Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you must have heard of “Ceylon Tea”? Bet you’ve even had a cuppa or two. Ever wondered where it originates from? If you said Sri Lanka, you got it right.
This little tear drop shaped Island located just South of India on the Indian Ocean used to be known by many names including Ceylon.
Ceylon is the name, British Colonialists gave it when they conquered the country and took over from the Dutch. This little Island has a fascinating blend of influences from its Portuguese, Dutch and English colonisers, reflected in its architecture and culture.
Obviously, being colonised has also left behind its fair share of issues; most notably the ethnic divide which was a residue of the “divide and conquer” policy practiced by the colonisers and which arguably created the root cause of the civil conflict which plagued the country for 26 years. Thankfully the civil war ended in 2009, and Sri Lanka has been thriving since.
With its natural beauty and the high-speed development of infrastructure with the end of the conflict, Sri Lanka is well on its way to becoming one of the most sought after travel destinations.
Here are six reasons to put Sri Lanka on your bucket list:
I. If you love being awed by breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, you can’t bypass Sri Lanka. It’s hard to believe that so much diversity can be packed into an Island that’s about the same size as Tasmania (Australia). But that’s as far as the comparison to Tassie goes. The tropical coastline boasts gorgeous white sand beaches, which turn into molten skylines for breathtaking sunsets by evening.
Further inland and you will find large lakes in the ancient capitals built by the Kings and rain forests filled with endemic species. The hill country is filled with hauntingly beautiful misty landscapes, stunning waterfalls and rolling hills covered with tea plantations.
Driving through the countryside, you will see Rice fields which stretch as far as the eye can see glistening in the sun.
Sri Lanka is a paradise waiting to be discovered.
II. Mouth-watering food might not be a strong enough reason for some to travel half way across the world (but it certainly is for me). Sri Lanka grows some of the most delightful spices including cinnamon and nutmeg and you can taste these in local dishes.
The curries have their own unique flavour and the cuisine has influences from neighbouring South India as well as the colonialists from Portugal, Holland and the UK. Whether you are a foodie or not, you will find something to please your palate in Sri Lanka.
Traditional cooking is very wholesome and nutritious with everything made from scratch. Exotic veggies worth trying are drumsticks and okra.
Traditional foods such as milk rice; that is rice cooked in coconut milk and served up with savoury sambols & curries or string hoppers which have a texture similar to rice sticks and are very light and airy are all worth trying.
Wattalappam, a Muslim influenced delicately spiced coconut custard is a delicious ending to any meal. Another popular dessert in Sri Lanka is curd (similar to thick Greek yoghurt in texture) made from Buffalo’s milk and eaten with treacle.
III. If exploring the culture and history on your travels is your thing; you will probably be delighted to know that Sri Lanka is home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The ancient Capitals of Sri Lanka provide a glimpse into an era of prosperity and sustainable living during the time when Sri Lanka was ruled by Kings.
Ruins of ancient palaces, well-preserved rock cave temples and climbing the awe-inspiring Sigiriya Rock Fortress, hailed as the 8th Wonder of the World, will keep you engrossed for a few days.
IV. Lately, with rising concerns about using wildlife for entertainment, Sri Lanka is a great place to see wild animals in their natural environment. Sri Lanka is home to several wildlife parks, which are dotted around the country. The two best known wildlife parks in Sri Lanka are Yala and Wilpattu. Although, in the recent past, with the growth in local and foreign tourism there has been some overcrowding in these.
However, there are plenty of good wildlife parks to see elephants in the wild such as Uda Walawe, Wasgamuwa and Minneriya.
Depending on what time of the year you visit, leopards and bears can be sighted in certain parks. Elephants, crocodiles, wild boar, buffaloes, birds, deer and other animals can be seen all year around in most of the parks.
Mirissa on the South Coast is a favourite spot for whale-watching as is Trincomalee on the East Coast. Kalpitiya on the West Coast is teeming with dolphins during certain times of the year.
V. The variety of adventure activities that Sri Lanka has is surprisingly broad for a small country.
You can take your pick from kayaking, white water rafting to trekking or climbing Adam’s Peak, a sacred mountain believed to holdo the footprint of Buddha.
There are also some great spots for scuba diving and snorkelling off the South West Coast line as well as on the East Coast. Arugambay, one of the best surf beaches in the world is located on the South East Coast of Sri Lanka.
VI. Sri Lanka has world-class spas and retreats. If you are travelling to de-stress and detoxify Sri Lanka is a must-try destination.
Ayurvedic Spas which offer massages, herbal and steam baths and detoxifying diets are also very popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
These are scattered across the country and range from the very high-end ones located in five-star establishments to more affordable ones. Do your research to ensure that the spa or retreat is one that meets your specific needs.
A predominantly Buddhist country, Sri Lanka has its fair share of meditation and yoga retreats. Most genuine meditation retreats will not charge any fees but will request a “dana” or donation in order to meet its running costs.
There you have it, six reasons to put Sri Lanka (Ceylon) on your bucket list.
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