Sri Lanka (Ceylon) – Colombo, Kandy, Sigiriya, & Negombo

Sri Lanka (Ceylon) – Colombo, Kandy, Sigiriya, & Negombo (1/30-2/3/2013) - Lonely Planet rated Sri Lanka as a top destination to visit in 2013 for good reasons. 

Negombo Beach Sri Lanka
Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka
Finally free from more than 25 years of civil war ending in 2008, Sri Lanka is an interesting destination offering a varied travel experience with beautiful beaches and an interesting history rich in culture. Sri Lanka is also known for its spices, palm trees, and wild elephants.

Despite a history of recently ended civil war and the setbacks of the 2004 tsunami, Sri Lankans are determined and optimistic. They’re proud of their heritage and quick to return your smile.

Rock Fortress Structure of Sigiriya Sri Lanka
Rock Fortress Structure of Sigiriya - Sri Lanka
Frescoes of Rock Fortress Structure of Sigiriya Sri Lanka
Frescoes of Rock Fortress Structure 
of Sigiriya - Sri Lanka
Rock Fortress Structure of Sigiriya  Sri Lanka
Rock Fortress Structure 
of Sigiriya - Sri Lanka
We had an incredible experience visiting a fabulous place in Sri Lanka’s interior. One of our most inspiring travel experiences we have had was climbing the 1,000-foot granite peak of the Rock Fortress structure of Sigiriya (see photo). This UNESCO World Heritage Site rises out of the middle of the vast ruins of an ancient 5th century city. The once palace on a fortified rock can be seen for miles. Also known as the Lion Rock because it is accessible through the mouth of a gigantic lion (only feet now show) leading to iron stairwells straight up the sheer rock side. Yes, my fear of heights kicked in a bit and the climb is definitely challenging but the experience and views are worth it. Amazingly, many of the interesting frescoes (see photo) have managed to stay largely intact for over 15 centuries.

Sigiriya village remains a small rural town with not much to see, despite its significance to travellers who have been visiting this ancient site for decades. This is such a remote place that they warn you not to walk around at night because the wild elephants have attacked people.

Frescoes of Rock Fortress Structure of Sigiriya Sri Lanka
Lovely Grounds 
of Sigiriya Village Hotel - Sri Lanka
We very much enjoyed our stay at the Sigiriya Village Hotel (see photo). It is consists of several groups of rooms built and decorated to three themes that revolve around an typical Sri Lankan village - the temple, the stream, and the paddy field - pretty cool. The pool and meals are also very nice. One night the power went out and we sat on the patio watching the fireflies dance in the night.

Raja Maha Vihara Dambulla Cave Sri Lanka
Raja Maha Vihara 
- Dambulla Cave, Sri Lanka
Golden Temple of Dambulla Sri Lanka
Golden Temple 
of Dambulla, Sri Lanka
We visited an interesting site, the Rock Cave Temple Dambulla, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla. It is the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spread over 5 caves are more than 21,000 sq. ft. of paintings and over 100 statues related to Lord Buddha. What makes the Dambulla cave so interesting is how old it is and the spiritual significance to the predominately Buddhist Sri Lankan people. Over 2,000 years ago, in the 1st century BC, an army from south India defeated the local king’s army. The Sri Lankan king went into hiding in these caves. When he raised an army and defeated the Indians, he built these caves devoted to Lord Buddha and made it into a Buddhist montersary. It has an enormous golden Buddha statue at the entrance with a steep climb to visit the caves.

Pretty City of Kandy Sri Lanka
Pretty City of Kandy, Sri Lanka
The scenic city of Kandy (see photo) is the second largest city in the country after Sri Lankan’s commercial capital of Colombo. Kandy was the last capital of Sri Lanka’s ancient kings – see more history of Kandy below.

Inside Temple of the Tooth Relic Sri Lanka
Inside Temple of the Tooth Relic, Sri Lanka
In Kandy, we visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa – see photo). We got a great feeling from the devoted Buddhists who were visiting this holy place. Since the 3rd century, it has been the location of one of the teeth from the Buddha. A tooth relic is one of the most revered because it is from where Buddha spoke. So, the Temple of the Tooth Relic is one of the holiest places of worship and pilgrimage for Buddhists from around the world and it is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pat Dunlap Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens Sri Lanka
Pat at Royal Peradeniya 
Botanical Gardens, Sri Lanka
wedding party girls Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens Sri Lanka
Wedding Party at Royal Peradeniya 
Botanical Gardens, Sri Lanka
Just outside of Kandy is a special treat you should not miss. The Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens with its 150 acres of beautiful trees and gardens are among the finest in the world and has more than a million visitors a year. Its history goes back over 600 years with the British making great enhancements. Trees from all around the world are planted here and the experience of wandering these gardens is fantastic. We witnessed a troop of monkeys walk past us a few yards away and several trees covered with bats.

Fishing Boats Sailing Off Negombo Beach Sri Lanka
Fishing Boats Sailing Off 
Negombo Beach, Sri Lanka
Fisherman Negombo Sri Lanka
Fisherman - Negombo, Sri Lanka
We wanted to enjoy a beach in Sri Lanka and because our days staying in Sir Lanka were limited, we choose to stay at a beach at Negombo near the Colombo Airport. Negombo is located on the west coast of Sri Lanka and known for its lively beach town, nice sandy beaches, and busy fish markets supplying good seafood. People rave about other beaches in Sri Lanka, especially in the south, and maybe we will return to enjoy them. Also, we highly recommend visiting the absolutely stunning beaches of the nearby Maldives.

Jetwing Blue Resort Negombo Sri Lanka
Elegant Jetwing Blue Resort 
- Negombo, Sri Lanka
We enjoyed staying in Negombo at the 5-star Jetwing Blue Resort right on the beach where you can follow a swim in the warm ocean or walk on the sandy beach by a swim in the beautiful pool. It’s great to watch the traditional fishing boats sail along (see photo) while you relax under the shade of a palm tree. You can take a boat ride if you want to. Outside the resort you can enjoy many shops and restaurants serving very affordable meals.

School Children Sri Lanka
School Children - Sri Lanka
More about Sri Lanka... Sri Lanka (also called Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean located 18 miles off the southern tip of India. It is about half the size of England with a population of about 21 million. Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, Colombo, is the main port and industrial center. English is widely spoken. About 70% of Sri Lanka’s people are Buddhist. We love Buddhist countries because the people are so nice. The Sir Lankans are very tolerate of other religions with 15% Hindu, 8% Christian, and the fastest growing 8% Muslim. Temples, mosques, and churches are located right next to each other.

You can often smell the scent of jasmine, the food richly spiced (toned down for foreigners), and the landscape beautiful. In the countryside, you can witness green rice paddies, palm trees, and the mountains covered with tea plantations are stunning.

Best time to visit Sri Lanka... It was nice in February when we visited. Avoiding monsoon season can be tricky because the rain hits different regions at different times. If you're visiting the west or south coast (which includes the main city of Colombo), December to March is best which is also the busy time with higher prices. Early April may be a good time for better bargains and weather.

Sign in Hotel in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Sign in Hotel - Kandy, Sri Lanka
Fishing Village Negombo Sri Lanka
Fishing Village - Negombo, Sri Lanka
Travel tips when visiting Sri Lanka... We used Avion Holidays who worked to help us organize our customized trip to Sri Lanka, southern India, and the Maldives. Drink only drink bottled water and use mosquito repellent. Expect challenging steep staircases at some of the historical sites. Because there are so many towns along the roads, it can take 3 hours to drive 50 miles. Also, drive on the left and driving is pretty crazy so you should highly consider having a driver or using public transportation. Sri Lankans are generally very friendly and they nod their heads to the right to say yes. Try the tea here – it is wonderful.

Staying healthy in Sri Lanka... Most visitors choose bottled water that can be purchased reasonably cheaply. When buying water from street vendors, make sure the lid is sealed and not refilled with tap water. Make sure you rinse your toothbrush with bottled water and keep your mouth closed when showering. It is also wise to be careful what you eat.

Fire Walking Ceremony  Kandy Sri Lanka
Fire Walking Ceremony - Kandy, Sri Lanka
Some history... Spices, prominently cinnamon, have played a major role in shaping Sri Lanka’s modern history.

Fishing Boat Negombo Beach Sri Lanka
Fishing Boat - Negombo Beach, Sri Lanka
Cinnamon was highly prized and produced in only one place in the world. The Egyptians imported it as far back as 2000BC. More recently the Europeans desired it and the profits to be made. First came the Portuguese in the 15th century and then the Dutch in the middle of the 16th century. In 1796, the British Empire’s control of the seas allowed them to conquer the Dutch and take over. Sri Lanka still produces about four-fifths of the world’s cinnamon. The British taste for tea made Sri Lanka one of the top producers of tea in the world. It’s Ceylon teas are some of the best in the world.

Map of Sri Lanka
Map of Sri Lanka
Why is Kandy such an important spiritual city for the Sri Lankans? In 1592 the inland city of Kandy became the capital of the last remaining independent Sinhala kingdom in Sri Lanka after the Portuguese conquered the coastal regions. Several invasions for 100’s of years by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British were repelled.

Flag Sri Lanka
Flag of Sri Lanka
Kandy remained independent until the British reached the city in 1815 and Sri Lanka became a British protectorate. In 1948 Ceylon was granted independence as the Dominion of Ceylon. In 1972 it became a republic and was renamed the Republic of Sri Lanka.

Despite the recent 25-year civil war, where the Tamils wanted independence, and the setbacks of the 2004 tsunami, Sri Lankans are determined and optimistic.

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  1. Interesting, i spent a month in sri lanka last year, soaked up the local culture and must say a very well cultured and scenic country.

  2. So wonderful to see and read about one of my favorite places on the planet. The people, the culture,the exquisite warm water. Will never forget being introduced to one family's elephant in the jungle! Hope to return one day and dive, which I've heard is spectacular.


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