Glistening shores, year-round sunshine, wild elephants casually munching on roadside shrubbery, serene waterfalls and breathtaking mountain views – what more could a traveller want? Yet somehow, the unexpected sparkling gem that is Sri Lanka is underrated and less travelled, despite its spectacular holidaying and adventure-seeking qualities. To bring this destination to light, we have listed the top 5 reasons (out of many) for putting Sri Lanka on your list of places to see and travel.
Crystal Clear Indian Ocean | For Surfers and Bathers
If you love soaking up the sun, find yourself at home on the sand and can’t get enough of the salty Indian Ocean air, then Sri Lanka is definitely for you. Unlike many beach destinations, Sri Lanka’s shores have more to offer than expected. If you yearn for more than just lying out and working on your tan under the scorching equator sun, then why not ride the waves of Asia’s most surf-able beaches? And if you don’t surf yet but want to, then the South coast is packed with schools and friendly instructors to pick up the hobby. And if neither surfing or bathing interests you, Sri Lanka’s beaches offer a variety of activities, such as Yoga and Meditation in the serene area of Weligama, beach-bar-hopping or being greeted by sea turtles in Hikkaduwa, sunset gazing in the pristine Kabalana, exploring the Dutch Fort in Galle or simply reading a book and drinking a fresh coconut in the shade in Mirissa. Whatever it is, there truly is something for every kind of vacationer. Plus, you are guaranteed to snap a holiday shot that will put everyone else’s travel-boast albums to shame: the Indian Ocean that envelopes this tropical Island is both photogenic and post-card perfectly picturesque.
Full of Sweet and Spicy Culinary Surprises
One thing you will surely be very pleasantly surprised by is the exceptional consistency of delectable cuisine that is available across the entire country. The food is somehow both similar to, yet distinctly different to (and according to many, better than) Indian food. First of all, you start everyday with a colourful spread of freshly cut exotic fruits, including succulent papaya, pineapple, mango and banana, before the rest of your breakfast arrives, usually a combination of eggs, local wood-fired bread and jams. Of course, if you are brave enough, you can take on the chili pepper adorned Sri Lankan breakfast that features raw coconut and chili sambal, dhal curry, tomato curry and string hoppers. In Sri Lanka, the food varies in-land and on the coast. On the coast, for example, the fish and seafood is so fresh that you can, in many cases, literally choose your lunch or dinner specimen right out of the tank, and after the mind-blowing meal you are left with an aftertaste of the Indian Ocean. In-land the food is based on rice, curries, chicken, vegetables and egg hoppers–a delicious rice flour and fermented coconut milk pancake. However, every aspect of Sri Lankan food inviting, exciting, challengingly-spicy, always fresh, genuinely local and not to mention extremely cheap.
Where the Wild Things Are
There is nothing quite like having to stop the car because of a crossing wild elephant. In Sri Lanka, that is not only the norm but it would be surprising not to see an elephant everyday. If you would like to see monkeys, leopards, elephants, water buffalo, peacocks and many more up close and personal then a visit to, and an unforgettable safari in, Yala National Park is a must-see when you visit. Although, you don’t need to travel far to find so many beautiful spectacles in the scenery; every tree is special and enchanting. If you find yourself in the ancient Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve, or just as you drive, the plants and rice fields that carpet the Sri Lankan landscape bring a local element to your sightseeing, or the pristine waterfalls that are found in every unsuspecting corner of your journey, such as the roadside Ravana Falls where the endemic Macaque monkeys are not afraid to interact with tourists– in every aspect of your travels you will not be disappointed by the distinct authenticity that the remarkably untouched wild has to offer. Whether its climbing up Adam’s Peak mountain, sitting on your balcony with a waterfall view, strolling through UNESCO world heritage sight, Sinharaja Rainforest, elephant-watching in Habarana or even just taking in the jungle-like panoramic views as you sit on the train from Nuwar Eliya to Ella, Sri Lanka really is ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. Sri Lanka truly gives you a new meaning for 50 shades of Green, leaving you with a magnificent National Geographic-worthy adventure that is straight out of a travellers storybook.
The Lovely Locals | Rich Culture and History
Despite a contemporary history ridden with tragedy, the Sri Lankan locals manage to radiate with positive attitudes, modesty, generosity and good-will. The locals, predominantly living off very little, are filled with joy and brandish a laid-back mentality that is contagious to incoming tourists. The majority of the population practices Theravada Buddhism and accordingly the Island is studded with majestic temples, sanctuaries for Yoga and meditation, incredible Buddhist King fortresses, like Lion Rock in Sigirya or the ancient monastery for Ayurvedic medicine in Ritigala. The land is suffused with timeless historical ruins, pacifying white temples and ornate architectural testaments to the colonial past. This is seen best in the sacred city of Kandy‘s rich culture, home to the humbling Temple of the Tooth, as well as many traditional woodcraft, intricate batik fabric and sparkling gemstone factories scattered throughout the hilly city. So if its a mystical and indulgent Ayurvedic massage you desire, a challenging hike up the UNESCO heritage site, Sigiriya, deemed by many as the ‘Eighth World Wonder’, or maybe you prefer to delight in a romantic and relaxing visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, then Sri Lanka comprises the winning combination of kind, inviting and friendly locals and a plethora of culturally intriguing and easily-accessible spots, whether you’re interested in art, architecture, history, tea plantations, traditional craft work and even if you’re just looking for some massage therapy.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka +94 81 2388088
Amazing, Adventurous and Affordable Accommodation
Lastly, but no less importantly, Sri Lanka’s versatile options for overnight accommodation is sure to be integral to your adventure holiday. In Sri Lanka, hotels and lodging are inexpensive, colourful, incredibly located and even distinctly memorable. If you are willing to, you can sleep in nature: you can be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the flowing waterfall under your bed room at the Royal River Resort or even take it one step further and stay overnight in the treetops overlooking Yala National Park. Or if you prefer to marvel at the natural landscapes from a distance, you can stay at a chalet facing a waterfall full frontal at the Ramboda Falls Hotel, or you can sit at your balcony facing the view of the vast mountain-scape surrounding Adam’s Peak at Ella Mount Heaven. Or perhaps you prefer sleeping in the lush greenery of the jungles and rice fields closer to the coast, then you can rent a fully-decked out apartment with Chami Tours. But if its the beaches you want to be close to most, then you can wake up to the smell of the salty Indian Ocean at the gorgeous Mirissa Number One hotel or if you prefer renting a room, then you can sleep facing the Hikkaduwa shore on top of the tasty Sunset Coffee Bar. Whatever it is, if you want to indulge and holiday in style at Thilanka Resort and Spa or stay overnight in a more affordable and simple accommodation at Sigirya Cottage, Sri Lanka has the right amount of choice, challenge and captivating scenery to provide any traveler with something to write home about.
Royal River Resort, Eduru Ella, Kithulgala, Sri Lanka +94 11 2 732755
Ramboda Falls Hotel, 76 Nuwar Eliya Rd, Ramboda, Sri Lanka +94 52 2 259582
Mirissa Number One Hotel, Mirissa Beach, Galle, Sri Lanka +94 41 225 4884
Sigiriya Cottage, Ehalagala, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka +94 77 351 3122
Ruthie Berber is a Liberal Arts student majoring in Middle Eastern studies at Tel Aviv University. Born in New York City and raised in London, she is fascinated by different cultures, considers herself an international citizen and profoundly believes in travelling and discovering as much of the world as possible. Ruthie is a lover of art, music, food and fashion, keen to share her experiences in Israel with others.