Sri Lanka – five reasons to visit

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4. Beaches (Talalla)

After being named the top country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet, Sri Lanka was tragically hit by a terrorist attack earlier this year, which temporarily halted visitors to the country. However, since the UK Government declared it safe to travel there again in June, it’s now time to rediscover the beautiful landscapes, welcoming people and abundance of wildlife that make this small island one of the world’s best travel destinations. Here’s a run-down of five reasons to book a trip to Sri Lanka:

1. Food

From the moment you wake up each day, your taste buds will be delighted by Sri Lanka’s delectable cuisine. Breakfasts tend to consist of coconut and treacle-filled pancakes, fresh tropical fruits, spicy omelettes and hoppers – bowl-shaped coconut pancakes. Local eateries churn out delicious curries throughout the day, as well as other specialities including kotthu – meat or vegetables stir-fried with strips of roti (flatbread). For a deeper understanding of the country’s offering, sign up to a cooking class, such as the one at Matey Hut in Ella, where chef Madu guides each group through the making of six different curries, with recipes to take home.

Sri Lanka Food
The delicious end result of a cooking class at Matey Hut in Ella

2. Wildlife

Whether it’s cheeky monkeys wandering around tourist sites or snakes slithering through the grass by the roadside, Sri Lanka is full of enchanting creatures great and small. For an up-close look, try Uda Walawe for an unforgettable safari experience, where you’ll no doubt encounter elephants, boar, numerous tropical bird species, crocodiles and so much more. A lucky few might even set eyes on the elusive Sri Lankan leopard. The park can become quite crowded, so opt for quieter times of day (between 9am and 3pm) for the best views and to avoid overwhelming the animals.

Sri lanka elephants
Uda Walawe National Park.

3. History

Throughout Sri Lanka, expect to find beautiful temples steeped in history, such as the Dambulla Cave Temple, which dates back to the first century BC. The complex of five caves contains 153 statues of Buddha, with walls and ceilings covered in vibrant paintings, certainly worth the steep 160m walk to reach it. Dambulla sits within Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, which includes the area between the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the great ruined city of Polonnaruwa and Kandy, the country’s second city.

Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla Cave Temple

4. Beaches

Sri Lanka’s south coast is essentially one beautiful beach after another, with something to offer almost everyone. For wildlife and water sports, try Mirissa, a popular tourist spot, known as one of the best places in the country for whale-watching tours. Unawatuna has a more laid-back vibe, with numerous beachside restaurants and cafés, backed by a bustling street of shops selling trinkets and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. To escape the crowds, head to Talalla Beach, a palm-lined expanse of golden sand, with just a handful of guesthouses and eateries making for the ultimate secluded getaway.

Talalla Beach
Talalla Beach.

5. Beauty

Find a viewpoint and you’re bound to be inspired by Sri Lanka’s stunning landscapes. Sigiriya rock fortress is one of the country’s most iconic sights and for an unbeatable view, climb neighbouring Pidurangala rock, past temples and statues of Buddha, before channelling your inner Indiana Jones and clambering over boulders to reach the top. Elsewhere, Adam’s Peak offers one of the most spectacular sunrise vistas or, for those who don’t fancy the 2,243-metre climb to the top, try Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, a far less strenuous walk offering panoramic views of the vast verdant landscape from the top.

The view of Sigiriya from Pidurangala

Visit Sri Lanka with a member of AITO, The Specialist Travel Association, a group of 120-plus independently run tour operators.

By: George Curtis


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When I first started out travel writing, twenty years ago, I was writing a weekly round-up for The Independent. The first PR agency I ever tapped into for their clients' holiday ideas was Travel PR; they were always full of great suggestions for the column and responded quickly. Over the years, I've worked with them on many occasions and their close association with AITO has always paid dividends. Nothing has changed; some of the best story ideas I get herald from them, and their response time remains very speedy. They are a pleasure to work with.

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