East of India’s southern tip lies the exotic, mysterious island country of Sri Lanka. Once an important stop on the Silk Road, visitors today marvel at its beautiful tropical forests, turquoise waters and long stretches of white-sand beach. Whether you’re a spa lover or a surfer, a cultural explorer or a foodie looking for new discoveries, you’ll find a rich tapestry of experiences on offer during a holiday in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s history dates back many centuries, providing subjects of great interest to the more studious visitor. Being under British rule for over 100 years, English is widely spoken in Sri Lanka, making holidays to Sri Lanka stress-free as far as communication with the locals is concerned. One of the few remaining countries where Buddhism is the dominant religion, you will see monks throughout the country, but particularly in the largest city of Colombo. Temples seem to be everywhere you look, some ancient and imposing, some very ornate and beautiful. Many temples offer tours, and a respectful visit is recommended when on holiday in Sri Lanka.
The country’s “cultural triangle” lies toward the drier centre of the island and includes archaeological ruins from the 4th century B.C., cave paintings, and ancient ruins deep in the forests. If the opportunity arises visit Dambulla’s Golden Temple. It was built within caves and houses a large collection of Buddhist statues. This can be followed by an elephant trek – crossing a river on the back of an elephant is quite an experience! When you have recovered and are ready for more action, head toward one of the coasts and try your hand at surfing, diving, snorkelling, or kite surfing. To truly appreciate the diversity of wildlife in Sri Lanka, it is a good idea to spend some time on a birdwatching tour or a wildlife safari. Eco-tourism is certainly on the rise, and holidaymakers can take guided trekking or biking tours, as well as 4WD Jeep tours to view the abundant wildlife and learn more about the countryside.
Trincomalee Known as Trinco to the locals, this unspoilt destination was visited by Horatio Nelson who described it as having the finest harbour in the world! With a thriving market at its centre and wonderful beaches you can bask in the sun or engage in something a little more active with surfing, diving and even whale and dolphin watching.
Yala National Park Reminiscent of the African bush and recognised as one of the best parks in the world to observe and photograph leopards, Yala is also an
ideal background to view animals such as crocodile, elephants and wild boar.
Kandy Founded in the 14th Century and home to the Temple of the Tooth, a sacred Buddhist site, Kandy is a delightful mix of old shops, antique and gemstone specialists and a bustling market in its centre.
Sri Lankan Beaches Endless golden sand beaches trimmed with palm trees, sparkling blue Indian Ocean waters, and the warm and tropical year-round climate is just perfect! Enjoy Negombo or the south coast’s beautiful beaches, with lagoons and fine sand.
Nuwara Eliya A definite British air pervades this hill station, with mock- Tudor buildings, racecourse, golf course and old brick Post Office. Cooler than the beach resorts, there are beautiful valley views and of course the perfect cup of tea on offer from the copious tea plantations of the Central Highlands.
Galle Built by the Dutch in 1663, the heart of Galle is the Fort, a World Heritage Site. Pass through its gates and you are transported back to the Dutch colonial era. Very much a working community, a stroll around will bring you across many local characters, small artisan shops and lots of different examples of colonial architecture.
Weddings, Honeymoons and Vow Renewals
Sri Lanka Holidays are perfect for those wanting a unique wedding experience or a vow renewal ceremony. Romance surrounds you with sunshine, warm waves, and the scent of tropical flowers. After your ceremony, celebrate in one of the island’s luxury hotels or treat yourself to the ultimate relaxation with an Ayurvedic spa treatment and a cup of Sri Lanka’s world-famous tea.
Climate and Topography
The country enjoys near-perfect weather all the year round, with average temperatures hovering around 30° (86° F) in the coastal areas, but much cooler at around 19° (67° F) up in the hills that are central to the island. The mountains create rainy seasons at differing times to different parts of the island: the south-west coast has more rain from May to July, while the north-east coast is wettest in December and January.
No matter when you visit, Sri Lanka will enchant you with its natural beauty, easy-going pace of life, and its rich traditions. With a large population of elephant and leopards and its diverse landscapes, this country is truly special. There are adventure holidays available and luxury hotels with attractive over-water bungalows: a holiday in Sri Lanka can make your wildest dreams a reality.
No matter how active or relaxed you like to be when on holiday, whether you prefer to immerse yourself in modern adventure or ancient culture, you will find unique experiences on this exotic island that you will find nowhere else. Sri Lanka is truly a one-of-a-kind holiday destination. Enjoy!
- Whale Watching
- Buddhist Temples
- Water Sports and Reef Snorkelling
- Eight separate UNESCO World Heritage sites
- Nuwara Eliya
Duruthu Perahera – celebrating Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka.
Navam Perahera – colourful elephant parade during February’s full moon.
Sinhala and Tamil New Year Festival
Vesak Poya - celebrating the birth and passing away of Buddha
Kandy Perahera – spectacular processions in Kandy over 10 days.
Deepavali Festival - known as the "festival of lights," is a five day Hindu festival
Sri Lanka marks the auspicious full moon each month with a Buddhist public holiday - a Poya day. Generally shops and businesses are closed and the sale of alcohol and meat is forbidden. Hotels are not allowed to serve alcoholic beverages to their guests. If you have a minibar, drinks can be consumed from it but usually at a charge-even on all inclusive. The same applies in April for Sinhala and Tamil New Year holidays, in May for the Wesak holidays and on all multicultural religious holidays.
Please note: all events listed are for helpful information only and many are subject to entrance fees and/or prior reservation, and may be cancelled at any time. Please check with the relevant tourist office if you need further information on these or any of the other events in this region.
Postcards from... Top ideas from our travel experts
When to go
As a tropical island you'll find two distinct seasons in Sri Lanka, wet and dry. In the southwest and hill country you can expect to use brollies more from May to August whereas from December to March it's mainly sunhats. Always go prepared as inland it can get cooler in the evenings.
All visitors entering Sri Lanka from the 1st October 2011 will be required to complete an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) online at www.eta.gov.lk. There will be no charge for passenger arrivals to Sri Lanka from the 1st of October to 31st of December 2011, however passengers arriving from the 1st of January 2012, are required to make a payment of US$ 50 per person. The Visa issued will be a Double-entry Tourists Visa, which would be valid for 30 days from the date of arrival to Sri Lanka.
Many of our hotels are on the island's beautiful beaches. At Mount Lavinia, just 12km from Colombo, relax and enjoy the sea, joining the locals playing cricket and surfing on Sundays. The typical fishing town of Negombo, set amid lush coconut groves, has great, spicy seafood. And south of Colombo, Beruwela marks the beginning of a glorious 130km stretch of beaches, with great bathing in the bay year round.
Sri Lanka's tally of 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites is truly impressive, spanning the country's rich history from 380BC to the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial eras. It's a treasure trove of both natural and man-made wonders, including ancient and sacred cities, colonial strongholds, cave temples and virgin forests. The sacred city of Anuradhapura once had 9-storey palaces and dagobas (domes). Marvel at its ruins, glimpsing beautiful statues. Explore the cave temples of Dambulla, and the magnificent temples and palaces of the royal city of Kandy.
The largest elephant population is found in Uda Walawe. At the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage you can feed the babies - great fun. Sinharaja is Sri Lanka's last remaining virgin rainforest with amazing birdwatching. Yala National Park is the country's premier wildlife reserve and is said to have the world's highest concentration of leopard. Other animals include elephant, sloth bear and crocodile. See exotic fish while snorkelling or diving, visit the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens and check out the island's highest waterfall at Bambarakande.
Weddings and Honeymoons
This exotic island is a haven for romance. Take your vows on a perfect beach, in a flower-filled garden, or in the jungle amid the ruins of an ancient kingdom, accompanied by dancers, drummers and traditional singers. Spend your honeymoon relaxing on the beach, enjoying Ayurvedic spa treatments and touring the hill stations, tea plantations and rainforests. Take the most romantic, sea view rooms, or private villas.
Sri Lanka has monthly religious public holidays, when shops and businesses are closed and the sale of alcohol is forbidden so you may find restrictions in hotels. Please check with the Sri Lanka High Commission for the 2012 ‘Poya’ days and all public holiday dates at www.srilankahighcommission.co.uk.