The Republic of Sri Lanka is in the continent of Asia, and it has two capitals: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, the administrative capital, and Colombo, the commercial capital of the country. Sri Lanka has had many names, Greek geographers referred to it as Taproban, and the Arabs had a share in naming it, as they called it Serendib. Then European cartographers called it Ceylon, and since 1972, Sri Lanka has become the state’s official name.
The Republic of Sri Lanka is classified as one of the island countries located near the coast of the Indian subcontinent. It is in the southwest by the Bay of Bengal and separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and a strait called the Balk Strait.
The topography of Sri Lanka is different from one place to another, affecting the main climate factors like winds, monsoons, humidity, and temperatures, especially in the monsoon season. The central highlands’ geographical features differ between mountain ranges, valleys, basins, and cliffs. In the middle of the island’s southern part of the island are mountains that reach a height of more than 2.5 km, while the rest of Sri Lanka is dominated by flat plain areas.
The Two Capitals of Sri Lanka
As we said, there are two capitals for Sri Lanka, which we will get to know more about.
The city of Colombo is the executive capital of Sri Lanka. It is on the island’s western coast, directly south of the Kelani River, and is considered the Indian Ocean’s main port.
Besides that, the city includes a large industrial port for most of the foreign trade in the country.
Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the legislative Sri Lanka capital, located in the southwestern part, about eight kilometres southeast of the commercial capital of Colombo. It was founded in the 14th century as the capital of the Sinhalese kingdom of Kuta. It remained like that until the 16th century when the Portuguese occupied the city and moved to the capital Colombo.
The city was designated the state’s new capital in 1977 after the government left the independent capital, Colombo. The new parliament was opened there in 1982. There are also Parliament House and Legislative Buildings that are on a small island in a lake called Dayawana Oya, which is amid reclaimed swamps, in addition to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, one of the leading institutions of higher education in the country, where the university was founded in 1873.
History of Sri Lanka
People inhabited it at least 34,000 years ago, and since 15,000 BC, its lands began to be used for agricultural purposes, coinciding with the emergence of the first indigenous Sri Lankan peoples.
In the era of the great Mauryan Empire in 250 BC, Buddhism reached Sri Lanka, followed by Hinduism, which appeared on the island due to the arrival of Tamils from southern India.
Then the Portuguese came to the island, and Catholicism was spread. When the Dutch arrived, they played the leading role in introducing several Dutch laws to the Sri Lankan system. After that, the British began to control the island in 1815 until the Sri Lankan people gained independence in 1948.
Weather in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is in two regions affected by a subtropical climate to the north, and a tropical climate to the south, the temperature in the daytime ranges between 30 and 32 degrees. It becomes warm at night, with temperatures between 22 and 26 degrees.
There are two completely different seasons which are dry and rainy, the dry season is from February to August, and the rainfall is in the dry season and is from October to January. And in the south, the climate is more humid with heavy rain, and the most significant amounts are during April, May, and September to November.
The Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka
If you visit the northern part of the country, February, March, June, July, and August offer the best weather conditions. And if you are going to the south, the best time to go is in the winter months between late December and late March, when it rarely rains.
How to get to Sri Lanka
You can reach Sri Lanka easily with the Bandaranaike International Airport being in the capital Colombo which organises international flights to many countries in Asia, Europe, and many others. Another way to travel to Sri Lanka is by ferry from India.
Transportation in Sri Lanka
Moving through Sri Lanka has become much faster and easier than before. Transportation has been developed to facilitate movement between tourist cities in Sri Lanka, and these means of transportation are
Buses: They are a faster and cheaper way than trains to get around Sri Lanka, it is also the country’s primary means of transportation, and they can take you to any part of the island.
Trains: The rail network has been improved in the past few years, which gives you more relaxation, and while riding, you can see a magnificent view from the large windows that provide 360-degree views.
Auto Rickshaw “Tuk-Tuk”: It is a very convenient way to travel for short distances in Sri Lanka, but you have to agree on the fare with the driver before starting the trip.
Things to do in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is well-known for its strategic location and diverse natural manifestations, including many animals and plants, making it one of the most beautiful top attractions for tourists worldwide: stunning coasts, beaches, a good climate, parks, and many rich cultural heritages.
Sri Lanka contains several World Heritage sites delegated by UNESCO. Besides, there are many landmarks, attractive areas, and activities, like diving and watching Whales and dolphins.
Among Sri Lanka’s biggest attractions is its ancient capital, Anuradhapura, with its beautiful Buddhist temples. One of them is Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its ancient architecture and the rocks rising to about 200 metres. It is renowned as the last capital of ancient kings and one of the most attractive tourist destinations.
Another beautiful place you would love to spend time in is the resort’s beaches on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Also, the Yala National Park is one of the most famous conservation areas in the country, where you can see leopards, elephants, buffaloes, monkeys, and many other kinds of animals and birds.
In the coming part, we will get to know more about the cities in Sri Lanka and the things you can do in each city, so let us start with the capital city Colombo.
Colombo is a beautiful tourist city in Sri Lanka; it is well-known as the Green City of the East, with magnificent green gardens and leafy streets. The city has many places to visit, such as beautiful colonial buildings, impressive skyscrapers, museums, shops, restaurants, and luxury cafes. Remember to enjoy the nightlife atmosphere. There are endless activities to do and places to visit when in Colombo. Here is a list of the top attractions and activities that guarantee an unforgettable trip there.
National Museum of Colombo
It is also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum, the official museum of Sri Lanka; you will get to learn more about Sri Lanka’s history and culture. The museum includes artefacts, clothing, jewellery, coins, arms, and craftwork from prehistory to the present.
Viharamahadevi Park is perfect for families because it is a large green area with many fountains and a small zoo. Make sure to visit the war memorial statue, the Cenotaph, and the national library located in the park too.
While wandering in the park, you will see a Buddha statue, considered the largest cast brass Buddha statue in the country. The park is between the National Museum of Colombo and City Hall.
The Gangaramaya Temple was built in the 19th century. It was built for worshipping and for educating people about Buddhism. There is also a museum to display jewellery, coins, and many other valuables. Also, some religious relics include a lock of the Buddha’s hair and a sacred tree.
It is considered one of the highest buildings in the capital city and is 368 metres high. And when you reach the top, you will see a magnificent view of Colombo, the surrounding areas, and the sea. The tower includes a telecom museum, a shopping mall, a restaurant, and observation areas. The tower is also covered in LED lighting and presents themed lighting displays each night.
The Red Mosque was built in the 20th century, also known as the Jami Ul-Alfar Masjid and is in the Pettah area near the port. When you visit the mosque, you will see its red and white stone minarets, topped with onion- and pomegranate-shaped domes. The red and white colours made it a particular spot for ships, and the red and white bricks are arranged in different patterns.
Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre
The theatre was built as a lotus flower, hosts many music, dance, and cultural performances, and was named recently after the country’s former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa. There are symphony performances and opera, including Chinese, Sri Lankan, Western, or modern pop concerts. It is located in the middle of Colombo City. The performances are held in the main auditorium or the open-air amphitheatre.
National Museum of Natural History
The museum presents you with all you need to know about the natural history of Sri Lanka. It is near the Colombo National Museum and Viharamahadevi Park. There you will see plants, fish, amphibians, and many rare animals threatened with extinction; there are also remarkable rocks and minerals samples. You will definitely enjoy seeing skeletons and fossils of ancient and extinct creatures, including dinosaurs.
Colombo Dutch Museum
When you visit the Colombo Dutch Museum, you will get to know many things about the Dutch influence and the history of the island. It includes many collections like artefacts, artwork, furniture, and more, highlighting the history of Dutch control of the island in the past 200 years. The museum was built in the 17th century as a residence of the Dutch governor, and at that time, it was a crucial stop in Holland’s world trade.
Excel World Entertainment Park
It is a perfect place for kids. It is a beautiful entertainment park where you can find a shopping mall and a bowling alley, which is popular in the city because it is the only one located there. There are a food court and a movie theatre as well.
There are a carousel, bumper cars, and a bounce house for more entertainment. In December, you will be able to see the indoor winter wonderland called Snow World, a European-themed winter village and the only one in Sri Lanka.
Bere Lake is another famous destination located in Colombo. It is in the middle of the city, where you can have a nice picnic, relax, and go boating or running. It is a manufactured lake surrounded by green space.
When you visit the lake, you will find a lot of jogging paths, bike paths, and swan boats you can rent and paddle to explore the lake on your own. Also, you will find a restaurant on a boat while going around the lake, in addition to Gangarama Seema Malaka Temple, which is right in the middle of the water.
Kandy is another beautiful city to visit besides Colombo. It is the cultural capital and was the former capital of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka, making it the most tempting city on the island.
When you visit the city, you will find many things to do and many places to visit, such as the coloured houses in the forest-covered hills, and you will admire the architecture that dates back to the colonial era.
A fantastic festival is held in the city every year called Isalapirahira Festival. It displays the rich Kenyan culture. Also, there is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, considered one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world. And now let us know more about the famous attractions in the city.
Lankatilaka Vihara Temple
The temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and a famous attraction there. It was built on a natural rock base called the Panalgala Rock. On entering the temple, you will be stunned by the intricate designs, delicate Sinhalese carvings, and collections of paintings and sculptures from the Kandyan era. The place also gives you a great view of the city, and you will be able to see the mountains and the rice fields.
The Royal Palace
It is one of the most spectacular places to visit in the city. It was the royal palace of the Kandyan kingdom built by the Kandyan ruler Sri Wikrama Rajasinghi, and it attracts many tourists from all over the world as well as locals.
Although built in the 14th century, it kept its beauty, elegance, and luxury until nowadays. It is characterised by exquisite architecture, witnessing many meetings as well as the signage of the agreement of the end of the Kandyan kingdom.
Pyrandinia Botanical Gardens
The Pyrandinia Botanical Gardens is on a large area of 147 acres in Kandy, with every natural thing you can wish for. Many tourists visit it throughout the year. The gardens include rare plants and trees species like Giant Bamboo Burma. It houses about 200 species of palm trees, more than 4000 species of plants, and 10,000 species of trees, making it the largest park in Sri Lanka.
The Clock Tower is located in the centre of Kandy city, with unique architecture. It was constructed by one of the best architects in Sri Lanka, Shirley de Alois, and it is considered one of the most popular places among tourists in Kandy.
Millennium Elephant Foundation
It is a great property located in an area of 15 acres, where you can find many elephants and enjoy different activities. There you can ride and interact with elephants with all the needed safety procedures through a fascinating educational tour. There are beautiful trails that you can walk on for 30 minutes. Also, you can have a tour of the museum and a one-hour educational walk.
The City of Galle
Galle is on the southwest coast of the island of Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful place to explore. It includes mosques, churches, and gorgeous palaces dating back to the colonial era.
There is a lot to do and visit in the city, such as museums, cultural monuments, historical sites, art galleries, shops, cafes, and restaurants. The Dutch fort, dating back to the 17th century, is the most famous place overlooking the ocean. Here are some attractions you do not want to miss in Galle.
National Museum of Galle
The National Museum of Galle teaches you about the history of Sri Lanka from the 4th century. It includes artefacts and exhibits, including structures, architectural models, masks, wood carvings, and many other artefacts.
Galle Dutch Fort
The fort is one of the most famous historical monuments in the city of Galle. Portuguese explorers built it in the 16th century. Then it fell into the hands of Dutch colonists during the 19th century, who used it as a fortress.
Nowadays, the place has become a museum and a plaza for restaurants, cafes, and shops. Near the fort is the lighthouse, with its architecture, brilliant lights, and the beauty of the surrounding beaches.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, where you can see a vast rainforest surrounding the country from 4 directions. It spreads over an area of 30 km. About 95% of the endemic birds of Sri Lanka and 50% of the wild animals are inside the reserve.
Dambulla is a beautiful city located in the inside part of the island of Sri Lanka. It is famous for including many beautiful archaeological and religious monuments, which makes it a top tourist destination in Sri Lanka. The best you can do in the city is to visit the cave temple complex. It contains statues, frescoes, cave temples, tombs, and more. Here are some attractions in the city.
Golden Cave Temple
It is one of the well-known attractions in Sri Lanka, especially among Buddhists. When you visit the temple, you will be impressed by its interior and exterior design, and the 5-cave temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is on the top of the Dambulla plains, including about 150 golden statues of Buddha and other deities famous in Sri Lankan culture.
It is a place targeted by tourists from around the world. It is part of a volcanic plateau and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the centre of the city’s monuments, such as the castle, the cave temple, and the palace complex.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress
It is one of the perfect places in Sri Lanka for adventures, safari trips, and rock climbing. Also, the famous Sigiriya rock is reached by climbing stairs and steep rocks. From the top of the rock, a beautiful view of the Dambulla and its rainforests is visible. There is also an ancient Buddhist temple at the foot of the Sigiriya cliff, rich in the architecture of old and religious buildings.
Nuraliya is considered one of the island’s most beautiful cities. It is on the highest mountain elevation, up to 1,980 metres above sea level. Many tourists prefer to go to this city due to its beautiful views. It is called Little England. The city is perfect for relaxing in a calm atmosphere among wild creatures and exploring the surroundings like mountains and waterfalls.
Now let’s learn more about the top attractions in the city.
It is one of the city’s most beautiful places to visit, located in the city centre, with magnificent nature and recreational places, including a playground and a garden for birds and flowers, it is a perfect place for families to have a great time.
The park is on an area of 27 acres of greenery and trees with flocks of rare birds; it is dated back to the 19th century to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria on the throne of the British Kingdom.
Lake Gregory is located near the city centre. It was founded in 1873 at the time of British Governor Sir William Gregory, and it allows many activities for visitors, such as kayaking, boating, and riding horses.
Leap Waterfalls is another beautiful natural place tourists love visiting in Nuralia to enjoy the scenic landscapes.
There are stairs next to the waterfall, which takes the tourists to another level offering a fantastic view of the city and the surrounding tea plantations. The waterfall is close to a village where visitors can learn more about the nature, customs, and traditions of the locals.
Negombo is a beautiful beach town located just north of Colombo. It is a perfect tourist destination on the island of Sri Lanka, surrounded by nature and the golden sands. Let’s see what you can do in the city of Negombo.
The Portuguese built the Negombo Fort, then it was taken by the Dutch in 1640, and the Portuguese attempted to restore it, and after several failed attempts, they managed to get it back in 1641. After that, the Dutch attacked the fort and destroyed it in 1644, and then it was rebuilt in 1672.
As we know that Sri Lanka is full of many beautiful beaches, Negombo beach is one of the best beaches to spend a great time with family and friends, with mid-range and luxury hotels and restaurants.
The Dutch Cannel was built to be the main supply route along the western coast linking Colombo, ports, and cities by the Portuguese in the 17th century, and it runs through central Negombo. You can take a boat and have a stunning tour watching beautiful sights, and also walk on the dock to see the boats passing through the canal, giving you great views of the local life in the city.
The fish market in Negombo is the second largest in Sri Lanka; it is close to the Dutch Fort, with all kinds of seafood available and can be cooked by order.
Another fish market is located near the sea and directly on the beach, where fishermen lay the fish to dry in the sun. This method is known as karawala.
Trincomalee is a city and a port located on a peninsula with beautiful natural landscapes, making it an important tourist attraction on the island. There you can do many activities, have a great time on the beach, and visit many famous attractions in the city.
One of the perfect places for nature and history lovers, with a lovely entrance and a deer that roam through it with a spear to add more charm to the trekkers in the fort. A part of the fort is a military area containing a famous Buddhist temple and another for Hindus.
The Koneswaram Temple is located on the top of a cliff inside Frederick’s Fort and shows the Dravidian style of architecture. This temple is an important Hindu pilgrimage site that exudes sacred feelings and is distinguished by its beautiful views of the Indian Ocean.
Maritime and Naval History Museum
The museum is located in a restored 17th-century Dutch mansion. It is a beautiful place to visit to get to know more about Sri Lankan maritime history, including the maritime history of Marco Polo. The first floor exhibits a picture of the ecosystem.
Uppuveli & Nilaveli Beaches
The two beautiful beaches are located in the north of Trincomalee, which are suitable for calm, relaxation, and spending a great time at sea on great white sands, clear water, and restaurants serving Sri Lankan food.
Pathirakali Amman Temple
Pathirakali Amman Temple is famous for its stunning gopuram with its diverse and vibrant colours. It includes a beautiful interior design. When you visit the temple, you will feel the benevolent divine presence. Among all the temples of Trincomalee, this temple will amaze you with its colourful walls and spiritual feelings.
This ancient Buddhist archaeological site is one of Trincomalee’s most interesting to visit. The site will take you on an adventure through history with the original crystal Buddha statue to spend hours among the trees and stroll among the remains of this beautiful temple built by King Devanampya Tissa of Anuradhapura.
Bentota is a beautiful coastal city in Sri Lanka with many wonderful beaches. The city is not only famous for its beaches but also for the calm and relaxation these secluded beaches provide. Here is a list of the places you should visit there.
It is one of the city’s most beautiful places with its golden sands and pure turquoise waters, where skiing, windsurfing, canyoning, banana boating, and diving are all available. Also, there are dozens of reefs, coral barriers, hundreds of fish, and distinctive sea creatures.
Sea Turtle Protection Association
It is a great spot to visit in Sri Lanka, where you and your children can enjoy watching dozens of rare and endangered Kosgoda turtles crawl to the beach to bury their eggs in the sand.
The Brief Garden is a perfect destination for hiking in Sri Lanka. There are thousands of trees, tropical plants, animal structures, and rock carvings designed by famous local artist Beavis Bawa.
Hotels you can stay in while visiting Sri Lanka
For a comfortable stay, you need the best hotels to choose from and get back to at the end of an adventure-filled day. Here is a list of some of the famous hotels in the country.
Mermaid Hotel & Club
The hotel is located on the Kalutara coastline in a fishing village about 45 minutes from the international airport. It is a 4-star hotel with 100 standard sea view rooms. The rooms are colourful, with wooden floors, large windows and beautiful furniture. The hotel has an outdoor dining area, a spa, two swimming pools, and beach access with sun loungers and umbrellas.
The resort is on Kabalana Beach; it has only nine rooms, including one suite, and all oversee the ocean. Its location gives you easy access to the surrounding shops and attractions. The Galle Fort is 30 minutes away.
Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort
The resort is in Tangalle, on a 42-acre on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, and it is in a magical crescent-shaped stretch of golden-sand beach with turquoise water. It has 152 rooms and villas, the villas have private plunge pools, and some oversee the ocean. The ground-floor rooms have a terrace providing direct beach access. Also, there is a spa with sections of healing treatments, as well as three restaurants serving different tasty dishes.
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