Sri Lanka as a Whole
Sri Lanka is an island nation in Southeast Asia, located close to the peninsula coast of India. It is located on the island of Ceylon – which happened to be the official name until 1972. Sri Lanka is separated from India by the Palkova Strait, and in the east by the Gulf of Bengal, and in the South by the Indian Ocean. The largest city is Colombo, and the capital is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte.
Sri Lanka was first colonized by the Portuguese, then by the Dutch, followed by falling under British rule, before finally being ceremoniously granted independence in 1948. Here you will use the currency the Sri Lankan rupee, which you can use to purchase one of the country’s biggest crops/exports: tea (Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest tea grower, and one of the world’s most prominent exporters of tea).
What to see and do (and sniff) in Sri Lanka
In general, the Sri Lankan landscape is quite diverse – Amazing beaches, captivating waterfalls, and mountains strewn with tea trees. You will come across Hindu and Buddhist temples, safaris (also ideal for children), great waves in the Arugam Bay (surf’s up!), the stunning Marisa Beach and Unawatuna Plaz (get your tan on here), and some awesome party spots (cheers!).
Sri Lanka is also a land of smells – it is a land of spices and tea. Most of the tea trees are dispersed through the mountain towns of Ella and Nuwara Eliya. You can catch a train there, though the trip requires some patience as the journey runs at the speed of a particularly tired snail… The route itself is lined by mountains and tea fields, passing by temples and tea pickers. On the train you’ll be sitting elbow-to-elbow, but all the passengers are very nice. In addition, you can see the country in all its splendor – When the train passes a bend the view opens, gracing you with one breathtaking valley or scene after another.
When talking about all Sri Lanka has to offer, I cannot gloss over the cuisine. First, it smells a lot too (the spices!). Curry is masterfully used in a seemingly infinite number of ways, and instead of bread, roti (a special pancake) will grace your tastebuds. My tip: Do NOT miss the coconut roti with coconut-chili sauce!
Where else to go
Definitely plan a visit to Kandy – a city where every summer there is a festival held in honour of Buddha’s tooth (which is supposedly hidden in the temple someplace). Nearly the whole country makes its way to the city for the festivities, and the opulent celebrations of Kandy Esal Peraher – The Festival of the Sacred Tooth – take place in the streets. It is a much-anticipated event for the locals, so the party goes on, with evenings seeing the streets crowded with dancers, elephants in costumes, and other wonders…
If you’re of a more nautical persuasion, you can spend a day enjoying a boat trip. Along the way you can enjoy some whale watching, and within a few hours you will enter the national park where you can spot elephants and leopards – watch for the big cats lazing about in the trees during their afternoon siesta! Hoping off the boat, you can take a few hour drive from the sea to the mountains, where you can get a little drunk and enjoy Hindu and Buddhist temples and admire the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Holy City (also the Sacred City or Anuradhapura). You could also embark on a hike to the sacred mountain, Adam’s Peak. It is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus and Christians.
Fun Fact One: Sri Lanka was once well known for its stilt fisherman (fishermen sitting on stilts). Unfortunately, the fisherman found out the pay for a photo is higher than the pay for catching fish, so the tradition has since faded away. The ones you see now won’t get up on the stilts without the prompting of a tip. I personally saw one on Marisa Beach (lucky me).
Fun Fact Two: Taking public transport – a.k.a the local bus – is an experience you won’t soon forget. Drivers seemingly race against one another without care for incoming traffic from the opposite direction and without the use of the brakes (aside from the predetermined stops, of course). This is an experience that will bring you to adrenaline level 100.
So, do you want to experience the elephants, leopards, whales, Hindu and Buddhist temples, tea tree panoramas, wild seas, rocky mountains, curry gluttony, bribe fishermen, Buddha’s tooth, and everything else Sri Lanka has to offer? If so, give me a shout and we’ll get your travel plans rolling!