With rugged mountains, untouched beaches and fertile soil that grows coconuts, tea and spices, Sri Lanka offers travelers a wondrous mix of experiences unmatched for an island of its size.
Today the country’s rich heritage, delectable cuisine and astonishing wildlife are more accessible than ever, thanks to an ever-improving public transport system. Trains, buses, coaches and tuk-tuks carry visitors to all parts of the island at various price points. But with so many charming places to choose from, where does one start?
Depending on what you’re looking for – art, culture, history – what you put down on your Sri Lanka itinerary is bound to change. Still, here’s our selection of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka to get you started.
Best for exploring on foot
No Sri Lanka itinerary is complete without Colombo, the country’s culturally diverse hub. (But not its capital – that’s actually Sri Jayawardenepura-Kotte!) An ideal first taste of Sri Lanka, with tuk-tuks, cars and buses rushing through busy lanes, Colombo is renowned for its landmark buildings around the cosmopolitan Fort district, including the terracotta-roofed Dutch Hospital.
Be sure to spend some time at Galle Face Green, a seaside promenade where hundreds of families gather to dip their toes in the sea at sunset and children fly kites overhead. Order yourself isso wade, batter-fried shrimp with a generous squeeze of lime juice, and people watch.
Planning tip: While Colombo is a safe and walkable city, tuk-tuks are inexpensive and convenient for getting around. Always check that your tuk-tuk has a working meter before you get in to ensure you pay the correct fare for your ride.
Best for history buffs and art aficionados
With ornate ponds, royal sleeping chambers and majestic lion paws carved into the base of the rock, the colossal granite fortress of Sigiriya is easily Sri Lanka’s most recognizable site, peeking out of a thick jungle canopy for a glimpse of the ancient kingdom of Kassapa.
Although its frescoes – images of bare-breasted women adorned in jewelry with flowers in their hair – are famous, the view from the top of the rock is unparalleled. A hush of calm echoes over the terraced summit, which covers 1.6 hectares (4 acres).
Planning tip: Get here around 7am – the cooler morning air makes for a pleasant walk up the 1200 steps to the top. Aim to head back down before noon (before the rock surface gets too hot), stay hydrated and wear soft shoes with tread.
Best for experiencing Buddhist culture
Anuradhapura looks misleadingly like any other Sri Lankan town when you arrive: an unremarkable clock tower, a single train station and small shops lining a busy main road. But the town's simple facade gives nothing away regarding the
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Train travel has seen a surge in popularity with the growing emphasis on slow travel and making a holiday more sustainable. The latest government data on train travel shows that there was a 155% increase in passenger rail journeys last year. Furthermore, research shows that 64% of UK travellers are searching for green travel options, including choosing more environmentally friendly transport options and sustainable accommodation. VisitScotland’s new campaign encourages people to enjoy train travel by promoting a route that connects all of Scotland’s historic cities by train.
Travel searches by Indian travelers for Thailand have spiked. Online travel agency Agoda’s search data for the peak December travel period shows recent visa policy changes have impacted travel preferences and top destination choices for Indian travelers.
As a proud member of the oneworld Alliance, SriLankan Airlines presently connects its hub, Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, with various points across South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Far East, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.
The ultimate tropical getaway, the Caribbean conjures images of palm-fringed beaches, rum-fueled dancing and lush jungle excursions. Pick any of the 700-odd islands that form an arc between Florida and Venezuela and you’ll get all these things and more.
December is upon us and for folks in Miami— or in the art world— that means: Art Basel Miami Beach. From December 6 to 10 (by-invitation private viewings are on December 6 and 7), the Miami Beach Convention Center will be home to 277 galleries; 25 of which will be participating for the first time, with two-thirds hailing from North and Latin America. In mediums ranging from paintings and sculptures to photography and digital art, some of the resounding themes this year include works that speak to nature, as well as cultural and spiritual geographies.
After Sri Lanka and Thailand, Vietnam is likely to be the next destination to offer visa-free entry to Indians. According to local media, Vietnam Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung suggested it allow Indians and Chinese to visit without a visa for a short period. As of now, only nationals of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland can enter Vietnam without a visa.
It's 10 p.m. and I'm riding pillion on a vintage Vespa through the traffic-choked streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Hair is lashing my face and sweat is pouring off my brow. My baby-faced driver doesn't speak a lick of English, nor I Vietnamese, but I know my euphoric smile says it all: I'm having the time of my life.
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