Sri Lanka Tourist Activities

Sri Lanka awaits you. With lovely year-round weather, warm and friendly people, good food, reasonably low costs, gorgeous hotels, luxury villas and resorts to stay in, what you get up to on this island is only limited by your imagination.

On your vacation, feel like royalty on the back of an elephant, spot leopards in the national parks, sunbathe, surf, sip tea on the lushly green hillsides and be a devotee at ancient temples or during the riotous festivals when the ancient rhythms of the geta bera (double-ended drum) reach up to the heavens.

Here are some activities you can immerse yourself in during your stay at this paradise of romance and adventure.

Negombo, by Paul Mannix (http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulmannix/)
Negombo, by Paul Mannix (http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulmannix/)

A good idea is to start with any of the seven UNESCO heritage sites on the island. Skip Colombo altogether and drive out to Negombo, the island’s oldest fishing village, which boasts a rather nice beach and rich marshlands in the vicinity. Before heading out to the Cultural Triangle of the three most important ancient sites, sneak in a healing ayurvedic treatment at a Negombo spa.

Stop first at Dambulla to view the cave shrines filled with more than a hundred statutes of Buddhas in meditation under ceilings vividly decorated with religious murals. A short distance away is the breath-taking Sigiriya Rock Fortress.

The ruins of the ancient capital and royal gardens stand at the top of a lion shaped rock. Along a long flight of stairs are the remains of what could have numbered up to 500 colorful frescoes of buxomy women, now thought to be paintings of the goddess Tara.

Polonnaruwa, by rahuldlucca (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rahul3/)
Polonnaruwa, by rahuldlucca (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rahul3/)

Polonnaruwa, the former royal capital, has fascinating ruins of royal palaces, stupas and giant stone-cut standing and reclining Buddhas hewn out of the rock face. Its Archaeological Museum is first class.

In the even older capital of Anuradhapura, the majestic remains of palaces, temples, gardens and giant dagobas point to a glittering city at its heyday. The Kuttam pokunas (bathing pools) here are some of the best specimens of the sophisticated water and irrigation technology of the ancient kingdom.

Move onto Kandy the picturesque cultural and religious epicenter of Sri Lanka, which was the last stronghold of the kings. The must stop is the UNESCO-listed Temple of the Tooth which houses the sacred tooth of Buddha. Pay respects to the ancient Bo-Tree which is believed to have grown from a third century B.C. cutting off the original tree of Buddha’s enlightenment.

Family of Elephants at the Pinnawela elephant orphanage by S Baker (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahbaker/)
Family of Elephants at the Pinnawela elephant orphanage by S Baker (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahbaker/)

Before exploring the lush tea plantations and tea factories dating to Victorian days, take a detour to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.  In this popular attraction, you can watch the 60 or so resident elephants feed or bathe in the river.

The road from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya winds through Singhalese villages, green tea plantations, reservoirs and waterfalls. Tea capital Nuwara Eliya has the atmosphere of a British village and is a good base to visit the 18th century Pedro Tea Estate. Alternatively, go trekking up Adam’s Peak or through Horton’s National Park where you can spot wild leopard, deer and a wide variety of birds found only on the island.

Yala National Park, by 2neus (http://www.flickr.com/photos/motherscratcher/)
Yala National Park, by 2neus (http://www.flickr.com/photos/motherscratcher/)

Go on a wildlife safari in the Yala National Park which has one of the world’s largest groupings of leopard. Best viewed during the dry season from February to June, Count herds of elephants and keep an eye out for sloth bears, crocodiles, buffaloes, monkeys and bears or keep your binoculars focused on more than 150 species of birds.

There are 1,000 miles of gorgeous, palm-fringed beaches to choose from. Divers opt for cave and wreck diving off Bentota and Hikkaduwa, surfers catch waves off Hikkaduwa and Midigama south, and also gravitate to Arugam Bay on the east coast.

Finally, step back into history in old colonial forts in Galle and Colombo. For souvenirs to bring home, nose out bargains in the bustling and diverse Pettah Market in Colombo or be a history hound at the Colombo National Museum, the island’s top museum.

Housed within the white walls of this grand colonial building are palm-leaf manuscripts dating back 4000 years, royal weapons of the Singhalese kings and rock sculptures from ancient cities. The Sri Lankans love to party and what better way is there to wrap up a day than dining out at some of the country’s finest restaurants. While you are there, take time off to pamper yourself and unwind with a relaxing stay at the Sri Lanka luxury villas to complete your trip.

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