10 reasons to plan a vacation in Sri Lanka

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Ever considered a holiday in Sri Lanka?

We’ve come up with ten great reasons to travel to the island off the south-east coast of India.

World-class surfing

The surfing off Sri Lanka is renowned as world-class.

Arugam Bay has hosted events such as the Red Bull Ride My Wave contest plus the UK Pro Surf Tour’s Sri Lanka Champion of Champions Surf Contest.

Hikkaduwa, 98km from Colombo, is a popular spot because it offers spectacular surfing, scuba diving and nightlife options.

Of course, you could simply lie back in a hammock to think of distant England and surfing there, in the nippy North Sea.

Or you could head to a temple.
Or you could head to a temple.

Plenty of golden beaches

Sri Lanka has a remarkable 1,340km of beaches.  Those on the south coast of the island are the longest established as tourist destinations. Head to the beaches of the north and east of Sri Lanka and you may well have the sand to yourself.

Looking to Colombo from the green at Galle Face.
Looking to Colombo from the green at Galle Face.

Negombo Beach is 37km from Colombo and just 6km from Bandaranaike International Airport. This means you can enjoy the sun-kissed sand and the tepid water of the Indian Ocean until shortly before boarding international flights.

Unawatuna, 120km from the capital, has an international reputation for having a great beach. It tends to appeal to independent travellers who enjoy nightlife and diving.

What do you mean you prefer temples?
What do you mean you prefer temples?

Unwind in an Ayurvedic spa

Ayurveda, the world’s oldest holistic medical system, has long been practised in Sri Lanka. Legend has it that the island’s first ruler, Prince Vijaya, introduced Ayurvedic medicine more than 2,500 years ago. That means the spas have had plenty of time to get their offerings right.

The term Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit words ayuh, meaning ‘life’, and veda, meaning ‘science’. According to practitioners, it’s based on harmonising elements from life’s three forces—earth (kapha), wind (vata) and fire (pita).

After a consultation from an Ayurvedic doctor you can book treatments including herb-infused oils being rubbed into your limbs—a therapy known as pizhichil. One of the most relaxing treatments is shirodhara, in which oil dribbles onto your forehead, the location of your third eye, for around a half-hour.

Not convinced? Give it a go.

Alternatively, enjoy a feast by the sea front.
Alternatively, enjoy a feast by the sea front.

Festivals galore

Sri Lankans practise the Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. That means a multiplicity of festivals. Many of them prove colourful events, so are worth witnessing.

Independence Day, a secular holiday celebrated annually on 4 February, commemorates the country’s freedom from British rule. People participate in processions, dancing and sports around the nation.

Flag day. Prayer flags at a temple.
Flag day. Prayer flags at a temple.

Every full moon day is a public holiday for Buddhists and known as poya. Temples tend to be busy on those days.

The Sir Lankan New Year, in mid-April, in a secular festival which starts at an auspicious time decided by an astrologer rather than clocks striking midnight.

A golden Buddha and multi-coloured prayer flags.
A golden Buddha and multi-coloured prayer flags.

A hive of world heritage sites

Sri Lanka has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Six are cultural and one is natural—Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a tropical rainforest which is the home to more than 130 species of bird. Thirty-three of them are endemic.

The Cultural Triangle is formed by three of the island’s former capitals, Anuradhapura, Kandy and Polunnaruwa.

Anuradhapura was established around 2,400 years ago and the scale of its temples impressed the people of the ancient world. The city’s Mahavihara monastery is the home of the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, which is reputed to be cultivated from a cutting originating from the tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment.

Kandy was the island’s capital ahead of British rule. The Temple of the Tooth holds a relic that’s said to be from Buddha’s body.

Polunnaruwa was Sri Lanka’s second great capital and much of it was constructed under the warrior-king Parakramabahu the Great. The palace and council chamber count among the many sites of interest.

The Cave Temples of Dambulla, rocky temple-fortress at Sigiriya and the Dutch-built sea fortress at Galle count as the remaining three heritage sites.

Cannons by the shoreline in Sri Lanka.
Cannons by the shoreline in Sri Lanka.

A choice of adventure sports

Sport fishing, both on freshwater and out on the ocean, is a popular pastime among travellers. Barracuda and marlin count among the fish that you can catch with help of guides.

White water rafting, on the Kelani Ganga, and kayaking count among the many water sports offered on the island.

If you’re into golf why not book a round at the Royal Colombo Golf Club? The course was established in Victorian times.

Mountain biking is becoming popular in the Knuckles Mountain Range, which is known for the striking scenery of its dwarf cloud forest. Hiking also offers a way of seeing the region’s landscapes, which include 27 peaks with an altitude of between 1,000 and 2,000 metres.

Go fishing? I could buy them at the market.
Go fishing? I could buy them at the market.

Tea in a verdant landscape

The British found that the island’s rolling hills proved receptive to the planting of tea bushes. It’s possible to see people picking leaves then delivering their load for drying and processing at one of the factories that create the impression of being living museums.

Random photo of a stone elephant.
Where’s the tea plantation? Random photo of a stone elephant.

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was established in the mid-1970s and has evolved into one of Sri Lanka’s best known attractions.

You’ll have the chance to see elephants of all ages, from calves being bottle-fed to the herd washing and playing in the river.

Visiting provides outstanding photo opportunities.

A family photo - a female elephant with her calf.
A family photo – a female elephant with her calf.

Outstanding wildlife

Of course, nothing beats seeing animals in the wild. At the end of the dry season (September) you can view in excess of 300 elephants congregating around Minneriya Tank.

Sri Lanka has 12 national parks and 52 wildlife sanctuaries. Leopards, which you might be lucky enough to see in Yala National Park, and sloth bears, which are regularly spotted in Wasgamuwa National Park, number among the country’s mammals.

White-bellied sea eagles and the Sri Lankan paradise flycatcher count among the island’s birdlife.

Don’t forget the Indian Ocean is held in high esteem by whale watchers.

Who are you calling shaggy? A sloth bear.
Who are you calling shaggy? A sloth bear.

See the Sri Lanka Travel website for more inspiration on reasons to visit the tropical island.

You can pop by this shop too.
You can pop by this shop too.

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