7 Reasons to visit Sri Lanka –
A couple of years ago, I was with a fortunate group of students that were sent to Sri Lanka as part of our university curriculum to produce a tourism campaign.
To be honest, I would probably never think of traveling there if it wasn’t for the opportunity in the first place. In fact this seems to be the case with most Singaporeans as only 15,000 of us visited Sri Lanka in 2013. I guess it’s because Sri Lanka doesn’t have the allure or romance of popular destinations in Europe, coolness of big city states like New York or Tokyo, nor the perceived proximity of travel as compared to our South East Asian neighbours (actually it’s only a 3hrs 50mins flight from Singapore).
Looking back though, I fondly remember Sri Lanka as one of the most charming places I’ve ever been, and my only gripe was that we were herded around too quickly. Which is why I decided to write this post because it’s a pity it doesn’t cross many of our minds while choosing a travel destination.
So here are 7 reasons why you should visit Sri Lanka.
Get closer to wildlife
One of the top biodiversity hotspots in the World, there are safaris in all 14 of their national parks. The most popular and rewarding is Yala National Park, which has the highest density of leopards on the Island. Although we were unlucky and barely spotted a glimpse of the elusive leopard, there were plenty of other wildlife during our safari tour. There was even a wild elephant hanging around our accommodation at night!
Sri Lanka’s big five includes the leopard, elephant, sloth bear, blue whale and sperm whale. Google for the full list!
Shaped like a teardrop, the island of Sri Lanka is surrounded by pristine beaches along the western, southern and eastern coast. Despite being terribly hit by the tsunami in 2004, the country has recovered well and now boasts numerous beautiful beach towns which are popular among surfers.
Sigiriya or “Lion Rock”
Be awed by this ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site that used to be King Kasyapa’s fortress and capital. It overlooks the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka and is probably one of the most famous attractions of the country. It is pretty amazing if you try to imagine what it used to be like as you begin your climb through the mouth of a huge sculpted lion (though only the paws remain) and up a series of steep staircases 200m up.
Kandy Esala Perahera
There are many important religious festivals all year round but none seems to capture the hearts of visitors better than the Kandy Esala Perahera. Held for ten days in Kandy around July/August, the lavish festival is a spectacular cultural procession of caparisoned elephants, drummers and dance troupes that traces back to the Sacred Tooth Relic.
For the best views, arrive hours before to reserve your spot. Alternatively there are official seats you can buy to observe the procession, but I reckon jostling with the crowds will be more fun.
Sri Lanka is a place steeped in religion and there are many charming religious and cultural sites all over the country. To name a few, there are the Temple of the Tooth that houses the Sacred Tooth Relic, Dambulla cave temples, Adam’s Peak, Polonnaruwa, and Sri Maha Bodhiya (a 2,000 year old Bo tree) in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura.
I’ll let the photos do the talking here.
Monks praying at Mihintale (img credit: Halina & Wayne) Stilt fisherman in action. Might need to do a little research to find the authentic ones though. (img credit: Pascal)Visiting the tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya gets you up close and personal with the tea pickers (img credit: kauppakamari)
People & Ease of travel
Sri Lankan family checking us out at GalleThere is always something special about train journeys. (img credit: DriftersLankaTours)
If the sights aren’t enough to change your mind, then the people will. Sri Lankans are a really friendly bunch and it’s common to be greeted with a smile when you make eye contact. Conversational English is also widely spoken, so communication will not be much of an issue for English speakers.They seem to be genuinely interested and I remember having a conversation with a tuktuk driver about Singapore even though I made it clear I wasn’t going to take a ride anywhere.
It is also fairly easy to travel around Sri Lanka regardless of your budget. Public transport can be easily navigated for the more adventurous and I heard that the trains are an experience in itself.
If you’re still not convinced by now, check out some of my Sri Lanka travel pictures. See if you can spot the wild elephant I spoke of earlier!
Know any other great reasons for visiting Sri Lanka? Drop a comment below! :)