Visit Sri Lanka without a single expectation and you will leave refreshed and enlightened. With overwhelming natural beauty, beautiful beaches unknown by many and adventure sports, Sri Lanka is a small country with almost unsurpassable natural beauty, pristine beaches, nature, historical significance and landmarks.
Where is Sri Lanka?
The island of Sri Lanka lies immediately South of India in South Asia. Sri Lanka has no borders and is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. India and Sri Lanka are separated by the Palk Strait.
Your challenge when visiting Sri Lanka? .... To get the right mix of relaxation, nature and activities. Depending on where you stay will really determine what activities you will be able to do. Many of these Island countries throughout the tropical areas of South East Asia are strikingly similar in terms of having plenty of activities to do and plenty of things to see.
Did you Know?
Sri Lanka was named ‘The Kingdom of Tambapanni’ - (meaning copper-red earth - by legendary Prince Vijaya, King of Sri Lanka circa 543-505 BCE) because his followers’ hands were reddened by the red soil of the area.
Where to visit in Sri Lanka?
Where to visit totally depends on what you like to do most on vacation and what you would like to see that is traditional to Sri Lanka. If you like beach holidays, the typical areas that will be of interest include Beruwela (near Colombo), Mirissa and Arugam Bay (good surfing spots) and Mirissa particularly for Whale watching. Sri Lanka are famous for their amazing Safari’s. Yale National Park is stunningly beautiful and will give you a great chance to see some beautiful local animals in a Wildlife Jeep Safari. Furthermore, for nature and adventure seekers (white wafter rafting et al) Kitugala is a great spot to visit.
For historical sights, you can visit Anuradhapura (the Ancient Capital), Sinharaja Rainforest (A World Heritage) and Sigiriya (and the beautiful Ancient Sirigya Rock Fortress).
The many regions of Sri Lanka….
There are 9 provinces or Regions within Sri Lanka. The five (5) main regions attracting the most tourists include:
Includes towns such as Kandy, Matale and Nuwara Eliya.
You can expect to see tea plantations, waterfalls and valleys. The beautiful area of Nuwarea Eliya is a beautiful place to be.
There are many hotels there also.
The Countries Official Capital ‘Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte’ is found in this region, as is Colombo (Sri Lanka’s Commercial Capital).
There are a few popular beaches in this region as well as
Other towns in this region include Gampaha and Negombo.
The Southern Province - (Towns including Galle, Matara, Unawatuna, Yala National Park)
The Southern Province has a lot to offer, from surf beaches, adventure sports, stunning National Parks and Whale Watching).
Yale National Park is the most visited National Park in Sri Lanka where you can expect to see leopards, elephants, crocodiles and more beautiful wild animals.
The Northern Central Province is beautifully rich in history. The area is commonly known as the cultural triangle.
You can expect to see the ancient kingdoms of Sri Lanka - dating over 2,500 years.
Not typically touristy like the beaches or other places, this province features landmarks and significant sights such as Sigiriya. Referred by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World, this ancient palace and fortress complex has significant importance, particularly amongst archaeologists.
The 5th Province that must have mention is Uva. This region features beautiful highland hill retreats.
Cities within this region include Badulla, Haputale and Bandarawela. You would expect to see forest areas, and retreats in the hills, town markets also make a lovely feature.
ACTIVITIES and SIGHTS
There are countless activities that you can include in your visit to Sri Lanka. To make your visit unforgettable, consider the following recommended activities, should you have time:
A Wildlife Safari Visit
A visit to one of Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Safari Parks is well worth the time. Yala National Park, in the Southern Province is a very popular Tourist Park. Speak with your hotel to have them validate that this is the most practical and best national Park to visit nearest to your Hotel. They may have other options, and of course enquire about shuttle or private car facilities to ensure that reaching the Park is possible and suitable.
Take 1 full day to enjoy a Safari Park trip. It may take you this long to actually ‘get there’ and spend a few hours there.
Don't forget to...
Bring the Camera, your hat and sunscreen. Remember to keep the number of your driver/tour guide, hotel and any other important numbers whilst you travel around.
Spend a day visiting temples or historically significant landmarks
Doing this will give you a greater appreciation for local the cultural practices and beliefs.
There are some fascinating and beautiful archaeological ruins and attractions that you will enjoy. The Northern Central Province is the most significant of areas to visit for ancient and archaeologically relevant sites.
Step back in time by emerging yourself in the temples, palaces and fortresses of yesteryear.
Spend at least a day visiting the sites that interest you the most. You may find that there are many attractions/landmarks that you may want to see and in terms of time, you may wish to spread these places over a period of a couple, if not a few days.
Speak with your hotel to arrange a suitable itinerary.
Don't forget to...
Before you leave home, research as much as you can the temples, sites, attractions and significant sites that interest you the most.
This way, when you speak with your hotel, tour guide, or driver, and that way you are familiar with the landmarks, and you can make a decision easier when you are actually in Sri Lanka.
Ancient Palace and Fortress of Sigiriya
Revered by the local people of Sri Lanka is the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, located in the Central Matale District (Central Province). Considered as the Eighth Wonder of the World by many, this sacred ancient palace and fortress comples is extremely important to the locals. The Rocky Plateau of Sigiriya served as a monastery since the 3rd century, B.C. Since then King Kasyapa constructed a Royal Residence there.
Reserve 1 full day for Sigiriya, as you may need that time to reach this beautiful landmark.
Definitely do not forget your Camera.
Kosgoda Turtle Conservation (KSTCP)
One of the most inspiring places to see in Sri Lanka in terms of animal conservation.
The main aim of the project is to monitor local sea turtle activity and conserve the local nesting sites.
Located on Galle Road, Kosgoda, this place is so very inspiring and beautiful.
Entry fee is 500 Dhs.
"Dudley Perera's project has been underway since 1988. We aim to make the public more aware of how endangered these beautiful creatures are and just how important it is to help protect them before it is too late.”
Take 1/2 day to spend getting there and visiting the Turtle Conservation (park).
Don't forget to...
Be polite and bring the right change (500 Sri Lankan Rupees) and perhaps a little more for a small donation.
BONUS Luxury Activity
Sri Lanka is renowned for its stunning gems and particularly the Moonstone. Should you have the time and the opportunity, try to make some time to visit a moonstone or gem mine. A couple of the mines will take you on a tour of the old-fashioned working mine. It is very interesting. The area with a few mines is Mitiyagoda. Speak with your driver or hotel about locating one of the moonstone mines and stores.
Remember - Chances are, if you are taken on a tourist tour (as such), your driver may offer to take you to a designated moonstone or gem mine nearby your chosen activity. And remember, many of the drivers work may be slightly compensated by taking you there.
In any country, there is buyer beware, and you must consider that this is still considered a Tourist Activity.
There is every chance that the tourist guide or even your driver may be pushy and try to strongly convince you to stop at one if not more touristy areas. If this is an activity that you really do not want to partake in, convincingly say that you are not interested.
This being said, even if you leave Sri Lanka with a simple and inexpensive Moonstone, and an experience watching how moonstone gems are still mined, it is not a bad experience. A little token from an experience is always a nice thing.
So, the basics of Sri Lanka…
Ensure to find out if you need a visa before you travel to Sri Lanka.
Contact the Consulate General of Sri Lanka- Dubai on 04 398 6535, or visit them at 8 C Street, Al Mankhool Road, (Dubai) near Al Hudaiba. (Bur Dubai Consulate area).
There are two significant languages spoken in Sri Lanka. Sinhala and Tamil.
The majority, Sinhalese speaks Sinhala where as the Tamil and Muslim Groups speak Tamil. These are Sri Lanka’s two official languages.
English is commonly used in most areas, particularly in Colombo, Kandy and Galle - and of course by government and tourism officials.
But do not expect most people to be very fluent in English.
How to greet people in Sinhala
“Ayubowan” (is ‘may you live longer’)
“Bohemia Sthuthi” (is Thank you)
‘Kohomada’ (is “How are you?” - pronounced Ko homede)
How to greet people in Tamil
“Nandi” (is Thank you)
The Sri Lankan currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR).
In terms of gratuities, should you wish to tip 10-15Dhs, which is accepted in the service industry, this would be equivalent to 395 - 590 LKR (Rs). It is common practice to tip for food preparation and delivery and services, very similar to the practices within the UAE.
The most dominant religion practiced in Sri Lanka is Buddhism, however, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are widely practiced., just not as predominately as Buddhism.
So, when is the best time to travel to Sri Lanka?
Because Sri Lanka is a tropical country, you can expect rainy weather at anytime, however, the rainy seasons are October-to-January (monsoon for the North-East) and May-to-July (monsoon for the South-West). The temperature changes throughout the country, however, with Central Sri Lanka ranging from -5-20⁰C and the dry zone (South Sri Lanka) sees a consistent 30-35⁰C.
Getting there from the UAE
Daily flights are available from the UAE through Etihad, Emirates and Sri Lankan Airways.
Tips to Great Success in travelling through Sri Lanka:
* Always carry cash (Rupees) on you. Unless you are familiar with the locations of ATM’s, you are best served having a little money on you. Try and plan what will you be doing each day so that you do not carry too much cash.
* Visit at least one temple in Sri Lanka during your visit.
* Always carry the important phone numbers with you (hotel, emergency numbers et al), in case you are out and about and you need to make contact with them
* Be careful -photographing with your back to statues of the Buddha or posing inappropriately next to them are prohibited.
* Be wary of hawkers on the beaches. They are very persistent and annoying if you want just an enjoyable time on the beach.
If you are not interested in what they are trying to sell you, be firm when insisting that you are not interested.
* Without a doubt: Pack your mosquito repellant and also consult your Family Doctor about any vaccinations that may be recommended.
Where to Stay?
You may find it difficult to choose the right hotel. There are no true defined and places around Sri Lanka that is better than the other. It really depends on what sights and what activities are most important during your stay.
Our tips for choosing the right hotel:
Ensure your hotel has a shuttle or car available upon request (this helps with tours and private drivers etc)
Remember to book a hotel that have a well-considered Room Service. Local Sri Lankan food is seriously delicious, however, your children may not enjoy their spices and local cuisine as much as you.
Ensure your hotel have breakfast included in your package. This makes it easier for the family to fuel up on standard hotel type food.