Lanka Visitor

About Sri Lanka



Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and has a fascination of its own. Nearly every visitor to Sri Lanka begins or ends his stay in Colombo. More than anywhere else in the country it’s a city where the old and new co-exist.

There are high-rise complexes and colonial mansions, supermarkets and street bazaars, flashy western fashions and traditional sarongs, speedy sports cars and one-man rickshaws. Most of the remnants found in Colombo today are the legacy of the British, Dutch and Portuguese. Horseracing was a regular activity on the seaside Galle Face Green. Today, most of the hotels are gathered around this same Green, now minus the horses.

Places of interest – Vihara Maha Devi Park and the colonial style brilliant white Town Hall; the Museum which houses many rare treasures; the parliamentary complex at Sri Jayawardhanapura, the administrative capital, a unique work of architecture set on an island. The Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall with its spacious gardens and right opposite is the colossal statue of Lord Buddha. Galle Face Green; the Zoological Gardens – reputed to be one of Asia’s finest; handloom and handicraft shops. There are plenty of Night Clubs and Casinos to keep you busy in the night.

Visit the gemming area, panning of gems, watching men at work with their age-old customs and rituals. Experience the thrill of unearthing a priceless treasure. Visit a gem cutting and polishing centre and the gem museum. View an exhibition of Sri Lankan Gems.

Famous for a 1st century B.C. Cave Temple complex, this is an archaeological treasure. The rock temple is a series of caves (05), which has a painted area of more than 20,000 sq. ft of stunning Buddhist murals. A huge 47 ft. rock cut of a sleeping Buddha dominates the main cave.

Sigiriya is a fascinating fortress, which was a stronghold of a fifth century king who murdered his father. The red stone rises 600 feet from the green scrub jungle it is famous for its frescoes painted within a sheltered rock. Only 19 out of the 500 painted in the 5th century remain. The Lion stairway, the mirror wall and the water gardens are amongst Sigiriya other highlights

Polonnaruwa – Sri Lanka’s medieval capital [11th-12th century A.D] is a well-preserved metropolis of buildings and shrines. The majestic King’s council chamber, the rock cut Lotus Bath, the statue of one of Polonnaruwa great king’s, Parakramabahu and the rock cut sculptures of the Gal Vihare (temple) are a few of this capital’s memorable sights. The Gal Vihara of Polonnaruwa is a brilliant structure best known for it’s Buddha sculptures. It was once known as the northern shrine, “Uttararama” of Parakramabahu. However, its modern name “Gal Vihara” simply means Rock Temple. It comprises of four mid-12th century statues of Buddha, cut from a single granite wall, and is ranked as one of the best masterpieces of Sri Lankan Art. A “Sea of Parakrama”, a vast 12th century man-made reservoir also dominates the city.

Anuradhapura has been the greatest city of all. It remained the capital of Sri Lanka for about 1400 years. Its ruin’s today displays infinite details of rare beauty, delicately set in the world’s mightiest masses of monumental masonry second only to the Pyramids of Egypt. The best time to visit Anuradhapura is during “Poson Poya” June – the most sacred place is the “Sri Maha Bodhiya”. Worship at the bo tree has continued unbroken for 23 centuries.

The story of Mihintale is a story etched deep in the national consciousness. It was at Mihintale that, King Devanampiyatissa while on a deer hunt with his attendants encountered the grandest event in the history of this land – the advent of Buddhism. The Mihintale Mountain, less than 13 km from Anuradhapura has never ceased to fascinate both local and foreign visitors since it is the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Visitors can join in the ascent of one of the world’s most antiquated stone stairway climbing 1840 steps to reach the summit.

Kandy – the royal city, nestling amidst the mid-country hills was the last seat of the Sinhalese King, Sri Wickremarajasinghe. Every visit to Sri Lanka should include its second largest city, Kandy; the Sinhalese cultural and spiritual centre – made even more appealing by its comfortable climate. It is the home of the sacred temple in which is enshrined the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. Kandy is also famous for its art and crafts and ancient dance forms. Visit the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya on the banks of the Sri Lanka’s longest river.

It’s biggest attraction is the annual Kandy Esala Perehara (an elaborate religious procession to honour the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha), a magnificent elephant procession – which fills the town to bursting point with tourists from all over the world. Thousands of dancers and more than 100 elephants make it one of the highlights of the Sri Lankan year.

The three 14th century temples of great importance are a short distance from Peradeniya, namely; Gadaladeniya Vihara, Lankathilaka Vihara and Embekke

Pinnawela is situated 52 km away from Colombo. It is an orphanage for baby elephants created by the Department of National Zoological Gardens. The orphanage was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants found abandoned by their mothers. Other inmates are those displaced from their natural environs by development projects or those found wounded. It has been recorded that a few baby elephants have been bred here in captivity.

The main tourist attraction in Matale is the handicrafts and Spice Gardens where one can view various spices that have been grown. A guided tour explains the herbal and medicinal value of these spices. Matale is also known to have some of the best craftsmen in the country. Having learnt the work from their ancestors, these talented craftsmen strive to create works of art making use of the traditional methods to suit the modern day living styles. Apart from spices and handicrafts, the colourful batiks (a traditional Sri Lankan form of hand painted designs onto cloth) are also a great attraction.

The British rulers modeled Nuwara Eliya on an English Village in the early 19th century, with homes and buildings in styles from Georgian to Queen Anne. It is based on 1890 meters (6199 ft) above sea level. Cool rugged and picturesque, it is set in the heart of the tea country. Throughout the surrounding you will come across beautiful waterfalls cascading hundreds of feet down mountainsides. One of the biggest attractions in Nuwara Eliya is the 18-hole golf course, one of Asia’s finest.

A few miles from Nuwara Eliya is a prominent peak, Hakgala. At its foot lies the “Hakgala Botanical Gardens”. The gardens are smaller and less exotic than those at Peradeniya, but at 5600 feet elevation the species of flora are quite different. The sheer rock of Hakgala (“Jaw Rock”), which rises 1500 feet straight up above the gardens, is said to have been carried here from Himalayas in the jaws of Hanuman, the mythical monkey General who helped Prince Rama rescue Princess Sita from the demon king Rawana in the Ramayana epic.

NEGOMBO (North of Colombo)
The major beach resort on the coast north of Colombo is Negombo, popularly known as the Fishing Village. Here is an old world atmosphere of 17th century churches that line the highway and forts. The feast of St. Anne is celebrated here in late July in a carnival atmosphere. Like many other coastal towns in Sri Lanka, Negombo was an important spice port long before the Portuguese set foot on the island. The Negombo Lagoon is a good place to watch the Karava fisherman at work. These fishermen bring their daily catch of fish, crabs and prawns to the fish market. During the day they are seen mending their nets on the beach.

(Mount Lavinia, Wadduwa, Kalutara, Beruwela, Aluthgama, Bentota, Induruwa, Kosgoda, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Unawatuna, Koggala, Weligama, Dikwella, Tangalle)All of these towns have very good beaches and have an array of hotels to choose from. Along the coast there are a variety of activities including water sports, a visit to the botanical gardens, river boat rides (Bentota); a visit to a turtle hatchery (Bentota, Induruwa & Kosgoda); glass bottom boat rides to see corals, snorkeling, diving and surfing (Hikkaduwa), or visiting a mask museum & factory and lace factory. (Ambalangoda – just before Hikkaduwa) Of course, seafood is predominant throughout.

Galle the seaside town is famous for its well-preserved 17th century Dutch Fort, lace making and ebony carvings. The journey to Galle is along the Palm fringed coast passing Ambalangoda, famous for its mask makers and Hikkaduwa with its incredibly beautiful coral gardens and exotic tropical fish. Seafood is a specialty all the way. Another interesting place to visit is a Turtle Hatchery.

Hambantota is the largest town on the south-eastern coast and is a well sheltered fishing port. Just outside the town are saltpans where seawater is left to evaporate, then carried by rail to salt factories. The town also boasts the best curd (a local yoghurt made out of buffalo milk) and traditionally eaten with honey.

is a port city on the east coast of Sri Lanka, about 110 miles northeast of Kandy. The city is built on a peninsula, which divides the inner and outer harbors. It is one of the main centers of Tamil speaking culture on the island. Historically referred to as Gokanna or Gokarna it has been a sea port that has played a major role in maritime and international trading history of Sri Lanka.


    • Country : Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
    • Gained Independence in : 1948
    • Administrative Capital : Sri Jayawardhanapura, Kotte
    • Commercial Capital : Colombo
    • Area : 65,610 sq km (25,322 sq miles)
    • Length : 445 km
    • Breadth : 225.3 km (278 meters)
    • Population : 18.1 million
    • Population in Colombo : 1.5 million
    • Main Ethnic Groups :
      • Sinhala 74.9%
      • Sri Lankan Tamils 11.2%
      • Moor 9.2%
      • Indian Tamils 4.2%
      • Others 0.5%
    • Language : Official language is Sinhala. Sinhala is a language of Indo- Aryan origin and is the language of the majority. Tamils & Muslims speak Tamil. English is widely spoken by all Communities.
    • Currency : Sri Lankan Rupees
    • Religious Groups :
      • Buddhist 70.19%
      • Hindu 12.61%
      • Islam 9.71%
      • Christian 7.45%
      • Others 0.04%
      • Literacy Rate : 89%
    • Average Life Expectancy : 70-80 years
    • Topography : Flat coastal and Northern areas Hills and mountains in the central and Southern Central Areas.
    • Average Temperature :
      • Colombo 30.60 C to 24.10 C
      • Nuwara Eliya : 20.20 C to 11.50 C
      • Beach 29.00 C
    • Rainfall :
      March – April – Inter Monsoonal Rain fall
      May – September – South West Monsoonal Rainfall
      October – November – Inter Monsoonal Rainfall
      December – February – North East Monsoonal Rainfall
      Average Rainfall : 39” – 197”
    • National Flower : “Nil-Manel” Flower (Blue Water Lily)
      Found in abundance in the marshes and waterways of the
      rural area. It is a water lily that is also found in other tropical
    • National Tree : “Na” Tree (Ceylon Iron Wood)
    • National Bird : “Wali Kukula” (Jungle Fowl)
    • Longest River : Mahaweli (207 miles/333 km)
    • Highest Waterfall :
      • Bambarakanda (790 ft/241 m)
        (It breaks off at 3 points by hitting onto a rock before it drops down)
      • Diyaluma Falls (560 ft/171 m) (Highest single drop)
    • Widest Waterfall : St. Clair (241 ft/73 m)
    • Highest Mountain : Pidurutalagela (8281 ft/2524 m)
    • Clothing : Cottons and light clothing in Colombo and other Coastal
    • Dry areas. Light woolens in Kandy and the Hill Country.


All National parks require you to be accompanied by a wildlife guide. Visits are generally made early morning (0600-1100HRS) or in the evening (1500-1800 HRS).

UDAWALAWE National Park (in land from the south west coast, between Ratnapura & Hambantota)

It is situated around a reservoir of the same name in the south central area. Some of the animals that could be seen in herds are elephants, deer, wild buffaloes, wild boar, monkeys and variety of other species like peacock, crocodile, and if you are lucky bear, leopard & giant python. The park has many pleasant surprises for a patient visitor – an experience both memorable and exciting. Camping here is possible.

YALA National Park (a few kms past Hambantota on the coast) Yala is the most popular park with a vast array of animals including deer, peacock, elephant, wild buffalo and the lucky visitors may get to see a leopard or bear. There are self-catering bungalows in the park, which can be used, but bookings must be made well in advance for
availability. Camping can also be organized.

BUNDALA National Park (Adjoining Hambantota)
A wildlife sanctuary where birds are in abundance. Flamingos are often seen here during the northeast monsoon. Elephants sometimes retreat to the Bundala saltpans during the drought.

MUTURAJAWELA Bird Sanctuary (between the airport & Colombo)
Muturajawela is Sri Lanka’s largest single expanse of marsh. It covers an area of 8000 acres, from the mouth of the Kelani River, where it meets the sea, to the outskirts of the Negombo lagoon. The marsh thicker and wilder towards the Negombo end, is home to all kinds of birds, small mammals, snakes, butterflies and dragon flies and even crocodiles. 40% of Sri Lanka’s vertebrate species are recorded here, many of which are endemic. It is recorded that
there are some 126 resident bird species and 40 migratory species.

A haven for fishermen, who use traditional methods of net, line and fish kraals are still employed to rake in lagoon fish, prawns and ornamental varieties from the waters of the marsh.

The main attraction of Muturajawela is a guided boat trip that shows you a variety of landscapes and ecosystems. Learn the different techniques employed by the fisher folk of the area as the boat slips past nets, shrimp pots and traps constructed with matting to form “kraals” in water. It is truly a nature lover’s delight.

SINHARAJA Forest Reserve

Sinharaja is Sri Lanka’s last remaining primeval rainforest. A single footpath cuts through the heart of its 50 square miles. Vegetation is in many layers as in Congo or Amazon. The suffocating silence is broken by the sound of rain: 200 inches fall annually. A real paradise for bird and butterfly enthusiasts, and flora and fauna experts as there are many indigenous species found here.


Ayurveda is the ancient indigenous form of medicine that originated in the east. It involves rejuvenation of the body as well as treatment of certain ailments using natural herbs, plants and roots. Most of these plants can be found in the wild jungles surrounding many hotels.

Examples of the treatments available:

Body Massage: The oil used for this is locally produced and helps tone up the nervous system, soothes nerves and joints, aids respiration. It also helps in the elimination of poisons and waste material, removes deposits around the joints amongst other benefits. (45 minutes)

Herbal Steam: You will be asked to lie down on a wooden platform and a wood door will close above you, leaving your head out in the open. Steam produced from boiling specific roots, leaves and plants, will be passed through the wooden chamber. This steam passes throughout your body purifying your pores and eliminating toxins. The benefits include inducing perspiration, improving blood circulation, increasing vital resistance and energizing the heart. (30 minutes)

Herbal Bath: Reduces body pains and makes the irregular nerves function. Stimulates the fitness of the bones and muscles. (30 minutes)

Peeling: Expands the pores and removes the dead layer of the skin making the skin smooth. (30 minutes)

Head Massage: In addition to feeling good and being very relaxing, the oils stimulate the nerves and veins in the brain. (30 minutes)

Pinda Sweda: Fermenting the body with herbal rice packs and fresh cow’s milk gives the body relaxation and energetic power in the muscles. It also strengthens the nervous system and improves the blood circulation. (30 minutes)

Herbal Sauna: Constant high temperature with herbs expands the sweat glands and ejects toxins and uric acid from the body. (25 minutes)

Snahana Karma: Fermenting of the body with herbal packs and oil will improve the nervous system and weak muscles.

Pancha Karma: The Five Methods of Detoxification or Purification of the Human System, this involves a 7-day treatment with a special diet.

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