The tropical island nation of Sri Lanka has a history dating back to the birth of time. It is a place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoilt.
The tropical island of Sri Lanka, formerly know as Ceylon, is rich in history and tradition. Old colonial powers have long since gone, but the Portuguese, Dutch and British influences still impact on the culture, religion, architecture and cuisine of this fascinating country. Picturesque beaches dot the coast, while majestic mountains, tea estates and rain-forests cover the interior.
Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean just below the Southern tip of India, and lying North of the equator.
For a small island, Sri Lanka has many nicknames: Serendib, Ceylon, Teardrop of India, Resplendent Isle, Island of Dharma, Pearl of the Orient. This colourful collection reveals its richness and beauty, and the intensity of the affection it evokes in its visitors. Head for the rolling hills, to escape the heat of the plains in the cool of tea plantations. The entire island is teeming with bird life and exotics like elephants and leopards are not uncommon. Sri Lanka’s blend of ethnicities has often produced friction and tragedy, but it makes for an interesting culture. Traditional art and architecture is predominantly Buddhist, and the country is dotted with stupas and sculptures of the Serene One. Traditional dance is all about agility and symbolism. Food is often fiery hot, with hoppers (pancakes) to wrap it up, and the tea is as marvellous as you would expect.
Sri Lanka has a history that dates back to over 2,500 years. It had established trade and cultural links with many ancient civilizations. Throughout history, it has been known by different names. To the Greeks it was Taprobane, to the Arabs it was Serendib, to the Portuguese it was Ceilao, to the Dutch it was Zeylan, and to the British it was Ceylon. Sri Lanka was the ancient name meaning “The Resplendent Isle”.
Sri Lanka enjoys a tropical climate throughout the year. There are no seasonal variations except for the bi-annual monsoon rains. Being closer to the equator, the temperature is high throughout the year. The average temperature in Colombo is 27 degrees centigrade (80 degrees Fahrenheit). This is accompanied by high levels of humidity. However, in the different parts of the island, the temperature and the climate vary according to the terrain. The higher you go, the cooler it gets. In the mountainous regions of Nuwara Eliya, the temperature averages 16 degrees centigrade (61 degrees Fahrenheit).
Standard foods are spicy and it is advised to approach curries with caution. There are many vegetables, fruits, meats and seafood. Chinese, Continental, Indian and Japanese menus are available in Sri Lanka. A speciality is basic curry, made with coconut milk, sliced onion, green chilli, spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and saffron and aromatic leaves.
Alcohol cannot be sold on poya holidays (which occur each lunar month on the day of the full moon).
Sinhala and Tamil are both national languages. English is widely spoken.
Sri Lankan masks are popular collectors’ items, from key-rings to large wall decorating sizes, as are Batik pictures and clothing items. Good quality low priced leatherwork can be found especially as bags and cases.
Sri Lanka’s famous gemstones remain an important industry with countless showrooms and dealers throughout the country and the State Gem Corp. will test for you free or provide a certificate for a small fee but of course it isn’t easy to take away a stone to test before you buy! Be aware of regulations which could affect your ability to bring items such as woodenware, coconut products, teas and spices etc, as well as those from endangered species, back into the country.
Many of our hotels are on the island’s beautiful beaches. At Mount Lavinia, just 12km from Colombo, relax and enjoy the sea, joining the locals playing cricket and surfing on Sundays. The typical fishing town of Negombo, set amid lush coconut groves, has great, spicy seafood. And south of Colombo, Beruwela marks the beginning of a glorious 130km stretch of beaches, with great bathing in the bay year round.
No matter when you visit, Sri Lanka will enchant you with its natural beauty, easy-going pace of life, and its rich traditions. With a large population of elephant and leopards and its diverse landscapes, this country is truly special. There are adventure holidays available and luxury hotels with attractive over-water bungalows: a holiday in Sri Lanka can make your wildest dreams a reality.
Feel the festive spirit – Party Sri Lankan style. Heaps of festivals and public holidays happen throughout the year, like Vesak, a May festival that commemorates the Buddha’s birthday. Lanterns light up the streets while pilgrims flock to the temples. And if you feel like fire-dancing might spark your mojo, check out Kandy’s Esala Perahera in July or August.
Climb the Sigiriya Rock Fortress – Play the conquering hero and breach the walls of this ancient rock fortress. When you’re finished celebrating your victory, head to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. A UNESCO heritage site, it’s packed with amazing wildlife – from horned lizards to Asian elephants.
Visit a working tea plantation – Fancy a cuppa? Head into the hills to Nuwara Eliya. You’ll visit a working tea plantation in this lush and stunning landscape and settle down to a tea-inspired meal. We love Ceylon Tea Trails, which also doubles as a 5V boutique hotel.
Sri Lanka’s history dates back many centuries, providing subjects of great interest to the more studious visitor. Being under British rule for over 100 years, English is widely spoken in Sri Lanka, making holidays to Sri Lanka stress-free as far as communication with the locals is concerned. One of the few remaining countries where Buddhism is the dominant religion, you will see monks throughout the country, but particularly in the largest city of Colombo. Temples seem to be everywhere you look, some ancient and imposing, some very ornate and beautiful. Many temples offer tours, and a respectful visit is recommended when on holiday in Sri Lanka.
The country’s “cultural triangle” lies toward the drier centre of the island and includes archaeological ruins from the 4th century B.C., cave paintings, and ancient ruins deep in the forests. If the opportunity arises visit Dambulla’s Golden Temple. It was built within caves and houses a large collection of Buddhist statues. This can be followed by an elephant trek – crossing a river on the back of an elephant is quite an experience! When you have recovered and are ready for more action, head toward one of the coasts and try your hand at surfing, diving, snorkelling, or kite surfing. To truly appreciate the diversity of wildlife in Sri Lanka, it is a good idea to spend some time on a birdwatching tour or a wildlife safari. Eco-tourism is certainly on the rise, and holidaymakers can take guided trekking or biking tours, as well as 4WD Jeep tours to view the abundant wildlife and learn more about the countryside.
Yala National Park – Reminiscent of the African bush and recognised as one of the best parks in the world to observe and photograph leopards, Yala is also an ideal background to view animals such as crocodile, elephants and wild boar.
Kandy – Founded in the 14th Century and home to the Temple of the Tooth, a sacred Buddhist site, Kandy is a delightful mix of old shops, antique and gemstone specialists and a bustling market in its center.
KITESURFING KALPITIYA, SRI LANKA With more than a dozen spots around Kalpitiya, you will be kiting in heaven. We have Flatwater, Waves, Lagoon. Experience uncrowded sessions! Wind blows at an average of 18-20 knots almost every day during our Summer Season – May to October. We also have a Winter Season - December to March when we have afternoon winds - Winter is still 28 Degrees! On one side of the peninsula is the Indian Ocean: ideal for free-ride and wave riding. On the other side is Kalpitiya Lagoon, a perfect spot for beginners and freestylers. In between: Puttalam Lagoon, with perfect flat water, it’s great for downwind trips and kite safari, freeride and camping on islands. There is something for everyone, allowing you to come in groups with different levels. We are the best in organized Kite Trips which happen many times a week.
Lovely Arugam Bay, a moon-shaped curl of soft sand, is home to a famed point break that many regard as the best surf spot in the country. It's a tiny place, with a population of a few hundred, and everything is dotted along a single road which parallels the coast. If you’re not a surfer, there are plenty of other draws: beachfront guesthouses, oceanside restaurants and a mellow, swing-another-day-in-a-hammock kind of vibe that’s totally removed from the brash west-coast beach resorts. Arugam Bay also makes a great base for several adventures in the surrounding hinterland. During the low season (November to April) things get extremely quiet and many places close altogether, but it can also be a serene time to visit, with few tourists and verdant landscapes.
Bentota, a mere 2 hours away from Colombo and hails as a premier resort town with no less than 15 Star class Hotels clustered together plus numerous other less than 10 rooms boutique style hotels with Sun, surf and sand. This gives the visitor an ideal chance to stay in one and savour many different above water activities, Bentota has always been renowned as the water sport capital of Sri Lanka with the hoteliers in the area actively promoting water sports from adrenaline filled speed boat and jet ski riding, wind surfing, boogie boarding, water skiing, kite surfing, to a leisurely ride on a banana boat for the family & kids.
The beach of Hikkaduwa is situated 98 km from Colombo towards the south of Sri Lanka. This fun coastal town, 14 km away from Galle was the first (1960’s) of Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches to be discovered by tourists. Snorkelling and diving in the clear waters are a major past-time along this stretch and is the most environmentally friendly way to see the colourful fish that dart around. The coral sanctuary found along the coast of Hikkaduwa is a large shallow body of water enclosed by a reef, decorated with layers of multi coloured corals, and is home to countless numbers of vibrantly coloured fish. Off the beach there is a collection of small islets surrounded by beautiful coral formations. Many species of fish and large turtles are found here. There are more than four different shipwrecks for diving enthusiasts to explore along with dive shops offering PADI courses and equipment. With plenty of beachfront accommodation and a reputation as the second best surf spot in Sri Lanka, the reason why so many visit Hikkaduwa is blatantly clear. The resort area has now engulfed two or three villages south of it, and is now a 4km strip of hotels, shops, bars, restaurants and guesthouses. The beaches are lovely and wide and swimming is safe here, though the currents are stronger when it comes to the south of Hikkaduwa. The impressive coral reef runs just offshore and is still populated by exotic fish and sea turtles. Glass bottomed boats are available for visitors wanting to admire the wonders of the deep while keeping their feet dry! After a short distance southwards from the centre of the reef, it diminishes and starts a wider sandy bottomed beach with good waves ideal for board surfing and body surfing. You can always rent the necessary equipment needed for snorkelling and surfing from a number of places Hikkaduwa is an established tourist destination and the surfing there is quite well known.
Hikkaduwa is one of the best surfing spots in Sri Lanka, offering a clear warm water base. The wave sizes range from 4-11 feet. Surfing in the Hikkaduwa region is quite well known and gets the best surf during its dry season, which is from November to March. There are 4 main surf points in Hikkaduwa.
Hikkaduwa’s overexploited ‘coral sanctuary’ stretches out from the string of ‘Coral’ hotels at the north end of the strip to a group of rocks a couple of hundred metres offshore. You can swim out to the rocks from the Coral Gardens Hotel, where the reef runs straight out from the shore.
Scuba Diving Sites of Sri Lanka that spread out in the western, southern and eastern coasts of Sri Lanka are of such variety, more in Hikkaduwa, the amateur scuba divers as well as the experienced scuba divers revel in the opportunities presented.