Sri Lanka has been known as one of the worlds most beautiful and diverse exotic holiday destinations.
Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of the coast of India. The island is a proximal 65.610 sq. km. The coastline gives way to lowland plains, growing coconut and rice. In the mid country rubber vies with gems, while green carpets of tea clothe the central mountain ranges, reaching heights of some 2.432 meters.
Most important highlights:
Sri Pada is known as the only mountain in the world considered sacred by the followers of the four major faiths in the world Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims. To Buddhists, the imprint at the summit of the mountain is the hallowed footprint of the Buddha, hence the name "Sri Pada". To the Hindus, the footprint is that of God Shiva. To the Christians, it is the footprint of St. Thomas, and to Muslims, it is the foot print of Adam, hence "Adam’s Peak". Another name for the mountain by the Sinhalese is "Samanala Kanda" meaning Butterfly Mountain due to the endless flocks of butterflies that wing their way to the mountain with the start of the season.
Anuradhapura is an ancient city, located at a distance of 206 km northeast from Colombo. Anuradhapura was established in 4th century BC. It was the first capital of Sri Lanka and remained so until 8th century AD. Anuradhapura is an archaeologist's delight and contains several monuments of historical importance. The city is considered very sacred by the Buddhists and is home to the largest dagobas in Sri Lanka. A dagoba is a dome enshrining sacred relics or the bodily remains of the Buddha, or articles used by Him like the alms bowl and other objects of veneration. It is built in different sizes on a pedestal with a spire on top crowned with a pinnacle. The earliest dagobas had a stone umbrella on top of the dome in place of the spire.
Dambulla is a small town located at a distance of 19 km from Sigriya on the Sigriya-Kandy road. Dambulla has over 80 caves in the surrounding and some of them have been used by the monks as meditation locations. Major attraction is the Dambulla Rock Temple consisting of five cave temples dating back to the 1st century BC. The temples contain many statues and paintings. Hindu statues are believed to be of the 12 century AD and the latest paintings are of the late 18-century.
Ella, situated at 1,050 metres, is famous for the view from its mountain gap, its towering rock, and mysterious cave. The view from the front garden of the rest house is particularly awe-inspiring. Ella, meaning “waterfall” in Sinhala, is named after the many waterfalls, large and small, which gush or trickle down the rugged mountain terrain in the area.
Ella is a great place to go walking and it does not matter where you go, it’s still beautiful!
Galle, the main city and port on the south coast, retains a romantic, old-world atmosphere within its Dutch fort. Galle is located 116 km to the south of Colombo. Galle was founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. Galle has been declared a World Heritage City by the UNESCO.
Dutch Fort: Built in 1663, the fort still retains the atmosphere and charm of Dutch days. Many old Dutch buildings are still intact inside the fort. The best way to see the fort is by walking around at the time of sunset.
Dutch Museum: The Dutch Museum which is housed in a restored Dutch mansion of the time, contains paintings, prints, documents, furniture and ceramics from the Dutch colonial era.
Kataragama a popular pilgrimage destination frequented by adherents of all religions in Sri Lanka. Kataragama is a place where religious tolerance can be seen at its best. It is a place where all ethnic groups, religions and cultures meet in deepest respect to one another and in complete harmony. The Hindus, the Buddhists, the Muslims and the Veddahs all claim to preserve the "original" traditions of Kataragama. Even during the times of strife and conflict in other parts of the country, Kataragama preserves racial and religious harmony.
Kandy is a major tourist destination, also known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. Nestled in the hills at an altitude of 488 m, it is located at a distance of 115 km from Colombo.
Kandy has a rich history. It was originally known as Senkadagala pura after a hermit named Senkada who lived there. Many of Sinhalese people call it Mahanuwara meaning the Great City. The name Kandy was derived by the colonial rulers from the word Kanda in Sinhala, meaning a hill. Kandy was the stronghold of the Sinhalese kings, who promoted and protected the local culture until the city fell to the British in 1815.
Most important to see: Temple of Tooth, Gadaladeniya Temple, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy-Dancing
Nuwara Eliya is situated at around 1900m above sea level in the central mountains overlooked by Mt. Piduratalagala, the highest peak of Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is the main hill resort of Sri Lanka and the heart of the tea industry, so it is surrounded by lush tea plantations. Once a pleasure retreat of the European planters the town is still very much an English town with many English style bungalows and buildings. Nuwara Eliya is a good escape for those who miss cool breeze in tropical Sri Lanka at any time of the year.
Nuwara Eliya's literal meaning is the City Of Light.
Nuwara Eliya offers many activities for tourists including visits to tea plantations, guided tours of a tea-factory, golfing, horse riding, boating, hiking and of course exploring the beauty of the landscaped gardens, waterfalls and plateaus.
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawela, about 80 km northeast of Colombo, is regarded as the biggest herd of captive elephants in the world. Among the elephants is one that lost a foot when it stepped on a mine. Another is blind and is totally reliant on humans. The elephant herd in Pinnawela makes the journey to the river twice a day to bathe under the eyes of the tourists. For a few Sri Lankan rupees they are allowed to touch the animals. The sound of cameras clicking increases everytime one of the young elephant babies splashes about in the water. But anyone who wants to take a picture of the babies feeding in the orphanage has to pay extra for the privilege.
Some 110 people are employed to care for the herd feeding them with leaves from palm trees. About 14,000 kg of food are needed every day. The Pinnawela elephant orphanage is financed by the government and by charging visitors to see the animals.
Polonnaruwa is located at a distance of 216 km from Colombo. It was the capital of Sri Lanka in medieval times. Used by the Sri Lankan kings as a 'country residence' from the 7th century, Polonnurawa became Sri Lanka's capital in the 11th century AD.
Polonnaruwa, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, is probably easier for the non-archaeologist to appreciate than Anuradhapura. The monuments at Polonnaruwa are younger than at Anuradhapura and therefore in a better state of preservation.
Ratnapura is located at 103 km from Colombo-is the famous gemmining town of Sri Lanka. In fact the name Ratnapura literally means, the City of Gems. Sri Lanka has the greatest concentration of gems on earth and is ranked among the top five gembearing nations.
Ratnapura provides the starting point for one of the pilgrim routes up the mountain known to visitors as Adam's Peak, but to Sri Lankan as Sri Pada or Samanala Kande. This pilgrimage, which is made by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians, occurs between December and May, because these are the best months climatically to make the ascent. Although the Ratnapura route is the most arduous it is the classical one. Many visitors who wish to climb Adam's peak prefer the Ratnapura route for this reason.
Literally, the word Sigriya means the Lion Rock. Sigriya is Sri Lanka's most recognizable landmark and has been declared as a World Heritage Site.
Sigiriya, in fact, should have been classed as one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, long ago, and there is now a proposal to name it as the Eighth Wonder of the world. Perhaps, it is better late than never!
Climbing up the rock you will see the Mirror Wall, a highly polished rock surface that has weathered the times to shine and reflect even today. In a sheltered pocket are the famous frescoes of beautiful maidens, which appear to rise out of the clouds. A climb to the top is rewarded by a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
Tangalla (or Tangalle) is a pleasant fishing port situated on one of the finest and largest bays in the island. Make a stop for swimming, when you pass from Yala to Galle.
The most popular day excursion from Tangalla is to the stunning Rock Temple of Mulkirigala, 20km to the north. You ascend the rock steps to reach a series of natural caves with numerous wall paintings and Buddha statues.
Yala National Park is the biggest National Park in Srilanka. The Park is located on the southeast of the island near Tissamaharama (Tissa).
Yala is separated into five blocks, of which your safari will only enter Block One in the southernmost corner of the park. Containing streams, lagoons, forest, sand dunes and rocky outcrops it is an ideal place to see an abundance of wildlife. Yala National Park is one of the best parks in the world to observe leopards. Other animals that can be seen in the park are elephants, sloth bear, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, toque monkey, mongoose and crocodiles. Yala East contains a large variety of water birds.
Uda Walawe National Park lies within the Ratnapura and Monaragala districts. It is largely inhabited by elephants, spotted deer, sambhur, water buffaloes, mongoose, bandicoots, foxes, water monitor lizards, crocodiles, wild boars, toque monkeys, grey langur, leopards and various varieties of snakes.
Wasgamuwa National Park lies within the Polonnaruwa and Matale Districts and has the Mahaweli River and Amban River as its eastern and western boundaries. The wildlife includes elephants, wild buffaloes, spotted deer, leopards, sloth bears, water monitors and crocodiles.
Horton Plains National Park is situated in Nuwara Eliya district. The most amazing feature of the park is the `World's End' where the southern part of the plains comes to a sudden end and drops almost straight down for 700 m. The park contains a rich variety of birds and animals.