Destination of the Month – Sri Lanka
Coated in rainforests and ancient temples, Sri Lanka is one of those places where you’re just as likely to spot something from history books as you are an elephant. It’s definitely a bucket list kind of place, and well-deserving as our destination of the month.
Sri Lanka at a glance
Sri Lanka is a small, avocado-shaped island just beneath India and above the Maldives, but it’s an other-worldly one at that. Its human history stretches back thousands and thousands of years, and it shows. Ancient temples, prehistoric cave paintings and settlements atop impressively huge rocks are all enough to make your head spin.
Amid the Buddhist temples and swaths of rainforest are Dutch and British influences leftover from their times as rulers of the land. Colombo is the nation’s commercial capital – though the official capital is the less catchy Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte – and the largest city in Sri Lanka, located along the western coast. It’s over on the country’s fringes where much of the holiday action is stationed. Owing to its island status, Sri Lanka is home to a gorgeous array of beaches, blanketed in white sand and edged by leafy palms. The country’s tropical climate certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
5 fun facts about Sri Lanka
- The oldest living planted tree in the world is a fig tree known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, which continues to grow to this day in the ancient Sri Lankan city of Anuradhapura. It was planted in 288 BC, and is considered a sacred tree, as Lord Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment underneath its branches.
- Sri Lanka is one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots, and has the highest biodiversity density in all of Asia. It’s most famously home to a trio of Asian elephant species, along with other animals like leopards, pangolins and sloth bears.
- There are a total of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, including the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, the Ancient City of Sigiriya, the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the Old Town of Galle and its fortifications, the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, the Sacred City of Kandy, the country’s central highlands and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
- The national sport of Sri Lanka is volleyball, though cricket is easily the country’s most popular sport.
- While under British rule, Sri Lanka was renamed Ceylon, and kept that name until 1972.
Things to do
Visit the sublime Sigiriya
Sigiriya is a 200 metre-tall rock fortress crowned with the remnants of an ancient palace. It’s believed to have been once coated in frescoes though only some have survived, and is guarded by a giant rock carved after a lion, now known as the Lion Gate.
Spend an afternoon at Udawalawe National Park
The Udawalawe National Park is a prime gateway into Sri Lanka’s natural landscape, crawling with elephants, crocodiles, leopards and wild boars, many of which you can see while on safari here.
Bask in the sun at Bentota Beach
This set of shores is one of Sri Lanka’s best, found along the country’s western coast. It’s known especially for its wide expanse of gold sand edged by palm trees made that much livelier with an array of just about every watersporting activity you can think of.
Discover Ceylon tea
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest tea producers, specialising in Ceylon tea. Depending on whether you go black, green or write, the flavours range from citrusy to full bodied or delicate and sweet.
Take a trip to the Temple of the Tooth
Found in the Sacred City of Kandy, the Temple of the Tooth is home to what is thought to be the tooth of Buddha. The temple itself is adorned with stone carvings, golden ornaments and wall paintings, and is located within the complex housing Kandy’s royal palace.
Here are some of our top money-saving deals on holidays to Sri Lanka.
Eden Resort and Spa
7 nights, All Inclusive
The Eden Resort and Spa curls around the hotel’s massive lagoon pool, all facing out toward the sea. The hotel itself boasts four restaurants and private dining on the beach, two lounge bars and stylish bedrooms reminiscent of their eastern surroundings.
Riu Sri Lanka
7 nights, All Inclusive
True to classic Riu form, this new hotel is big and beautiful, tucked right along the seaside. With three pools and five restaurants, it’s all about the numbers and goes above and beyond with live music, professional shows and its very own nightclub.
7 nights, Bed and Breakfast
The pool at this gorgeous resort will have you wondering where the land and sea separate and where the pool begins – it’s that big. Stylish and modern, Hikka Tranz’s decor is modelled after Sri Lanka’s trance music scene, which is fitting, as it’s just a 10-minute walk from nightlife-heavy Hikkaduwa.
What do you like the sound of most in Sri Lanka? Let us know in the comments.