Set in the Indian Ocean, the island nation of Sri Lanka is a paradise.
*Population – 21 million
*Tropical coastline – 1,340 km
*Languages – Sinhala, Tamil and English
*Has the highest concentration of leopards in the world
*Eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of the world’s 25 Biodiversity Hot Spots
*The Sinhalese name, Sri Lanka, means, “The Resplendent Land” or “Holy Ceylon”
*World’s 3rd largest tea producer
Spread over 25,300 square miles in the Indian Ocean, the island nation of Sri Lanka appeals to every type of tourist. It is a truly unique destination that has a wide array of sights, activities and excursions which would appeal to even the most discerning traveler. Coupled with the unspoilt golden beaches, it is a paradise island like no other.
The nation’s historical culture can engross a person in its rich history dates back nearly 3000 years, as well as the earliest known human settlements which are almost 125,000-years-old. Ancient cities like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Digamadulla with their once glorious townships, palaces, temples and monasteries elaborately carved out of stone lay amidst the soaring jungles, abandoned and forgotten with time, all untouched and waiting to be explored.
The most famed of these ancient cities is the Kingdom of Anuradhapura. As Sri Lanka’s longest serving capital and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, it is also one of the most sacred cities for Buddhists. Anuradhapura was the capital from the fourth century BC up to the turn of the 11th century AD and was one of the most stable and durable centres of political power and urban life in South Asia.
Sigiriya, a fifth century AD fortress and a water garden displays some of the most futuristic elements of landscaping and some of the oldest murals recorded in the country.
Polonnaruwa, the second most ancient kingdom of the country boasts of irrigation systems that are far superior to those of other cultures in their time and still provide irrigation water to the farmers in and around Polonnaruwa. Digamadulla, the eastern kingdom of Sri Lanka was the agricultural and spiritual capital of the country during the time of Anuradhapura Kingdom.
Sri Lanka’s last kingdom Kandy is a testament to the Sri Lankan’s ability to pick up and rise from the ashes. After being burned and ravaged thrice by Portuguese invaders the Kandyan Kingdom still holds beautifully carved and built houses, palaces and temple preserved for nearly 500 years.
Sri Lanka gained its independence from Great Britain in 1948 and has been a democratic socialist republic since 1978. Today the country is known as one of the foremost tourist destinations. Aside from its rich history, the country has a diverse landscape from hills to forests and sandy beaches offering great surfing and diving experiences to rich tea plantations and rain-forested peaks inviting walkers and trekkers and literally, tons of elephants.
All this in an island home to eight Unesco World Heritage Sites, the welcoming people and the flavourful food. The safari tours in refreshingly relaxed national parks encounter leopards, water buffaloes, elephants, all manner of birds and a passel of primates.
The country’s culture has been influenced primarily by both Buddhism and Hinduism. It is the home to three main traditional cultures: the Sinhalese (centered in the ancient cities of Kandy and Anuradhapura) , the Tamil (in the north) and the Muslim (in the east). In recent times, British colonial culture has also influenced the locals.
AJ Tour & Travel, the official travel partner of Pharmacist Work and Lifestyle magazine, provide some of the most exclusive package holidays to worldwide destinations including Sri Lanka.
PLACES TO VISIT
Colombo, is Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, a major port and the largest city. A fine blend of all the hues and cultures within this paradise isle. This chic metropolis brings together the many facets of this island nation.
Pinnawala, located northwest of Kegalle, is home to a famous elephant orphanage. It is a must-visit place with an unforgettable experience. The elephants at the orphanage are accustomed to the visitors and are harmless. The scheduled bathing times at 10am and 2pm daily offers wonderful opportunities to observe and click ample photos of the many mischiefs of the jumbos.
Dubbed the ‘Little England of Sri Lanka’, Nuwara Eliya is located in the thick, misty hills of Sri Lanka. Resembling an English countryside, the colonial atmosphere of the past remains preserved, complete with rose gardens, hedges and red-roofed bungalows. Here one can experience how Ceylon tea is made and gain an insight into becoming an astute tea taster on a Tea Factory tour.
Dated from the first century BC, Dambulla Cave Temple is a complex that lies atop a massive hill, some 160m above the surrounding plains on the edge of Dambulla town. The complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its unique sculptures and the largest mural paintings depicting Lord Buddha and his life. The murals cover an area of 2,100 sq metres.
Treat yourself to a garden tour and cooking demonstration in the Spice Garden of Matale. Enjoy the taste and aroma of the world famous spices.
A prime landmark on the tourist trail is Kandy, referred as the hill capital of Sri Lanka. The city is home to Sri Dalada Maligawa, a temple which houses the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha and is the pride of Buddhists in Sri Lanka and world-over. The palace temple stands surrounded by a moat, its golden roof gleaming in the sunlight as white-clad pilgrims bearing lotus blossoms throng to worship. Apart from the ancient monuments, the delightful jumble of antique shops and the bustling market are places to visit.
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens bears a rich history punctuated by colonialism and industrial change despite it’s origin dating back to medieval times. The splendour of the botanical garden is further uplifted by the river that flows through its fringes.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress, an 8th wonder of the world is a rare jewel among the many treasures in Sri Lanka. The famous Sigiriya frescoes of the buxom, wasp-waisted maidens bearing flowers, amidst the wilderness and ancient ruins.
The Ravana Falls, located against a strikingly beautiful backdrop of mountains and valleys is a must-visit spot, where the beauty lies in the manner in which the water gushes down the layers of the rock.
Yala National Park is home to majestic elephants, fine-feathered peacocks, great black bears and agile leopards that steal away into the shadows of the thick vegetation that are unparalleled to any of the national parks in the country. Apart from the sightings of varied animal species visitors can also enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach in the beautiful setting of unspoilt beaches at the southern park border that lies along the south-eastern coastal line.
The south coast of Sri Lanka is littered with jagged coral-protected bays and headlands. It offers a great diversity of stunning tropical sandy beaches, rural fishing villages, untouched wilderness and a vibrant cultural heritage making the southern coastal belt an ideal holiday experience.
The city of Galle in the southern province is a living time capsule. Home to the largest occupied Fort in Asia, its quaint beauty extends beyond its golden beaches and clear blue waters. No doubt the main attraction of Galle is its ancient Fort, which instantaneously takes the visitors back to the Dutch Colonial era. One can bask in the picturesque views and the rich history while walking through the narrow cobbled streets, relish a meal from one of the boutique restaurants within the Fort or enjoy the cool sea-breeze beneath the distinctive lighthouse.
LOCAL THINGS TO DO
Join in a game of cricket – the cricket-mad locals are always happy for an extra pair of hands.
Immerse yourself in the Esala Perahera in Kandy – a colourful festival involving huge processions of glittering elephants, dancers and drummers.
River bathing – we encourage you to go local and join in on daily life; take a dip in a refreshing river and dry out on a sun drenched rock!
During April, Sri Lanka celebrates the festivities of Buddhist and Hindu new year. In addition, Esala Perahera, a symbolic Buddhist festival consisting of dances and richly decorated elephants, is held in Kandy, during the month of August. Fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and various cultural dances are integral parts of this. Tamils also celebrate Thai Pongal, Maha Shivaratri and Muslims celebrate the Hajj pilgrimage and Ramadan in their respective days of the year.
Staple dishes include rice and curry, wholemeal roti, Pittu, Kiribath, Wattalapam and Kottu. Sometimes Jackfruit may replace rice! Traditionally food is served on plantain leaf. The dishes that one must not miss are:
For breakfast try an egg hopper with Seeni Sambol; and for a spice challenge watch out for the Kata Sambol. Cashew nut curry – so rich and creamy you will never be able to forget it. Buffalo Curd & Treacle – a mouthwatering taste. The Chilli Crab, perfect with the stars above you and your feet in the sand by the Indian Ocean.
Middle Eastern influences are found in traditional dishes like Moor. While with the Burgher community, Dutch and Portuguese influences are preserved through dishes such as Lamprais (rice cooked in stock and baked in a banana leaf), Breudher (Dutch Holiday Biscuit), Bolo Fiado (Portuguese-style layer cake), and Gumbo Lillas (Dutch style honey coated sweet treats).
The accommodation types range from low budget hostels, B&Bs, budget hotels, apartments and rooms in family homes, to luxurious beautiful five-star resorts. With tourism booming in recent years, prices have been increasing rapidly. However, in such a beautiful island, you are sure to bag a bargain, wherever you stay.
Currency here is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) and most places accept credit cards with plenty of Bureau de Change branches around.
Indulge in hand woven Sarongs from Barefoot, with the most incredible selection in the brightest of colours at reasonable prices. For the adventurous tourist why not buy a bottle of local brew, ARRACK to wash down the cashew nuts from Kadjugama. As the third largest tea producer there is an abundance of Ceylon tea to continually remind you of this amazing island.
Nilesh Kerai, a recent traveller said “Following my recent visit to Sri Lanka earlier in 2014, both me and my wife were blown away from the moment we arrived into Sri Lanka. The level of hospitality received from start to finish was truly special, not only by our team there but also the hotel and resort that we were staying at. We fell in love with the destination! No wonder Sri-Lanka has become an ever popular destination for Weddings, Honeymoons and Renewal of Vows”.
Those who want to combine their visit as a ‘Twin Centre’ holiday, look no further as Sri Lanka can be the ideal place to visit with Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Maldives, India and the Far East.
For travel enquiries and bookings A J Tours & Travels UK Ltd can be contacted on 0208 863 6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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