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Why Sri Lanka is still one of the best holiday destinations

by Martha Hales

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The world wept with the Teardrop Island as the news of the atrocities of Easter Sunday 2019 spread. It was a profoundly shocking day for Sri Lanka and for everybody affected. In the immediate aftermath, the Sri Lankan authorities instigated a national state of emergency, and in the days and weeks that followed, those responsible for the senseless crimes were apprehended. UK FCO advice directly after the attacks was to avoid all but essential travel to Sri Lanka, but since June 2019 this advice has been relaxed.

Sri Lanka holidays: Buddha mural in Kanda

The island is now very much open for business, and many local enterprises reliant on tourism are waiting for visitor numbers to get back to normal. We at TravelLocal are excited to be able to offer Sri Lankan holidays once again, and with so many livelihoods that relying tourism, the people of Sri Lanka need our support.

Sri Lanka holidays: boat on beach

Now is a great time to book a Sri Lanka holiday as demand is still recovering so great value flights are easier to come by, and because security is extra tight. Plus, of course, all of Sri Lanka's marvels are just as appealing as ever and a holiday on this beautiful island is full of enticing possibilities. Here are just a handful of the reasons we will always love Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka holidays: Elephants grazing in Yala

The coastline

A trip to Sri Lanka without some time at the coast enjoying one of the many beaches would be a missed opportunity. This is an island with a beach for all occasions, so whether you prefer deserted sands or fully serviced beaches with all the facilities you could want, Sri Lanka can meet your needs.

Sri Lanka holidays: Balapitiya beach

The south and west coasts see more visitors and have plenty of beach resorts to choose from, while the north and east are quieter and more off the beaten track. Major resorts like cheerful and touristy Bentota are concentrated on the west coast, while more low key beaches are strung along the south shore, including gems like Tangalle, Rekawa and Merissa, or photogenic Trincomalee beach on the east coast.

Sri Lanka holidays: Trincomalee beach

Intrepid beach-goers who like to step beyond the familiar should consider the north coast beyond the Jaffna peninsula where remote islands lead west into the Palk Strait where undiscovered beaches lapped by beautiful seas are worth the effort to reach if you are happy with zero beach facilities. 

Sri Lanka holidays: Beruwala beach

Highland hikes

Hikers can enjoy a variety of trails focusing predominantly on the central highlands, starting with simple, scenic walks to waterfalls and viewpoints around the tea plantations in the vicinity of Ella and Nuwara Eliya, the two most popular villages in tea country.

Sri Lanka holidays: Nuwara Eliya tea plantation

If you are seeking something requiring a little more grit, consider the pilgrimage trek to Adam's Peak, 5,000 steps up to a superlative sunrise viewpoint and a refreshing cup of tea. Even more intrepid are the trails that meander through the Knuckles Range, a formidable ridge of rocky peaks where a guide is essential and views are astonishing.

Adam's peak Knuckles mountain range

Cultural insights 

If soaking up some history and culture is more your idea of fun, Sri Lanka will be a dream come true. The 'cultural triangle' contains countless relics from the golden era of Sinhalese culture, most importantly the ruined city of Anuradhapura, a ceremonial hub from many centuries ago which is truly absorbing to explore. Ancient Polonnaruwa, the second ruined city of the cultural triangle, is equally impressive  and offers insights into daily life in the region during the medieval period.

Sri Lanka holidays: Polonnaruwa UNESCO ruins

You can't miss the peculiar sight of Sigiriya, 'Lion Rock' looming high above the surrounding plain, which was used as a fifth century as the perfect location for an impenetrable palace, the remains of which still crown the rock today, along with masterful ancient carvings and paintings which adorn the rock itself.

Sri Lanka holidays: Sigiriya lion rock fortress

Nearby, the impressive cave temples of Dambulla are an unmissable - if very popular - complex of caves where virtually no space has been left without a Buddha sculpture or painting covering every nook and cranny. The highland city of Kandy is the undisputed cultural heart of Sri Lanka, serenely located beside a lake and home to the Temple of the Tooth, where a sacred relic of the Buddha is kept and worshipped by Buddhists from all over Sri Lanka and beyond. 

Sri Lanka holidays: Dambulla cave temple

The wildlife

Wildlife is one of the top reasons that many people choose to travel to Sri Lanka. Safaris in the national parks are great value and offer some excellent viewing opportunities. Yala is the best known among the national parks, and statistically it has the greatest density of leopards anywhere on the planet and though sightings are not guaranteed, they are certainly regular.

Sri Lanka holidays: leopard in Yala

As well as the celebrated leopards, Yala is also the stage for a cast of other exciting fauna including elephants, spotted deer, crocodiles, sloth bears, monkeys and jackals - all that before you even consider the 200 or so species of birds that visit the park. If you are interested in seeing whales and turtles, head for the south coast not too far from Yala, where seasonal whale populations and turtle breeding beaches are a big draw.

Sri Lanka holidays: whales

Wilpattu National Park is better for wildlife spotting if leopards are less of a priority - there are leopards here too but not in such high numbers, meaning fewer visitors and a more authentically wild experience. Wilpattu along with Bundala National Park are the hotspots for birders, while if you are keen to see elephants then Minneriya and Uda Walawe National Parks are the ones to head for.

Sri Lanka holidays: Wilpattu National Park

Boundless urban adventures

For colonial charm you need look no further than Galle Fort, a charming mix of faded grandeur and picturesque corners, lively with locals and visitors and blessed with lovely coastal surroundings. The town is host to plenty of enticing boutiques, galleries and cafes to while away the days.

Sri Lanka holidays: Galle Fort

Colombo's atmospheric and frenetic northern districts of Fort and Pettah are two of the most compelling in the capital, both with distinct character and both worthy of your time to get to know this vibrant city and its daily life. Viharamahadevi park is the loveliest in the city, and the surrounding area is also a great area for a stroll, the leafy avenues of the Cinnamon Garden mansions are interesting architecturally and this neighbourhood has some very chic cafes and eateries. The National Museum can also be found here, a compelling institution with some fascinating exhibits that help to put Sri Lanka's history into context.

Sri Lanka holidays: Colombo

Make it happen 

The beauty of Sri Lanka is that all these tempting holiday distractions are within easy reach of each other as the island is a manageable size and distances are never too great. Booking a Sri Lankan adventure will help get the tourism industry back to normal, safeguarding local livelihoods. What would your ideal Sri Lanka trip include? Contact our local experts with your personal requirements and they will craft the ideal itinerary for you. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.

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