Sri Lanka is a beautiful island just off the south eastern tip of India, about 600 miles north of the equator. Its scenery is varied, offering a vast array of tropical vegetation, paddy fields, coconut estates, and dense forest. At higher altitudes there are the spice growing regions and the tea estates. Throughout Sri Lanka there are vast natural and man made lakes, fast flowing rivers and ancient irrigation systems, some created over two thousand years ago. This is possibly why Sri Lanka has such a wide variety of delicious vegetables and fruits. For individual travellers or small groups the best way to see Sri Lanka is by private car/minibus with your own driver. If you tell us the areas that you are most interested in visiting, we will do the rest. One of the best combinations for a holiday in Sri Lanka is to have a sightseeing trip and a period to relax on one of Sri Lanka’s wonderful beaches. Although it is now theoretically possible to visit the north and east of Sri Lanka, there are currently no facilities and it will be some time before these areas are open to travellers. The rest of the country can be split into four very different regions all offering a wide choice of unusual places to visit, both natural and man made.
Colombo, the busy capital of Sri Lanka is ideal for an overnight stay at either the beginning or end of your trip.
The Cultural Triangle is the name given by the Sri Lankans, to the region immediately north of the central mountain range. Three ancient cities, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and The Sigiriya Rock.
Anuradhapura is home of the famous sacred Bo Tree, which dates back 2500 years and is said to be the oldest tree in the world. The Dagobas at Anuradhapura, huge Buddhist temple domes, are around one hundred metres high and about the same diameter. They are solid, and made from millions of small red bricks.
Polonnaruwa has equally impressive archeological sites, but in quite a different way. The temples are smaller, but the Buddha’s, temples and palaces are much more ornate. Here the buildings had air ducts in the walls to allow cold air to flow through and help cool them. The buildings and palaces, were up to seven stories high, and had whole communities living in them. Like Anuradhapura, the water systems of Polonnaruwa were very sophisticated, ensuring that water was readily available all the year round for agriculture, sanitation and drinking. From any high point in the area the lush scenery is quite spectacular.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the third of these ancient cities, is equally impressive. At the centre of Sigiriya is a five hundred foot rock where the king’s main palace and various temples were set. It is only accessible via a steep staircase cut into the side of the rock, with spectacular frescoes painted on rock face. The staircase leads up to a large ledge where a second entrance was created between two huge stone lion’s paws. All around the base of the rock there are the remains of various temples, houses and tropical landscaped gardens. This is circled by a wide flooded moat. The Dambula Cave Temples are also well worth a visit. You have to climb over 200 steps to the temples, the temples themselves are the oldest Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. The town of Habarana is a good base when visiting the Cultural Triangle
Kandy is the second city of Sri Lanka and home of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. The city is built around a central lake and buildings rise up the hillsides in all directions. In the centre there are bustling streets with busy shops and market stalls selling everything from silk to spices and fish to wood carvings. There are also many jewellery shops selling Sri Lanka’s famous gems. In addition to the cultural sites of Kandy, the nature and scenery are spectacular. You can take a boat trip on one of the many rivers; the wildlife is abundant and easy to spot, water monitor, coloured kingfishers and monkeys. The Peradeniya Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit.
A short distance from Kandy is the famous elephant’s orphanage at Pinnawela, where young elephants that have been separated from their parents are raised in natural surroundings. After visiting the orphanage you can have lunch by the river and watch as the herd comes down to bathe. The elephants are proceeded on their trip through the village by a man on a bicycle.
Nuwara Eliya is high in the central mountains, approximately 2000 metres above sea level. The winding road from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya passes through some breathtaking scenery: first lush valleys full of terraced paddy fields, fruit groves, and overshadowed by cliffs with torrential waterfalls feeding steep fast flowing rivers. Then as you climb higher, everywhere you look you can see beautifully manicured tea plantations, rolling from valley to valley, fed by clear mountain streams and light rain. The colourful sari clad tea pickers are in the fields, carefully picking only the best tea, and filling the cotton bags on their backs. This tea is then taken by foot to the nearest tea factory for processing and grading.
Whilst staying in Nuwara Eliya one can visit Horton Plains, a spectacular plateau, overlooked on one side by Adams Peak, and on the other side there is Worlds End, cliffs that drop around 1000 metres towards the southern coastal plains. This is some of the most superb scenery in Sri Lanka.
In Nuwara Eliya the hotels offer a taste of the colonial past.