1 BLISS

bliss

Sri Lanka has always been a place that refreshes not just the mind and body, but also the soul and spirit.

There are many wonderful day spas across the country, in some of the most tranquil and serene settings in Sri Lanka – on a golden south coast beach, near the ancient city of Polonnaruwa and the lush hill country of Kandy, with many of them being in hotels so you may not have to venture far. For thousands of years, the most popular method used to restore and rejuvenate tired bodies and weary souls has been Ayurveda – the oldest and most holistic medical system available in the world – and this is what I highly recommend.

There are many wonderful day spas across the country, in some of the most tranquil and serene settings in Sri Lanka – on a golden south coast beach, near the ancient city of Polonnaruwa and the lush hill country of Kandy, with many of them being in hotels so you may not have to venture far. For thousands of years, the most popular method used to restore and rejuvenate tired bodies and weary souls has been Ayurveda – the oldest and most holistic medical system available in the world – and this is what I highly recommend.

Ayurveda is useful on a day-to-day basis in learning about various methods – nutritional, physical and spiritual – you can take home and adopt in your everyday life. After all, it would not be true to the holistic nature of Ayurveda if the benefits were to stop after your holiday ended.

2 SIGIRIYA

SIGIRIYA

Sigiriya gets its own information write up because I truly think it is amazing and a must see and climb in Sri Lanka. Part fortress and part sacred complex, Sigiriya is one of the island’s most awe-inspiring archaeological sites and a leading tourist attraction.

Located north of Dambulla, the site consists of a sheer rock that rises over 200m with the ruins of a palace on the top and a vast garden at the foot.

Sigiriya refuses to reveal its secrets easily, and you’ll have to climb a series of vertiginous staircases attached to sheer walls to reach the top. On the way you’ll pass a series of quite remarkable murals and a pair of oversized lion’s paws carved into the rock. The surrounding landscape – lily-pad-covered moats, water gardens and cave shrines – only add to Sigiriya’s rock-star appeal.

3 SAFARI’S

safari

Sri Lankas’ amazing wildlife sanctuaries (national parks) offer an unprecedented view of raw Mother Nature. The variety of species found in them are one of the largest in the Asian continent. Going on safari in one of these parks, especially Yala and Minneriya will give you a sneak peek into the untouched lives of the forest dwellers and their habitats.

The fourteen wild life parks of Sri Lanka are sanctuary to 86 different species of mammals as well as birds and reptiles. Large herds of wild elephants form the centre of attraction, while among the predatory animals, the leopard steals the limelight. The other predatory animals are sloth bear, jackal and mongooses. Primates such as common Langurs, endemic macaque, purple faced leaf monkey and shaggy bear monkey roam amidst the forests in huge troops.

It will be an experience of a lifetime.

I do not support any form of animal tourism where a wild animal has been captured and removed from its natural environment, subjected to insanely cruel ‘breaking of spirit’ rituals so you can ride it, wash it, swim with it or take a selfie with it. Stick to the safari’s where you get to admire and appreciate these beautiful animals in their home – the wild.

4 HERITAGE

_HERITAGE

Sri Lanka contains an astonishing eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites within its compact shores. Six of the cultural sites are testament to a civilisation with over 2,000 years of recorded history, while the seventh and eighth natural sites boast some of the highest biodiversity found outside the Amazon basin.

Of all the ancient sites the most famed and most exquisite is the Kingdom of Anuradhapura. Sri Lanka’s third and the longest serving capital and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world is also one of the most sacred cities of World Buddhists.

Polonnaruwa, is the second most ancient kingdom of the country and was one of the great urban centres in South Asia. Today, the well-preserved ruins give you a chance to experience the grandeur of this period and marvel at the artistry of the island’s early craftsmen.

The Ancient City of Sigiriya is considered by some as the eighth wonder of the world and you can read more about this remarkable place in its own information pod.

Located at the centre of the island and cut into a 160m granite boulder are the remarkable Cave Temples of Dambulla (also known as The Golden Temple of Dambulla). The Cave Temples are masterpieces of Buddhist art, created through murals and statues.

Close to the island’s southmost point, is The Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications. You will enter through the imposing stone bastions that encircle the sea-facing promontory and step back in time. Inside the fort you will find that it radiates old-world charm. The narrow streets are dotted with Dutch colonial villas and there’s a welcome absence of vehicular traffic.

The Sacred and Royal City of Kandy is nestled amidst lush mountains in the centre of the country and within it is The Sri Dalada Maligawa or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. It was built within the royal palace complex which houses the tooth relic of the Buddha, a tooth, which is respected and recognised by Buddhists.

Damp, mysterious and teeming with life is the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and is the last extensive stretch of virgin rainforest on the island. Because of the dense vegetation, wildlife is not as easily seen as at dry-zone national parks such as Yala. There are no elephants, and the 15 or so leopards are rarely seen. The most common larger mammal is the endemic Purple-faced Langur.

Central Highlands of Sri Lanka comprises of the Peak Wilderness Protected Area (Adam’s Peak), the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. Central Highlands was added to the list in 2010 and qualified because of its biodiversity.

5 BEACHES

Where beaches are concerned you will be spoilt for choice in Sri Lanka. From east to west the beaches vary from long golden ones to the perfect wind and waves. And the best part is, the majority of these Sri Lankan beaches are really as beautiful as you’ve seen in guidebooks, Facebook and Instagram. Whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic getaway, a family looking to entertain the kids or a solo traveller seeking peace and quiet, Sri Lanka has a beach for everyone.

Most visitors to Sri Lanka head to the beach destinations of the Southern Coast, mostly situated south of Colombo. Each destination has developed its own distinctive character and highlights and these are my favourites; Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Mirissa, Tangalle and Hiriketiya,

For a truly pristine, unadulterated beach experience, there is no better place than the East Coast however, it is slowly becoming more popular. My favourite beaches include Nilaveli, Pasikudah and Arugam Bay.

For any surfing enthusiasts, Arugum Bay is very famous for its surfing points that attract surfers from all over the world. Many of them make Arugam Bay their home during the surfing period.

Wheather you yearn for a five-star beach resort, a laidback surfer’s paradise or a wreck-dive among multi-coloured tropical fish, Sri Lanka has the right beach destination for you.

6 FESTIVALS

festival

Sri Lanka having a history as long as many ancient civilizations, positioning in the crossroad of the East and the West, and being a multicultural society, celebrates a wide variety of colourful festivals, ceremonies and events relating to Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions. Hardly a month goes by without a unique celebration rooted in the island’s tradition.

Every full moon day in Sri Lanka is known as Poya, a Buddhist public holiday in which adherents’ dress in white to visit a temple to pray and meditate. The 12 Poya days each year are individually named and concern the life of the Buddha and Buddhism.

Independence Day (February 4th), celebrates independence from Great Britain in 1948. Parades, dancers processions and national games are organised all over the island, but the main event is held in Colombo, attended mostly by politicians.

Sri Lankan New Year (April 13th & 14th), is a non-religious festival celebrated by everyone.

The most important Buddhist full moon day is in May – Vesak Poya – which marks the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away. Visitors to Sri Lanka at this time will not fail to witness and be moved by the beautiful displays of lanterns outside every Buddhist home, business and temple. Don’t forget to visit a roadside dansalas (stall) that offer free food and soft drink to passers-by.

Sri Lanka’s most prominent festival is the magnificent Kandy Esala Perahera, held in the hill capital of Kandy over 10 days usually in late July to early August and climaxing on Esala Poya.

Under a star-studded moon-filled sky, the streets of the city appear as flowing threads of fire, colour, and stylised motion with traditional local dances such as fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandyan dances and various other cultural dances. In addition, the elephants are adorned with lavish garments and led by the Maligawa Tusker on whose back is a gold casket containing the relic.

The Hikkaduwa Beach Festival brings this town to life at the end of July for four days of beach-based activities, cultural events and musical shows for the whole family. International DJ’s, local dancers and musicians headline the event.

December brings the Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) Pilgrimage Season, which lasts until the Sri Lankan New Year (mid-April). Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian pilgrims ascend the 2,234m mountain to a temple that bears the ‘footprint’ of the Buddha, Lord Shiva or Adam, according to the differing beliefs. The climb begins shortly after midnight in order to reach the summit by sunrise, when a remarkable triangular shadow of the peak, known as the ira-sevaya or “service of the sun”, foreshortens in spectacular fashion. Pilgrims ring a bell to indicate the number of visits they have made to the summit.

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