So spellbinding is the tiny teardrop-shaped South East Asian island Sri Lanka, that Marco Polo once described Sri Lanka as the “finest island in all the world”. Once known as Ratna-Dweepa, meaning Gem Island, it is the much-celebrated jewel of the Indian Ocean. A holiday here will be complete with idyllic white-sand beaches, lush rainforests, elephant-filled national parks, wonderfully conserved temples, eight UNESCO-listed sites, and fabled tea plantations.
A holiday to Sri Lanka offers an island adventure like no other with relaxed beach delights and an excellent line-up of activities and attractions for thrill seekers to couples to families, a little bit of something for everyone.
Culture-rich Kandy, the city of the Kandyan Kings, allures with its outlandishly grand UNESCO-listed Temple of the Tooth - the world’s holiest Buddhist site that houses a sacred tooth of the Buddha. Also impressive are the Royal Botanical Gardens, once reserved exclusively for Kandyan royalty, and the conserved Cave Temples at Dambulla that wow with religious murals, shrines, and Buddha statues.
Venture north of Kandy for the Cultural Triangle, where each of the three UNESCO-listed sites offers a unique experience. Bike around the medieval capital of Anuradhapura, see the huge reclining Buddha at Polonnaruwa, and climb some 1200 steps to the top of Sigiriya’s ancient rock-top fortress, also known as Lion Rock so you can take in the stunning views.
If you fall easily for the Indian Ocean’s charm, the beaches on the south and west coast are superb. The showstopper is Galle, the UNESCO-listed town complete with its striking Dutch fort, colonial buildings, and some of Sri Lanka’s best beaches. More sun-soaked action awaits on the swathes of white sand at Tangalle and Bentota. To spot Sri Lanka’s alpha predators, Yala National Park is the Big Five superstar and home to the world’s highest density of leopards. Other must-dos include bird-watching at the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, and viewing the legendary ‘gathering’ of wild Asian elephants at Minneriya National Park.
Keen adventurers can trace the supposed footprint of Buddha at Adam’s Peak, and tackle the four-kilometre walk to the famous World’s End for unrivalled panoramic views. For something less strenuous, visit Sri Lanka’s quaint-as-you like Tea Country where you can tour Victorian-era tea estates, watch pickers at work, and enjoy one of the many fine brews.
Please click here to see why Sri Lanka is Ellis Valentine's favourite destination.