Article commissioned by Travel Start, South Africa
Sri Lanka is not all about cricket, this serendipitous isle off the coastline of India has been thrust into the spotlight as one of the Top Travel destinations for 2019. It is infused with undulating natural attractions and its ancient Buddhist sites reveal a true atmosphere of the past.
Wander through its tea trails found in rolling verdant hills or take part in a safari to witness the smallest and gentleness of its mighty elephants. Its idyllic beaches are pristine with crystal clear waters and golden sands evoking within you a frozen-in-time nostalgia.
It is fabulous, culturally diverse, safe and probably the highlight; a cost-effective country for South Africans travelling on just about any budget. Here are a few of our recommendations for the best beaches, ancient cities and natural spots to help you plan out your perfect trip.
If your idea of the perfect island holiday is all about beaches, then Sri Lanka will not disappoint you. Here are a few seriously beautiful golden shores that are perfect for just about any travel style.
Just got married? Then you will love the serene and romantic atmosphere of Dickwella beach. It is a favourite amongst newlyweds and home to Sri Lanka’s most plush resorts.
Hiriketiya Bay is nearby and is a little slice of paradise. It’s an ideal beach for sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling and learning about Sri Lanka’s traditional way of lace making.
Hikkaduwa beach is geared toward partygoers. It is the most happening spot during its annual 3-day beach festival seeing an abundance of international DJs creating an electric vibe.
Unawatuna beach is a favourite when visiting the charming town of Galle. Not only is the coastline picturesque with colourful houses, but the sunsets here are sure to take your breath away.
Why you will love it: It is the perfect beach for water sports, scuba diving, and snorkelling and a known spot for turtles nesting. If you are lucky enough, you could spot a whale shark.
Passekudah and Kalkudah
The crystal clear waters of these two beaches are perfect for those family holidays. Offering plenty of activities for all ages. Boat rides, jet skiing and beach volleyball are just a few examples of what is on offer.
Love surfing? Then the laid-back Marissa beach is for you. It is also one of the best places in the world for spotting blue and sperm whales that frequent this coastline.
This beach is for nature lovers. Here, early in the morning, you can spot elephants wandering its shores. Not to mention you’ll get a glimpse into the local life of its fisherman.
Kandy and it’s Buddhist Relics
You will just love the hill station of Kandy. Amid the forested halo, you will find colourful houses, a blend of cultures, Buddhist relics, an intriguing past and an abundance of nature. It is Sri Lanka’s second-largest city and is recognised as the last standing kingdom.
Kandy was first established by a King in the 13th century and later taken over by the British. Their invasion deposed the King, thus ending the last traditional monarchy of Sri Lanka. Even after its conquest by the British,
Kandy has retained its unique charm and still to this day is the religious capital for Buddhists seeking pilgrimage.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
The most impressive of all Kandyan architecture is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. It is one of Buddhism’s most sacred shrines and houses Budda’s tooth.
Whilst you can’t actually see the tooth, as it is kept in a gold casket shaped like a stupa (dome-shaped), you are able to come in close proximity to it during puja (offerings or prayers). During this time the heavily guarded room housing the tooth is open to devotees and tourists.
Within the temple complex, you will find the World Buddhism Museum containing a large number of statues, photographs, models and displays illustrating Buddhism around the world.
Hantane Tea Factory
Sri Lanka is known for its tea. In fact, it is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world. At the 1925 vintage Hanthana tea factory, now open to the public, you can view various types of teas and see vintage tea-processing paraphernalia.
The city’s centrepiece lake (Kandy Lake) is the pearl adorning the heart of the city. It is known as the sea of milk and its centre island holds some interesting myths.
One such myth is this: some believe it was used by the king’s helm for bathing and was connected to the palace by a secret tunnel.
Sigiriya – The 8th World Wonder
The UNESCO world heritage site of Sigiriya is not to be missed. This ancient stone fortress is a prime example of the creativity and talent of Sigiriya builders and rests atop a 200-metre magma rock of an extinct volcano.
Locals like to refer to Sigiriya as the 8th World Wonder as it displays a unique harmony between nature and human imagination. It is no surprise why this valuable historical monument is the most visited.
It is surrounded by forests and the view from the top will leave you astonished which will be worth the climb. Previously it was a royal residence and later became a Monastery before being abandoned. The term Sigiriya originates from the word Sihagri meaning Lion Rock.
The elaborate stone lion entrance on the northern side of the rock pays tribute to its original meaning. Inside its fortified walls, you will find the remains of a ruined palace, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys and fountains.
Today, the inscriptions and watercolour paintings found in its most western-facing walls tell a detailed story. Some of these frescoes celebrate the female beauty and are considered to be either the portraits of Kasyapa’s wives and concubines or priestesses performing religious rituals.
Interestingly, and this will come as such a surprise, Sigiriya has been open to tourists for thousands of years. This can be seen through many visitor signatures inscribed on its walls.
What’s more, the mirror wall is of particular interest. In the past, it was polished so thoroughly that the King could see his reflection on it.
Article commissioned by Travel Start, South Africa