Sri Lanka’s star is on the rise; tourists are flocking to the Jewel of the Indian Ocean, thanks to the staggering number of attractions packed into this tiny island.
Visitors generally fly into Colombo, a buzzy city where tuk-tuks compete with buses blasting Indian pop music on the streets, and where a new crop of design hotels, art galleries and chic clothing boutiques is emerging. The Old Colombo Dutch Hospital, renovated by the government, is a plaza ringed with chic new cafes and restaurants. Contrast this with the rickety commuter rail line that cruises down the coast, just feet from the sea, and you’ll see what makes Colombo so appealing.
Eating is one of the great pleasures of visiting Sri Lanka. The country’s food is a heady combination of delicate flavours that range from coconut to curry, with hearty helpings of rice. Even the most low-key restaurants make their elaborate sauces and sambals by hand, and the result is one of the most flavourful cuisines in the world.
Explore Sri Lanka’s coastline with visits to some of its best beaches, like those in Kalpitiya, which is slated for mega-development. Arugam Bay is tailor-made for surfers. And Unawatuna is touristy, but heaps of fun. You can also go whale-watching from nearby Mirissa.
Beautiful Galle, with a massive fort that’s home to small streets, restaurants and cafes with considerable charm, is paradise for anyone interested in colonial architecture. Some of the country’s best hotels are here, housed in old merchants’ homes. But if you’re looking to escape the heat, head into the hill country, where tea plantations cover rolling hills and beautiful views are everywhere you look.