Ever since its destructive decades-long civil war ended in 2009 Sri Lanka has been an increasingly popular tourist destination and it is easy to see why. Besides beautiful beaches and wildlife, it has a rich history and culture for visitors to delve into with awe-inspiring archaeological sites and ancient cultural landmarks on offer.
Surrounded by the shimmering waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka lies just to the south of India, only separated from the subcontinent by the narrow Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar. Aside from its long and lovely coastline, the pearl-shaped island has scenic hills and mountains of its highlands to explore while rushing rivers, large lagoons and twinkling waterfalls are dotted here and there.
Although it is now the island nation’s official capital, most visitors skip Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte and instead head straight to nearby Colombo. As well as being its largest city and main commercial center, the chaotic and congested metropolis has lots of interesting temples, museums and historical sites to check out with plenty of green gardens and vibrant markets too.
Among Sri Lanka’s main attractions, however, are Kandy – the cultural capital of the island – and the arresting archaeological sites of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Set in a spectacular spot, the last kingdom of the country has important and impressive sites, such as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and Royal Palace, which are littered with incredible old ruins.
Many visitors also head to Galle, Batticaloa and Trincomalee due to their scenic seaside settings and atmospheric forts and colonial architecture. Nuwara Eliya or ‘Little England’ is another great place to stop by as its delightful Victorian buildings are set amidst picturesque tea plantations.
Not to be missed is the remarkable rock fortress of Sigiriya which is perched atop a prominent peak overlooking the rest of the island with surfing along the coast and safaris around Yala National Park being yet other popular pastimes.