Small is beautiful–and yes, when one talk comes round to Sri Lanka, you will think of countless ways why this spice island fits the bill so neatly for the traveller. With eight UNESCO-acclaimed sites, six cultural and two natural Sri Lanka offers a window to the amazing experiences this beautiful island nation offers. That said, there is much more to the beauty and wonderments of the island that visitors are enthralled by.
While most people are familiar with the stories about the Sigiriya Rock experience, one should make time to experience a lesser trumpeted ancient site. Head out for Kalutara district to poke around the prehistoric chapters of the annals of Sri Lanka’s ancient history. Located in the remote hamlet of Yatagampitiya is the 200m high Pahiyangala Cave, dating back to a 37,000-year-old prehistoric civilization. Also referred to as the Fa Hien Cave, this is one of Asia’s the largest natural rock formations. Amongst the finds discovered at this archaeological dig were some human skulls, weapons made from animal bones and stones. People pay their respects to the 40 foot long statue of the reclining Buddha at the entrance. The cave was once a Buddhist shrine. Unmissable heritage sites are Kandy’s Buddhist site of Sri Dalada Malig or the Temple of the Tooth; the Sacred City of Anuradhapura; the palace and fortified city of Sigiriya of King Kassapa 1, dating to the 5th CE; Polonnaruwa, the second capital of ancient Ceylon; Golden Dambulla Cave Temple and the old port town of Galle and its fortifications.
Epic experiences of fabulous wildlife sightings will bring wildlife enthusiasts back to Sri Lanka again and again. Its ranking as one of the world’s top 10 biodiversity hotspots makes Sri Lanka a wonderland of opportunities galore for viewing some of the largest mammals and endangered species on sea, soil and skies. You have a fabulous choice of protected environs to savour these exotic adventures. With 25 national parks, over 60 bird sanctuaries and at least 90-odd species of mammals Sri Lanka is perfect for glamping experiences. Yala National Park is a magnet for the highest concentration of leopards in the world. Plot No.1 in the park is your best bet for repeated sightings. For epic viewings of the Asiatic elephant head for Minneriya National Park, where in the dry months the ancient reservoir witnesses the world’s largest known Asian wild elephant gathering on Earth.
Beaches, Bays and Boats
The little coastal town of Mirissa gathers enthusiasts for sightings of some of those mammoth sea creatures–whales, all kinds of species– along with cavorting dolphins and nesting turtles. The serene and gorgeous beachside environs of the coastal town of Arugam Bay are the go-to spot for surfing. Even novices will love it because they can learn to get wet with surfing lessons under the guidance of experts in its tamer waters. Weligama is the jump-off point for fabulous deep fishing experiences, so little wonder it draws sea anglers from around the world. The waters here are renowned for marine inhabitants such as GT (Giant Trevally/Jack Trevally), Wahoo, Spanish Mackerel, Yellowfin tuna, Sailfish, Grouper, Snapper and Mahi Mahi and the more uncommon Swordfish and Marlins.
The splendour of Sri Lanka’s natural heritage simply takes you breathe away. From the tropical landscapes of Kandy, Colombo and Galle, to the temperate climes of Nuwara Eliya, the super cool hill station, amazing experiences await every step of the way.
While the beautiful mountain trails abound in botanical wonders, waterfalls and birdsong, spending time in one of the island’s tea estates is to experience one of its most iconic cultural offerings. Learn all about tea production here; but a nice twist is your encounter with race horses. Yes, race horses! You will love the moments spent at the famous Stables of Nuwara Eliya, world renowned for producing the 'Champagne of Ceylon teas', and the finest racehorses.
Set off on a trek at the Horton Plains National Park in central Sri Lanka, to experience the wonders of the virgin terrain of a cloud forest. This beautiful spot is known for its own climate and botanical splendour, driven by a unique eco-system. For gorgeous panoramas after a hard slog there is nothing to beat the lesser visited Pidurangala Rock.
Spice of Life
Sri Lanka, or the erstwhile Ceylon, served as one of the most important hotspots on the international spice trail in the Indian Ocean. Many narratives are there to be unfolded on the spice wars between the western traders on this tiny island under the marigold sun. Enjoying a traditional Sri Lankan meal or learning to cook a dish in a family kitchen is the best way for visitors to sample the astonishing range of flavours and textures that the island’s bounty of spices brings to the dining table. What’s unmissable too is delving into Sri Lanka’s multi-culinary adventures, richly influenced by the melting pot of cultures it attracted as an international trading hub.
Delve deeper into even more secret pathways and less trumpeted attractions in Sri Lanka to come home with incredible travel memories for another day.