Acharacteristic fishing town North of Colombo, it is a mere 6 km, from the International Airport. Set amidst lush groves of coconut palms, it breathes the spirit of the sea. Negombo is a gourmet's paradise with seafood in plenty. Old-world fishing craft like the outrigger canoe and the catamaran bring seer, skipjack, herring and mullet, promfret and mber-jack while lobster and prawns caught in the lagoon. Apart from beaches and seafood Negombo has a unique charm of its own, with narrow streets, small boutiques and Catholic Churches dotting the landscape.
South of Colombo, Beruwela marks the beginning of a 130km - stretch of beaches, where resort development has made immense strides in recent years. Good bathing in the bay all year round (Population : 136,000) (Distance from Colombo : 55 km).
Bentota Resort Complex in a romantic rendezvous of river and sea with several hotels, railway station, post office, shopping arcade, cafeteria and an open-air theatre showing folk and mask dancing with clusters of palms overflowing every thing.
South of Colombo, Hikkaduwa is the place for underwater delights. It is the site of the famed boat coral gardens - hire a glass bottomed boat, or goggles and flippers, and explore the fantasies your feet (Population : 97,000) (Distance from Colombo : 99 km).
South of Colombo, Galle is the most important southern town. It has an old world charm. Believed to be the "Tarshih of the Bible", its natural harbour was a famous fort in days gone by. Galle is famouse for its Dutch fort, lace making ebony carving and gem polishing(Population : 97,000) (Distance from Colombo : 116 km).
Close to Galle is a beach resort popular with tourists as well as local travelers. It provides the beach facility Galle lacks. Hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants line the beach road amid lush green vegetation. A fine reef for snorkling. Placid deep blue sea, frequented by turtles who come here to lay their eggs by night.
Famous for its lake which was used during the second World War as a base for Catalina Flying boats It is also a favourite haunt of migrant birds in winter. A leisurely outrigger boat ride will take you to small islands which dot the lake. Stilt-fisherman are a familiar sight here. You may also visit the Martin Wickremasinghe Museum of Folk Art and Culture (Closed on Mon. & Poya Day). The Purwarama Temple at Kataluwa shows a full range of styles of the Southern School of Murls dating as far back as the early 1800s.
Sri Lanks's Eastern Coast has a unique charm of its own. Its deep turquoise seas fringed by white sandy beaches are a delight for water sports enthusiasts. The port town of Trincomalee, Nilaweli, Kalkudah. Pasekudah are its more famous tourist centres.
Trinscomalee is famed for its natural harbour. Described by Admiral Lord Nelson as the finest harbour in the world when he visited aboard HMS Seashore in 1770. It is ranked as the world's 5th largest natural harbours. During the Second World War the harbour became the base for the combined East Asian Fleet of the Allied Powers. It is the ideal beach resort for beach addicts between April and November when the sea is at its best.
Located at the mouth of Sri Lanka 's longest river Mahaveli Ganga, Trinco's most famous landmark is Fort Fredrick , a century and a half of British fortifications can be found here. The cliff known as Swami Rock on the tip of Fort Fredrick's promontory is associated with a tragic romantic tale woven around a Dutch maiden who is believed to have jumped to her death from this spot seeing her fickle lover sailing away.
The Thirukoneswaram kovil which stands on the top most pinnacle of the Swamy Rock is a highly venerated Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The most famous and beautiful beaches on the East Coast is Nilaveli, situated at the centre of the 30 km strand of beach which runs uninterrupted from north of Trinco, Close to Nilaveli is Red Roc k Beach- an estuary perch and pinkish colour boulders.
A short boat - ride off the beach and you visit Pigeon Island (boat services available). About 11km from west of Trinco are the Kanniyai Hot Springs, sacred to Hindus who believe them to be a creation of God Vishnu.The Dagoba enshrining the hair relics of the Buddha - Triyai dating back to 8 th Cen... AD is a short distance from Trinco's coast. Some of the beach territory is still unexplored. A school of blue sperm whales made their habitat off the coast, and the shallow water near the beach have some exquisite coral formations. Passekudah Bay with its wide sandy beach and a reef protected sea is an ideal place for children and wind surfers and water skiers. Kalkudah/Passekudah Kalkudah Bay, facing east is also a popular beach retreat.
Visitor statistics prove that no visit to Sri Lanka is complete without a visit to Kandy. After Colombo city, Kandy is the is the most popular destination for foreign visitors and with good reason too. The last seat of the Sinhalese Kings, who ceded power to the British in 1815 after many a battle with the western colonial forces, Kandy retains much of the old charm and tradition of the Sri Lankan life style.
Among the most picturesque cities in the island, the importance of Kandy is mainly due to being the home of the Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth- which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. Here visitors can observe the ancient traditions of drumming and sacred chanting in honour of the Tooth Relic, being performed several times each day.
Kandy is also the venue of the Esala Perehera, easily the most colourful pageant of Asia , held in July/August each year, in honour of the Tooth Relic. As the pageantry of the Esala Perehera unfolds through ten nights each yea, the city takes on the air of a torch-lit dreamland, complete with a hundred or more colourfully caparisoned elephant, drummers and dancers, and chieftains in the rare colourful trappings of the old kingdom. The city is a monastic centre of Buddhism with two biggest monastries- the Malwatte and Asgiriya temples located here.Around the city are several other Buddhist Temples with special attractions for the visitor looking for the cultural traditions of Sri Lanka .
The Rock Temple at Degaldoruwa has beautiful Buddhist frescoes of the 17th Century, while the Lankatilleke and Gadaladeniya temples are unique examples of the Buddhist construction in brick and stone during the same period. The shrine to a hindu deity at Embekke is the best extant example of the wood carvings of the Kandyan period. Another temple well known for its frescoes is the one at Ranawana.
The numerous smaller temples that dot the Kandyan landscape are places of unusual calm and peace, where one could still discover the close link between the temple and the village, which was the mainstay of the Sinhalese social organization.
The Kandyan areas are where the crafts of the Sinhalese have been best kept alive. From the art of mat weaving at Dumbara, to the silver craftsman at Nattaranpotha, and wood carves of Embekke, the Kandyan craftsman produce the exquisite material which makes up the most sought after souvenirs of Sri Lanka.
Your progress through the winding streets of Kandy could often be obstructed by a tame elephant, carrying its load of palm leaves for its daily lunch, or an elephant stopping at a wayside tea kiosk for a bunch of bananas. The Elephant Bath, at the Mahaveli River near Katugastota is where the many domesticated elephants come for their daily bath. A must to keep the elephants happy. (One word of caution though. If you wish to have your photograph taken on an elephants back at this place, make sure to agree on the price first, and better still, have your local guide with you. The elephants are friendly enough, but the mahouts (or elephant handlers) are much more calculating).
After the Temple of the Tooth, the most famous landmark of Kandy is its lake, in the centre of the city. The old building at its edge near the Temple of the Tooth was the Queen's Bath. On the other side of the Temple of the Tooth, housed in part of the former royal palace, is the Kandy Museum which houses excellent bits from Kandyan period of Sri Lanka 's history. The Kandy Market is a great bazaar full of thesounds of exciting trade and bargaining. The stalls are full to overflowing with fresh vegetables, spices and fruits.
Nearby Kandy, at Peradeniya, is the Royal Botanic Garden, part of which was the pleasure garden of the last queen of Kandy. Later the Botanic Garden was the operational headquarters of Lord Mountbatten, who was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces of the South East Asia Command, during the Second World War.
The Peradeniya Garden.is easily one of the best of its kind in the world. The many beautiful avenues will lead one to sections which provide a burst of tropical colour. The great lawns highlight huge tropical huge trees, while you will be surprised at the variety of Bamboo that can be found in one place.
The best attraction of the Garden is the Orchid House, which has more than 300 varieties of exquisite orchids from the rare indigenous Foxtail and Vesak orchids, to many natural and hybrid species which have made this one of the best known orchid centres of the world.
A Spice Garden gives you a first hand introduction to the trees, plants and creepers that produce the special spices of Sri Lanka. The Herbarium grows many of the plants used for the traditional Ayurvedia pharmacopoeia.
Kandy has good accommodation in several hotels and guest houses located in and around the city. There is traditional entertainment in the way of performances of Kandyan Dancing, and traditional drumming. Plenty of gem shops offer good quality gems, while the silver craftsmanship is of the highest quality. Your travel agent of hotel could arrange special performances of Kandyan Dancing, as well take you to places where you can see the Kandyan craftsman demonstrate their traditional skills.
Like Sigiriya, Dambulla is a vast isolated rock mass, which houses a rock temple (formerly caves). Some of its frescoes are over 2,000 years old - and there is a colossal figure of the recumbent Buddha carved out of the rock, some 14 metres long (Distance from Colombo: 148 km).
This rock fortress was a royal citadel for more than 18 years. In a sheltered pocket, approached by a spiral stairway are the famous frescoes. The summit of the rock, with an area of nearly one hectare was the site of the old palace - the outer wall of which was built on the very brink of the precipice. The UNESCO - sponsored Central Cultural Fund has restored Sigiriya's 5th Century Water Gardens to its former glory (Distance from Colombo: 169 km).
One of the most important places of worship at Anuradhapura is The Sri Maha Bodhi, the oldest historically documented tree in the world, dating back to over 2000 years with clear documentation.
This Bodhi Tree (Ficus Religiosa) has been grown from the same tree under which the Siddhartha Gautama, meditated until he attained enlightenment and Buddhahood, more than 2500 years ago, at Buddhagaya in India. The sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi was brought to Sri Lanka as a gift from the Emperor Asoka of India, shortly after the introduction of Buddhism to the country by the Arahat Mahinda, the son of Asoka. The person chosen to bring the bodhi sapling was Sangmittha, the daughter of Asoka.
Through the centuries the Sri Maha Bodi has been venerated by Buddhists in Sri Lanka and the world over. Successive kings have taken steps to protect it, as seen by the several retaining walls around it. Today it is looked after as a national treasure by botanists, specially appointed by the Government. The gilded fence around it known as the Ran Veta, is a recent offering made through public contribution.
Devotees make many offerings to the Sri Maha Bodhi. The most common are the prayer flags which are hung on its branches.
Sri Lanka's ancient cities are also the centres of the irrigation works of the past. Massive reservoirs built to collect rain water, river diversions, giant aqueducts and miles long irrigation channels are proof of a civilization highly developed in the science of irrigation, hydraulics and water management.
Most of these ancient irrigation works such as the Tissa Wewa, Bas –Awakkulama ans Nuwara Wewa at Anuradhpura : the massive Parakrama Samudra or Sea of Parakrama, Giritale and Minneriya in the Polonnaruwa region, the Kalawewa and Balaluwewa still provide water to irrigate the rice fields of the rice farmers of the dry zone in Sri Lanka .
The hill country in the heart of the island, rises from 3000 ft. to over 8000 will surround you with velvety green freshness all around. The approach to it, whether by road, or rail, is a journey through narrow passes, deep ravines and gushing streams. As you travel, you will see the vegetation change from tropical profusion to gentle sprawling rubber plantations, to cool green hills, the home of Ceylon Tea. Tea was first introduced her the British, who managed to penetrate the islands hill country in the 1800s. They cove rolling hills like soft moss, with bursts of crystal water falls dotting the verdant vistas.The tea is intgerspersed with eucalyptus, albesia and other trees. Tea-pluckers work On the slopes, butterfly like in their colourful sarees.
You would think they make the air afresh every day, to continuously delight the senses with its springlike freshness. Wisps of milk-white cloud soften the dark outline of the high rocky crags, and roll down in gentle waves of mist, at dawn. It's a land of piece and silence.
The nostalgia of the empire builders is reftected in Nuwara-Eliya. The town is decorated with buildings ranging in style from Georgian to Queen Anne. Parks, trout streams, an 18 hole golf course complete with gorse, the post office with the clockspire, the Anglican Church with a lych gate and the Hill Club, with its hunting prints, stuffed fish and the polished oak. Pidurutalagala, the island's highest peak, is a short trek away, and the breathtaking view is worth the climb. Six miles from the town is an excellent botanical garden, at Haggala.
Hortain Plains (27km), is a nature reserve with a charm of its own. Commanding a panaromic view of the surrounding area it contains rare and beautiful plants and trees and Baker's fall.
Other Attractions and Amenities
Sri Lanka 's commercial capital is an interesting blend of the varying Influences, it has seen for more than 600 years. Its importance as a trading port increased after the arrival of the Portuguese to the Island in the early 16 th Century. It continued to grow under the Dutch and British, and today shows the marked influence of all those cultures from the Islamic mosques, the Catholic, Dutch Reformed and Anglican churches. The Dutch Colonial style of architecture is very much in evidence, as are the special quarters for for separate trades in the Colombo Fort and Pettah area.
While the Fort gets its name from the former military garrison which was located here under the Dutch and British, it is still the location of Janadhipathi Mandiraya, the President's House. On its fringe is the beautiful sandstone building, which houses the Presidential Secretariat and the Government Secretariat, formally the Parliament, almost a replica of Whitehall in England. Galle Face Green, the mile long promenade which borders the Fort on the South, is the largest open air stretch in the city and is lively centre for relaxation in the evening, with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. Around it are the main city hotels, from the Galle Face Hotel which was established in 1864, the InterContinental which is the first modern five-star facility, the Colombo Marriott and the Taj Samudra. Nearby are the Colombo Hilton, the Hotel Lanka Oberoi and the Holiday Inn.
Colombo Fort still has great interest for shoppers with the many old shops which specialize in gems, silks, curios, old stamps and excellent leather goods. The Grand Oriental Hotel, by the Colombo Harbour, gives one of the best views of the harbour while lunching or dining at the Harbour Room, once the special pub and restaurant of the ship's captain's who called over at Colombo.
The Pettah, which was earlier on the outer fringe of the Fort, is still the busiest shopping bazaar in the city. Its many criss-crossing roads mark out sections which specializes in various trades from textiles and sarees, spices and condiments, goldsmiths and jewelers, wholesale dealers in rice, sugar, (lentils and chillie. One of these streets – Gabo's Lane, still specializes in the trade in ayurvedic herbal medicines, which is the traditional form of medicines in Sri Lanka . In recent years the shopping area in Colombo have stretched southwards along Galle Road and R..A.de Mel Mawatha ( Duplication Road ) down through Kollupitiya, Bambalapitiya, Wellawatte and Havelock Town.
The jungles of Sri Lanka abound in a variety of wildlife, which is surprising for an island of its size in the tropics. From ancient days the elephants and peacock from the Sri Lankan jungles were prize exports to the kingdoms of East and West. But, apart from these well known examples of the Fauna, a visit to the Sri Lankan jungles is to enter a whole new world where nature has largely stayed still.
There are four major national parks. Of these the best known is the Ruhunu National Park , at Yala in the deep south of the island. There are also three other national parks at Ingiriyagala, Uda Walawe and Wilpattu (closed due to prevailing conditions in the North of the island). While the elephant is undoubtedly the best known attraction at Yala, seen in small and large herds, what is more appealing here is the overall mood of the undisturbed jungle. Large herds of spotted Deer are seen all over the park, as are many Sambhur , and for those who are sharpe eyed to observe many of the endemic Muntjac or Barking Deer. Monkeys- the pinkish Rhesus and the grey faced Langur Monkey, live and play on the tree tops and the ground below.
Wild buffalo and Wild Boar could give you a good surprise and a great picture, while the sight of a leopard sunning itself or drinking at a water hole could be a memorable experience. As dusk gathers, there is every chance of seeing the Ceylon Sloth Bear scampering with its young on its back. The progress of your vehicle could be held up by a Python across the track, and near the many waterholes will be found whole colonies of Crocodiles.
The Peacock is easily the most famous of the birds at Yala. The mating dance of the male, with its colourful plumes fully spread, is a photographer's delight. While the peacock has its fame, there are also many other species which attract those who are interested in bird life. And add to the mood and feel of nature. The Painted Stork , many varieties of Heron, the spoonbill, the bee-eater, many colourful parrots and parakeets , the hornbill , king-fisher and wood-pecker and whoopoe are all birds that can be seen by the observant in the jungles of Sri Lanka.
The Department of National Zoological Garden has set up an orphanage for baby elephants at Pinnawela which is about 13km from Kegalle Town, on the Kegalle - Rambukkana Road . Kegalle is 77km from Colombo on the Colombo - Kandy road and the turn off to the orphanage is at the Karandupona junction. The orphanage was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants found abandoned by their mothers. Often the young ones fall into pits and ravines in their quest for water during the drought period.
Other inmates of the orphanage are those displaced from their natural environs by development projects or those found diseased or wounded.
The orphanage is 16 years old. The animals that were brought during the initial years are now capable of breeding and have in fact bred. For additional information Tel: 71-2751-3.
Ayurveda, Sri Lanka's traditional holistic medical therapy uses medications made from medicinal plants and other natural ingredients, tested for more than two millennia, to cure and relieve numerous ailments. These treatments are available to foreign visitors in specialized ayurvedic spas, staffed by well-qualified and experienced practitioners, as well as in many resort hotels and at the Siddhalepa Ayurvedic Hospital at Ratmalana, a southern suburb of Colombo.
Aerendipity is still the essence of Sri Lanka , especially when it comes to shopping . Colombo has several large handicraft shops that will fill your senses with vibrancy and colour, and lots of tiny shops in Fort that will capture your imagination with antique jewellery, intricate wood carvings and other curios.
The handicraft shops have an overwhelming range of works produced by local craftsmen - silver and brass filigree work and ornaments decorated with motifs dating back to the Kandyan period, enchanting wooden ornaments and wood carvings of ageless elegance, masks, drums and lacquer –work of jewel – like brilliance. You'll be tempted by the gossamer-like Venetian or pillow-lace (part of Sri Lanka's Dutch heritage). Husk and quill work, imaginative baskets, wallhangings, mats and ornaments in rush, reed, coir and caneware, fascinating puppets and traditional terracotta pottery.
Unmistakebly stamped with Sri Lanka's rich and varied cultural heritage, the local handicraft will bring colour and character to any surroundings. Local handlooms, fine cottons and silks in peacock-bright colours and bold designs are perfect for interior decoration as well as distinctive clothing. Batik is a beautiful way to say Sri Lanka , and Batik shirts, skirts, dresses, sarees, kurtas, lungis, sarongs, tablecloths, wallhangings and other fabric items are available in most hotel shopping arcades and shopping areas. Sri Lanka is famous for its high quality gems- from Roman times through the colonial era, to the present. The gem trade is widespread, and blue, yellow or star sapphires, rubies, cats eyes, amethyst, topaz, aquamarines, garnets, moonstones, zircons and other precious stones are available throughout the island.
Shops selling exquisite silver jewellery, delicate and modern with traditional flavour and jewellery made of semi-precious stones and pearls is rage in Sri Lanka. Some consider Sri Lankan Tea the best in the world. Sri Lankan Tea has some fine blend, and many grades, B.O.P(Broken Orange Pekoe) being the best. Some shops specialize in the various teas, which are very attractively packaged in woven or wooden packs or even small gold plated tea pots.
There are many exclusive shops catering to the tastes of the fastidious shopper. Shops which specialise in pure cotton clothing, hand made shoes and bags designer wear shoes and bags, handloom items such as linen table ware, rugs and wall hangings in vibrant colours and contemporary design. A visit to the large modern shopping malls at Majestic City, Crescat Boulevard and Liberty Plaza a must. In addition there are shops owned and, managed by talented designers in Colombo.