Sri Lanka offers many archaeological, cultural and scenic highlights including the ancient sites of the ‘cultural triangle’, the tropical interior, the beautiful hill station of Kandy and the picturesque ‘tea country’. As well as exploring Colombo, other key areas to visit include the elephant orphanage in Pinnewala, the rock fortress at Sigiriya and the small fishing hamlet of Ahungalla. Horton Plains and Yala National Park offer great opportunities to search for wildlife including monkey, sambar, elephant and sloth bear. At the end of your exploration you may choose to unwind on one of Sri Lanka’s idyllic tropical beaches before returning home.
What to see
Colombo is Sri Lanka’s biggest city and the country’s political, economic and cultural centre. On the southeastern fringe of Colombo is the district of Kotte, formerly the capital of a major Sinhalese kingdom. Today Kotte goes under the name Sri Jayawardenepura-Kotte and is once again the administrative capital.
Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage is a government-run elephant orphanage at Pinnewela, which was set up to save abandoned or orphaned wild elephants. Controlled by their keepers to make sure they feed at the right times and don't endanger anyone, the elephants are otherwise free to roam around the sanctuary.
The 8,890 hectares of Minneriya National Park is home to some 23 species of mammals. The park consists of mixed evergreen forest and scrub areas and is home to elephant, spotted deer, leopard, sloth bear and crocodile. Kandy, at an altitude of 500m is the cultural centre of Sri Lanka and was the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom. It is a particularly relaxed hill station, once captured by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. The lake and the nearby Temple of the Tooth, which houses Sri Lanka’s most sacred relic, a tooth of the Lord Buddha, dominate the city.
Dambulla is located 72 km north of Kandy, within Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’. It is an ideal and picturesque setting to base oneself whilst exploring the sights of the ancient city regions of Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and Polonnaruwa, surrounded by jungle and lush green hills as far as the eye can see.
Located in the middle of tea-growing country, Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka’s most popular hill station and in many ways resembles a 'small English village'. With brick and stone-built houses, rose gardens and perfect lawns, Nuwara Eliya is also one of Sri Lanka’s main market gardening centres.
The Horton Plains is a beautiful area, consisting mainly of grasslands, interspersed with patches of forest. The area provides excellent opportunities for walking with panoramic views over the spectacular escarpment, known as World’s End, which drops a sheer 1000ft. The plains were formerly the hunting grounds of the British Raj.
World Heritage-listed Galle, Sri Lanka’s fourth largest city, was a Portuguese fortress in the 16th century before being enlarged by both the Dutch and the British. Today it is well known for its handmade lace and the Dutch Fort – a 36 hectare fort constructed in 1663 by the Dutch, which occupies the promontory that forms the older part of Galle.
Udawalawe National Park is home to an estimated 500 elephants, best spotted by the river or streams and reservoirs. Other wildlife includes wild buffalo, sambar deer, mongoose, bandicoot, fox, water monitor, crocodile and even the occasional sloth bear and leopard.
The coastal town of Bentota has fine beaches, allowing for relaxation and very good snorkelling and scuba diving. There is a huge variety of fish off this part of the coast, including large specimens such as barracuda. In addition to the beaches, the area also enjoys the beautiful calm waters of the Bentota River, which are good for sailing, windsurfing and water-skiing.