Sri Lanka: a whistlestop guide to a paradise island

Having visited Sri Lanka in February 2020, I can confirm that Sri Lanka is totally deserving of its title as “pearl of the Indian Ocean”.  But as the victim of a 20-year civil war, a tsunami, terrorist attacks and now, of course, the coronavirus pandemic, the island has suffered from a drop in tourism.  Since last May, tourist figures have been down almost 20%, affecting the livelihood of millions of people who rely on visitors for their trade. 

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Once Covid-19 has cleared, recent difficulties shouldn’t put off holidaying on the island.  There are very few places in the world where you instantly feel welcome and can experience such a variety of landscapes: cool tea plantations, lush lowland rainforests, mountains home to waterfalls, elephant-filled national parks and of course dreamy beaches.  There’s also some impressive sustainability and community-based tourism projects going on all over, furthering the eco-bandwagon in an important way.

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Here’s a guide to some of the places I visited, though this is, of course, just a snapshot.  I caveat the below at the outset: having (sadly) only spent 10 days on the island, I only had a taste (or, more appropriately a sip) of what the country has to offer.  There are many, many more places to explore and writing this is making me yearn go back to discover and re-discover more.  Ayubowan (“long live”) Sri Lanka in every sense: its people, its produce, its tourism.

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Quick tips

  • The easiest and best way to get around is to have a driver, available through travel companies like Exsus or direct with local companies.
  • Whilst the island’s climate means that some parts of it are accessible all year round, the peak season is from December to mid-April.
  • Tipping (of guides, drivers, hotel staff etc.) is custom.
  • Hoppers are traditionally eaten at breakfast so this is the best time to sample the dish!

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Colombo

Cultural Triangle

Kandy and Tea Country (Nuwara Eliya and Ella)

Galle

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