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29 November 2023
With eight UNESCO sites, lush green mountains and beaches straight from a brochure; Sri Lanka is a small island that packs a real punch.
Our local partners have been running tours since 2009 and know the island like the back of their hand. Keen to move away from mainstream tourism, they pride themselves on providing authentic, immersive experiences and are keen to showcase their beautiful island. We caught up with Viraj to chat about life in Sri Lanka and his advice for potential visitors.
Except bustling Colombo, Sri Lanka is easy going and slow paced. Though a small Island, Sri Lanka is blessed with real diversity: beaches, jungles and mountains. Sri Lankans loves singing, playing sport (we are real Cricket fanatics) and partying with style! It is a multicultural country with Sihalese, Tamils and Muslims living in harmony. I think my fondest personal memory is Sri Lanka winning the Cricket World Cup in 1996 – a truly special moment.
I like the rural areas of Sri Lanka, especially tea-growing regions like Nuwara Eliya and Hatton. Tea plantations in Sri Lanka are alive with history. To this day you can see British built chapels, Scottish and Tudor style planters bungalows, English built railway lines, clubs built for English planters and British styled buildings in these areas. The climate in tea growing regions is cool and the areas boast awe aspiring views of distant mountains and valleys. I suppose I like it because of the long and interesting history – there is always so much to explore.
Culture, food and wildlife because all three aspects are unique to Sri Lanka. Many species are endemic, recipes are local and the culture is unlike anywhere else in the world.
The culture is very varied. The majority speak Sinhala as their native language but English is also commonly spoken. Sri Lankan Tamils and Muslims speak Tamil language so it’s a very diverse country. Sri Lanka has a reputation for hospitality and people are always friendly, especially to visitors.
Traditional Lagoon Crab curry, with plenty of spice of course! It is a unique and delicious style of cooking.
Sri Lanka has a resident whale community off the coast of Mirissa where the continental shelf is very close to the shore. Previously it was thought that they were migrant whales, crossing between Africa and Australia, but research has found that they are living there permanently.
It’s hard to choose! Definitely the ‘cultural triangle’ and its 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a few nights in a national park to meet some local wildlife. Ella is very scenic and great for hiking and the train ride from there to Kandy is one of the most beautiful in the world. More generally – try traditional food and get to know the people – everyone is very friendly.
To get the best out of your Sri Lanka holiday, plan for minimum 10 to 14 days where you could explore and relax. Leave two days to rest on arrival and stay minimum 2 to 3 nights in each place. Although Sri Lanka is a small island, travelling from place to place takes considerable amount of time and it’s best not to rush.
We saw that almost all tour operators were offering the same old trips and attractions and we thought “Sri Lanka has much more beauty than that”. We aim to offer our clients off the beaten path, authentic experiences and show them what Sri Lanka has to offer.
Definitely it was guiding our first large group. We took them on a trekking expedition to Adam’s Peak and the surrounding hills. We started out as an online tour operator, specialising in couples and families, so the first large group was a memorable experience.
Make it happen
Fancy a journey through lush tea regions or a night under the stars at Wilpattu? Send Viraj an enquiry or check out our destination pages for more information about Sri Lanka. To chat to someone in the TravelLocal office, give us a call on +44 (0)117 325 7898.