Sri Lanka is often referred to as the pearl of the Indian Ocean. It has earned this name appropriately because of its exotic beauty, unique culture and popularity as a tourist destination. For many years, tourism was hindered as a result of the civil war which tore apart the country for almost thirty years. Now however, it is once again a safe and peaceful place to visit with its tourism industry flourishing more than ever. Most countries have removed travel warnings and indicated that it is once again safe to travel to this enchanting country. For a small island the number of activities offered are almost limitless, below are the top 10 reasons to visit Sri Lanka. If there are still doubts about visiting, consider that Sri Lanka is chosen as one of the top 31 places to visit by the New York Times, and chosen second as a top travel destination by National Geographic. Sri Lanka tourism is becoming exceedingly popular due to these reasons.
Sun, sea, sand (all year around!)
Sri Lanka is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Being an island floating in the calm blue waters of the Indian Ocean with plenty of sunshine throughout the year, it is gifted with over a thousand miles of golden beaches lined with Palm trees. Most of these beaches are perfect for sunbathing and utmost relaxation, others for snorkeling and surfing. A large percentage of Sri Lankan hotels and resorts are located along the coastline as the beaches are a major tourist attraction. A few coastal towns are quiet with a sensation of historical heritage or exciting nightlife. Batik factories and turtle hatcheries are also excellent places to visit in these areas, along with paying respects at the local temple or sampling tropical fruit.
Sri Lanka has an honorable history that goes well beyond 2000 years! Some of the ancient cities still hold the splendor of these historic monuments and buildings, most having earned the title of world heritage sites. The most visited would have to be Sigiriya Rock, built as a fortress by an olden day King and also considered the eighth world wonder! The Rock still contains many remnants of the ancient civilizations that resided there. Dambulla Cave Temples and Polonnaruwa are other sites which hold great prestige and historical value. The ancient city of Anuradhapura offers such interesting dagobas, beautiful palaces with moonstones and guard stones surrounding them, beautifully carved ponds built for ancient royalty, statues of Lord Buddha and various other cleverly constructed monuments that cannot be explored in just a day!
With several beautifully maintained nature reserves and wildlife parks, Sri Lanka is certainly a green paradise and an excellent place to see wildlife. The most famous dry zone reserves are Yala, Wasgamuwa and Udawalawe which are bestowed with acres of thorny scrub jungle and grasslands. Yala is famous for its high leopard population, Wasgamuwa for sloth bear sightings and Udawalawe for its large elephant population. Safari rides are available and there are a few secluded camping spots located within the parks, allowing guests to reside among abundant species of birdlife, monkeys, crocodiles, spotted deer, wild boar and various other animals. Horton Plains is situated in the highlands among rolling hills and dense montane forests. It is acclaimed as one of the World Heritage sites of Sri Lanka and is a beautiful place to explore and see wildlife, including the rare sambar deer and leopards of Sri Lanka.
Nature resorts and boutique hotels
Eco tourism is a flourishing industry in Sri Lanka. The dense tropical forests which provide shelter for several species of fauna and flora, along with the beautiful, sandy beaches are major attractions for both domestic and international tourists. The many nature resorts and boutique hotels provide guests with the opportunity to spend a relaxing holiday close to nature, most of them being situated in a secluded area in national park or forest, beside a fresh water stream, along with bungalows located on remote stretches of beach. Very few offer luxurious accommodation and facilities as they have been built with the benefits focusing on the environment, however each of these places provide a thrilling experience like no other and most guests leave with an adventure to remember for a life time.
Shopping is Sri Lanka is one of the most worthwhile and entertaining activities to enjoy. The government has recently cut down taxes for a range luxury items resulting in cheaper shopping. Colombo has many shopping malls where you can get just about anything and a wide range of smaller boutique shops. It is truly a bargain when it comes to comparing the prices of items here to the ones that they would be sold at in other countries such as Europe and the United States. The best deals are found in clothing which you can find anywhere and everywhere in Sri Lanka. Exporting clothes is one of the main income streams of Sri Lanka and here visitors can buy them for a fraction of the cost. Jewelry is another great buy and come as great bargains! Some of the price tags attached to the gem embedded jewelry are simply unbelievable.
Mouth Tingling Cuisine
Sri Lanka is famous worldwide for its unique cuisine. There is an extremely wide selection to choose from as The Portuguese, Dutch and British invaders along with the Arab, Chinese, Indian and Malay traders all threw in recipes so many years ago, sometimes even providing a fusion between cultures. Sri Lankan cuisine offers the palate mild and delicately flavoured dishes to hot and fiery ones. The dishes are flavoured with an assortment of herbs and spices, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and curry leaves. Tropical fruits such as pineapple, rambutan, durian and pawpaw are grown through out the year and happen to be in high demand even among locals. Fresh seafood dishes such as crab curry and cuttlefish are as popular. Certain traditional dishes such as Kiribath (unsweetened milk-rice) and String-hoppers are exotic dishes which are very popular among tourists.
Nightlife is greatly encouraged by the government with streets specially allocated for this purpose being filled with food stalls, music and other entertainment. The diverse nature of Sri Lanka is highlighted by the assorted range of nightspots which come alive as dusk approaches. Whether it is the beach you are looking for or the heart of Colombo, a vibrant nightlife can be found, if you know where to look for it! Tourists can watch the sunset on the beach while enjoying a light beverage or meal then head out to start their evenings sipping cocktails at bars to dancing the night away at the hottest clubs in Colombo. The bars and clubs stay open till dawn, so you are guaranteed a complete night of fun! If that’s not enough and you want more partying, Sri Lanka offers remarkable 24 hour beach parties, perfect for raves. If you fancy something different, then try your luck at the local casinos which offer just as much amusement.
Known throughout the world as the land of the smiling people, the friendliness and the hospitably of Sri Lankans are renowned world over and rightly so. Whether Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher, Sri Lankans are always courteous and willing to make your stay in their country an enjoyable and memorable one. You will be greeted with a warm blessing, ‘Ayubowan’ the moment you arrive and have all your needs taken care of. Years of hardship during the civil war and after the devastating tsunami which occurred in 2004 failed to wipe the smile out of Sri Lankan faces. With peace returning, the beautiful country is becoming the tourist paradise it used to be.
Sri Lanka is extremely rich in terms of culture. With festivals taking place all throughout the year, there is a never ending stream of joyful occasions filled with song, dance and laughter. There is full year long calendar of religious and social events. Nearly all major festivals take place or are celebrated on full moon days. Full Moon days are especially significant for this Buddhist country and every month on the day of the full moon (Poya) there is a public holiday. The Esala Festival is usually held in July/August in the ancient hill capital of Kandy. Great processions parade the roads of this beautiful city which was the last standing kingdom of the country, magnificently garbed elephants, fire walkers, Kandyan dancers, spinning plates, all to honor the Sacred Tooth Relic of The Buddha. Crowds throng the parade routes and for a tourist the experience can result in a kaleidoscope of different rituals, customs and colors. Vesak is another prominent festival which is celebrated with high enthusiasm and careful preparations. It is a religious festival commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. There are many other cultural celebrations to be experienced in this tiny island, all of which will leave you with a fantastic, memorable experience.
Small yet diverse
The island is tiny yet its features are impressively diverse! Tourists can partake in and enjoy so many activities in so little time! The cultural triangle in its entire historical splendor is just a few hours away from the lush, tropical rainforests which in turn lie a few kilometres away from the glorious sun, sea and sand. Because of this unique advantage, the wonders of the island can be experienced in just a few days.