The island of Sri Lanka lies off the southern tip of India inthe Indian Ocean, a verdant paradise that is a cradle of theBuddhist faith. Apart from hundreds of miles of the world's mostbeautiful palm-fringed beaches, Sri Lanka boasts eight WorldHeritage Sites listed by UNESCO, ranging from sacred cities,palaces and cliff-top citadels to colonial strongholds, spanningnearly 3,000 years of history. To complete the picture ofperfection, Sri Lanka is situated just three degrees north of theEquator, meaning the weather is constantly hot, humid and tropical.Sunny skies are the order of the day; even in the brief monsoonseason there is always a daily spell of sunshine.
Adventurous visitors who enjoy some mystery and wonderment willmarvel at the ancient sites of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya,Dambulla and Panduwasnuwara, where the remains of a greatcivilisation are to be seen. The cities of Colombo and Kandy showthe influence of the foreign colonial powers that fought forcontrol over the strategically located island in the 16th, 17th and18th centuries. Dutch-inspired buildings stand cheek to jowl withVictorian British mansions and Portuguese fortifications.
Historically, there was a long civil war that plagued parts ofthe island paradise. However, since 2009 when the civil warofficially came to an end things in the north of the country haveimproved significantly and beautiful untouched parts of the islandbecame accessible to visitors.
Sri Lanka offers leisure and pleasure opportunities at a gentlepace; while it was once a destination reserved for only the mostdiscerning travellers it is fast developing into a popular touristdestination with package options to suit a range ofdemographics.
Tourist attractions in Sri Lanka have accumulated over a longand interesting history, leaving many things to see including sevenUNESCO World Heritage Sites. Sri Lanka's history can be experiencedat the fascinating ancient sites of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa,Sigiriya, Dambulla and Panduwasnuwara. The National Museum inColombo is a good stop for those passing through the city as ithouses a variety of artefacts illustrating Sri Lanka's complexculture and history. The complexity of this multi-cultural countryis also apparent elsewhere in the capital city, like in the PettahBazzar district where exotic smells and goods are traded. Calmerattractions in Sri Lanka include the lovely seafront in Galle, acoastal town very popular with tourists, or the peaceful lake cityof Kandy, which has many historical attractions.
For those keen to leave the cities and towns altogether,attractions include treks into Yala National Park and up Sigiriyaor Adam's Peak. Of course, many prefer Sri Lanka's beautiful sandybeaches, which stretch hundreds of miles, to any amount ofsightseeing. The best beach destinations in Sri Lanka include thepicturesque fishing village of Marawila, on the northwest coast,the resort town of Negombo, on the west coast, and the gorgeousWeligama Bay, in the south.
Sri Lanka's oldest museum was established in 1877 and todayboasts a massive collection of antiques and objects d'art,encompassing the cultural heritage of the island. Exhibits includeartefacts from archaeological sites all over Sri Lanka, and morethan 4,000 ancient palm leaf manuscripts. Sri Lanka boasts someremarkable ancient sites and this historical wealth is reflected inthe museum.
Among the exhibits is displayed the regalia of the Kandyan Kingsdating back to the 17th century. Although the museum is not quitewhat you would call world-class, it does contain some genuinetreasures and should fascinate visitors interested in the art andculture of Sri Lanka. The collection is housed in an imposing andattractive white building and set in lovely grounds. Alongside thearchaeological museum is the Natural History Museum, which featuresthe island's fauna and flora in dioramas.
The dual museums are a good introduction for visitors interestedin discovering the culture and history of the island. Photographsare allowed in the National Museum, but only if visitors pay asmall extra fee for a photography permit. There is a cafe and acraft shop in the museum grounds as well.
Colombo's bazaar district, Pettah, presents a real treat forshopaholics who can wander through the hustle and bustle of wholestreets dedicated to selling a particular type of merchandise, fromlocal handicrafts to fresh produce. The markets will not be toeverybody's taste; Pettah is a sensory overload and the sheerquantity of merchandise, and crowds of people, make it difficult tofind good quality items.
Bargaining is essential as foreigners tend to be overcharged.The quoted price will be at least double what locals would beexpected to pay. The area was once an exclusive residential areafilled with stately homes and large gardens in gas-lit streets. Arelic of the colonial era, the Dutch House Museum, is open to thepublic on Prince Street. The mansion house dates from the 17thcentury and was the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow. Ithas now been restored and stands among the traders and boutiques asa museum displaying the life and times of the Dutch occupation, itsexhibits including furniture, ceramics, coins and all the trappingsof daily life at the time. Another landmark is the Jami Ul AlfarMosque, one of the oldest mosques in Colombo.
Note: Beware of pickpockets!
Colombo's zoo has a fine collection of animals, birds, reptilesand fish from all over the world, but in particular showcases thefauna of the island. The complex includes an aquarium, displayingmore than 500 varieties of aquatic life. There is also awalk-through aviary, reptile enclosure and butterfly park. One ofthe most popular attractions at the zoo is the daily elephant show,which takes place at about 5.15pm.
Another favourite feature is the sea lion show, which is greatfun for kids. Animals in the park include hippos, flamingos,kangaroos, lemurs, monkeys, orangutans, leopards, lions, otters,raccoons, rhinos, giraffes and tigers. The zoo has a good selectionof animals and receives great reviews from some visitors, but thoseanimal lovers accustomed to spacious European and American zoos maybe disconcerted by the size of the animal enclosures. The zoo isundergoing improvements and renovations currently which may make adifference.
Nevertheless, families travelling with children should enjoy thezoo if they have a few hours to kill in Colombo. The zoo isextremely popular with locals and it is a good idea to get thereearly in the morning to avoid the crowds and to see the zoo at itscleanest and best.
The remains of the ancient city of Anuradhapura are situatedabout 130 miles (205km) north of Colombo, standing majestically inthe jungle that for generations hid away the palaces, monasteriesand monuments, which have been there since the third century BC.The ancient city was capital of the island for more than 10centuries, until an invasion in the year 993; the city is said tohave been founded around a fig tree grown from a cutting ofBuddha's 'tree of enlightenment'.
The remains visible today consist of several magnificent dagobas(domes built to enshrine sacred relics), sculptures, carvings,ruined palaces and monasteries, bathing ponds and irrigation tanks.The city once had one of the most complex irrigation systems of theancient world and the reservoir tanks still visible today are someof the oldest surviving in the world. Since the rediscovery of theancient, ruined city by the British in the 19th century,Anuradhapura has been a Buddhist pilgrimage site as well as anattraction for travellers.
Thought to be the one of the oldest surviving historical treesin the world, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is said to be a sapling fromthe tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. The tree wasplanted in 288 BC, on a high terrace roughly 21 feet (6.5m) abovethe ground, and is surrounded by a prayer flag-festooned wall builtby King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha to protect it from wild elephants.Located in Anuradhapura, the Sri Maha Bodhi is a pilgrimage sitefor thousands of Buddhist devotees who come to make offeringsduring the full moon. Visitors must remove shoes and hats beforeentering the site.
Tourist facilities and hotels are available in the nearby 'newtown' of Anuradhapura. A recommended way to view the many scatteredarchaeological treasures is to hire a bicycle, or travel betweensights on a tuk-tuk.
The relaxed and peaceful atmosphere of Kandy, in the heart ofSri Lanka's hill country, is probably the result of beingbeautifully situated around a tranquil lake in a bowl of hills. Itis a colourful, unique city, which resisted Portuguese and Dutchcolonisation for three centuries before finally succumbing to theBritish. The town is the bastion of the island's pervasive Buddhistfaith, and plays host to the country's most venerated religiousrelic, the sacred tooth of Buddha.
The octagonal Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth, attractshundreds of pilgrims to daily ceremonies honouring the relic, andeach year in July and August the tooth is carried in procession onan elephant during the ancient Esala Perahera parade. According tolegend, the tooth was taken from Buddha as he lay on his funeralpyre and was smuggled to Sri Lanka hidden in the hair of a princessin the 4th century. Visitors can't actually see the tooth as it'sin a casket, but the temple is an interesting place all the same.The ancient city also sports a good museum, the lovely PeradeniyaBotanical Gardens, a bird sanctuary and an auditorium where folkdances are performed and local crafts are on display. Kandy has acooler, milder climate than much of Sri Lanka due to itsaltitude.
Not all Buddhist temples are ancient, nor are they allconservative affairs. The colourful and modern Wewurukannala Templeat Dikwella village near Matara is quite an eyeful, featuringhundreds of brightly painted and gilded models depicting scenesfrom the life of Buddha and numerous murals. There is also a Buddhaeffigy that is one of the world's tallest, equalling the height ofa five-storey building, which visitors can ascend to enjoy the viewfrom the top.
The Buddha statue is the biggest in Sri Lanka, and otherattractions at the temple include a resident elephant, a colourfulImage House containing statues of gods and royalty, and thefrightening Hall of Sin, which illustrates what is in store for theless-than-righteous in the Buddhist version of hell. Although it isan active temple and tourists should be respectful of worshippers,the temple complex is also full of various touts and salesmentrying to sell things and services to visitors. Those wanting toavoid the crowds should visit early in the morning.
The temple is a short drive from both Dikwella and Matara andcan be reached by tuk-tuk - travellers should be sure to negotiatea price before setting off!
Elephants are the most frequently spotted inhabitants of thevast Yala National Park (also known as Ruhunu), in the southeast ofSri Lanka, east of Matara, but they share the reserve with 130different species of birds and other creatures like sambhur,spotted deer, sloths, crocodiles, monkeys, wild boar andporcupines. There is also a large concentration of leopards inthis, the country's oldest protected area.
Most of the reserve is open parkland, but it also containsjungle, beaches, lakes and rivers. The park is somewhat remote, thenearest town being Tissa, and is situated about 120 miles (193km)from Colombo. Yala is also dotted with a number of fascinatingarchaeological sites, like the Magul Maha Vihara ruins, dating fromthe 1st century BC.
Yala National Park was closed for several years due to politicalconflict in Sri Lanka, but two of the five sections of the parthave now re-opened to the public. It is the most visited and thesecond largest park in the country and is very popular with foreignvisitors. The park is almost always explored as part of a safari (a4x4 vehicle is required to traverse the roads) and the entrance feeincludes the services of an animal tracker.
The port town of Galle, about 60 miles (100km) south of Colomboand a short distance west of Matara, is steeped in the heritage ofthe Dutch presence in Sri Lanka, and is dominated by the 36-hectare(89-acre) Dutch Fort, originally built by the Portuguese in 1588,with its massive ramparts on a promontory. Galle is a delightfuland unexpected mixture of dilapidated colonial history and exotic,tropical beauty.
Inside the walls of the fort, which has been declared a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site, is the oldest part of Galle, with Dutchhomesteads, museums and churches, as well as Amangalla (formerlyknown as the New Oriental Hotel), originally the home of the Dutchgovernors. Galle is home to a creative community and has attractedmany foreign artists, writers and poets.
Inside the fort there are many galleries, boutiques and craftshops to investigate, and many travellers choose to spend a fewnights in the fort, which is at once an interesting historicalmonument and a thriving modern centre. Galle has a small beach, butmost sun-lovers find better beaches a little out of town along thecoast road.
Getting to Galle from Colombo is a treat, because both the trainand bus routes wind along the coast, offering gorgeous views. Ittakes between two and four hours to get to Galle from the capitalby bus or train.
The southern beaches of Sri Lanka are the most popular fortourists, with the main season extending from October to April whenthe monsoon has moved on and the sea is calm and tranquil underbright blue skies. Bentota is one of the loveliest resorts on thecoastal road, featuring good hotels, water sports and a picturesquebeach at the river mouth.
Scuba divers enjoy Hikkaduwa, where there is a marine sanctuaryabundant with coral and tropical fish, and the Kirinda Beach, justsouth of the town of Tissa, which also offers spectacularunderwater sights. Close to the popular tourist resort town ofGalle is Unawatuna, with its beautiful stretch of safe sandy beach.At Kudawella a novel feature is a blowhole that throws huge columnsof water into the air whenever waves break on the rocks. For thosewho prefer small guesthouses and empty beaches over resorts,Koggala, Mirissa, Dikwella and Tangalle all remain relativelyundiscovered beach areas.
The southern coastline of Sri Lanka was seriously damaged in the2004 tsunami and it took many years for certain areas to berebuilt, but the tourist resorts have all fully recovered and thereis no longer much evidence of the catastrophe which marked theregion for so long.
Sigiriya is an important Buddhist site in central Sri Lanka,about 100 miles (161km) northeast of Colombo. The remains of anancient royal fortress and city dating from 477 AD stand on a vastrock, which rises 600ft (180m) above the surrounding plain. KingKasyapa built it to safeguard against attack from his brother,Mogallana from whom he had stolen the throne after having killedtheir father.
The only way into the city is through the massive carved jaws ofa lion - the name Sigiriya is taken from 'giriya', meaning 'jawsand throat' and 'sinha' meaning 'lion'. The site is one of thebest-preserved first-millennium city centres in Asia and is alsorenowned for its 5th-century rock paintings and its magnificent,symmetrical water gardens. Visitors should note that getting to theflat summit and fortress requires climbing about a thousand steps,and it is a good idea to bring plenty of water and to avoid doingthe climb at the hottest time of day.
There is a museum, outside the main entrance, housing someartefacts from the site, reproductions of some of the art, andphotos of the excavation process. Sigiriya is an expensiveattraction by Sri Lankan standards, but it is a remarkable andfascinating place and undoubtedly one of the country's greatesthistorical treasures.
Sri Lanka's Buddhist heritage is nowhere as evident as in theGolden Temple of Dambulla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A sacredpilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave-temple is the bestpreserved of its kind in Sri Lanka. The temple encompasses fiveseparate caves, each housing ancient statues and artwork of theBuddha. The statues vary in size up to 50 feet (15m) tall and thereare also incredible painted murals on the walls.
The largest cave, the Cave of the Great Kings, holds 56 statues,and others dedicated to Hindu gods such as Vishnu and Saman datingback to the 12th century. Another cave has more than 1,500paintings covering the ceiling. The temples and caves are one ofSri Lanka's most spectacular tourist attractions, and are attachedto a functional monastery dating back to the third century BC.
The site also includes evidence of human occupation going backto the prehistoric period. Lots of monkeys frequent the templecomplex and they can be cute and entertaining, but tourists shouldtreat the animals with respect as they can and will bite if theyfeel threatened. The climb to the caves can be tiring, especiallyin the heat, and may not be manageable for people with mobilityissues.
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, characterised by distinct wetand dry seasons, but virtually no distinction between the seasonsas far as temperature is concerned: Sri Lanka is always hot andhumid. The island's weather is a little complicated, however, sinceit has two monsoon seasons. In the southwestern half of Sri Lanka,the Yala Monsoon brings heavy rain from May to August, with the dryseason lasting from December to March; the Maha Monsoon, on theother hand, brings rain to the northern and eastern parts of theisland from October to January, with the dry season lasting fromMay to September. Note that the southwest receives a lot moreannual rainfall than the north and east, and that anintercontinental monsoon period can also see rain fall across theisland in October and November. The average temperature in Colomboand other coastal regions is 81°F (27°C).
Generally, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is from December toMarch for the west and south coasts and the Hill Country; and fromApril to September for the ancient cities region and the eastcoast. Peak tourist season is from December to March, when manyvisitors head to Sri Lanka to escape the European winter.
The unit of currency is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR), which isdivided into 100 cents. Major credit cards are widely accepted inmajor cities. ATMs are becoming more common, but outside the maincities they are unlikely to accept international cards. Creditcards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud.Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change, banks andhotels. Banks are closed on Sundays.
Most people speak Sinhala, which is the national andofficial language. Tamil is also spoken, and English is spoken atmost tourist establishments.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round,three-pin plugs are used.
US nationals require passports valid for at least six months onarrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists onarrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150days are possible.
UK nationals require passports valid for at least six months onarrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists onarrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150days are possible.
Canadian nationals require passports valid for at least sixmonths on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased bytourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for anadditional 150 days are possible.
Australian nationals require passports valid for at least sixmonths on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased bytourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for anadditional 150 days are possible.
South African nationals require passports valid for at least sixmonths on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased bytourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for anadditional 150 days are possible.
Irish nationals require passports valid for at least six monthson arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists onarrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150days are possible.
US nationals require passports valid for at least six months onarrival. A visa is required and can be purchased by tourists onarrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for an additional 150days are possible.
New Zealand nationals require passports valid for at least sixmonths on arrival. A visa is required and can be purchased bytourists on arrival for a stay of 30 days. Extensions for anadditional 150 days are possible.
Most travellers can purchase visas on arrival. These must bepaid for in USD but the amount varies. Visitors should be able toshow the immigration officials proof of sufficient funds for theirstay in Sri Lanka. Passengers must also hold return or onwardtickets and all documents needed for the next destination. Thosewho prefer to arrange visas in advance can do so online or at a SriLankan embassy. An ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) can beissued on arrival but can also be filled in prior to travel to SriLanka - this can be done online at www.eta.gov.lk. It is highlyrecommended that travellers' passports have at least six months'validity remaining after the intended date of departure from theirtravel destination. Immigration officials often apply differentrules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Food and water borne diseases are the primary cause for illhealth in Sri Lanka. Visitors should only drink bottled water,avoid ice in drinks, and take care to eat well-cooked food.Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended for alltravellers to Sri Lanka. Typhoid is only really a problem in ruralareas, but travellers should consider a vaccination depending ontheir itinerary. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are requiredby travellers coming from infected areas. Malaria, Chikungunyafever, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever are a risk andprotection against mosquito bites is essential. Prophylactics formalaria are also strongly recommended for all regions, except thedistricts of Colombo, Kalutara, Galle and Nuwara Eliya.
Travellers are strongly advised to take out good travelinsurance, and seek medical advice at least three weeks beforeleaving for Sri Lanka. Quality medical attention may be difficultto find outside of Colombo and other big cities and medications areoften in short supply in Sri Lanka. Travellers should bring anymedication they may require with them.
A 10 percent service charge is added to most restaurant andhotel bills. Tipping is a customary way to show appreciation foralmost all services and small amounts are sufficient, otherwise 10percent of the amount due is standard. There is no need to tip taxidrivers.
The vast majority of trips to Sri Lanka are trouble free.However, recent bombings in 2019 means there is now a potentialrisk of terrorism threatening the country. Visitors should keepthemselves informed of developments and remain vigilant.
Since the Sri Lankan Civil War ended in 2009, the north and eastof the country have seen a growth in tourism. Violent crime againstforeigners is very rare, but there have been cases of sexualassault and robbery in rural areas and women are advised to takecare when travelling alone. Credit card fraud is the most commonform of crime against tourists in Sri Lanka.
Photography near government or military buildings is prohibitedin Sri Lanka. Homosexuality is illegal. Topless sunbathing is notallowed, and visitors, particularly women, should cover up whenentering Buddhist sites. It is considered offensive to pose forphotographs in front of a Buddha statue. Smoking and drinking inpublic are forbidden. Honour, or personal dignity, is extremelyimportant to Sri Lankans and causing an individual to 'lose face'by public criticism or anger should be avoided.
In Sri Lanka, due to the warm climate, the dress etiquette mayvary according to various sectors of business. In the more formalsectors, men will be expected to wear lightweight suits, but a morecasual approach is acceptable during the warmer months depending onregulation. Appointments are to be made in advance and businesscards to be swapped upon first meeting. It is considered rude to belate for meetings. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Mondayto Friday with an hour taken at lunch.
The international country dialling code for Sri Lanka is +94.The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code(e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City or area codes are in use,e.g. (0)11 for Central Colombo. International direct dialfacilities are available in Colombo and other major cities. Mobilephone operators provide GSM 900/1800 frequency networks withcoverage across all the main parts of the island. Mobile data isreasonably quick (at least 3G speeds) in all cities and largertowns, and wifi is standard in hotels and guesthouses.
Travellers to Sri Lanka over 18 years do not have to pay duty onthe following items: 2 bottles wine and 1.5 litres spirits; perfumeup to 59ml and 250ml eau de toilette; and souvenirs to the value ofUS$250; 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars and 340g of tobacco. For familymembers travelling together free import applies for two members.Passengers must declare personal effects to ensure free export whenthey arrive in Sri Lanka. Restricted items include firearms,ammunitions, explosives and weapons, plants, fruits, birds andby-products, medication (unless it is for personal use), and goodsfor commercial purposes. Prohibited items include drugs ornarcotics, pornographic material, and material that ridiculesreligious belief systems.
Ministry of Tourism, Colombo: +94 11 242 6900 orwww.srilankatourism.org
Sri Lanka Embassy, Washington, United States: +1 202 4834025.
Sri Lanka High Commission, London, United Kingdom (alsoresponsible for Ireland): +44 20 7262 1841.
Sri Lanka High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 233 8449.
Sri Lanka High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 4607679.
Sri Lanka High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsiblefor New Zealand): +61 2 6198 3756.
Sri Lankan Honorary Consulate, Wellington, NewZealand: +64 4 976 8434
United States Embassy, Colombo: +94 11 249 8500.
British High Commission, Colombo: +94 11 539 0639.
Canadian High Commission, Colombo: +94 11 522 6232.
South African High Commission, Colombo: + 94 11 246 3000.
Australian High Commission, Colombo: + 94 11 246 3200.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Colombo: +94 11 452 3900.
New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi, India (also responsiblefor Sri Lanka): +91 11 2688 3170.
Among the green hills of Kegalle, about 50 miles (85km) fromColombo on the road to Kandy in the hill country, a herd of about60 elephants live in the Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage. This popularattraction, established as a sanctuary covering 25 acres of lushforest by the Sri Lankan Government in 1975, is unique. Its purposeis to feed, nurse and house young elephants lost or abandoned bytheir mothers.
Recently the sanctuary has also started a breeding programme.Visitors are invited to observe and assist the baby elephants asthey are fed from giant feeding bottles, before the pachyderms arelead down to the river for their daily baths at 10am and 2pm.Although extra money can be paid to ride, swim with and feed theelephants the main attraction for many people is simply watchingthem at play with each other in the river from the banks. Thesanctuary has received both praise and censure from animal rightsgroups, for various reasons, and although most tourists rave aboutthe attraction, some visitors complain that the animals don't havemore freedom.
The admission costs go entirely towards maintenance of thesanctuary and feeding the animals and most reports conclude thatthe elephants are well cared for - they certainly seem happy asthey cavort in the river!
The legendary mountain, towering 7,358 feet (2,243m) over theisland of Sri Lanka, known as Sri Pada or Adam's Peak, has beenvenerated as a place of pilgrimage and worship for all major faithsin the country for generations. The holy mountain bears what seemsto be the imprint of a foot on a rock on its summit. Depending ontheir faith pilgrims believe the print was left there by Buddha,Lord Shiva, St Thomas, or Adam after he was expelled from Eden.
Whether visitors believe the footprint to be holy or not theclimb to view it, protected in an enclosure at the pinnacle of thepeak, is well worth it for the panoramic views of tropical forestafforded from the top. The stairway up the mountainside is believedto be the longest in the world and climbers are entitled to ringthe bell situated at the top once they have made the journey. It isparticularly special to climb the peak for sunrise, which requiresbeginning the climb at about 1am (depending on the month and timeof sunrise). Soon after dawn, the rising sun casts a perfecttriangular shadow of the mountain across the surrounding landscape.Many smaller peaks rise out of the dense jungle far below andwatching the beautiful landscape reveal itself is a profoundexperience.
The ancient port city of Trincomalee (affectionately calledTrinco), on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, has a perfect naturalharbour, which has made the town a prize to be fought over byforeign powers for generations. The Danes first took the trophy in1617 on behalf of the Dutch, but the Portuguese put up a fort andstaked their claim a few years later.
By the mid-17th century the port was Dutch again, until theBritish and French both had a turn at occupation in the late 18thcentury. During the Second World War the harbour was a strategicBritish naval base, and it is now home to the Sri Lankan Navy. Thebeaches in the area, especially those north of Trincomalee atNilaveli and Uppuveli, are broad, soft and white, lapped by warm,gentle waters. The region is a popular beach resort destination fortourists, as the coastline really is very beautiful, and thenatural pleasures can be combined with some good culturalsightseeing in Trinco.
Among the sights to visit is Fort Frederick, built by thePortuguese, and Wellington House, once home to the Duke ofWellington. The Koneswaram Temple (or Thirukonamalai KonesarTemple), at Swami Rock, is an important medieval Hindu templecomplex in Trincomalee.
Located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, Horton PlainsNational Park contains some of Sri Lanka's highest mountains,covered in thick forest, misty lakes, and hidden waterfalls. Thepark is one of the only parks in Sri Lanka that allows guests tohike on their own on designated trails. The park is home to manyanimals, including Samabr Deer, wild boar, otter, leopard, macaquesand many species of bird, and exploring the trails is veryrewarding.
The most popular tourist attraction in Horton Plains NationalPark is World's End, a sheer precipice with a 2,850-foot (870m)drop at the southern boundary of the park. From the top of thecliff, visitors have a spectacular view of the surrounding hillswhich extends as far as the Indian Ocean, dozens of miles away, onclear days. The hike to World's End is 6.2 miles (10km) and takesroughly three hours. Visitors should note that from 9am to 10amthere is usually a thick blanket of mist over the valleys thattotally obscures the view from the cliff, and the best time to seeWorld's End is early in the morning. The path can be crowded onweekends, when large groups of tourists tend to scare away anywildlife in the area.