Information on Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has been a favoured sun destination for many years, and despite a protracted civil war and devastation caused to coastal resort communities during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, it is very much in business, attracting tourists to its fabulous beaches, world-class diving, historic and religious sites, Ayurvedic spas and its jungle and nature preserves.
Colombo is Sri Lanka's busy capital, which despite the hectic streets of its centre boasts the pleasant seafront Galle Face Green, elegant colonial mansions, the old district of Fort and Cinnamon Gardens. The Pettah Bazaar is a bustling market where cheap fabrics, clothes, foods and spices, brass, gold, silver and plenty of other items are on offer. Good restaurants are plentiful in the Fort district, and an aimless stroll around the streets of this area is a popular pastime. The National Museum and the National Gallery of Art are worth a visit.
The holy city of Kandy dates from the early 17th century, and is nestled in Sri Lanka's hilly interior. Situated around a pretty lake, the city is home to the National Museum, the Udawattakelle Bird Sanctuary and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. It is the country's centre for the Buddhist faith, and the location of the important octagonal Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) that enshrines a relic of the Buddha.
Anuradhapura, an important former capital, attracts Buddhist pilgrims and many visitors to the island nation. The city dates to 380 BC, and was once the seat of Sinhalese power. The Sacred Bo-Tree, the holiest site in the city, derives from the tree under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment. Other sites of interest here include two pagodas: the ancient Thuparama Dagoba and the massive Jetavanarama Dagoba. The ruins of the city of Polonnaruwa are located near Anuradhapua, by the side of a lake, and date to the 11th and 12th centuries.
Most tourists come to Sri Lanka for its stunning palm-lined white sand beaches. Hikkaduwa, on the island's southwest coast, is where the majority of resorts are found. Expansive stretches of beach mean that it's never crowded. Lively nightlife is available, as is peace and quiet if that's what you prefer. Accommodation includes the range, from bungalows by the beach to five-star resorts.
In the port city of Galle the Dutch influence is evident, including in the 350-year-old fort set on a promontory overlooking the sea. The importance of this city as a trading port actually predates the Dutch. Today it is a relaxed place that can be enjoyed by wandering through its ancient narrow, winding streets.
In addition to the coastal resorts, accommodation options are plentiful around the country, ranging from guesthouses and quaint inns with comfortable, basic rooms to upscale properties for those in search of luxury. Some of the tea plantations are open for overnight stays, and select national parks offer bungalows for a more adventurous experience.