From all corners of this enchanted isle come clouds of small yellow butterflies, drawn as if by magnets to the hill country of southwestern Sri Lanka. Drifting above thousands of pilgrims as they toil up the mountain, the butterflies eventually reach the summit where a sacred footprint is embedded in a rock. Here, the butterflies die. Or, as Buddhists believe, have been reincarnated into another form. Their final flight of pilgrimage is to awe-inspiring Adam’s Peak, a shared icon of four great faiths.
Most holiday packages in Sri Lanka do not miss the Golden Temple of Dambulla.
Dating back to the First Century BC, the Golden Temple of Dambulla has been the centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus alike for 22 centuries. It is Sri Lanka’s most popular historic site. The Cave monastery, home to Buddhist monks is covered with exquisite 2,000 year-old murals depicting the life and times of the Lord Buddha. The shrines also house a collection of 157 statues of Buddha in various sizes and poses, including a 15 metre long reclining Buddha and vividly coloured frescoes on the walls and ceiling, making this the largest antique painted surface in the world.
Anuradhapura was a major city in ancient Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilization. It was the third capital of the Kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.
Sigiriya or Sinhagiri is an ancient rock fortress located in the central Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres (660 ft) high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Chulavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sinhagiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace were abandoned after the king's death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. Most holiday packages in Sri Lanka include Sigiriya.
Sacred Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
The sacred Temple of the Tooth in the historic city of Kandy houses one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics and draws followers of the Buddhist faith from all over the world. The Royal Complex situated around the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake – comprising of the King’s Palace, the Queens Palace, the Audience Hall, the Royal Boathouse and the Royal Summer House, represent the grandeur of ancient Sri Lankan architecture. The last stronghold of the Sri Lankan kings against a series of colonial invaders was at Kandy, at 500 metres in the Hill Country. Now a bustling city, Kandy still remains a sanctuary for traditional Sinhalese culture, with a number of important heritage sites in and around the city. Most holiday packages in Sri Lanka do not miss Kandy where many tourists fascinate.
Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands comprising of Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest have been the most recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list, and was designated a natural heritage site in mid 2010. These montane forests, where the land rises to 2,500 metres above sea-level, are home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. The area is home to the Bear Monkey – the highland race of the endemic Purple-faced Leaf Monkey. In the Peak Wilderness, a small herd of elephants still roams.
Dutch Fort, Galle
Dutch Fort at Galle, close to the island’s southernmost point, 173km from Colombo, has the distinction of being the best-preserved sea fort in South Asia. A living heritage site, this 90 hectare (222 acre) attraction is a superb blend of architecture, with fortifications that resemble those in the coastal areas of Portugal. The fall of Galle to the Dutch in 1640 saw its fortifications consolidated further along the lines of the fortified cities of Europe. The Dutch and the English colonial styles are evident in the deep verandahs of houses supported by timber or masonry pillars. Originally established by the Portuguese in the 16th Century, it reached its zenith under Dutch rule in the 18th Century, providing spacious housing, wide roads and all necessary facilities within its walls including an intricate sewage system that was ahead of its time.
Polonnaruwa was established as the second capital after Anuradhapura in ancient Sri Lanka. Under King Parakramabu, who ruled in the late 11th century, Polonnaruwa became a magnificent walled city. He built the vast reservoir, Parakrama Samudra (the Sea of Parakrama) still in use today, and ordered the construction of monasteries, temples, palaces, bathing pools and Buddhist statues. The remains of Polonnaruwa are so numerous that only a few highlights can be mentioned. One of the most striking of the many sites is Polonnaruwa’s Gal Vihara or Rock Shrine, the reclining Lord Buddha is near another statue showing him seated in deep meditation, his throne adorned with lions and thunderbolts. A second seated Lord Buddha, surrounded by other deities including Brahma and Vishnu, is set within a cave cut into the rock face that still bears traces of the frescoes which once decorated the walls. The fourth Gal Vihara statue departs from the conventional poses by depicting the Lord Buddha as a seven-meter tall standing figure with arms crossed.
Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, in Sri Lanka. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir. The reserve covers 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and was established on 30 June 1972. Before the designation of it as a national park, the area was used for shifting cultivation (chenafarming). The farmers were gradually removed once it was declared as a national park. The park is 165 kilometres (103 mi) from Colombo. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country.
Many people claim that the beaches around Tangalle have the softest sand and the safest sea along the entire south coast. Tangalle seems set to become the most exclusive of the beaches along the south coast, and offers a chance to scuba dive around the coral reef protecting its four kilometres of sandy beach, and to explore a couple of wrecks. You could also watch nesting marine turtles drag themselves ashore at night to lay their eggs at Rekwalla. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Tangalle beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
The delightful sandy beach of Mirissa was once a well-kept secret, but not surprisingly, more guesthouses, inns and bungalows are now opening up to visitors. Mirissa boasts a safe, gently sloping beach where the sea is free from rocks, with coconut palms growing right to the edge of the sand as if in imitation of a postcard of the perfect tropical beach. Off the coast of Mirissa, the gentle giants of the sea-Blue Whales frolic with bottlenose Dolphins, Sperm Whales and Humpbacks. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Mirissa beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Trincomalee , Nilaveli and Uppaveli
Trincomalee is a world renowned natural deep water harbour, located 257kms Northeast of Colombo. The bay is large and secure and is accessible by all types of crafts in any weather. The Trincomalee beaches are popular for whale watching, fishing and scuba diving. Apart from its tranquil beaches, the city boasts of the largest Dutch fort in Sri Lanka, its naval bases and its air force base. Nilaveli is a quiet pristine beach on the Northeast coast of Sri Lanka. Uppaveli is another beautiful and serene beach close to Trincomalee, which offers plenty of comfortable accommodation in the area, for those who can’t seem to get away from bliss. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Nilaveli beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
The Kosgoda beach is a popular destination for marine life enthusiasts, as it is home to many marine turtles and turtle hatcheries. The marine turtles come ashore at night and lay their eggs in tiny holes. Then they cover up their eggs and return to the sea before dawn. Many turtle hatcheries have been set up along the coast to protect the eggs and turtles from predators. The hatcheries care for the turtle hatchlings till they are about 2-4 days old and then released back to the sea. October to April is the main laying season, but some eggs can be found at Kosgoda throughout the year. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Kosgoda beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Just 7kms from the Bandaranaike International Airport, at the tip of the Negombo lagoon lies the busy Negombo beach. Lush coconut palms and mangroves run along the beach, while the age old catamarans, outrigger canoes, and the more modern trawlers gently bounce at sea. Negombo is a famous fishing village that is equally proud of its Dutch fort and other Dutch period architecture.
Pasikuda and Kalkuda
Pasikuda and Kalkuda are unspoilt beaches in the East coast of Sri Lanka, close to the town of Batticaloa. The white sands, clear blue water, and the stillness of the sea are both captivating and unparalleled by far. Pasikuda is known to have one of the longest stretches of shallow coastlines in the world. After the 2004 Tsunami and with the end of the Civil war, these beaches have regained its popularity among the locals and tourists alike. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Pasikuda beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Located 314km from Colombo, Arugam Bay is an internationally acclaimed hot spot for surfing. The very first international surfing competition was held by the International Surfing Association (ISA) in the summer of 2004 at Arugam Bay. The surfing season in Arugam Bay begins in April and ends in October. It’s not just the surfing, but the coral reefs, the abundance of tropical fish and the lovely sceneries of mangroves, jungles, lagoons, rivers, rice fields and sand dunes make Arugam Bay a sight to behold. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Arugam Bay beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village, 13 km (8.1 mi) northeast of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. Pinnawala is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 39 males and 49 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala.
One the most picturesque beaches that has made it to the list of ‘top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world’ as voted by the Discovery Channel and Mark Ellingham, the founder of 'Rough Guides'. Unawatuna is located on the southward Galle coast; a semi-circular beach of golden sands and soft rolling waves, perfect for relaxing, swimming and diving. Unawatuna is protected by a natural reef and also provides some interesting wreck sites for those in the mood for a dive. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Unawatuna beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Hikkaduwa, almost 100 kilometers south of Colombo, has long been known as Sri Lanka’s most popular beach resort, famed for its surf and coral reef as well as its wide range of accommodation, food, fun and shopping. This is perhaps the only coastal region where that special holiday feeling dominates town, with shops selling resort wear, renting out bicycles, offering courses in scuba diving and selling all kinds of local souvenirs, batik fabric and jewellery. Today it’s a favorite of the young visitors and the vibrant nightlife also attracts young Sri Lankans looking for out-of-town fun and entertainment on the weekends. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Hikkaduwa beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Beruwela and Bentota
Beruwala and Bentota are popular exotic beaches along the Colombo- Galle road located about 65km from Colombo. The Bentota lagoon stretches parallel to the beach adding a vista of tranquillity, with its tropical greenery and islets rich in bird life. Beruwala and Bentota are havens to tourists with accommodation to suit every budget, a range of Ayurveda treatments, and an array of water sports leaving the adventurer spoilt for choice! This tourist destination offers you water skiing on the rivers or estuaries, snorkelling, scuba diving, wind surfing, parasailing, fishing and a host of other activities to suit your mood. If you are a beach lover do not forget to include Beruwela beach in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu National Park (Willu-pattu; Land of Lakes) is a park located on the island of Sri Lanka. The unique feature of this park is the existence of "Willus" (Natural lakes) - Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. Located in the Northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka. The park is located 30 km west of Anuradhapura and 26 km north of Puttalam (approximately 180 km north of Colombo). The park is 131, 693 hectares and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Nearly sixty lakes (Willu) and tanks are found spread throughout Wilpattu. Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka.
While the winds of change blow softly but surely through the legendary rolling hills of Sri Lanka’s tea estates, the beautiful scenery that captivated Sir Thomas Lipton - who fell in love with the spectacular scenery around Dambatenne – still remains. From the highest spot in the region — a point known today as Lipton’s Seat — he would gaze over one of the most dramatic regions of the country, the seemingly endless hills and tumbling waterfalls giving way almost abruptly to the southern plains, which stretch as far as the eye can see, all the way to the coast. Centuries later, the enchantment of the tea country, its mystique and romance lives on. Hundreds of miles of green velvet smothers the mountainside, the soft mist settles to cloak the surroundings in romance and mystery and the quaint, little cottages beckon you with the tantalizing aromas of freshly brewed Ceylon tea.
A famous botanist once declared that Sri Lanka is simply one big botanical garden, nurtured by Nature itself. The Botanical Garden in Peradeniya was formally established in 1843 and another garden was set up in the hill country, established in 1861 at Hakgala south of Nuwara Eliya. In 1876, yet another garden was established, this time in the lowlands at Henarathgoda, the Gampaha Botanic Gardens, designated for the trial planting of the country’s first Rubber trees. Other private gardens such as the famous Lunuganga and “Brief”, designed by the world-renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa and his brother, landscape artist Bevis Bawa, bring to life the paradisiacal charm that is refreshingly Sri Lanka’s.
Kandy Esala Perahera
The month of Esala (July), during which period this annual pageant is usually held, has been considered a month of celebrations and festivity, both among Indians and Sri Lankans. Even from the lifetime of the Buddha in the 6th century BC, the Esala festival was held to commemorate the Buddha's Conception, his Renunciation and the First Sermon. Esala is also considered to be the beginning of the raining season (Vassana) when the monks commence their Retreat. Also, this month is considered to be the period when ritual performances to the protective divinities are held, (eg Pattini puja) as recorded in the text 'Pattini-Halla'.
One of Sri Lanka's most beautiful waterfalls, Dunhinda cascades from a height of 210 feet and gets its name from the smoky spray that it creates at the bottom of the waterfall. If you are a nature lover do not forget to include Dunhinda Falls in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
This breathtaking rush of water is the 3rd highest waterfall in the island. If you are a nature lover do not forget to include Diyaluma Falls in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Deriving its name from the famous king 'Raavana' of the Indian epic " the Raamayana", Raavana falls is a magical sight, with the rush of water over numerous steps adding to its ethereal beauty. If you are a nature lover do not forget to include Ravana Falls in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Situated in close proximity to Colombo, the Bopath falls resembles the leaf of the sacred Bo tree, hence the name. If you are a nature lover do not forget to include Bopath Falls in your holiday packages in Sri Lanka.
Tanks and Waterways
As long as 2,300 years ago, Sri Lanka began developing a highly sophisticated system of hydraulic engineering, equal to that of ancient Egypt and Persia. The only other Asian civilization to achieve feats of irrigation anywhere near comparable was Angkor, in Cambodia but that was not until more than a thousand years later.