Travel in Sri Lanka: An introduction

A true all-rounder; Sri Lanka is a destination that delivers on so many levels. In addition to the world-class wildlife viewing, there’s the abundance of culture, diverse cuisine, cooling hill country and year round beach opportunities.

Central and southern Sri Lanka have long been renowned for their versatility; beautiful coastlines draw sun-seekers from across the globe, while ancient cities and spiritual landmarks enthrall with their treasures, and nature-lovers enjoy the accessible and well-stocked national parks. Now, travel in Sri Lanka is truly, unequivocally coming into its own - with the Tamil Tigers finally at peace, the beautiful north has opened up, offering the chance for us to explore areas that have been off-limits for years.

Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka's largest, was closed for a decade because of the fighting, although thankfully the park's animal population thrived during this time. Now, although the creatures are still wary of humans, we can rediscover Wilpattu's unique habitat.

Further south, Sri Lanka's 'Cultural Triangle' offers some of the most remarkable ancient engineering you'll ever see. Buddhism is strong here, with many active pilgrimage sites, relics and temples, alongside the ruins of many more. The mountain city of Kandy sees Sri Lanka's biggest annual Buddhist festival every August, when beautifully decorated elephants carry Buddha's relics around the city.

Sri Lanka's climate is influenced by two separate monsoon cycles, with distinctly different weather on either side of the island. Thus there is always sunshine somewhere here - and many areas, like the lush emerald tea plantations that cover the hillsides, are none too shabby when it's raining, either...

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Where to travel in Sri Lanka?

If you're flying to Sri Lanka, you'll arrive in Colombo, where - if time allows - a stop is very much encouraged, to explore the city's tasty food, interesting shops, and maybe take in a game of the nation's much-loved cricket, which you'll find everywhere from the test-match stadium to the street behind your hotel. From Colombo, your itinerary will depend on your preferences, of course, but also on the time of year, given that while the south coast beaches are getting rain, the east may be basking in sunshine, and vice versa.

We favour travelling into central Sri Lanka first, combining a few days exploring the wealth of the Cultural Triangle with a stay in Kandy, tours of hill country and Sri Lanka’'s famous 'tea country'.
There’'s your choice of National Parks to consider as well; Uda Walawe, Wilpattu and Yala are usually the most popular, with Minneriya, up near the Cultural Triangle, offering the remarkable Elephant Gathering during August and September.

After a few days enjoying the highlights of tea country, many visitors head south, to sample the delights of a beach resort. The west coast beaches also have much to recommend them, while the island's stunning east coast is beginning to receive investment, with a promising future ahead. Last, and very far from least, there is the UNESCO-protected town of Galle, with its laid back atmosphere and marvellous Colonial architecture. Few can resist at least a night here - we advise more, if time allows.

  • Population: 20.5 million
  • Capital: Colombo
  • Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee
  • Language: Sinhalese, Tamil
  • Religion: Buddhism
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