sri Lanka has become prominent worldwide as a site of long-running ethnic clashes, which culminated dramatically nearly four years ago. With this the island has once again regained its place on Asian travel map, promising as it does an intense array of experiences within a relatively small area. Sri Lanka has much to offer even to the casual visitor; the beaches alone are quite a sight. Being an island nation automatically ensures that Sri Lanka has a host of beaches in every part of the country. Negombo beach, Arugam Bay, and Unawatuna, where scuba diving is popular, are only the more famous ones.
The country also boasts a rich cultural history, as evidenced by the “Cultural Triangle” of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. While all three reflect the long history of Sri Lanka and are home to ruins from various periods, Anuradhapura and Kandy are also important Buddhist centres, with the latter counted among the holiest sites due to the presence of a relic, the Buddha’s tooth. Kandy is also in the vicinity of the Royal Botanical Garden, where you can, if desired, try to identify the more-than-4000 plant species. The nearby town of Dambulla, the cave temples are home to some of the finest Buddhist art; the Lion Rock of Sigiriya is also a sight to behold.
It is perhaps no surprise that Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Dambulla and Sigiriya are all World Heritage Sites, but these are not the only ones. There is the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in the southern part, an evergreen, tropical forest home to many bird species native to Sri Lanka, besides elephants, leopards, langurs and barking deer. Galle, on the southern coast, has a historical heritage dating back some centuries, and retains many breath-taking examples of Portuguese and Dutch architecture. The most famous is the Galle Fort originally constructed by the Portuguese and later expanded upon by the Dutch. Cricket fans might also enjoy to the stadium here, considered among the most scenic worldwide.
At the opposite end of the island is the town of Jaffna, the third-largest in the country. A historically-relevant site that has relics as old as the 2nd millennium BCE, this northern region was the site of some of the worst violence during the civil conflict, but is now slowly coming back to life as a travel destination. A trading settlement since antiquity, Jaffna too, like Galle, changed hands in the colonial period from Portuguese to Dutch occupation, and thus bears the marks of multiple cultures. Here again, the fort has a mixed parentage, so to speak, with the Dutch carrying on the Portuguese work. Jaffna’s heritage also includes connections with southern Indian kingdoms of the pre-medieval and medieval period, as well as the British, reflected in the towering temples and the picturesque Indo-Sarasenic buildings.
Any trip to Sri Lanka, however, begins in Colombo which is both the capital and the largest city. While there are local attractions like the Galle Face Promenade and the beach at Negombo is also close by, Colombo makes for an ideal point from which to take off on your adventure. A wildlife lover could set out from here for the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage; the trekker and/or religious-minded might make a beeline for Adam’s Peak, also called Sri Pada. For those who enjoy the nightlife, the beach resort of Mount Lavinia is just south of Colombo. From the first “Ayubowan” to the last “gihin ennam”, Sri Lanka is sure to delight you!