Sri Lanka Travel Guide
There's something tantalising about Sri Lanka, whether it's from the unmistakable scent of spices in the air, the faint vestige of old-fashioned sophistication, or the pacifying sway of its green-carpeted land and beautiful beaches. The amalgamation of it all results in the chemic penning of irreducible experiences you wouldn't want to miss. This is Serendib, and it's where you're meant to be.
This ancient city in the North Central Province has many accolades under its belt including being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. More importantly to travellers, it's home to an exquisite complex that boasts well-preserved ancient temples, monasteries, dagobas and bathing pools.
If the distinctive outcropping at Sigiriya watching over the plains of Central Province doesn't impress you, the ruins of a 5th-century palace that sits loftily on its flat top and the herculean lion paws carved at its foot just might. Legend has it that this UNESCO World Heritage Site might have been inhabited as early as the Mesolithic Period, and is an amazing place for history buffs to visit.
Any historical tour—or any tour, for that matter—of Sri Lanka is incomplete without a visit to the town of Polonnaruwa, site of its second most ancient kingdom. Take the dusty road from the new town to the ancient city where eerie remnants of once-magnificent structures like the Royal Palace, the famous giant stone Buddhas of Gal Vihara and the towering brick walls of Lankatilaka inspire awe.
Cave temple complexes are a thing of ethereal beauty, and Dambulla, home to Sri Lanka's grandest cave temple complex, is no exception. While there, take in the beautifully-preserved ancient statues and exquisite murals depicting Buddha as well as kings, gods and goddesses. When you've had your fill, stop by the Ibbankatuwa Prehistoric burial site and notice the rose quartz mountain range nearby.
Tellurian vision takes to the skies in the small hill country town of Ella about 200 kilometres from Colombo. This mountain retreat is famous not only for its biodiversity but also for its spectacular panoramas. In a languid pace, blaze your own trails or follow existing ones to visit its humble number of attractions that include tea plantations, waterfalls and the Dhowa Rock Temple.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Some say Kandy became a World Heritage Site thanks to the temple nestled in the royal palace complex of the Kandy kingdom. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is, after all, one of the most revered temples in the country. It's home to a tooth of Buddha, and many devotees and curious travellers make the pilgrimage to see the gold, stupa-shaped casket where the tooth is kept.
Sri Lanka is nestled a stone’s throw away from India’s southeastern shore where the Bay of Bengal touches the Indian Ocean. A one-stop flight from Los Angeles to Colombo takes about 22 hours while a nonstop flight from London is 10h 30m.
Situated on Sri Lanka’s western region, the official capital city of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (or Kotte) sits about seven kilometres from Colombo, the commercial capital. Though predominantly Sinhalese, it's home to many ethnic and religious groups.
Also known as the Colombo International Airport, Bandaranaike International Airport serves international destinations. It's located 32.5 kilometres north of Colombo. The Ratmalana Airport, 16 kilometres south of Colombo, serves domestic destinations.
The official language of Sri Lanka is Sinhala and Tamil, although English is commonly spoken.
The Sri Lankan rupee is the country’s currency. Its currency code is LKR, its symbol is ₨. It isn’t traded internationally, but there are many money exchangers and ATMs in Colombo. Credit cards are accepted for purchases, but carrying cash is advisable.
A Tourist Visit Visa is required for all foreign nationals entering Sri Lanka, including US, UK and Australian citizens. Applications for the Electronic Travel Authorisation, which grants a 30-day stay, must be done online at eta.gov.lk.
The standard voltage in Sri Lanka is 230V/50Hz AC using Type D sockets and three rounded pin plugs. A plug adapter and voltage converter are necessary for US and Canadian appliances.
Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid vaccines are mandatory for Sri Lanka, while Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Polio and Rabies are recommended. The country is low risk for malaria, but pack some antimalarial tablets just in case.
Keep these phone numbers handy in case of emergency: 118 or 119 for the police, 110 for ambulance and fire & rescue, and 011-2421052 for the tourist police.