by Andy Khong
Sri Lanka, previously known as Ceylon, is a beautiful island nation located in South Asia. It is situated in the Indian Ocean, south-east of the Indian sub-continent, and is renowned for its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality.
Sri Lanka has a history that dates back over 2,500 years, with a diverse blend of influences from ancient kingdoms, colonial powers, and indigenous traditions. The country has been a melting pot of cultures, religions, and languages, resulting in a vibrant and multicultural society. Buddhism has played a significant role in shaping the nation’s identity, and you’ll find numerous ancient Buddhist temples and stupas scattered across the island.
The ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese community and the minority Tamil community have had a troubled past. The conflict stemmed from various factors, including cultural differences, language issues, and political aspirations. It escalated into a violent civil war that lasted for nearly three decades, from 1983 to 2009. The war resulted in significant bloodshed and suffering on both sides, with devastating consequences for the country. Since the end of the civil war, Sri Lanka has been working towards reconciliation and healing. The country has made significant strides in promoting peace, stability, and ethnic harmony.
Nature lovers will be captivated by Sri Lanka’s breathtaking landscapes. The country boasts lush rainforests, misty mountains, cascading waterfalls, and pristine beaches fringed with palm trees. One of the country’s natural wonders is its diverse wildlife. Sri Lanka is home to several national parks, such as Yala National Park, and Wilpattu National Park, where you can spot majestic elephants, elusive leopards, colourful birds, and other fascinating creatures.
In addition to its natural beauty, Sri Lanka is known for its rich cultural heritage. The ancient cities of Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa offer a glimpse into the country’s glorious past, with their well-preserved ruins, grand palaces, and towering dagobas (stupas). The cultural triangle, which includes these ancient cities as well as the rock fortress of Sigiriya, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must visit destination for history enthusiasts.
Anuradhapura, now preserved as an archaeological park.
Polonnaruwa, a royal ancient kingdom.
Sigiriya, ancient rock fortress.
A few more captivating tourist attractions in Sri Lanka are:
- Galle: Located on the southwestern coast, Galle is a charming coastal city with a rich colonial heritage. Its star attraction is the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later fortified by the Dutch. Inside the fort, you’ll find cobblestone streets, Dutch colonial architecture, boutique shops, and stylish cafes. Galle also offers beautiful beaches and is known for its annual Galle Literary Festival.
- Adam’s Peak: Also known as Sri Pada, Adam’s Peak is a sacred mountain revered by multiple religious communities. It is famous for the footprint-shaped impression at its summit, which is believed to be sacred by Buddhists (who believe it to be Buddha’s foot), Hindus (who believe it to be Lord Shiva’s foot), Muslims (who believe it to be Adam’s foot), and Christians (who believe it to be St Thomas’ foot; one of the 12 apostles who brought Christianity to Sri Lanka). The climb to the peak is an iconic pilgrimage journey, especially during the pilgrimage season from December to April, when thousands of devotees ascend to witness the stunning sunrise.
- Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa): Located in Kandy, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world. It houses a tooth relic believed to be the left upper canine tooth of Lord Buddha. The temple complex showcases intricate architecture, serene meditation halls, and beautifully adorned shrines. The annual Esala Perahera, a grand procession featuring dancers, drummers, and lavishly decorated elephants, is a major highlight.
- Hanuman’s Footprint: Situated in the Ramboda area, Hanuman’s Footprint is a fascinating Hindu religious site. According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, it is believed that Lord Hanuman, a revered deity with a monkey face, left his footprint on a hilltop while searching for a healing herb. The site offers panoramic views of the surrounding lush greenery and the Ramboda Waterfalls, adding to its mystical allure.
Apart from these attractions, Sri Lanka offers numerous other delightful places to visit, including the misty hill station of Nuwara Eliya known for its tea plantations, and the serene beaches of Mirissa and Unawatuna. Each destination has its own unique charm, and exploring them will provide you with a deeper understanding of Sri Lanka’s rich history, diverse culture, and stunning natural beauty.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, believe to house a tooth of Lord Buddha.
Nuwara Eliya, “Little England of Sri Lanka”, known for its tea plantations.
Sri Lanka is also famous for its flavourful cuisine, which reflects a fusion of indigenous flavours, colonial influences, and regional variations. From aromatic curries to freshly caught seafood, the country’s culinary delights are a treat for the taste buds. Don’t miss the opportunity to try traditional dishes like “rice and curry” (“curry” mean any side dish in a broad sense), hoppers (bowl-shaped pancakes), kottu roti (chopped paratha, meat curry, scrambled egg, onions, and chillies), and an array of tropical fruits.
The country offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience that caters to a wide range of interests. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, cultural immersion, or wildlife encounters, Sri Lanka has it all. You can embark on thrilling hikes through tea plantations, surf on picturesque beaches, embark on wildlife safaris, meditate in serene Buddhist temples, or simply unwind in luxurious resorts overlooking the ocean.
The warmth and friendliness of the Sri Lankan people will make you feel right at home. They are known for their hospitality and genuine smiles, ensuring that your visit to Sri Lanka is not only memorable but also deeply enriching. Sri Lanka eagerly awaits your arrival!