Heba Al Ghais Al Mansoori, Middle East Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau
Whether it's wandering calmly over the lush central highlands, hanging in a wicker basket as you gaze over the breathtaking views passing lazily beneath you, or the more high-octane thrills of crashing down tumbling river flows in a white water raft, Sri Lanka promises experiences that will persist in the memory long after the thrill of the activity has subsided.
Heba Al Ghais Al Mansoori, Middle East Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, said:
"With peace finally prevailing after almost three decades of strife, Sri Lanka is an ideal getaway for regional travellers being only three and a half hours flying time away from the Gulf."
"It's not all necessarily adrenalin pumping stuff as for the more leisurely inclined explorer, there are pastimes that will allow you to experience the wonders of this tropical isle without so much as breaking into a sweat including hiking tours that take in the varied landscapes of the island and can be conducted at a gentle pace opening up the colourful and abundant array of plants, bird species and other wildlife to be found across the countryside," remarked Ms. Al Mansoori.
Cycling and mountain biking are another way to get about, with undemanding trips available for those who wish to visit the ancient ruins and temples of a country whose history and heritage stretches back thousands of years. Pedalling unhurriedly through the country lanes, you can hear the rustle of the forest come alive and enjoy the whiff and heady scent of flowers in bloom. For those who prefer a greater exercise challenge, the undulating roads of the hill country make for a more intense cycling workout.
If heights are your thing, you can spend some time around the central highlands, home to Mount Pidurutalagala, Sri Lanka's tallest mountain. Here you can paraglide, flying over the forests and lakes like a bird, or indulge in rope sports, abseiling down sheer cliff faces close to magnificent waterfalls.
Hot air ballooning is also an extremely popular activity in this part of the island and offers a unique way to explore the country as you silently float over the lakes and forests, you can spy deer and elephants who are oblivious to your presence, along with the occasional bemused farmer who has happened to glance upwards!
Water features as a significant part of Sri Lanka's inland landscape, with turbulent rivers, spectacular falls and calm lagoons for the intrepid enthusiast to enjoy. White water rafting is one of the longest established adventure sports on the island, with rivers providing thrills, glorious scenery and the chance to view life in the villages en route.
The most popular area for rafting is along the Kelani River in Kitulgala, close to where the classic film 'Bridge on the River Kwai' was shot. Canoeists and kayakers can also explore the various waterways, with professionals able to run some extremely challenging rivers that run through the forests.
With all this activity available inland, it's easy to forget that Sri Lanka also has some magnificent beaches, with one at Unawatuna being acclaimed as one of the world's top 10. Being a relatively small island, you will never be far from the azure waters and bronze sands of the coast and if lying down and absorbing the rays isn't for you, you can try your hand at surfing in waters that average a blissfully warm 27°c. Arugam Bay, on the east coast, has long been established as a surfing hotspot, with sufficiently high waves to attract international contests. When conditions are ideal, it is possible to catch a wave that will carry an experienced board rider 800 metres.
When the season finishes at Arugam Bay, it's just opening up at Hikkaduwa, on the west coast, about 100km from Colombo. The waves here are around 2 metres high and of sufficient interest to attract international surfers during the season. If your interests lie under the water, you can scuba dive and snorkel at a number of resorts, exploring coral reefs and old Dutch shipwrecks that are home to vividly coloured tropical fish and other aquatic life. If it's faster paced water sports that you want, you can hire out jet skis, learn to wind surf or try your hand at water skiing.
Taking a break from all these sporting activities, the capital Colombo offers all the attractions of a busy city, with star-rated hotels, shopping malls and a vast array of restaurants and clubs that cater for all tastes. A relaxing day can be had at the renowned Hakgala Botanical Gardens, with 27 acres overflowing with roses and ferns and at the Peradeniya Gardens in the city of Kandy, where you will also find the ancient Temple of the Tooth. If you are keen to discover the origins of your morning cuppa, the central highlands feature tea estates where you can learn how the world's most popular brew travels from luxuriant bush to your breakfast table.
Regardless of whether it's excitement or relaxation that you crave, Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage and history is sure to leave you as captivated and charmed as the countless travellers who have visited throughout the ages. The island is only four hours flying time from the UAE and travelling there is easy with SriLankan Airlines. The operator flies to Colombo from Dubai ten times a week and runs a daily service from Abu Dhabi. The operator has been voted Central Asia's Airline of the Year for two consecutive years.