Capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo is a city filled with good hotels, restaurants, shopping and every form of transport imaginable! Just off the north end of Galle Road is the Fort, once a colonial stronghold but now the site of many government buildings. To the south is Galle Face Green, a seaside expanse where informal cricket games are played out amongst city folk. Just east of the Fort is the Pettah, the traditional bazaar where you can enjoy a colourful retail experience.
The Hill Capital of Kandy was the last bastion of the Sinhala kings and is a charming city offering a living record of a magnificent past and is set around an attractive man-made lake in scenic hill country. It is also the site of Sri Lanka’s greatest annual spectacle, the Esala Perahera festival in August, also known as the Festival of the Moon when thousands of people from all parts of the country and from foreign countries throng to the Hill Capital to witness the magnificent spectacle. Elephants are paraded in the courtyards of the temple during Esala Perahera. Kandy’s star attraction is the ornate Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) which houses a sacred relic in well-guarded casket. Local women sell lotus flowers to worshippers and monkeys scamper around the buildings.
Sri Lanka’s cool hill country offers a welcome antidote to the heat of the coast and low-lying plains. Situated amongst verdant tea plantations and at an elevation of 1990 m, Nuwara Eliya is one of the highest and most attractive towns in Sri Lanka’s hill region. Built by English tea growers, it remained their favourite hill station during colonial times. Nuwara Eliya boasts the best golf course in Sri Lanka and is home to the impressive Hakgala Botanical Gardens.
The glory of mediaeval Sri Lanka is seen at Polonnaruwa, the mediaeval capital of the Island. An ancient and compact city, Polonnaruwa features 12th-century stone sculptures and the Gal Vihara – comprising three enormous Buddha figures, one reclining (it’s 13 m long), one standing and one sitting. The statues, located in a cluster along a dirt road, are revered as being amongst the most sacred monuments in Sri Lanka. There are also palace ruins, great bas-reliefs and friezes. Highly recommended!
Located atop a rock plateau overlooking verdant jungle and a vast plain is Sigiriya, the mysterious remains of the 5th-century fortress of King Kasyapa. These ruins of Sigiriya are the most unique of the ancient sites in Sri Lanka. Be sure to brave the rickety-looking spiral staircase to see the awesome 1500-year old painted frescoes located beneath an overhang about 90m up the rock. This archaeological site, unparalleled in South Asia, is a place of pilgrimage for Sri Lankans and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
One of the most popular attractions in Sri Lanka is the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, home to abandoned or orphaned wild young elephants including babies. Situated in the hill country near Kegalle, around 60 elephants are fed, bathed and cared for at this sanctuary of sorts. Perhaps the star attraction is viewing the elephants enjoying their daily river soak. Pinnewala rates highly with lovers of animals.