Sri Lanka - City Life
That'll be Colombo
When people think
Sri Lanka, they think war. They think India (?!). They think poverty. But, for those who take time out to visit
Sri Lanka, you realise that what you do actually see is a far more cosmopolitan city than any other South Asian country could offer.
The coastline of
Sri Lanka's capital city is dotted with sky rise apartment buildings and office towers, interspersed amongst them are five star hotels
with an array of cuisine to cater to any palate. Tree lined roads, large parks, stadiums are found all around Colombo. The bustling city streets are full of office workers, students, tourists and (yes, the armed forces - the country is at war after all).
The only presence of the armed forces that Colombo citizens encounter are at checkpoints, which are present for the civilian safety. These only require that you carry your identification (passports) at all times.
Streets are full of a diverse range of cuisine: cafe style bistros, coffeehouses, and a number of restaurants of chinese, korean, japanese, italian, swiss, french, european and indian dishes. Whatever you feel like eating, its here! With the natives love of spices, you can be assured that whatever you do eat taste absolutely magnificent!
For shopping purposes, there are a variety of stores that cater to different tastes. If you are looking for authentic, Sri Lankan-esque products, Paradise Road will be the place to go. If you want souvenir items and the department store like experience, ODEL Unlimited is your name. For malls, Crescat Boulevard caters to a higher quality market whilst bargains could be found at Majestic City or Liberty Plaza or any of the number of boutique stores that dot the streets.
The nightlife in Colombo is fantastic! Mostly operating on a need to know basis, the elite of Colombo come out at night to these water holes. With nights starting on average at around 11pm, they go on till 6-7am (with no licencing laws present to force clubs to close early). The best watering holes around town are Sugar (retro), Amuseum (Galle Face Hotel
), D's, Tabu, Shine and Zanzibar. With the Colombo partying population being approximately 200-300 regular party go-ers on average - the places to be are usually one of these on any particular night/season. These days its Sugar ;)
If you want to experience a less luxurious but an even more realistic Colombo, take a stroll down to Pettah (Colombo Fort) to stake out bargains in any item you please. Known as the wholesale centre of Colombo, most citizens venture there to obtain the best garment clothing, trinkets, and other items. Not for the faint of heart.
On a hot day, have a dip in the pool, have a cocktail, eat crab curry for lunch and enjoy a siesta.
This my friends, is the life!
Where can I stay in Colombo?
Best of the best
All the best hotels in Colombo are 5* hotels, with an very good exchange rate present in SL, you are able to afford these for a minimal amount!
- Hilton Colombo
- The Hilton in Colombo is a grand hotel, with eight restaurants with impeccable cuisine, you will find yourself in the lap of luxury. Close to the heart of the city and ease of access to the other hotels/restaurants in the area, The Hilton is a definite must visit even if you don't stay here.
Room rates are approx USD150 for a single per night.
- Cinnamon Grand
- The best up and coming hotel in Colombo, it features 12 exquisite restaurants and cafes, luxurious rooms and the best hospitality the city can offer. In the heart of the city at Galle Road be close to all the vibrant shopping areas as well as the hot clubs!
- Galle Face Hotel
- Established in 1864, this is Colombo's first grand hotel. a 5* masterpiece enjoys backyard views of the coastline. Ask for rooms that face the ocean to enjoy unparalleled sea views and of course, keep the romance alive by dining by the sea.
The refurbished wing of GFH is named Galle Face Regency and enjoy rooms here starting at USD170. This wing has been refurbished to the style of a boutique hotel and enjoys beautiful bathrooms and room decor.
- Mount Lavinia Hotel
- Situated a little further away from Colombo City, this hotel is second in age to the Galle Face Hotel. Named after Lavinia, lover of the British Governer (who's residence this building once was), it enjoys over 150 years of history. Here, you will enjoy the benefits of proximity to Colombo as well as golden beaches.
Enjoy romantic strolls in the evenings and see the skyline of Colombo away from the hustle and bustle of the city!
Ask for rooms facing the sea and make sure to dine at the seafood restaurant on the beach. A bonus being this hotel is close to the strip of up and coming restaurants at Mount Lavinia beach!
- Taj Samudra Colombo
- Samudra Hotel was once a tiny restaurant near the grand Galle Face Hotel, but now it enjoys sprawling 2 acres of prime Colombo property and its facade takes over the Galle Face strip of Colombo coastline.
Rooms start at USD100-150 and make sure to visit Golden Dragon and Navaratna (two featured Chinese and Indian restaurants at the hotel) for some scrumptious cuisine.
Did you know?
Sri Lanka is known by a host of names: Ceylon, Taprobane, Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Teardrop of the Indian Ocean, Serendib, Paradise Isle.
Let's leave the City
and enter the hill country
Luscious green. Amazing views. Cool climate. This is what you experience as you move from Colombo towards the 'hill country' (middle of the island). To go from Colombo to Kandy takes around 2 hours and from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (featured in picture) takes around another 3 hours.
The roads are what the British built during their occupation of
at the beginning of the 20th Century. They were cut through the hills and feature tunnels through rocks (that were blasted using dynamite). Sharp needle bends, beautiful waterfalls and a bit of nauseousness does accompany this journey.
Once you reach the hill country (especially Nuwara Eliya) make sure to enjoy the beautiful botanical gardens and fresh strawberries and cream that is served in some roadside restaurants (kade's). A favourite town for the locals as the heat in Colombo during April drives them from there to here. In April, there are the infamous Horse Races held in Nuwara Eliya. Oh and don't forget the golf club.
There are so many places to visit in this region that I cannot name them all here. If interested, do ask your local guide,
representative or driver to take you to 'World's End' ( steep cliff covered in mist - beautiful), or Hunas Falls (a massive waterfall).
Places to stay in Kandy: Citadel, Mahaveli Reach, Queens
Hotel, Tree of Life
Places to stay in Nuwara Eliya: Number of private bungalows, Tea Factory
I wanna take you back in time
Sri Lankan Culture
Amongst its rich 2500 year history,
boasts of kingdoms and civilized rule. A country where Buddhism is the main religion, the ancient cities of Anuradapura and Pollonaruwa boasts of large number of ancient temples now broken down into relics. But these are as architectural marvels as the ancient city of Rome.
For the history buffs, this definitely is a must visit. You will ten large beautiful old temples in the city of Anuradhapura and three beautiful large replicas of Lord Buddha in Polonnaruwa.
Part of this area (which has been dubbed the Cultural Triangle) is Sigiriya. The ancient rock fortress built by King Kashyapa of
over 1500 years ago. This is unofficially considered to be the eighth wonder of the world. The infamous Lions Paws at the top of this rock structure through which you access stairs that leads you to the flat top of the rock, where once upon a time, the castle of the king stood. In the journey up the 300-400 steps to reach the Lion's Paws you pass the Sigiriya wall craft and bedrooms and chambers of the King. The gardens comprise of several large ponds. The view from the top is breathtaking! I have added pictures below.
Sun, Sea, Sand
This is Paradise
Let's move away from the centre of the island and towards the coastline. As
is an island, you find the best of both worlds here (as you may be slowly realising).
The beaches in the west coast are tourist hotspots. From Colombo, if you travel
southwards, you enter what the locals call 'down south' beach stretch. This stretch is populated with resorts all the way. This stretch was devastated by the tsunami (as were most of the coastal lines of
Sri Lanka) but have bounced back with renovated
and newly sprung boutique
down from Colombo, you encounter Wadduwa/Kalutara stretch: the big buddhist temple that you find after crossing the Kalutara bridge would give you a hint as to where you are:
The beaches in this stretch are filled with golden sands and slopes (as shown in the main picture of this module).
further south, you approach Beruwala and Bentota. Welcome to sandy white beaches and blue green sea.
Further down, you reach Hikkaduwa. The home away from home for Colombo beach-goers. A trip to Hikkaduwa is a must for any surf lovers! Don't forget to visit one of the beach side restaurants and indulge in a Hikkaduwa 'roti' (A flour based naan like food). There's lots to do here so great for the more active traveller!
Make sure to
further down to experience the majesty and beauty of the Galle Fort. Built by the Portuguese and then modified by the Dutch in the 17th century, this is a beauty that has to be witnessed. Several beautiful boutique
have sprung up inside the Fort since the tsunami.
Then away from the west coast, if you
to the East coast you have to goto Arugam Bay. Surfer's Paradise. This is deemed as the #2 best surfing spot in the world.
Trust me this is just 5% of the variety of beaches that Sri Lanka has to offer!
I've got you interested! But you need to know where to stay!
Thought of that too!
Here is a list of the widely used websites, travel agents, hotel operators in Sri Lanka. They have a wide selection of resorts for reasonable prices. If more niche boutique hotels are your thing, I've included a site that links to them as well :)
- Aitken Spence Hotel Group
- Aitken Spence is host to a number of beautiful hotels in both Sri Lanka and Maldives. Under the brands of Heritance and Adaaran, these hotels are in beautiful locations, are the ultimate in luxury and a real treat!
- John Keels Hotel Group
- John Keels are the owners of a number of popular hotels both within Colombo as well as rest of Sri Lanka and Maldives. The Cinnamon and Chaaya brands are synonymous with luxury and you can be guaranteed a wonderful stay here.
- Hotels.lk - a quick booking assistant
- Hotel.lk aggregates some of the best rates out there with your preferences to give you ease of access to some of the best hotels in the country.
- Villas in Sri Lanka
- A link to some of the fabulous boutique resorts/ villas available on the coast in Sri Lanka. More expensive than Hotels but more luxurious and private. Often with private pools!
- Holiday Villas
- Special offers, beautiful resorts, classy design - a wonderful booking assistant.
Travel Paradise - Tiny Beautiful Island Sri Lanka
SRI LANKA - TRAVEL PARADISE
Sri Lanka known as Ceylon before independence in 1948, is strategically located in the southern coast of India between Arabia and East Asia. Naturally rich exotic beaches, picturesque waterfalls, tropical rainy forests, central hills and moreover the precious climatic difference bloom the natural beauty of this small island to be a world famous tourist destination. This isle is also known to be the pearl of the orient or pearl of the Indian ocean and in the ancient times as the Taprobane or Serendib.
Spectacular hospitality extended from the hearts of the people of Sri Lanka would no doubt be a grip of a rich cultural heritage spanning over 2500 years.
Since the latter half of 2009 Sri Lanka has become the safest place on the earth to travel after completely defeating the 30 year brutal terrorism under the true & great leadership of His Excellency the President Mahina Rajapaksa Year 2011 has been declared as "VISIT OF THE YEAR" for SRI LANKA. New York Times in their recent survey revealed that Sri Lanka is the best destination for travel among thirty one destinations. The National Geographic has placed Sri Lanka as the second of he world's 20 best for travel.
The mountainous wet zone in the southwestern part records an average annual rainfall of 2500 mm and the dry zone in the northeast and northern parts receive an average rainfall of 1200 mm and 1900 mm respectively. Sri Lanka maintains a high bio-diversity in the country with great care. Diversity expressed in terms of strategic location specially the unique physical environment of naturally rich assets has made Sri Lanka one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Wildlife: Sri Lanka has reported to be the first country to launch a wild sanctuary. National parks and sanctuaries are established in different parts of the island. Yala National park in the southeast is an important tourist attraction for watching heard of elephants, peacocks and dears. Wilpattu National park in the northeast provides a great access to the inhabitants like many water birds, stokes, pelicans, ibis and spoonbills to protect themselves in a safe environment for more than a generation to come.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a sanctuary for rescued and injured elephants and is well popular among the tourists for watching over 80 elephants including small babies.
Cultural Heritage: Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Kandy Sacred City, Galle City & Galle Port and Dambulla Cave Temple are the five ancient cities of Sri Lanka listed in the world heritage list. These places are of great historical value for visitors to enjoy themselves and make their dreams come true.
Kandy is a sacred city in the central hills which symbolizes the world famous Buddhist procession "Esala Perahara" which carries the sacred Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha annually in the month of August. This beautiful pageant is attended by a large gathering with an average of five hundred thousand people in the final day. One can enjoy a range of various items like fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances with admirably decorated elephants showing the pride of the history of the kingdom of Kandy.
Kandy which is one of the most beautiful cities in the world is synonymous to the name of the world renowned Ceylon Tea. As you know the first tea plant was planted commercially in 1867 at Loolecondera estate by a Scotsman named James Taylor and there onwards tea industry has flourished to a great success. Among the Rubber and Coconut plantations Tea has played a major role in export earning to the country until the recent past. Tea plantations has made a tremendous improvement with the right attitudes of the present regime of Sri Lanka.
Anuradhapura: in the North Central Province is the Sri Lanka's first capital founded about the 4th century BC. which is a place of worship for all Buddhists in the country especially because of the blessings of the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi Tree taken from the original Bo-Tree in India.
The most historically valued Ruwanweli Saya which was constructed in the 2nd Century B.C. by Emperor Dutugamuni is considered to be the greatest out of the other gigantic sthupas in the eight Buddhist sites in Anuradhapura. Ruwanweli Saya Sthupa is 100 metres in height, 77 metres in width and 300 ft in diameter. Among these remarkably worshipped places are the huge irrigational tanks which display a magnificent piece of work of the ancient Kings of Sri Lanka when Anuradhapura was the National Capital of Sri Lanka for over 1000 years since the 3rd Century BC.
Samadhi Statue is a great piece of Sinhalese Sculptural Art showing a deep meditation of Lord Buddha. These monuments including the entire Buddhist places in Sri Lanka represent the culture and civilization of the ancestors in a very prominent way with association of Buddhist culture during the time our ancient kings who ruled the country.
There is no evidence to see such a valuable, historical, artistic and culturally developed Statue even in India (well known as Baratha - the country of Birth of Lord Buddha).
Samadhi Statue is situated in the Mahameuna Park of Abhayagiri Complex in Anuradhapura the first capital of Sri Lanka in 4th century BC.
Sigiriya is concerned as the eighth wonder of the world. The 200 meter rock surrounding a complex with water gardens makes a beautiful scenery. This huge rock known as the Lion Mountain built in 5th Century has world famous frescoes. King Kashyapa ruled his Kingdom from the Fortress on top of the Rock for about 18 years. Architecture and Gardening is quite impressive and Hydraulic Technology in water supply has a magical performance which is unique to the 5th Century is an unimaginable even at this stage of modern technology.
Places of Interest: These places of interest in Sri Lanka are useful to you, but without any doubt many more should be added to the list for any traveler who wish to make a visit to this tiny beautiful island in the Indian ocean.
Mount Lavinia: Located just 12 km. south of Colombo is popular for its beach.
Anuradhapura: 206 km. from Colombo is a sacred city.
Polonnaruwa: situated 216 km. from Colombo is full of ancient cultural assets.
Hikkaduwa: located 98km along scenic southern coast of Sri Lanka
Trincomalee is a beach paradise with its natural harbor located 257 km from Colombo in the east part of the island.
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens is 7 km away from Kandy located by the side of Mahaweli River.
The Horton Plains: This place is a national park and the highest plateau in the island.
Wasantha de Silva
4th October 2010