When most people think about Sri Lanka, it’s cricket that comes to mind. And while cricket is a big part of life here, you don’t have to be a sport-lover to fall in love with this island paradise. Here are just a few reasons Sri Lanka belongs on everyone’s bucketlist.
Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage and is home to a cultural triangle which stretches between Kandy, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. History and architecture lovers will never want to leave. Anuradhapura was once the royal capital of 117 monarchs and was the greatest monastic city in the world. They built magnificent palaces and intricate sculptures, before the city was abandoned and forgotten for almost 1000 years.
Recently rediscovered, visitors can explore the forgotten city and see the collection of architectural creations that rival the pyramids of Giza in size. Close to the city is a tree which has been tended by monks for 23 centuries, which is believed to have been grown from a sapling of the tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment. These are just two of the hundreds of awe-inspiring cultural sites Sri Lanka has to offer.
Despite its small size, Sri Lanka is one of the top 5 biodiversity hotspots in the world. It’s home to some charismatic, exceptional and rare species including Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears, buffalo and sambar, but the most interesting of them all is the extremely rare red slender loris. You can visit a number of wildlife sanctuaries that are the most pristine on earth – established by Sri Lankan royalty 2000 years ago. Yala West National Park is a prime site to see leopards, the population here and uncharacteristically bold for such a shy species. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of a stunning sloth bear.
The unspoilt landscapes of Sri Lanka provide visitors with a huge variety of outdoor activities. Surfing, diving and white-water rafting are some of the most popular. Diving here is a relatively new pastime, so the sites are immaculate and you’re guaranteed to see a plethora of underwater life. But the best part about diving in Sri Lanka? It won’t cost you more than $30 a trip.
Surprisingly, Sri Lanka also boasts internationally-renowned surfing spots such as Arugam Bay. Bring your board, or rent one and hit the waves. For the less adventurous, there’s always cricket. Cricket is a huge part of life in Sri Lanka, and whenever their team is playing a match, it’s an infectious country-wide carnival atmosphere. If you can get a ticket, it’ll be a once in a lifetime experience.
There’s at least one celebration-worthy holiday a month in Sri Lanka thanks to the multitude of religions the country observes. The celebrations are accompanied by great festivals with dancers in costumes, parades, fire-breathers and flower-adorned elephants taking over multiple streets at a time. One of the things we love about Sri Lanka’s festivals is how authentic they’ve remained, and how they welcome tourists to join in their celebrations.
The most spectacular of these is the festival of Esala, which takes place over a period of ten days. The festival is grand and elegant, with beautiful traditional costumes and historic dances and rites, which is a welcome change from other more commercialised festivals in Asia.
What would a holiday be without a beach? But these aren’t just any beaches. Sri Lanka’s coastline is blessed with white and golden sand beaches that stretch for miles. With the classic backdrop of towering palm trees and the soft swoosh of the waves ebbing on the sand, you’ll be relaxed and rejuvenated in no time.