Sri Lanka has become one of the most popular destinations of 2013 and it’s a wonderful place to visit during the winter months. It’s got excellent weather, beautiful beaches, fantastic cities and a host of outstanding heritage sites that are a delight to explore.
I was lucky enough to travel to Sri Lanka last January and spent two weeks discovering just some of what this amazing country has to offer. The most important thing when you’re planning a holiday to Sri Lanka is to make sure you leave plenty of time to visit its historical and cultural attractions, as well as allow at least a few days to enjoy its glorious beaches.
Top landmarks to visit
Sri Lanka is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage sites – quite an impressive number for such a small island nation. It’s not possible to explore all of these in detail during a week-long break, so you need to be selective. I’d recommend seeing the following two places if you can fit them in.
This was the most impressive of Sri Lanka’s heritage sites I was lucky enough to visit. Sigiriya is a fortress that was constructed in the 5th century on top of a rock that towers above the jungle. The climb to the top isn’t too strenuous but it does take a bit of time – especially as you’ll want to stop along the way to take in the views.
One of the most amazing things about Sigiriya was that the entrance to the fort at the top of the rock used to be through the mouth of a huge sculpture of a lion. All that’s left of this grand entrance today is the paws of the statue, but it gives you an idea of its vast scale.
Situated reasonably close to Sigiriya is Polonnaruwa, one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals. This is an impressive walled city that held great importance in the 11th century. In fact, when you visit the city now it will strike you more as a garden, with trees dotted between the various temples, palaces and monasteries that litter the complex, while moats surround it.
There are outstanding examples of Buddhist statues here, as well as truly beautiful wall paintings dating from the 13th century – a real must if you’ve got the time to spare.
Beautiful scenery to discover
What’s really great about Sri Lanka is that it’s so easy to have a balance between history, culture and relaxation on a trip here. When you’re looking at deals for holidays in the country (there are some examples here), check out tours that allow you to spend time in the nation’s various regions.
You should certainly plan a couple of days at one of its picture-perfect beaches. These look like they’ve come straight out of the pages of a holiday brochure, with golden sands fringed by palm trees and lapped by blue seas the order of the day. The top resorts tend to be around the south coast, but there are new developments popping up elsewhere now as well.
While you’re on the sightseeing part of your trip, make sure you spend at least one night in the highlands surrounded by the tea plantations. Sri Lanka is famous for its tea production and it’s fantastic to see the rows upon rows of tea bushes with the pickers moving steadily between them.