Sri Lanka was known to travellers by a variety of names. According to “Mahavamsa”, the legendary Prince Vijaya named the land as “Thambapanni” (“Copper-red-hands” or “Copper-red-earth”) because his followers hands were reddened by the red soil of the area. Ancient Greek geographers called it “Taprobane”. “Ceilao” the name given by the Portuguese later transliterated into English as “Ceylon”.
Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest. Its documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. Its geographic location and deep harbors made it great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II.
In the 16th Century, the island first encountered the traders and colonizers of the West, with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505. This followed nearly five hundred years when during which the island came under the control of Portuguese, Dutch and the British. The country gained independence from the British in 1948. A diverse and multicultural country, Sri Lanka is home to many religions, ethnic groups, and languages. In addition to the majority Sinhalese, it is home to large groups of Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils, Moors, Burghers, Malays and the aboriginal AdiVaasi (Veddah) people. The impact of many cultures from North and South Indian to the Moorish and Western colonizers has resulted in the country’s culture having rich diversity which is in evidence today.
The country is famous for Tea and acclaimed as the world’s best. Rice, Rubber and Coconut are among the other major agricultural produce. The Island’s spices such as Cinnamon, Cardamoms and Cloves attracted Moorish and Western traders in the past, is still a lucrative export business. Rich in mineral resources, Sri Lanka is very famous for precious and semi- precious gems.
Within the perimeters of this small island you find more than thousands of sunny palm laced beaches, heavenly scenery up in the hills covered with tea plantations decorating them with their rich verdancy, cascading water-falls, glorious architecture of the ancient past, brooding jungles and wild life and the fascinating art and culture makes the island something out of this world!
- COMMERCIAL CITY OF COLOMBO
- SACRED CITY OF KANDY
- COLONIAL CITIES OF NEGAMBO & GALLE
- CENTRAL HILLS
- HISTORIC KINGDOMS – ANURADHAPURA, POLONNARUWA
- DAMBULLA, SIGIRIYA,YAPAHUWA
- SUN DRAPED BAYS & BEACHES AROUND THE ISLAND
- NATIONAL PARKS
CITY OF COLOMBO
Situated on the west coast of the island, Colombo is the largest city in Sri Lanka, known to ancient mariners and traders for more than two millennia due to its strategic location facilitating sea trade routes. It became the garrison enclave of the Portuguese in 1505 and was subsequently the seat of administration of the Dutch and the British administration. Colombo having gained independence in 1948 from the British, remained as the capital until the administrative and political functions were transferred to “Sri Jayawardanapura” (“Kotte”) in 1978.
Since then Colombo was transformed as the commercial hub of the country and began changing its skyline rapidly. The city of Colombo richly blended with colonial history and local tradition has become an interesting visitor attraction in South Asia.
Sprawling street markets, modern shopping malls and shopping arcades, National Museum, Old Parliamentary complex, Town Hall, Galle Face Green, Royal Colombo Golf Club, Viharamaha Devi Park, Navam Temple, SeemaMalakaya Zoological Gardens, St. .Lucia’s Cathedral,National Museum, BMICH, NelumPokuna and Kelaniya Temple are some of the tourist attractions amongst many more.
CITY OF KANDY
Kandy is the home of the Sacred Temple of Tooth Relic (Sri DaladaMaligawa) one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world. It was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1988. Kandy is located in the mountainous and thickly forested interior of the island. The city is located in between multiple mountain ranges including the Knuckles mountain range and the Hantana mountain range giving the city an elevation of 500 meters (1600ft above sea level) It lies adjacent to the artificial Kandy Lake. Kandy stayed independent until the early 19th Century successfully repelling invasions by the Portuguese and the Dutch, was however invaded by the British in 1815. Kandy being the gateway to the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. The main roads from Colombo to Kandy and Kandy to NuwaraEliya are two of the most scenic roads in Sri Lanka. Many visitors from overseas and homeland flock to Kandy during the period of “EsalaPerhara” a world famous pageant, when the replica of the Tooth Relic casket is paraded on the streets accompanied by caparisoned elephants, colorfully costumed dancers and drummers.
Historic temples that surround the Temple of the Tooth are amongst many attractions apart from the world famous Royal Botanical Gardens which was built by the King Wickramabahu the 3rd, as a pleasure garden to his queen covers an area of 147 acres or approximately 60 hectares circled by the Mahaweliriver. The garden has around variety of plants over 4000 species consisting of Orchid House, Palm and Pine avenues. Arts and crafts and cultural exhibits, Tea Museum, UdawatteKaleysanctuary,are some amongst many..
CITY OF NEGAMBO
Negambo is approximately 35km north of Colombo city. Negambo is known for its huge and old fishing industry with busy fish markets and sandy beaches. The international airport of Sri Lanka is in the Negambo metropolis. The wild cinnamon that grew in the region around Negambo was said to be “the very best in the Universe as well as the most abundant” and for centuries attracted a succession of foreign traders and colonial powers.
During the Portuguese occupation the traditional fisherman embraced Catholism without any exception. The destination is also known as “Little Rome” owing to so many Catholic churches present in the location.
Negambo offers one of the best beaches on the west coast of Sri Lanka. It draws tourists who stop over for a day on their way to or from the airport. Water sports and diving are popular among visitors, with a few well preserved coral reefs. Fishing trips, Lagoon safari aresome amongst many..
Galle was the main port of the island before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th Century. Galle reached the height of its development during the Dutch colonial period. The city was extensively fortified during the period of Dutch rule. The Galle Fort is a World Heritage Site. It is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by the European occupiers.
Galle harbor, Galle Fortress, National MaritimeMuseum, St. Mary’s Cathedral.Amangalle Hotel, Tsunami Photo Museum are some while this picturesque coastal town has so much to offer, the reason why it is always packed with foreign visitors.
CENTRAL HILLS – HILL COUNTRY
Climate diversity in the area is the major reason that attracts both domestic and foreign visitors to the location. Climate conditions in the province differ from place to place and tourists could experience diverse climatic conditions within a short distance of travel. The mountain ranges of the central hills, Knuckles mountain range, Adam’s Peak and Hortan Plains have been declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. NuwaraEliya due to its highland location has a subtropical highland climate with a mean annual temperature of 16 ⁰c (61⁰F). In the winter there can be frost at night, but it warms up rapidly during the day because of the high sun angle. The road to NuwaraEliya from Kandy is one of the most scenic in the island with lush tea plantations draping the mountains with their rich verdancy.
The city was founded by Samuel Baker, the founder of Lake Albert in 1846. NuwaraEliya’s cold climate itself lent itself to become the prime sanctuary of British civil servants and planters. NuwaraEliya called “Little England” was a hill country retreat, cricket, golf and polo. Many of the buildings retain the features of colonial era.
Colonial buildings such as Grand Hotel, Queens Cottage, St.Andrews, General’s House, Hill Club and the Post Office, Victoria Park Hakgala Botanical Gardens, Tea plantations and Tea factories, cascading waterfalls, water sports in the Lake Gregory, Pony races, and Golf are some of the major attractions amongst many.
Horton Plains is a popular tourist destination with World’s End being the key attraction. World’s End is a sheer precipice with a 870m (2854ft) drop. Horton Plains considered the most important watershed in Sri Lanka. Horton Plains are the headwaters of three important rivers of Sri Lanka, namely Mahaweli, Kelani and Walawe.
Anuradhapura was the capital of the country well over 14oo years. It was the first established kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka founded by the King Pandukabhaya in 377BC. The Kingdom’s authority extended throughout the country during the Anuradhapura period. Buddhism played a strong role during the Anuradhapura period, influencing its culture, laws and methods of governance. The Buddhism became much stronger with arrival of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha.
Construction of large irrigation systems was a major achievement during the kingdom, ensuring water supply in the dry zone and helping the country to become self-sufficient in agriculture. Several kings most notably king Vasabha and King Mahasena built large reservoirs and canals that created a large irrigation network in the Rajarata area throughout the Anuradhapura period. The famous paintings of Sigiriya, Dhagabas such as Ruwanwelisaya, Jetawanaramaya and many appealing Buddha Stupas and buildings are great landmarks that demonstrate the advancement of technical and sculpting skills prevailed during the kingdom. The city has been declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO
Plonnaruwa became the capital of Sri Lanka after the fall of Anuradhapura kingdom. Trade and agriculture flourished in Polonnaruwa under the rule of king Parakramabahu, who insisted that every single drop of water that falls from heaven to be preserved without allowing it to flow back into the ocean. The great ParakramabahuSamudra or Sea of Parakramabahu built by the king stands a true testimony of his vision. It is so huge that when you stand upon the shore you cannot see the other side of this great lake.
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
Sigirya is another UNESCO declared World Heritage Site, built in the 5th Century AD by King Kassapa. According to history the king selected the site to build his new capital. He built his palace on the summit of this 660ft rock, and decorated its sides with colorful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up of the side of the rock he built a gateway in the shape of an enormous lion. The name of the rock was derived from it and came to be known as Sinhagii (Lion Rock) Sigirya is considered as one of the most important urban plans of the first millennium.
BAYS & BEACHES OF SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is well known for some of the most unpolluted sun embraced beaches of many miles spanning around 1600km. Those who desire to have a fascinating beach holiday; will find it not so easy to make a choice amongst so many, that the island has to offer.
The monsoon winds providing rain to the two corners of the island makes the island, a destination for the year round prospect. The north east winds make the south west coast sunny and the sea calm from November to April The south west winds make the east coast sunny and calm. Tangalle, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Beruwela, Bentota, Kosgoda and Mirissa have acclaimed as the best in the west coast while Trincomalee, Passikuda, Nilaweli are popular resorts in the eastern part of the island. Sri Lanka has gained popularity amongst global marine enthusiasts as we are blessed with a verity marine habitats including Blue whales, Sperm whales, Dolphins, coral reefs, and turtle nesting beaches.
Whales and Dolphins Watching
Dondra Point the southern tip of the island is an ideal location to watch Blue Whales and Dolphins, accessed from Mirissa, Galle and Hikkaduwa. Tincomalee in the eastern coast and Kalpitiya in the north west are well known sites for Dolphins and Whale watching.
Kosgoda and Bentota are popular for turtle hatcheries. Variety of species could be seen in these two locations as they come ashore to nest.
Sri Lanka’s coasts are very popular destinations for many waters sports. East coast beach of Arugambay is ranked the world’s no.10 destination for surfing. Many sporting clubs have emerged providing guided services for Windsurfing, Waterskiing, Jet- ski,, River fishing, Deep sea fishing, Snorkeling, Scuba diving.
WILD LIFE SAFARIS
The island boasts of one of the highest rates of biological endemism in the world whether in plants or animals and is included among the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world. Of the ninety-one species of mammals found in Sri Lanka Asian elephants, sloth bear, leopards, sambar and wild buffaloes engages the majority of the attention of wildlife enthusiast.
Birds are the glory of the Sri Lanka’s wildlife. Boasting nearly 433 bird species of which 233 are resident Sri Lanka.
- Discover the Lush nature of Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest and second largest in the island. Of the five blocks of the park, two of which are now open to the public. The blocks have individual names such as Ruhuna National Park and Kumana National Park. It is situated in the south of the island belonging to the provinces of southern and Uva. The park covers 378 sq. miles and is located 300km from Colombo. There are six national parks and three sanctuaries in the vicinity of the park of which the biggest is Lunugamwehera National Park. Yala harbors 215 bird species of which six endemic species of Sri Lanka. Yala is known to be one of the highest leopard densities in the world.