Sri Lanka, Travelling Around and Island Life!

Sri Lanka - City Life 

That'll be Colombo


by rane84


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 Sri Lanka 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, hotel 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 Hotel.

I wanna take you back in time 

Sri Lankan Culture

Amongst its rich 2500 year history, Sri Lanka 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 Sri Lanka 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 Sri Lanka 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 hotels and newly sprung boutique hotels.

As you travel 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).

As you travel 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 travel 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 hotels have sprung up inside the Fort since the tsunami.

Then away from the west coast, if you travel 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. - a quick booking assistant 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