Few islands in the world offer the diversity that exists in Sri Lanka; from ancient cities to rich religious festivals, colonial memories to rolling tea plantations and some of the best beaches in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka intoxicates its visitors with a potpourri of cultures, religions, races, customs and sheer natural beauty.
Yala National Park
One of our favourite National Parks, Yala is located in south east Sri Lanka and home to many animals including Leopards, Elephants, species of birdlife, flora and fauna. Enjoy game drives as you traverse forest, grassland and lagoons.
Visit the spectacular rock fortress of Sigiriya including the water gardens, frescoes, mirror wall, and the stunning Lion Rock rising 200 metres above a forested plain. The walk up is worth it as you can see rock carvings along the way and the view from the top is fantastic!
Visit five separate caves which contain about 150 stunning Buddha statues and paintings. These are some of Sri Lanka’s most important and evocative religious art. Buddha images were first created here over 2000 years ago, and over the centuries subsequent kings added to and embellished the cave art.
Famous for its tea trails, set in the heart of ‘tea country’, Hatton is accessible by train and it is worth the journey to get there! Explore the immaculate tea trails, learn about the production of tea and enjoy the unspoilt beauty of this pristine area.
Galle A coastal city south of Colombo, Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the perfect place to explore on foot. Set along picturesque coastline Galle is known for its colonial architecture, churches and museums.
Sri Lanka’s climate is rather complicated for such a small country, due to the fact that the island is affected by two separate monsoon seasons.
Low season is between May and August when the weather in the North and East is best during this time. The Yala monsoon season brings rain to the south and west coasts plus the Hill Country.
The shoulder season of April and September to November offer the best odds for good weather countrywide. New Year’s celebrations in mid-April cause transport to fill beyond capacity.
High season is between December to March where the Hill Country plus west- and south-coast beaches are busiest – and driest. With beds in demand, prices peak. The Maha monsoon season (October to January) keeps the East, North and Ancient Cities wet.
I loved exploring the ancient sites in Sri Lanka. Their temples can only be described as legendary! Sigiriya or Lion Rock was a highlight for me. From the top (after climbing too many stairs to count!), you are rewarded with spectacular views over the ancient city. The ruins at Polonnaruwa are fascinating, with ancient sculptures of Buddha cut into granite stone dating back to the 12th century.
A trip to Sri Lanka is not complete without a visit to Kandy, nestled in the foothills of tea country. An evening tour to the Temple of the Tooth to witness the Puja ceremony is a must. A true highlight was a visit to Pedro Tea Estate to learn how tea is produced – what a process! Driving through the winding roads to reach the estate, you are rewarded with stunning views of rolling hills, dotted with colourfully dressed tea pickers hard at work. Concluding the day with a cuppa tea was the perfect end to a wonderful tour.
Currency Sri Lankan rupee
Language The official languages in Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil. Sinhala is spoken by the Sinhalese who make up the majority, while Tamil is spoken by the minority Muslim and Tamil groups. English is most popularly spoken in the large cities but isn’t commonly understood in rural areas.
Why we love it the beaches, the timeless ruins and of course the welcoming people!
Weather Sri Lanka is a year-round destination as there is usually good weather somewhere on the island. With the two monsoon seasons the best time to visit the west and south coasts and hill country is from December to March, while the best weather on the east coast is from April/May to September.
Social customs & quirks The country’s culture has been influenced by its regional neighbors, most notably Southern India. It can be seen largely in the Sri Lankan cuisine and music. Some local restaurants even label their dishes as both Sri Lankan and Southern Indian. Ingredients like coconut milk, lime juice, chilies, pickles, and fruit chutneys are descendants of Southern Indian fare. Evidence of the country’s colonial history can also be seen, especially in such recreational activities as tea drinking and the popular sport of cricket. Sri Lankan music is heavily influenced by the musical traditions of Portugal and Buddhism. The Portuguese arrived on the island in the 16th century bringing guitars and ukuleles, and the Portuguese ballad. The African slaves who were forced to come to the island also brought drumming and certain traditional dances.
Festivals & events One of the best literary festivals in the world is in Sri Lanka in January. The Galle Literary Festival plays host to some of the most famous names in literature, including Richard Dawkins, Joanna Trollope, and Meera Syal. Local Sri Lankan writers are also showcased. Visitors to the festival can enjoy readings, discussions, and a host of interesting and informative workshops.
Thank you for arranging a fabulous trip. If I tried to pick out the highlights, I'd just about list the entire itinerary! Apart from seeing the south western part of the country, we were specifically interested in our ancestors former homes and tea plantations and we were very successful in finding those. All the hotels were great.
The planned activities were excellent and in particular the guides - Juliet Coombe in Galle, and the boatman on the Kapu Ela River. The driver/guide on our three game drives at Udawalawe was amazing - his knowledge and what he could spot was incredible. Sri Sivalingam in Colombo was so interesting and informative. However, the absolute gem on our trip was our driver/guide Udaya! He is exceptional - pleasant, courteous, a superb driver (I get horribly nervous on winding mountain roads, but at all times felt fully confident of his driving). Nothing was ever a problem or difficult for him, especially when we were trying to find remote plantations. He was informative but never intrusive, always bright and cheerful - we couldn't have had better - he was wonderful! So many thanks to everyone who had a hand in the organisation of our trip - we both thoroughly enjoyed it.