The commercial and financial capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo has a tropical climate and you can visit this place anytime of the year. Be prepared to get dazzled by the beauty and simplicity of this place as soon as you set your foot in the city. The world class museums and galleries in this city will help you get acquainted with the rich culture and heritage of Sri Lanka. The zoo and Galle Face Green Promenade should also be on your list of visiting places in Colombo. If you want to have a memorable souvenir from Sri Lanka, you can buy handmade items with beautifully used colored fabrics. For moving around the city, the best would be to go for a taxi or trishaw, or if you want to have the freedom of going any place on your own, you can even go for self driven car during your stay in Colombo.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Situated in Pinnawala village, this orphanage has the largest herd of captivated elephants in the whole world. According to the data collected in 2011, there were total of 88 elephants that included 37 males and 51 females. The orphanage was established in the year 1975 with a very good motive of providing protection to the orphaned wild elephants that wandered in the forests of Sri Lanka. This orphanage is loved by both local and foreign tourists. The best time to witness the elephants is during that time of the day when these elephants gather together to bath near the river bank. You can see them playing and interacting with each other at the river bank, and if you want to have a closer look on their lives, you can even see bottle feeding of baby elephants or even feeding of adult elephants for that matter. An admission fee is charged to the visitors before they can enter, and all of the revenue collected from this fee is used for the welfare of the elephants.
Located within the cultural triangle (formed by Kandy, Polannaruwa and Anuradhapura) in Sri Lanka, Sigiriya is loved by tourists for its red stone fortress that are up to 200m high, and the palace ruins that has remains of a beautiful network of reservoirs, gardens and other structures in its surrounding. There is an entry fee for getting inside the Ancient city of Sigiriya, which in March 2012 was around $30. You can walk up to the fort after entering the paid area, and you can even explore the gardens for it has a lot of history embedded in it. You can also move around the Sigiriya museum that is located outside the paid area. You will find a lot of stuffs to explore in Sigiriya, and this is why it should be on your list of destinations if you want to familiarize with the Sri Lankan history. Buses are available on regular intervals from the city of Dambulla, and you won’t have any problem in reaching Sigiriya.
It will take around 4-5 hours to reach Anuradhapura from Colombo. You can take a bus, or you can even reach Anuradhapura by a private vehicle. Anuradhapura is a very old city that was established in 900 BC, and then served as the capital of Sinhalese Kingdom till 1100 AD. Bodhi tree temple, i.e. considered as the second most sacred place in Sri Lanka after the Temple of Tooth is also situated in Anuradhapura. There are many other places of importance in the city like The Citadel, The Moonstone, Ruwanwelisaya, Jetavna, The Folk Museum, and many more. You can also visit shops, and buy some souvenirs for your friends and family from Anuradhapura New Town. There are many shops and markets here, which will provide you with an abundant option of things that you can buy. Just beware of Monkeys when at Anuradhapura, as they sometime can be a bit aggressive, and can take away things like cameras when left unattended.
If you want to witness Sri Lankan Architecture at its best, there is no place better than Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa is frequently visited by tourists for its nicely preserved city of ancient Dagobas, massive buildings, moonstones, beautiful parks and statues. It is no doubt one of the most well planned archaeological cities in Sri Lanka, and it has also been declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1982. The city is known for its clean and green environment, and is located at a distance of 216 km from Colombo. Polonnaruwa has a lot of history behind it, and it is the second most ancient city of Sri Lanka. The nice hospitality of people in Polonnaruwa, its amazing historical monuments and Parakrama Samudra (a big lake) will certainly leave you mesmerized with its beauty.
Dambulla Cave Temple
A world heritage site in Sri Lanka, Dambulla Cave Temple or the Golden Temple of Dambulla is located in the central part of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is also known for Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium that is famous for being built in just a span of 167 days. The temple cave complex of Sri Lanka consists of five caves situated under an overhanging rock which is carved with a drip line for keeping the interior of the caves dry. The largest cave of this temple complex, i.e. Cave of the great Kings has 16 standing and 40 seated statues of Buddha. Some of the Hindu gods are also present in this temple complex, along with few devoted disciples of Buddha. One cave in the complex even has more than 1500 paintings of Buddha painted on the ceilings. The cave temples will help you enlighten spiritually, and also it is a must visit for people believing in the principles of Buddha.
Kandy Temple of Tooth
Kandy is also known as the hill capital of the country, and it was the last standing kingdom in Sri Lanka before the country fell completely under the rule of the British. It is the most visited and photographed city in Sri Lanka, and Temple of Tooth is the biggest tourist attraction of the city. Apart from being a fine example of Sri Lankan architecture, Temple of Tooth is also an important place for Buddhists all over the world. The tooth relic has played a significant rule since a long time in Sri Lanka because of the belief that whoever holds the relic will rule the country. Monks conduct daily worship in the temple and rituals are performed three times each day. There are various ways to reach Kandy, by train, bus or your own private car. Although you won’t be allowed to see the tooth relic itself, yet the casket in which the relic is kept is displayed twice each day.
It is a national park that is located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The rich biodiversity of this place consists of various species, some of which are even endemic to this place. It is a very popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka, and the key attraction of this forest is the Worlds end which is basically a 3700 feet sheer drop from where you can get amazing view of teas estate located below and the distant southern coastline. The park is spread in over 10000 hectares, and is without any doubt one of the most well preserved national forest in the world. The Bakers waterfall and Slab rocks waterfall are also loved by the tourists who visit this forest. With so much to provide in terms of beauty and sights, Horton Plains is certainly a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.
Peradeniya Botanical Garden
Created by King Kirti Sri RajaSinha, it was initially a garden that now has around 150 acres of trees, flowering shrubs and lawns. It also includes 50 acres of arboretum that consists of more than 10000 trees. It was much later in 1821 that the British authorities converted this royal park in a botanical garden, and currently it is the largest botanical garden in the country. An important attraction in the garden is a lake that is situated in the central part of the garden. The unique feature of the lake is that it is in the shape of Sri Lankan island. The visiting time of the garden is from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM. It is a perfect place to relax amidst pristine natural beauty and if you are traveling with kids, then they too will surely love this place.
Yala National Park
This Park is known all over the world for its highest concentration of leopards among all other forests. The Yala National park is basically a shrub jungle and you can also find several salt and fresh water lagoons in the forest. The forest is regularly visited by documentary makers from BBC and Discovery Channel, who try to capture the natural beauty of this forest for the rest of the world to see. Visitors to this park can easily spot leopards, elephants, Sambar, Sloth Bear, jackal, mongoose, wild buffaloes, wild boar, macaque monkeys and langur. The bird variety of the forest is also very famous with more than 130 different species of birds. The wildlife diversity along with the natural beauty of the forest is very captivating and will indeed create an everlasting trace in your memory.
Rekawa Turtle Watching
The sea water of Sri Lanka five out of the seven species of sea turtles found in the world, which makes this country one of the finest places for turtle watching. The Turtle observation camp of Rekawa is one of the most loved places in Sri Lanka for watching turtles, and it is also a great place for those people who want to escape the busy life of cities and relax while watching turtles. The camp has two special private cabanas just in front of the charming beach, and this is a great place for couples to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed surrounding. The sight of turtle coming ashore and laying eggs will make you fall in love with these shy creatures that rarely come in contact with humans. Be prepared to have a lifetime experience watching turtles at Rekawa, if you are visiting this place.
Galle Ancient Dutch Fort
This fort is situated in the Bay of Galle, and it was made in the year 1588. Galle Fort is a rare historical jewel of Sri Lanka, and it is protected by dark, thick walls made of stone on one side and endless ocean on the other. A walk in this fort will revive history in front of your eyes when you will pass through various places in the fort like Sao Lago, Cavaliar, Middle Punt, Sao Antonio, Porte Da Miro and so on. The clock tower, the lighthouse, the Meera Mosque and the Buddhist temple are some other places of interest inside the fort. With an unchallenged historical significance, this fort is certainly the best preserved fortified city in South East Asia. The best time for the tourists to visit this fort is during evening when the weather is calm and relaxing.