Sri Lanka: Introduction
Pearl of the Indian Ocean
The island of Sri Lanka lies just off the southern point of India in the Indian Ocean, a lush paradise that stands as the verdant cradle of the Buddhist faith. Aside from hundreds of miles of some awe-inspiringly beautiful beaches, Sri Lanka houses no fewer than seven World Heritage Sites listed by Unesco, ranging from sacred cities, wondrous palaces and cliff-top castles, spanning almost 3,000 years of history. To complete the picture of this perfection, Sri Lanka lies a mere three degrees north of the Equator, meaning the weather is almost constantly warm and tropical. Even during the island’s brief monsoon season, there is always some sunshine to be enjoyed.
For a compact and neat island nestled in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka offers an amazing scope of attractions for potential holidaymakers. Each coast is dotted with palm-lined beaches, some with world-class surf breaks and all imbued with a sense of sun-drenched fun. The Kandyan dances, elephant-led festival processions or any temple on poya (full moon) days will delight holidaymakers who are looking for an injection of culture, as will viewing the stone-cut Buddhist art of the awe-inspiring ancient capitals of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Head up into the verdant Hill Country and feel the heat of the plains fade away, revealing miles of rolling green hills blanketed with impressive tea plantations. Alternatively, take a 4WD trek through wonderfully-preserved national parks scattered with elephants, leopards, monkeys, crocodiles and rare birdlife. Sinharaja Forest Reserve is so crucial to the island's overall ecosystem it has been awarded status as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Also on Unesco's heritage list is the incredible fort town of Galle, an amazingly preserved testament of the island’s colonial history. These warming pleasures come with welcoming populace, great food, stunning places to stay and all at a reasonable cost. Sri Lanka: something for everyone and an unforgettable excursion for holidaymakers looking for raw culture and real experience.
Modern Sri Lanka has borne witness to some indigenous terrorism, focussed in the north of the island and around the outer metropolis of Colombo city, but the beatific beaches and towns of the south and southeast coast remained largely unaffected by the troubles. Regardless, anyone considered a trip to Sri Lanka is recommended to check the current political and security situation before embarking on their visit. To further complicate matters, the island's tourism infrastructure is still recovering from the ravaging effects of the tsunami, which devastated several coastal areas in December 2004. However, adventurous visitors who enjoy some mystery and intrigue will marvel at the ancient sites of Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Panduwasnuwara, where there remains some of great vestiges of a great civilisation. The cities of Colombo and Kandy are steeped in their past, reflecting the influence of the foreign colonial powers that fought for control over the lush island paradise throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Dutch-inspired buildings stand astride with Victorian British mansions as well as Portuguese fortifications, creating an unique architectural collage of rare beauty. In short. Sri Lanka offers plenty of leisure and pleasure at a gentle pace; this is no package holiday destination but rather one to be savoured by discerning travellers who enjoy discovering their own diversions.