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Negombo

1The coastal city of Negombo in Gampaha district is the northern bordering city in the Western Province (WP). Only 7km north of Katunayake International Airport, Negombo is linked by road to the Colombo capital and main cities such as Kurunegala and Chilaw. Through the centre of the city runs the Colombo-Chilaw rail road. 

Negombo is a hive of economic activity, with its large town, fisheries harbor and historical fish landing sites. Fishing is the main livelihood making the city famous for delicious fresh fish, lagoon prawns, lobsters and crabs which have been tourist delights over the years. The fisheries harbor and fish landing sites with old-world fishing craft like the outrigger canoes and the catamarans along the lagoon are beautiful sights for you to watch in the wee hours of the morning and at dusk. 

The Negombo beach was Sri Lanka's first beach resort. It is an ideal place to start or end your holiday in this little island. Negombo offers a great selection of hotels and guest houses ranging from budget resorts to 5* hotels, excellent restaurants and bars adorning the beaches, well stocked supermarkets, shopping arcades and many water sport facilities. Negombo, called “the Little Rome” is predominantly a Roman Catholic area with a large number of historical churches coming down from Portuguese times. Used by the Portuguese, Dutch and British as main export harbor for cinnamon, you still can see several historical buildings.

There are many ways to explore Negombo but one of the most commendable ways is by traveling along the many canals which connect the Negombo lagoon and the sea.


Ancient City of Anuradhapura

travel Tour agentsceylonAnuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka from the 4th century BC to the beginning of the 11th century AD, is famous for its well-preserved ruins depicting ancient Lankan civilization. This UNESCO World Heritage Site lies 205km north of the current capital Colombo in the North Central Province, in the midst of large reservoirs, on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya. It had been one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia and its ruins point to a rich and proud heritage.

This ancient city, sacred to the Buddhists, is today surrounded by monasteries covering an area of over 16 square miles (40km²). Since Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C, the city became one of the 10 largest cities on the subcontinent with vast monastery complexes and reservoirs and great stupas - some of the tallest amazing buildings in the old world. The sacred Bo tree known as the Sri Maha Bodhi is believed to have been planted in 288 B.C. grown from a cutting of the original fig tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. It is presently the holiest site in Anuradhapura venerated by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike and is believed to be the oldest authenticated tree in the world. Apparently, a special caste was designated to care for this priceless tree, and ever since their descendants have looked after it. 

Some of the most interesting sites to see today include the remnants of the Brazen Palace with 1,600 stone columns which are all that are left of a multi-storied residence for monks, Ruwanweliseya Stupa, one of the largest structures of the ancient world, Isurumuniya rock temple well known for its rock carving of 'The Lovers', the twin ponds used as a bathing pool for Buddhist monks and Thuparama Dagoba, the oldest Dagoba on the island believed to enshrine the collarbone of the Buddha himself. Thousands visit these sites within a single day.

One could spend days discovering the ancient history of Sri Lanka, exploring the picturesque countryside and watching the many pilgrims dressed in white paying homage to the Sri Maha Bodhi tree and spending hours of meditation at the holy shrines or walking along reservoir bunds. One almost feels that one’s inner self is lifted beyond this world, a rare experience in one’s life.


Polonnaruwa

in Tour packagesPolonnaruwa, a World Heritage Site, became the second capital of Sri Lanka in 1070 A.D. It comprises the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, and the ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by king Parakramabahu I during the golden age of Polonnaruwa in the 12th century. Polonnaruwa is a repository of outstanding ruins, frescoes and enormous statues of reclining Buddhas. The ruins of the Royal Palace, Gal Viharaya, the Audience Hall, the Lotus Bath, King Parakramabahu's statue, and the Parakrama Samudraya lake are some of the sites of interest. Irrigation systems constructed during this era supply water till today for paddy cultivation during the dry season.

The ruins of the old city are on the shores of Lake Thopawewa, man-made during the reign of a twelfth century king—a huge task, considering it was accomplished with nothing but manual labor. What remains of the ancient city itself is a cluster of palaces and temples contained within a rectangular city wall. The foundations of the royal palace and the king's audience hall are particularly well preserved.

An outstanding site in Polonnaruwa is the Galviharaya, also known as the Cave of the Spirits of Knowledge. It is an outdoor rock wall where giant standing and reclining sculptures of the Buddha were carved out of the living rock. 

The reason to come here is to wander around this awesome ancient city ruins and see the local wildlife in the surrounding national parks.


Sigiriya

1Sigiriya, the 'Lion Rock', is a sixth century fortress perched on a 200 metre high rock and is visible for miles around. This wondrous site holds the ruins of the capital built by King Kassapa I (477-495 A.D.) on the steep slopes and at the summit of this granite peak. Following Kassapa's death it reverted to being a monastery complex until about the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. The ruins were discovered in 1907 by British explorer John Still. This World Heritage Site, holds the remains of an upper palace on the flat top of the rock, a mid level terrace with its Lion Gate and the mirror wall with its frescoes of the ‘Heavenly Maidens’. In addition, there is the lower palace on the slopes below the rock, and the moats, walls and gardens that extend for some hundreds of metres surrounding the base of the rock.

It is worth a trip to Sri Lanka if only to visit Sigiriya alone. The summit of the rock looks seemingly inaccessible. However, a pathway on the western and northern sides of the steep rock face provides access to the nearly three acres wide summit. Shielding this pathway is a 9½ft plaster wall so highly polished that it is a wonder that even today after fifteen centuries of exposure to the sun and rain one can see one's reflection in it! Winding one’s way to the top, one comes across these world famous charming frescoes which are an attraction by themselves keeping visitors engrossed in even their cutest details.

One needs time and slow reflection to go through this majestic site. Be prepared to spend at least one whole day, climbing the numerous steps to the summit, enjoy walking around the long stretches of the Sigiriya gardens and the newly laid out herbal garden. It is an experience of a life time.


Dambulla

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Dating from the 1st century B.C. this World Heritage Site has been a pilgrim’s site for almost 22 centuries. The cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest and best preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. Of particular importance are the Buddhist mural paintings covering an area of 2,100m2 and 157 statues not seen anywhere else in the Island.

The first cave is filled with the 47-foot-long recumbent image of the meditating Buddha. In the second cave, there are 150 beautifully carved and preserved gilded statues of gods and Buddhas. The rock ceilings are painted in brilliantly preserved and intricately detailed patterns and images of the holy figures. Statues of the Hindu gods Vishnu and Saman are also present, reflecting the arrival of Hinduism in Sri Lanka during the 12th century.

The climb to the Dambulla rock is easy and apart from the rock caves, one can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the beginnings of the island’s mountainous region and vast stretches of green paddy fields.

Dambulla is a good starting point for excursions to Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Matale and Kandy.


Trincomale - Nilaveli Beach


1Trincomalee situated in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, takes pride of place as one of great scenic beauty with picturesque bays, lagoons, wide sandy beaches and rocky terrain tumbling down to the beach.

The cultural and scenic resources of Trincomalee’s coastal zone make it a focus of recreational activities and tourist attractions. Its most famous landmark is Fort Federick, initially built by the Portuguese and named later by the Dutch. The cliff on top of Fort Federick called a Swami Rock is a cleave rock protruding high up to several meters above the sea level which carries a romantic tale of a Dutch maiden. Looking around the cliff, one can enjoy uninterrupted vistas of seascape and landscape. Thirukoneswaram Kovil dedicated to Lord Shiva, within the Fort, is a shrine highly venerated by the Hindus. Other sites in Trincomalee that possess their own intrinsic qualities and values are Gokkana Viharaya and Fort Ostenberg.

The 30km stretch of beach running uninterrupted from north of Trincomalee, is traditionally used both by Sri Lankans and foreign visitors for swimming, diving, surfing, boating, whale watching, sport fishing, leisure walks, bird watching and relaxation. There are over 100 Beach Service Crafts providing transport services to local and foreign tourists, to various locations along the coastline.

At the center of this stretch is the most famous and beautiful beach, Nilaveli, coming as a surprise with golden sands and clear water. Pigeon Island on the horizon is a short boat ride off the Nilaveli beach and makes an interesting trip. Nilaveli and Uppuveli 16 km and 6km north of the city, respectively, are among the best beaches in Sri Lanka.

About 11km from west of Trincomalee are the Kanniyai Hot Springs, sacred to Hindus. The Dagoba at Thiriyaya enshrining the hair relics of the Lord Buddha dates back to the 8th Century B.C.


Colombo


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The original Sinhala name, Kalantotta was corrupted to Kolambu by Arab traders and then changed to Colombo by the Portuguese that arrived in 1505. They gained a monopoly in the spice and cinnamon trade. By the mid 17th century, the Dutch had taken control of the costal areas of the island. The British made it the capital of their crown colony of Ceylon in 1802 and in 1948 Colombo became the capital of independent Ceylon.

Colombo remains the largest city and commercial capital and possesses many restaurants, bars, shops and places to see including the Pettah bazaar district, the wealthy residential area of Cinnamon Gardens, the National Museum and Wolvendhal Church, both dating from the Dutch colonial period, and numerous temples and mosques. Colombo still carrying remnants of colonization is filled with many-starred international hotels, shopping centers and is surprisingly westernized, yet with its own unmistakable Sri Lankan character.

The commercial and political heart of Sri Lanka, it is a fascinating mix of old and new, with high-rise office blocks and hotels overshadowing red-tiled colonial-era buildings. Sprawling stretches of street markets overflow with high piled delicious fresh fruit and vegetables, colourful silks and cottons, and fragrant spices. The colonial-era buildings, museums and galleries, churches, mosques and temples, and parks of Colombo can easily be explored on foot, taking a three-wheeler ride or even public transport.


Aluthgama


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Separated from Bentota by just road and rail bridges, Aluthgama is 85 km from Sri Lanka's international airport and 55 km from Colombo. Aluthgama is a scenic beach resort with a small market town. Markets, shops, hotels and guesthouses of all categories and above all these, endless white sandy beaches make it a holiday destination for all budgets.

A walk along the many lanes takes you to a lagoon and surprisingly you stand facing a stretch of land across the lagoon. This stretch beautifully sandwiched between the lagoon and the sea, is spotted with hotels and restaurants and blessed with beautiful sunsets.  

This very unique location between the lagoon and the Indian Ocean allows for various types of water sports as well as romantic cruises along the Bentota river. The beaches are un-crowded being away from the town. Strolling down the breezy beach is always a refreshing and pleasant experience at any time of the day. If you are a nature lover, you would like to visit the turtle hatchery at the beach and see how these little creatures are being reared for release into the ocean as a conservation measure.


Beruwala



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Beruwala on Sri Lanka's west coast is situated 75km from Sri Lanka's international airport and 45km from Colombo. It is the starting point of the long stretch of the major exciting beach resort area on the western coast and leads to the resorts of Aluthgama and Bentota. A small walk southwards from the town and through the village to the sea brings an unsuspecting visitor to some hotels along the beach.

This area forms one of the longest beaches in Sri Lanka where one can stroll freely. Beruwala has a large fish landing site and one can enjoy the site of colourful boats bringing in their fresh catch early in the morning. The main road bordering the beach is strewn with fish vendors selling fresh fish just landed from boats.

Even though Beruwala is famous as a fishing area, the town itself is a busy commercial town which is said to have been a trading city from the 8th century AD. Many of the town folks are Muslim gem traders living particularly in the "China Fort" district while Sinhala folks form the fishing community doing mostly deep-sea fishing. The oldest mosque in Sri Lanka, the Kachchimalai Mosque, is built on a rocky headland overlooking this town.  

However busy the town may be, the beach areas and surrounding residential areas are quiet and tranquil. The breezy beaches are good for swimming as well as windsurfing. Along the sea is also an area protected with a coral reef and makes it safe for swimming virtually all year round. 

Mount Lavinia

Mount Lavinia on the immediate suburbs of Colombo has been famous for its beach since colonial times. The sea provides a safe and popular bathing spot with calm and clear water and the soft sandy beach is scattered with recreating tourists and local families especially in the evenings. The town is mostly a middle class and residential suburb and has not yet seen towering buildings that are springing up in neighbouring cities and urban centres. The beach stretches almost a mile and is aptly named the "Golden Mile".

The beach is full of hotels that offer classy accommodation, restaurants that produce delicious food especially sea food and bars. Mount Lavinia has always been a hot spot for tourism and provides entertainment for those who wish a late nightlife. The beach here is famous for its use by various organizations, offices and clubs for beach parties, annual Christmas parties, new year parties, etc.

There are several stories of how the name ‘Mount Lavinia’ came to be. It is believed that Sir Thomas Maitland the Governor General of Ceylon from 1805-1811, when he built the Governor’s Palace named it ‘Mount Lavinia House’ in honour his forbidden secret lover Lovina who was a dancer from the Gypsy tribe. The statue of 'Lady' Lavinia, as the girl later became known, is still found in the middle of a water fountain at the entrance of the Mount Lavinia Hotel. The Gypsy village that surrounded the Governor’s mansion today forms Mount Lavinia city where several businesses have sprung up especially in relation to tourism.

Other explanations include "Lihiniya Kanda" or "Lihiniyagala" meaning the hill of the sea gull or the rock of the sea gull used by the Sinhala people who lived on the coastal belt.  

The local name for the town today is Galkissa - Kissa being a somewhat obsolete Sinhala word for rock. However, the town was officially recognized as such when Governor Maitland used the postal address Mount Lavinia, Ceylon, while writing to the then British Secretary of State, Lord Castlereagh.

Sinharaja Forest

1The Sinharaja Forest reserve, a World Heritage Site, is the last remaining primary tropical rainforest in the wet zone of Sri Lanka which the country can boast of. It spans over an area of 11,250 hectares of forest land. The elevation of the forest expands from 90 to 1170 meters from sea level, presenting a large diversity of plant and animal species. More than 60% of vegetation is endemic and many are considered rare.  

There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds. This forest reserve is also home to over 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies, several species of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians. However, one cannot observe wildlife easily due to the dense vegetation. Commonly sighted animals include the giant squirrel, dusky-stripped jungle squirrel, purple-faced monkey and torque macaque. The red-faced malkoha, green-billed caucal, blue magpie and Sri Lankan spur fowl are some of the endemic birds seen within this forest reserve. There are no elephants and one is really fortunate if one can sight one of the 15 or so leopards that live within the reserve. Of Sri Lanka's 26 endemic birds, 20 rainforest species can all be seen here. A variety of wild orchids abound in it.

This ecological importance of the Sinharaja Forest has led the UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Wilderness Area, prompting the world community to preserve this wonderful gift from nature. It forms the catchment area for feeding some of the major rivers in the country. The rivers and streams abound with cold and crystal clear water. Together with the waterfalls found within this rain forest, feasting one’s eyes on such waters is a rare opportunity.

One can enter the Sinharaja forest from Pitadeniya, Suriyakanda or Kudawa in Kalawana with permission from the Forest Department and with a guide provided by the reserve.



Yala National Park


1111Yala National Park covers an area of 979km², although only 141km² are open to the public. It is at a distance of 309km along the coastline south of Colombo, on the southeast of the island. One can reach the Park passing through the town of Tissamaharama in Hambantota District of the Southern Province.  

While much of the reserve is parkland, it contains jungle, beaches, freshwater lakes, lagoons, rivers and scrubland. This varying habitat gives rise to a wide diversity of wildlife. Yala is a marvellous place to watch elephants in their natural habitat and probably has the world's highest density of leopards. Sloth bears, jackals, mongoose, pangolin (scaly anteater), crocodile, wild boar, deer, water buffalo, gray langur and wild peacocks can all be seen.

Animals have an abundance of water supply from waterholes, streams, small lakes and lagoons. The national park is divided into Yala West, called ‘Ruhuna’ and Yala East. Ruhuna National Park is recognized to be the best park in the world to observe and photograph leopards. It takes you at least three days to see the entire park. Yet it is possible to take a day’s jeep-safari trip through the park. The park is usually closed relatively late around 7.00 pm and, therefore, the chance to come across one of the leopards is quite high. Tourists guides know very well the tracks frequented by the leopards.

Apart from wild life, you can look forward to enjoying unpopulated beautiful beaches. In the southeast, the Park is bounded by the sea with many natural bays. Natural virgin beaches and sand dunes provide a beautiful environment. This is surely one of the most spectacular seascapes of Sri Lanka. Even though tours through the park are made in open jeeps, once you reach the beach, you can enjoy the sheer beauty of the sea. Mangroves line the lagoons fringing this part of the coastline. Extensive parklands surrounding these lagoons offer visitors superb locations for viewing animals and bird life. It is noted that the Yala National Park is closed in September and October.


Tissamaharama

1A drive towards the south east through Hambantota takes you to the rural town of Tissamaharama known in ancient times as Mahagama. The road to the Yala National Park and Kataragama passes through this town. There are several archaeological ruins and temples that mark Tissamaharama certainly worth a visit. The town is bounded by a vast and beautiful expanse of lush paddy fields. In the midst of these paddy fields stands the ancient and most impressive Tissa Dagoba (stupa) now restored to its former glory. It is believed that the Lord Buddha visited Tissamaharama on his third visit to Sri Lanka and that a sacred tooth relic and a forehead bone relic are enshrined in a Dagoba here. As such Tissamaharama is considered sacred to Buddhists.  

The beautiful man-made reservoir Tissa Wewa built in the 2nd century BC is remarkable for its bird life. Nothing would be more pleasant than to trek slowly along the reservoir bund in the cool of the evening in the refreshing breeze. A track leads to the smaller adjacent man-made lake of Deberawewa, another haven for birdlife and full of water lilies blooming at its surface. This combination of a cluster of dagobas and two beautiful reservoirs in Tissamaharama creates a sharp contrast with other towns down the southern coast.


Uda Walawe National Park



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Situated 170 km southeast of Colombo, the Uda Walawe National Park which is a wildlife reserve covers an area of approximately 30,821 hectares in the dry zone where the long dry season is characteristic feature. This park lies within the Ratnapura and Moneragala districts. In the centre of the park is the great Uda Walawe reservoir. This Park comprises grasslands and thorn scrubs and many valuable species of trees especially teak. The grasslands make it an open habitat.

This popular reserve is inhabited by more than 400 wild elephants. The open habitat makes is easy for visitors to view these elephants at close range. There are leopards, spotted deer, sambhur, wild boars, gray langurs, Toque Monkeys, golden jackals, water buffaloes and crocodiles and 30 varieties of snakes. The open parkland attracts birds of prey. Uda Walawe National Park includes a wide diversity of bird life.

Nature lovers and sight seers generally travel through the park in jeeps which are the most convenient form of commuting within the park. There are also popularly arranged elephant safaris for visitors.

A number of guest houses are available around the area for those who wish to spend a few days and view the various elephant herds and other animals. The slow flowing river lined with large shady trees make the park ever more attractive.


Kandy

1A UNESCO World Heritage Site and once the capital of the Sinhala kingdom, Kandy is considered the religious capital of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Situated 115km from Colombo at 465 meters above sea level, it is the last royal capital of Sri Lanka which has now become a major tourist destination. Facing the tranquil Kandy Lake is the 'Sri Dalada Maligawa', known as the “Temple of the Tooth Relic”, the main attraction of the city. Built in the 16th century it enshrines the golden casket carrying the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, brought to Sri Lanka from India in the 4th century. Behind it is the royal palace complex and some these historical buildings have been converted into museums depicting the exhibits of the royal Kandyan era.

The best time to visit Kandy is the month of July/August when the city takes on an air of festivity. Both foreign tourists and Sri Lankan families flock to Kandy to view the annual festival known as the "Esala Maha Perahera" at which the golden casket containing the tooth relic parades the streets of the city in royal procession. The final night procession is the most spectacular event of the country and is viewed by thousands each year. The procession includes 75 or more caparisoned elephants, traditional dancers and drummers, flag bearers and chieftains, all dressed in glamorous traditional costumes in all their splendour.

Kandy has a rich heritage of Buddhist temples. Adjacent to the Temple of the tooth are three of the four major Hindu shrines that also take part in the annual parade. The city with a centrally placed bustling market is rich in cultural diversity and offers plenty for tourists to enjoy. It could be cultural performances at any one of the hotels or choice handicrafts at the many outlets, or fresh fruits at the open market.

Walking up to the “view Point” opposite the Dalada Maligawa above the lake, one can quietly enjoy the sight of beautiful hills that surround the city below. Enjoying a pleasant walk around the lake in cool fresh air is always a delightful experience. Spending a day at the famous botanical gardens bordering the Mahaweli river, noted for its orchid house, expansive well maintained lawns and ancient trees, would be something to remember. Kandy is the gateway to the higher hills and tea plantations and makes a good transit point to the cultural triangle.


Nuwara Eliya


1Nuwara Eliya town founded by Sir Samuel Baker in 1847 was the favourite hill station of the British. With its temperate climate and English-style houses, beautiful green lawns and gardens, little wonder it was called "Little England”. The 18-hole Golf Course at the base of Mount Pidurutalagala, the island's highest point at 2,518m, is the pride of the city. One can look out for well grown home gardens and farms at the countryside full of vegetables, fruits and colourful flowers. Surrounded by hills and tea plantations, Nuwara Eliya is the perfect getaway from the tropical heat of the coast at less than 4 hours’ pleasant drive from Colombo through expansive tea plantations and abundant waterfalls.

The story goes that Nuwara Eliya was found by a group of British officers in early19th century, who had got lost while elephant hunting. On hearing of this, Sir Edward Barnes, the then British governor, had decided to take residence there, soon creating a health resort, which soon became internationally renowned.

Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by a seemingly endless array of tea plantations. Women tea pluckers with their baskets winding up the tea estates in the wee hours of cold and misty mornings, is a sight to watch. At the centre of the city is a modern busy market with department stores, shops, open fruit and vegetable outlets and fast food outlets. Getting away from the city takes you to rows of white colonial villas, bountiful rose gardens, the golf course and country-club-styled hotels that provide a memorable visit.

The most memorable way to travel to Nuwara Eliya is by observation carriage up to Nanu Oya railway station in the Badulla bound railway and then by road to Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is an ideal starting point for day trips to tea plantations, Kandy, Horton Plains, World's End and Ella – sites that tourists do not miss.

Galle


1Galle, the business center of the South of Sri Lanka situated along the south western coast of Sri Lanka rose to prominence with colonial rulers realizing its importance as a commercial port. Under Portuguese rule (1507-1640) it became Sri Lanka's chief port, the capital of Sri Lanka under the Dutch (1640-56) and developed as a commercial hub until the British constructed a modern harbour in Colombo in 1885.

Due to its historical importance, it has been named a World Heritage Site and stands today as the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia. The Fort borders the beautiful beach and the old buildings stand as monuments to a combination of European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. Other prominent landmarks in Galle include St. Mary's Cathedral founded by Jesuit priests. Galle has always remained an educational site for school children visiting in groups and research scientists.

You can spend hours exploring the famous Dutch fort, go shopping at one of the oldest markets of Sri Lanka and even the modern shopping complexes. What’s more - you can also enjoy the feeling of "the good old times" at one of the colonial-style hotels and restaurants. Due to their historical importance, most of the beautiful colonial houses have been restored for the benefit of tourists. On their way to the south of Sri Lanka, all tourists make it a point to stop for a visit at this great ancient city.


Hikkaduwa


1In the early 1960s, Hikkaduwa, a small fishing village was transformed into an unbievable hub of international tourism becoming Sri Lanka’s most sought after holiday destination along the western coast. Easy to reach within a short drive from Colombo, the beautiful white sandy beaches, colourful coral reefs and excellent surf attract people the world over.

A ride in a glass bottomed boat through the shallow sea to view the colourful coral reef is one that both local and foreign visitors look forward to. Beach restaurants and bars, shops and nightclubs provide the background for a carefree stay. Plenty of laid-out breakfast and dinner tables offer a variety of tasty food.

Backpackers, travellers and package tourists all alike favour the beach party atmosphere and one can see them throughout the year in or out of “tourist seasons”. Surfing in the Hikkaduwa region is well known and one gets the best surf during its dry season, November to March with 4 main surf breaks from north to south.

Hikkaduwa also is a major fisheries harbor and one can enjoy the sight of hundreds of fishing craft at its landing site just where the town begins. This makes the place attractive to those who seek fresh fish cooked to varying recipes. It’s a matter of hopping into any eating place.

Even off the beaches, Hikkaduwa has a lot to offer by way of picturesque temples, a scenic fresh-water lake where you still can see outrigger fishermen, tranquil village life at just a small walk down the road and much more.

Balapitiya


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Less than two hours drive south from Colombo, either along the coastal road or by train, will take you to Balapitiya, a small, picturesque village with golden soft beaches.

While Balapitiya still seems "untouched" by mass tourism it’s only a short drive beyond Bentota, one of Sri Lanka's major beach resorts. To the south of Balapitiya are, Ambalangoda famous for its mask carving, the surfers’ paradise Hikkaduwa and the historical city of Galle, all of which are within easy reach.


Balapitiya is traditionally a fishing village and you can enjoy the scattered small fishing hamlets bordering the beach where simple village folks live.

Restaurants would offer you fresh fish cooked in traditional Balapitiya style enjoyed by all tourists. A walk along the beach will make you witness the delightful sight of groups fishermen pulling their long fishing nets called Maa-del laden with small fish, on to the shore.

Fishing trips and/or river safaris can easily be arranged. A journey down the many brackish water lagoons stretching in from the sea and the Maadu river lined with thick vegetation, takes you on an enjoyable boat trip to witness the amazing flora and fauna that make Balapitiya attractive for nature loving eco-tourists and bird watchers.

An important administrative site from the time of the British era, Balapitiya has many mansions and estates which are now converted into villas and hotels for visitors.


Induruwa
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Induruwa with a beautiful, un-crowded beach stretch offers the sight of a scenic village life at a comfortable distance from Colombo. It is fast becoming a major tourist hotspot along Sri Lanka’s west coast.

Induruwa provides an ideal quiet location away from the hustle and bustle of crowded cities and is a prime destination for those looking to relax mind and body and for writers needing intense concentration. It is also an excellent starting point for excursions and day trips.

Induruwa is a small fishing village stretching along a small creek. The sandy beaches are ideal for long walks, sun bathing and swimming. With its local market, small shops and an excellent choice of accommodation of all types, Induruwa caters for individual travellers and families alike.

Bentota


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Facing the Indian Ocean, a vast tropical lagoon and a major river, Bentota offers water sports possibilities nowhere else to be found. It is 90 km from Sri Lanka's international airport and 60 km from Colombo.

Apart from swimming, body-surfing or diving in the sea, you can jet-ski, windsurf, parasail or enjoy a romantic river safari on the river and lagoon. You can enjoy the sea, the lagoon and the river, all in one go.

Being one of the oldest established beach resorts in Sri Lanka, Bentota is famous for its professional tourist infrastructure. The many 5* hotels are often built in fantastic locations and even if you don't stay there, you will not grudge dropping in for a tea and enjoying the scenery.

Bentota while offering 5* comforts also offers many affordable mid-range and budget places along the river and along the wide stretch of beaches.

Bentota is a well sought after destination especially by families. Safe swimming conditions combined with fun water sport and exciting excursions provide a marvellous and an ideal background for a relaxed holiday in Sri Lanka.

Adam’s Peak


1Adam’s Peak is popularly known today as Sri Pada rising up to 7,360ft above sea level. It is one of Sri Lanka’s most important religious pilgrimage sites for over a thousand years. There are various interpretations to the presence of the large footprint at the top of the mountain. To Buddhists, Sri Pada, meaning Sacred Footprint is the place where Lord Buddha has left his footprint which is also the most popular belief. It is known to Muslims as the place that carries Adam’s foot print. Some speculate it to be that of St. Thomas or Lord Shiva.

Annually, local pilgrims, young and old alike, climb this rugged path to the mountain top in large numbers for worship, chanting prayers with all devotion. Tourists climb this mostly for the aesthetic value where one can observe nature in all its glory.

If you make it to the top in the very early hours of the morning, you can watch the sunrise, an ecstatic sight, to say the least. It is generally believed that one should climb Sri Pada at least once in the life time. It is a real challenge to undertake this trip up and down the hill amounting to about 14km.

This shouldn’t be missed! The Sri Pada season commences in December each year and it is believed that at least 20,000 people make it to the top over a single week end.

The climbing path is well lit and lined with stalls selling food, water, hats and souvenirs. Depending on what time you leave and how fit and strong you are, you should get to the peak around 5:45 am.

Arugam Bay


1Travelling south along the east coast of Sri Lanka, Arugam Bay is the last town one comes across south east of the island. It is one of the ten most popular surfing spots in the world and is found on one of the most beautiful tropical coasts in the world.

Unlike other busy coastal towns frequented by tourists, Arugam Bay will offer you with a remote rural life and a quiet atmosphere. The village of Arugam Bay is 5 km south of Pottuvil and on the edge of Yala East National Park.  Inner to this coastal village one finds a stretch of a `jungle.

Wild elephants roam the coastal plain and the small Lahugala National Park is found about 16km inland. Lahugala has been an elephant viewing site for years, in large herds. Also for bird lovers, it is a place where birdlife abounds in the wetlands.

Therefore, Arugam Bay is a place for surfers, water sports lovers and wildlife viewers.  A number of reasonably priced hotels and guest houses are available along the coast that suffered immensely due to the tsunami. The location is open to tourists throughout the year.

The best time of the year for surf is between May and November when the predominant wind is offshore for at least the first half of the day. Due to ease of travel presently, Arugam Bay has become a major tourist destination. For fresh sea food lovers it is an ideal place.

Pasikudah Bay

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The world famous Pasikudah beach in Batticaloa district along the east coast is a location attractive to both local and international holidaymakers. With its wide sandy beach and a reef protected sea it is an ideal place for children, wind surfers and water skiers.

The village itself is away from busy town life making it a popular beach retreat. Boat trips are readily available for viewing the coral reef and the sea is surprisingly shallow and calm for a long distance within making it a safe place of enjoyment especially for children.

Kitulgala


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Kitulgala is a small town that one meets along the Colombo - Nuwara Eliya road and is becoming more and more one of the most visited ECO destinations in Sri Lanka. Kitugala with a beautiful shallow river winding through it, shrouded by the rainforest is a place for nature lovers.

The film location of "The Bridge on the River Kwai" was Kitulgala and the famous bridge that was blown up in the film was built over the Kelani river flowing through Kitulgala.  

This location in which the bridge was built still attracts fans. The river can be crossed by walking across the shallows and crossing the deep channel in a dugout canoe with an outrigger during the drier seasons. This is place for those interested in bird watching, white-water rafting and trekking.

Most of the rainforest bird species found in the Sinharaja forest reserve can also be found here. Large numbers of people travel to Kitulgala at weekends to enjoy the beautiful scenery and play in the river.

Ratnapura


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Ratnapura or the ‘city of gems’ is the centre of Sri Lanka's gem mining industry. A large variety of gems are found from the gem fields in this area and one can see a number of gem boutiques within the town selling precious stones such as rubies and sapphire (plain and star varieties), cat's eyes, alexandrite, topaz, amethyst, aquamarine, tourmaline, garnet, zircon and a host of others. The mines are worked in the dry season.

The elite of the Ratnapura town are mostly gem merchants and it is here that people from all the gem fields across Sri Lanka gather to trade the yields of their hard labour. You have only to wander through the main market area and mention your requirement and it would be attended to instantly. You would stand to gain if you learnt a little about these precious stones before you reach Ratnapura.

The Kalu ganga (river) flowing through Ratnapura with waters from Sinharaja forest also adds natural beauty to the city.

Ella


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Ella is a beautiful small village in Sri Lanka's hill country carrying a few shops, hotels and guesthouses. It stands after a short deviation from the Bandarawela - Badulla road. It possesses a beautiful little railway station through which the Badulla railway passes. The heavily winding  Ella - Wellawaya road strategically leads to the beautiful Ravana water falls flowing down a cave just by the roadside.

The Ravana Ella cave lies 4500 feet above sea level on the foundation of a cliff. This beautiful tourist location is at a 7 miles distance from Bandarawela. The Ravana water fall is known to be one of the widest waterfalls of Sri Lanka. It pours itself down through the Ella gorge, a gap between two hills. The water beautifully courses down in three stages for 9 metres and then curves itself in a stream flowing through the gorge under the bridge. The view beyond the gorge is gorgeous that on a bright day one can see right across the southern coast of Sri Lanka through the strikingly beautiful backdrop of mountains and valleys.

A traveller writes: "The view through the Ella gap was probably the best in the entire island. It was quite early and the isolated hills on the plain popped up like little islands in the mist."

Tangalle
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Travelling along the southern coast of Sri Lanka one comes across Tangalle, located between the towns of Matara and Hambantota. Tangalle situated along the coastal road at ........km from Colombo, is a small resort town. Away from the town the beach carries a number of hotels, guest houses and eating places that cater to the large number of tourists that frequent this resort.

Tangalle boasts of a unique ecosystem in that the coastland is on a hillock within the Tangalle Bay facing at the vast horizon of the deep blue Indian Ocean.  Known for its tranquillity, the stretch of coastline is stunningly pretty with a clear soft sandy beach with waves gently splashing on the shores. Looking from the hillock, the palm fringed coastline couldn’t be more beautiful. It makes an ideal location for those who desire a quiet, relaxed holiday with sun, sand, surf, snorkel and swim.

Tangalle with its protective bays has been a popular port from ancient times and today it is a commercially important fishing town. There are also several small villages around Tangalle by the sea such as Medilla, Goyambokke, Pallikaduwe, Mawella, Kudawella and Seenimodera which are popular spots for sea bathing, sunbathing, swimming, surfing and also snorkelling.

Dikwella


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Dikwella is a charming scenic village on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Beaches are shallow, calm and beautiful. The village itself is inhabited by unsophisticated people who live a quiet tropical life. The area is yet unaffected by mass tourism. Dikwella is the place for tourists who wish to witness and enjoy authentic southern Sri Lankan village life. Shady coconut plantations, picturesque stilt fishermen and white, deserted beaches make a perfect background for a relaxed holiday in Sri Lanka.

A great event which one can watch or even participate is the traditional Devil Dance typical of this area. Devil Dancers who are really traditional healers seek good health for sick people from mystical powers that are invited to help speed up the recovery process of illness.



Matara
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Matara is the first large and commercial city that one comes across moving south east from Galle and moving along the southern coast of Sri Lanka. It is about 160 km from Colombo. The sea frontage to Matara city gives a glamorous look with a beach which extends to about half a kilometer in distance. It is made more beautiful and serene by the presence of a temple on a little island which worshippers reach through a bridge.

The Nilwala river runs through the city bordering the Matara Fort and falls into the sea at Totamuna which is not far from the city. Polhena is the famous beach area for swimming in Matara and is 2 km away from the city centre. Naturally fenced with a coral reef that makes it a very safe area for swimming, Polhena has been a tourist attraction for long years.

Matara is the commercial centre of Sri Lanka's south bustling with business activities. Several reputed companies from Colombo have set up branches in the ever expanding city. The bus terminal is strategically located facing the sea and transport services are remarkable with the addition of ‘three wheelers’ to private and public buses. New hotels of all standards have come up within and out of the city. The city is full of Cyber cafes with e-mail and internet facilities and outlets for shoppers.


Mirissa



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Another destination for independent travellers and surfers on Sri Lanka's southern coast is Mirissa. It is a small fishing village with a beautiful beach and excellent surf points. The fish landing site carries a large number of fishing vessels which bring in their catch early morning and makes a beautiful sight to watch.

While the main focus in Mirissa is the beach, it is a good starting point for excursions further south especially to the Yala National Park and Kataragama. A short distance to the interior you can find rubber and coconut plantations, ancient temples and spice gardens. Mirissa has a lot of small charming restaurants, most of them directly on the beach. Fresh seafood, traditional Sri Lankan meals and international specialties are available at reasonable prices. Tourist accommodation in Mirissa range from friendly, family run guesthouses to small, boutique-style hotels.

Weligama

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Weligama is situated along the southern coast of Sri Lanka on its southern tip, about 24 km from the historic city of Galle and 140km from Colombo. One can reach Weligama Bay within a half hour's drive from Galle, passing along expansive coconut groves on one side and the deep blue sea on the other and what awaits the traveler is the breathtakingly beautiful and extremely serene Weligama Bay. One can either swim in the shallow waters of the Weligama Bay or take delight in diving, snorkeling or even take catamaran rides into the sea. Being away from the hustle and bustle of the town, the beach is quite peaceful.

Within the picturesque bay, one cannot miss the little hilly island where a French Count built his dream house. It stands to date as both a tourist attraction and an exclusive guest house. Moving further along the beach you can watch the unusual fishing mode where fishermen propped up on stilts and equipped with fishing rods and baskets carry on fishing just a few metres into the sea. It is a spectacular sight and is called ‘stilt fishing’.

Being a fishing village, Weligama Bay also has an expansive fish landing site. Tourism has made good use of this beautiful environment providing excellent accommodation choices, catering for all budgets and needs. Apart from the beach life, moving inland will lead you to rubber and coconut plantations, ancient temples and spice gardens.

Koggala/ Ahangama



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With a strip of abandoned holiday resorts and 5* hotels along the beach, one gets the impression that Koggala has once been a tourists’ paradise. Even though some of these buildings have been abandoned, tourists have always frequented the beaches and the Koggala River and Koggala Lake have attracted many nature lovers.

Koggala became commercialized with the setting up of the economic zone where several factories have come up. Yet the quiet surroundings along the beach remain untouched for people to enjoy and relax. There are also Buddhist hermitages on a couple of islets on the Koggala lake which can be visited with prior permission.

The beach stretch along Ahangama is quite beautiful and provides some good surf spots. The main road leading south passes through this small town. Quite a number of beach restaurants offer fresh seafood and provide an excellent view of the sea. Ahangama is a place where one can surf and relax away from the crowds.

Talpe


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The quiet village of Talpe on the main Galle - Matara road offers an ideal place for sun, sea, surf and serenity. The coconut palm fringed beach is elegantly soft and white, making it ideal for sun bathing and strolling and the sparkling blue sea for swimming, surfing and snorkelling. A small protecting coral reef forms a natural swimming pool.

The beaches along this area stretch for miles to the east and west. The popular holiday resort Unawatuna lies only a kilometer away. The serene Koggala river and the cinnamon estates in the interior can be reached by taking a short walk. Tourists that come to this location take the easy mode of travelling around in push cycles to other places of attraction or even use public transport easily available on the main Galle - Matara road. Talpe is situated 122 km south of Colombo and just 6 km south of Galle.


Unawatuna


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Unawatuna has over long years been a tourist’s delight. It is a beautiful and serene beach resort just 5 km south of Galle. The tourism industry took great pains to restore Unawatuna to its former glory having suffered heavily in the 2004Tsunami. Hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and shops were rebuilt quickly and the place is frequented with tourists once again.

Unawatuna is around ten minutes drive from the city of Galle along the southern coastal road. The Unawatuna beach is protected by coral reefs and the waters make it an ideal and safe place for swimming, wreck and reef diving and surfing. It also provides for nature lovers through eco tourism where one can explore the rich biodiversity especially large numbers of endemic bird species in the Rumassala hillock.


Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
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Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawela was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut land overlooking the river Maha Oya at Rambukkana. The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants who become orphaned due to various reasons. Having been shifted from place to place, from Wilpattu National Park to Bentota to the Dehiwala Zoo, it was finally established at Pinnawela in1975. As a result the remote village of Pinnawela ended up housing the biggest orphans in the world.

 Having started with only five baby elephant orphans, Pinnawela is by far a large orphanage now and is quite well known worldwide. In 1978 the Orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens and a captive breeding program was launched in 1982. Babies are fed with milk twice a day and older ones with various types of leaves.

Today the Elephant Orphanage or just Pinnawela, as it called, is a popular place for locals and a must for foreign tourists. Visitors - children, young and old alike love to watch the elephant bath in the river Maha Oya that takes place twice a day. It is amazing to see how they play with one another in the water like carefree children. Some of these also have found foster homes in other countries.


Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery


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Realizing the threat to the turtles the world over, the Wild Life Protection Society of Sri Lanka started a turtle hatchery on the Kosgoda beach. It was established in 1981 to protect turtles that frequent Sri Lankan waters from extinction. Mother turtles swim over to the sandy beach along this coast and lay and hide their eggs in the sand. These locations are easily found by poachers by the mobility marks these innocent animals leave on the sand.

The hatcheries pay fishermen for eggs that they collect at night along this long sandy beach. The hatchery has become a tourist location as it is very rarely that one gets to see baby turtles or even a large turtle in the wild. Visitors get to view the new born lively hatchlings in huge tanks. When they are 2-4 days old and are able to swim out, they are taken to the sea and released. The main egg laying season for turtles is from October to April. Yet some eggs can be found at Kosgoda throughout the year.

Sri Lanka is one of the leading countries in the world that has paid attention to the conservation of sea turtles. London’s Marine Conservation Society has developed a turtle friendly fishing hook which is being introduced on an experimental basis to a group of Sri Lankan fishermen in order to avoid accidental killings of sea turtles.

Giritale

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Just 11 km from Polonnaruwa on the A 11 road is a nature and bird sanctuary on two ancient lakes – Giritale and Minneriya. Both locations are nature destinations by ancient tanks, wild life and farming communities. The focal point of Giritale is this ancient tank constructed in early 7th century. The original walls of the bund can still be seen in certain places. The road skirts along its shore passing guest houses and hotels which are just off the main road overlooking the tank in beautiful settings.

The tank is now the centre of a natural reserve which has been upgraded to a National Park because of its popularity with visitors seeking elephants. It is located in the centre of the Cultural Triangle and provides an exciting experience to those wishing to explore nature and wild life. Elephants can sometimes be seen beside the main road by the side of the tank.

One can reach Giritale from Dambulla via Minneriya or from Polonnaruwa. Giritale can make a convenient base for Polonnaruwa and for visiting nearby national parks, Wasgamuwa National Park and Kaudulla National Park.