Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a lush and tropical island abundant in Buddhist relics and ancient ruins; explore these, take a train to the high tea country, see wild elephants on safari then go and flop on a palm-fringed beach. Perfect.

With spectacular beaches, historic sites and delicious cuisine, Sri Lanka offers contrast, surprise and wonder. The country’s biggest attraction is undoubtedly its coastline, whose sun-baked, palm-scattered beaches offer the perfect secluded getaway. For those searching for a bit more than simply rest and relaxation, there are world class surf breaks in the East and colourful snorkelling and dive sites in the South. Visit old colonial coastal fortress towns like Galle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike most old cities across the globe, this old town still functions as a bustling administrative centre; law court square is abuzz with activity every morning, fish-sellers loudly promote their wares atop bicycles whilst white-clothed schoolchildren wander the rampart walls.

Standing supreme above the dry zone landscape and often dubbed the Seventh Wonder of the World, Sigiriya is possibly the island’s most dramatic archaeological attraction. An impressive 5th century rock fortress reaching 370m high, it features ruined pleasure palaces, fascinating water drainage systems and centuries-old paintings of celestial maidens, a handful of which are as crisp and clear as the day of their creation. The climb is not for the faint-hearted, but is worth it for the amazing panoramic views.

The rolling landscape of the Hill Country is decadently carpeted with lush green tea bushes punctuated by the colourful saris of the Tamil women plucking the new flush of leaves. A good base for exhilarating walks through the tea plantations and on towards temples and waterfalls is Ella. Perched up in the hilly Sri Lankan countryside, this small town offers breathtaking views of the surrounding land. Sri Lanka’s cultural capital Kandy plays host to dozens of Buddhist shrines including the country’s most sacred, The Temple of the Tooth. Here you can join the throng of white-clothed devotees as they file in, colourful lotus blooms in hand, to perform their daily puja (worship) to the melodious thumping of drums.

Sri Lanka is teeming with wildlife. On its shores lie no less than 20 wildlife-filled national parks plus many more wetlands, sanctuaries and reserves. The elephant is one of the island’s most popular attractions – most numerously seen during the ‘Gathering’ in Minneriya National Park in September and October – but Sri Lanka is also renowned for being one of the best places in the world to see leopards and blue whales. Other creatures include sloth bears, crocodiles, sambar deer, monkeys and wild boar. Of the 435 resident bird species on the island, 26 are endemic with many more arriving during the winter migratory season.

Besides its natural beauty, what makes Sri Lanka such a fascinating country to visit is its diverse society of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and the external influences of English, Dutch and Portuguese colonialists. This contrasting jumble is perfectly reflected in the nation’s striking architecture that can be observed all over the island, and also through its mouth-watering cuisine.

The teardrop-shaped island is made up of a mountainous landscape with more than a hundred picturesque waterfalls and innumerable hiking trails leading to breathtaking vistas like the famous World’s End.

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