10 best things to see in Sri Lanka

Upon arriving in Sri Lanka for the first time, Marco Polo, the Venetian who many consider to be the world’s first global traveller, described it as the finest island of its size in the world. With its palm-fringed beaches, jungle-covered hills, ancient cities and relaxed vibe, along with colonial influences that helped make the country what it is today, nowhere else packs a punch like it. So, hard to argue, really.

“Sri Lanka is a stunning destination and is fast becoming one of this year’s most popular spots,” says Intrepid Travel managing director (Australia and New Zealand) Brett Mitchell.

“Much like its South Asian counterpart, India, the country differs greatly from region to region and, as such, offers wonderful variety – be it exploring beautiful beaches, scuba diving, iconic safaris or simply sampling the incredible cuisine. For Aussies, Sri Lanka is often viewed as a cheaper and less-crowded alternative to Bali.”

And to think, the island nation formerly known as Ceylon, is only as big as Tasmania. Not bad, hey?

If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, here are the top 10 things you’ll want to add to your itinerary:

Mirissa is Sri Lanka’s blue whale-watching capital.

1. Float above a blue whale, Mirissa

Little known is that the southwest coast of Sri Lanka is the blue whale-watching capital of the world, thanks to its proximity to the continental shelf. Boats depart from the harbour in Mirissa – itself an idyllic beachside village between Galle and Matara. Other marine creatures sighted may include fin, grey, sperm, Bryde’s, minke and killer whales, as well as spinner dolphins and sea turtles. The whale-watching season lasts from November to April, when seas are calmest. Raja & the Whales have operated out of Mirissa since 2009, when whale-watching cruises were first commercialised. 

Yala National Park is home to an array of wildlife.
Yala National Park is home to an array of wildlife.

2. Spot wildlife, Yala

Yala National Park boasts the highest density of leopards in the world, though it still requires a large element of luck to see one. More regular are sightings of deer, monkeys, wild boar, crocodiles, jackals and 130 bird species. Also, keep an eye out for elephants, buffalo and sloth bears. Stay close to the action in one of 12 elevated, solar-powered luxury villas – each with private swimming pool – at the Kotiyagala resort that opened in April this year.

The Nine Arch Bridge is a highlight of the scenic train journey to Ella.
The Nine Arch Bridge is a highlight of the scenic train journey to Ella.

3. Ride a train through tea country, Central Highlands

Is this the world’s most scenic train ride? At the very least, the day-long railway journey from Colombo to Dambulla is a strong contender. Sixty-eight stations. Forty-six tunnels. Viaducts, bridges and a spiral loop inspired by a railway worker retying a head turban. It travels from the steamy western coast to the damp highlands, climbing through jungled slopes before entering an area nicknamed “Little England”, where it passes through endless tea plantations.

Explore markets on tour with Intrepid in Sri Lanka.
Explore markets on tour with Intrepid in Sri Lanka.

4. Cook local cuisine, Kandy

Sri Lanka isn’t called the Spice Island for nothing. Learn the secrets of Sri Lankan cuisine during Intrepid Travel’s 12-day Sri Lanka Real Food Adventure. Explore fish markets in Negombo, visit a tea plantation in Bandarawela, tuck into a Tamil family lunch in Haputale and take part in a Sinhalese cooking class at a private home in Kandy. While you’re there, visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic that’s said to possess Buddha’s left canine. 

The Geoffrey Bawa residence in Colombo.
The Geoffrey Bawa residence in Colombo.

5. Appreciate architecture, Colombo

Sri Lanka’s most influential architect, Geoffrey Bawa, designed temples universities and parliamentary offices across Asia, as well as hotels in Tangalle, Kalutara, Galle and Dambulla. Viking Cruises’ 16-day Across the Bay of Bengal itinerary includes a shore excursion to Bawa’s residence and office in Colombo. You can also stay at Lunuganga, Bawa’s country estate where he spent his retirement years, near Bentota. 

Adam's Peak is a popular hike in Sri Lanka.
Adam’s Peak is a popular hike in Sri Lanka.

6. See the sunrise, Adam’s Peak

From December to May, thousands of pilgrims hike to the top of Adam’s Peak in darkness. The aim is to reach a summit temple containing a sacred footprint before sunrise, when a mystical shadow of the peak is cast across the clouds. But Sri Lanka’s highest mountain is scalable at any time of year. Elsewhere, a network of hiking trails passes through tea plantations to lookout points or across Horton Plains to World’s End, where a spectacular escarpment overlooks the coastal plains to the south. If that isn’t hardcore enough, hike the 300km Pekoe Trail through the Central Highlands, from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. 

Tourists can visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
Tourists can visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

7. Adopt an elephant, Pinnawala

It takes a lot to feed the world’s largest captive elephant herd. Each pachyderm devours 50-100kg of food each day and visitors at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage can help. About 100 orphans are cared for, with feeding time the optimum occasion for visiting. More thrilling, though, is the elephants’ twice-daily walk through the streets to bathe in the Maha Oya river. If you time it so you’re at a restaurant or standing in a shop when it happens, you can feel the rush of air as these giants pass by. 

Sigiriya Rock Fortress has been called the eighth wonder of the world. Picture: Dylan Shaw / Unsplash
Sigiriya Rock Fortress has been called the eighth wonder of the world. Picture: Dylan Shaw / Unsplash

8. Scale a rock citadel, Sigiriya

Was the 1500-year-old mountaintop fortress of Sigiriya merely the pleasure palace of a playboy king? You can surmise for yourself during the climb up, passing the Lion’s Paw terrace, to the summit. Add visits to the World Heritage-listed ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura to your itinerary, as well as the Dambulla Cave complex that contains hundreds of Buddha statues.

Kandy Esala Perahera involves a procession through the city's streets.
Kandy Esala Perahera involves a procession through the city’s streets.

9. Watch a street parade, Kandy

This August, thousands will descend upon Sri Lanka’s second city of Kandy to watch or participate in the Esala Perahera street parade, featuring lively dancers, fire breathers and tusker elephants. It’s colourful, energetic, noisy and whole lot of fun. For a more intimate experience at about the same time, minus the smothering crowds, an equally frenetic pageant takes place in Dondra, the island’s most southerly point. 

Galle Fort Lighthouse, Sri Lanka's oldest lighthouse, is an iconic landmark,
Galle Fort Lighthouse, Sri Lanka’s oldest lighthouse, is an iconic landmark

10. Stay in a fort, Galle

Built by the Portuguese, reinforced by the Dutch and occupied by the British, the World Heritage-listed Galle Fort is a 52ha garrison containing restaurants, cafés and hotels, as well as a lighthouse. Adjoining the walls is a cricket ground where the Aussie team plays when touring.

Source: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/lifestyle/10-best-things-to-see-in-sri-lanka-the-island-dubbed-the-next-bali/news-story/1247022f2ba1c56079fb218f8213a22f

Source From srilankatravel
Author: srilankamiracle
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