Lonely Planet have just this week announced Sri Lanka as their top country to visit in 2019.
Always ahead of the curve, we sent our personal travel expert, Iain to visit this wonderfully diverse destination last month. A mesmerising mix of spectacular landscapes, ancient temples, historic cities and golden beaches, it’s no wonder that Sri Lanka has worked its way to the top of our travel wish-lists.
It’s a 10.5-hour flight non-stop from London Heathrow to Sri Lanka, it is possible to fly with Emirates from Newcastle with a connection in Dubai. The best time to travel to Sri Lanka is from November to March and July to August, making it a great destination for families who need to travel in the summer holidays. Sri Lanka is six hours ahead of the UK. There is year-round surfing available on the south coast but the biggest swells occur between April and October.
Habarana Village by Cinnamon
This 4* property, which is adjacent to and shares some facilities with Cinnamon Lodge, is a perfect option for honeymooners and couples who want to explore nearby Sigiriya. This rustic lake-front retreat has a real air of romance – choose the Kingfisher Lodge for its delightfully secluded location, where you can sit on your private deck looking out at the lake. For a special celebration, Iain recommends splashing out on the unique treehouse dining experience.
Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort
This beautiful 5* beachfront resort on Sri Lanka’s south coast is set in 22 acres of private grounds. Included within all that space is the hotel’s own vegetable garden and room for the resort’s free-range chickens to roam. There is so much to experience in this one resort: foodies can take cookery classes which include a trip to buy produce at the local markets; wildlife lovers can take a guided tour of the resort with the in-house naturalist, who will tell you about the 34 types of resident butterflies and the turtles who nest on the beach at certain times of year; health-conscious travellers can head to the yoga studio for complimentary classes, or even try their hand at surfing.
Mount Lavinia Hotel
A great value 3*+ hotel close to Colombo, Mount Lavinia Hotel wears its colonial history on its sleeve and provides its guests with excellent service. Once home to the British Governors, now hotel bellboys wear traditional colonial dress and will greet you with a cool drink and a smile. Giving you the best of both worlds, Mount Lavinia has a lovely beach with calm waters, but is close enough to the city for guests to explore the fascinating cultural melting pot that is Colombo.
Iain’s top tips…
Climb Sigiriya Rock
An absolute must when in Habarana, the remains of a 5th century palace (built as a safe haven for King Kaspaya after he illegally took the throne from his brother, Moggallana) are just the icing on the cake. You approach the base of the rock, watching out for monkeys on the way, through four gardens which are said to be amongst the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. On your way up the spiral staircase you’ll see beautiful ancient frescoes and enter the palace complex via two giant stone paws, all that remains of the original gargantuan lion gates. It might be quite a climb but the 360-degree views from the top of the rock are well worth the effort. Iain recommends arriving early to avoid the crowds and the mid-day heat.
Visit the Dambulla Cave Temple
This amazing cave complex, the largest and best preserved in Sri Lanka, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The five magnificent caves are home to no less than 153 Buddha statues!
See elephants in Udawalawe National Park
Set around Udawalawe Lake, this National Park is an important habitat for Sri Lankan elephants. As well as spotting families of elephants roaming the park, Udawalawe is also a great place for birdwatching and you can even see crocodiles in the lake.
Iain loved Sri Lanka’s second city which brings together the narrow streets and characteristic architecture of the Dutch colonialists with a distinctly tropical flare. Visit the cricket ground where England have taken on Sri Lanka or delve into the history of the fortified old town.
Take a guided tour of Colombo
Over the centuries Colombo has been colonised by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British meaning that this compact city is rich in culture. Just walking around looking at the city’s architecture you can see the diverse influences that have created modern Colombo. A guided tour is a great way to get to know the city’s fascinating past as well as experiencing contemporary life in the amazing markets.
Don’t leave without…
Seeing the Old Dutch Hospital and Jamil-Ul-Alfar Mosque (aka The Red Mosque) in Colombo.
Did you know…
Tea was first brought to Sri Lanka by a Scot and is now one of the country’s largest exports.
These are just a few of Iain’s recommendations from his experiences in Sri Lanka. To discuss your plans with him, please call Iain on 0191 285 9321 or send an email to email@example.com.