Seductive beaches, lazy lagoons, majestic mountains, endless expanse of tree plantations, ancient temples and awe-inspiring religious festivals – that is Sri Lanka for you – exotic East at its best. There is much that you can do and see in this beautiful island that is also referred to as the Pearl of the Orient.
The island encompasses within its compact size not less than eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Golden Temple of Dambulla, Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications, Sacred City of Anuradhapura and Kandy. There are two natural wonders that have also made it to the list and these include Central Highlands of Sri Lanka and Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The capital city Colombo, complete with exotic smells, market places and museums attracts its share of visitors. However, it is peace and quiet that you seek, head to Galle or Kandy.
Although the list of things to see and do is exhaustive, here are some highlights of the island that you may wish to include in your itinerary.
Sri Lanka sightseeing
National Museum: The museum which was established in 1877, houses an impressive collection of antiques and pieces of art and so if you are interested to know more about the country’s cultural background, the museum is the place to visit. There are exhibits from archaeological sites from all over the country, besides more than 4,000 ancient palm leaf manuscripts.
Pettah: For the shopaholics, the Pettah market is the place in the capital city to head to. From local handicrafts to branded goods, to all types of merchandise, you will find it all here amidst the hustle and bustle.
Zoological Gardens: If all the chaos proves to be a bit unnerving, head to the quiet environs of the Colombo zoo, housing an interesting collection of animals, birds, reptiles and fish from all over the world. Of particular interest is the flora and fauna not to forget the aquarium, which is one of its kinds in Asia. It showcases more than 500 species of marine life. Then there is the walk-through aviary, butterfly park and an elephant show in the evening which will catch your interest.
Anuradhapura: This UNESCO World Heritage Site, about 120 miles from Colombo, is located in a jungle which for centuries hid away palaces, monasteries and other monuments dating back to as far back as the 3rd century BC. It was the capital of the island more than ten centuries ago till it was invaded in 993 AD. Anuradhapura was and is still considered sacred given that is was first found around a fig tree grown from a cutting of Buddha’s ‘tree of enlightenment’. Visit the city and you will be able to see beautiful sculptures, carvings, ruined palaces and monasteries, bathing ponds and irrigation tanks
Galle: Located about 60 miles from Colombo the port town of Galle is dominated by the 36-hectare a(89-acre) Dutch Fort. Built in 1663, it encompasses within its walls Dutch homesteads, museums and churches.
Aside from its historical and cultural sites, attractions in Sri Lanka also include luxurious Ayurveda spas and several contemporary shopping sites. Its scenic surroundings form an ideal background for couples to get married.