About Sri Lanka

The diversity of Sri Lanka’s destinations and visitor attractions is unique in Asia. Here are some of the highlights to be covered in fascinating depth by Thush Tour Sri Lanka itineraries.

Cities
Colombo
Largest city and major port of Sri Lanka, Colombo is the commercial and administrative heart of this island nation. Much remains from colonial times with public buildings in the Fort district and surrounding streets, while Pettah’s huge bazaar area is a must-see. The National and Dutch museums are worth visiting, as are Hindu and Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches. Stroll around Galle Face Green with its historic Galle Face Hotel and evening food stalls. Colombo also offers diverse shopping, dining, cultural and entertainment activities.
   
Galle (116 km south of Colombo)
Built during the Dutch colonial period as the main trading port, this walled city with its gateways, ramparts and bastions, is now a World Heritage Site. A fascinating complex of streets are lined with historic buildings, including a reformist Dutch church and former Government House. The Maritime, National and Historical museums are worth visiting, but the city is best experienced by just strolling around, to appreciate its authentic character as a beautifully preserved tropical-colonial city.
   
Kandy (110 km inland from Colombo)
Once capital of the ancient Singhalese kingdom, this bustling town is the cultural and spiritual heart of Sri Lanka. Set around a scenic lake, nestled among surrounding forested hills, it is a charming and atmospheric place to explore. Highlight is the Buddhist Temple of the Sacred Tooth, containing a symbolic relic of Lord Buddha, with its spectacular annual Esala Perahera, featuring a parade of richly decorated elephants, traditional drummers and dancers.
Nearby attractions include the beautiful Peradeniya Botanic Gardens, Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage, a number of Kandyan-era temples, tea and spice plantations and Adam’s Peak, a major pilgrimage destination.
   
Ancient cities and monuments
(The places marked * are World Heritage Sites)
Anuradhapura*
An ancient capital dating from the 4th Century BC. Highlights of this extensive site include several huge dagoba (chedi) monuments, consisting of hemispheric bases and towering spires. There are crumbling temples, rock cave shrines and stone-lined bathing reservoirs. An ancient bodhi tree, believed to be the oldest tree in the world, at over 2,000 years, is said to have been grown from the one in Bodhgaya, under which Buddha attained enlightenment. The ruined royal palace has the remains of 1,600 columns, while a number of the monuments are noted for their finely carved stone moonstones guarding entrances.
   
Sigirya*
This spectacular “Fortress in the Sky”, also known as the Lion Rock due to the huge lion which once guarded its entrance. The climb up the 600 ft. peak that towers out of the surrounding landscape is steep and tough. On the way up are grottos with original frescoes of 21 celestial maidens. On the summit are remains of the 5th Century royal palace, water tanks and other ruined buildings. The view from here is superb.
   
Polonnaruwa*
A former fortified capital, now mostly in ruins, dating from the 11-13th Centuries. It contains a number of massive stone-carved Buddha images, stupa monuments, temples and shrines, some containing original frescoes, plus remains of the royal palace and other impressive buildings. There is also a museum containing artefacts, statues and models showing how grand this city must once have been.
   
Dambulla
A series of magnificent cave temples, some dating from the 1st Century BC, carved into massive rock formations. Highlights include a 15m. long reclining Buddha, surrounded by painted frescoes. Another cave containing 150 life-size Buddha statues with ceiling paintings featuring scenes from the life of the Buddha.
   
Mahintale
Located 12 km. From Anuradhapura, this ancient site with its temples, monumental chedis and museum, is revered as being the place where Buddhism first arrived in Sri Lanka. It is set amid rugged hills in a garden-like landscape. During Poson in June, thousands make pilgrimage here.
   
National Parks and Wildlife Reserves
Over 13 percent of Sri Lanka is designated as national parks and nature reserves. Of the 14 major parks, several are of outstanding natural beauty, while others contain a wide variety of wild animals, big game and birds, including some of Asia’s rarest species.
   
Yala (Ruhuna) National Park
Located in the south of the island, Yala covers an area of over 126,000 hectares. This is the best place for sighting wild game, including elephant, leopard, herds of spotted deer, sambur, crocodile, monkey, wild boar and buffalo etc., More than 130 bird species have been recorded here.
   
 Wilpattu
20 km. southwest of Anuradhapura and covering an area of over 1,000 sq. km., this is the island’s largest national park. It is noted for the large population of wild elephant, plus leopard, spotted deer, sloth bear, wild pigs etc., living in a rugged environment of jungle scrub with clearings and small lakes. Access is currently limited due to security concerns.
   
Horton Plains
Located in the central hills, between Haputale and Nuwara Eliya, Horton consists of higher altitude grasslands with dramatic cliffs one of which, World’s End, falls sheer over 800 m. to the surrounding countryside. Designated a national park, it is notable for the forests of umbrella-shaped keena trees and rhododendrons. Rarely sighted leopard live here, but more common are sambar deer, monkeys and other small game. A popular place for bird watching, including many rare species.
   
Singharaja Forest
The island’s largest remaining preserve of tropical rain forest, now listed as a World Heritage Site, is an area of great natural beauty, with rugged hills and valleys, waterfalls and wildlife.
   
Adam’s Peak
Set in magnificent scenery in the central hills, Adam’s peak, known locally as Sri Pada, has been a major pilgrimage centre for many centuries. Legend says that this was the place where Adam first set foot on earth. The name Sri Pada refers to a massive carved footprint said to have been left by Lord Buddha. Many travellers arrive here, after a gruelling seven kilometre climb, just before dawn, which is a spectacular sight, with views over the surrounding hills and even, on a clear day, to far-away Colombo. The most important time for pilgrimage is during the full-moon Vesak festival, April-May.
   
Bundala
This national park, less visited than nearby Yala, consists of a 65 sq. km. coastal strip of dunes, lakes and wetlands, home to a wide variety of migratory birds, plus elephants, rarely-sighted leopard and other wildlife. During winter, sea turtles lay their eggs in the long sandy beaches.
   
Pinnewalla Elephant Orphanage
Although not a designated national park, many visitors come to see this sanctuary, created to protect injured or abandoned baby elephants. Up to 60 elephants, large and small, can be seen taking their bath in the river morning and afternoon.
   
Hill Stations
Nuwara Eliya
This gem of a hill resort was created during British times as an escape from the heat of Colombo. Located in the southern hill country, its character is more Little England, or Scotland rather than tropical. Set amid pine forests, with a lovely lake, golf course and colonial style hotels and cottages, this is a delightful place to stay and relax during a busy sightseeing tour.
   
Haputale
Set on a high ridge of hills, with sweeping views over the surrounding countryside of forested hills and rich agricultural landscape, this small town offers an interesting local market and excellent hiking into the surrounding area.
   
Tea and Spice Estates.
Sri Lanka’s hill country is famous for its tea plantations and spice gardens, sources of valuable exports products. Many of these estates still have Scottish names, recalling the planters who established them in the 19th Century. Several can be visited on tours, to see tea growing and being processed in factories equipped with antique machinery. It is also possible to stay in old colonial-style planter’s bungalows. At spice gardens, visitors can see, and buy, a wide variety of fragrant products, ideal as original souvenirs.
   
Beach Resorts
One of Sri Lanka’s greatest attractions, especially for visitors from colder climates, the island’s fabulous beaches and resorts are justly famous. There are too many to be listed individually, but some of the best, such as Negombo, are to be found north of Colombo and in the long stretch of beach-lined coast between Colombo and Galle. Along that coast, like a string of pearls, one escapist resort follows another. Among the finest are around Kalutara, Bentota and Hikkaduwa. South and east of Galle are even more enticing beaches, such as Hambantota. For a choice of the most desirable beach destinations, and the most delightful resort hotels, contact Thush Tour Sri Lanka.