Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Known as the 'Pearl of the Indian Ocean', Sri Lanka is a stunningly beautiful island in the Indian Ocean, with an interior of dense tropical jungles framed by sandy golden beaches. The teardrop-shaped island is made up of a mountainous landscape with more than a hundred picturesque waterfalls and innumerable hiking trails leading to breathtaking vistas such as the famous World's End.

Sri Lanka is also home to diverse wildlife, including leopards, monkeys, crocodiles, and many species of birds; it is most famous for its elephant population however, and tourists flock to the elephant sanctuaries to get an up-close-and-personal experience with the majestic creatures.

The ancient culture of Sri Lanka is just as fascinating as its natural attractions, and sacred Buddhist cities such as Anuradhapura and Panduwasnuwara give visitors the opportunity to visit temples and other sacred sites dating back thousands of years.

A holiday in Sri Lanka isn't for travellers looking for gleaming cities and sophisticated nightlife, but cities such as Colombo and Kandy offer plenty of shopping and dining opportunities, as well as excellent museums that give unique insight into the captivating culture of Sri Lanka. While the island is often overlooked for more popular destinations such as Thailand and Indonesia, a holiday in Sri Lanka is an enticing adventure for travellers willing to go off the beaten track.

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's dry season lasts from November to April on the west coast, and May to September on the east coast; so the best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on where travellers want to go. The country's proximity to the Equator ensures that heat and sunshine are almost ever-present!

What to see in Sri Lanka

-See the remains of an ancient royal fortress at Sigiriya.

-Visit the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura.

-Wander through the busy markets of Pettah.

-Get a taste of modern Buddhism at Wewurukannala Temple.

What to do in Sri Lanka

-Visit baby elephants at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.

-Spot monkeys, leopards, crocodiles, elephants and other wildlife in Yala National Park.

-Go on a pilgrimage to the summit of Adam's Peak.

-Hike to World's End in Horton Plains National Park.

Getting to Sri Lanka

Getting to Sri Lanka from the UK is fairly simple, as several airlines offer direct cheap flights to Sri Lanka from London. There are no direct flights to Sri Lanka from the US; however, there are indirect flights via several major cities. International flights land at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport.

Read

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje and Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje.

Listen

Viridu or Baila

Watch

Elephant Walk (1954), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Flying Fish (2011).

Drink

Ceylon Arrack, a traditional spirit distilled from the sap of the coconut flower or Portello, a carbonated grape-flavoured drink that is popular with locals.

Eat

Sri Lankan curry and rice served on banana leaves. Hoppers, a crepe-like bowl made from rice flour and coconut milk (it's a popular street food).

What to buy

Gold and silver jewellery and gemstones, brass and lacquer ware.

What to pack

It's best that travellers bring all medications and toiletries they will need, as the selection in Sri Lanka can be limited.

What's on in Sri Lanka

Traditional forms of Sri Lankan art and dance are on display in Colombo on Navam Perahera National Day.

Did you know?

-Sri Lanka is the world's largest tea exporter, although the plant was only introduced in 1824.

-Sri Lanka was the first country to have a democratically elected female head of government.

-Sri Lanka is sometimes affectionately called 'The Land of Smiling People' thanks to its friendly locals.

A final word

Breath-taking natural beauty and ancient culture make Sri Lanka the undiscovered gem of the Indian Ocean.

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