Also known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, Sri Lanka is a beautiful, little island full of adventure and serenity. Full of gorgeous flora and fauna of all colors and warm, sandy beaches where you can throw down a towel and tan under the sun, the country is a great place to go if you want to get away from your normal everyday life.
What to Do
If you like to surf, water ski, scuba dive, jet ski, or kayak, there are plenty of pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters for you to explore. The ocean is home to a wide variety of ancient, mysterious ship wrecks and pretty, exotic animals. Anyone who dives under the waves will be able to see the colorful coral gardens that line the ocean floor. Whales and dolphins showcase their leaps and jumps around the island during the cooler months of December, January, February, March, and April. Due to its location on the migrating routes of these majestic creatures, visitors can see over 26 species of mammals including a large variety of dolphins, sperm whales, fin whales, blue whales, and pilot whales.
Once you’ve spent some time out on the big blue ocean, you have to participate in some land activities as well. Trekkers and hikers will have the time of their lives exploring the little villages, pretty parks and fields, lush forests, and towering mountains. You can also go rock climbing or take a trip up in a hot air balloon if that is more your cup of tea. With a written history of over 2,550 years, Sri Lanka has a rich culture and heritage. The island is split up into eight areas, each with their own unique personality. They include: Bentota, Beruwela, Galle, Kandy, Negombo, Colombo, Sigiriya, and Nuwara Eliya. For more information on each area and what they offer, go to this website.
What to Eat
Due to its location, a traditional Sri Lankan diet consists of typical Asian foods like curry, rice, and fish. The country is also full of coconut trees and many foods have the fresh fruit incorporated into them. Local dishes that you should at least try while you are on the island include: pittu, a mixture of grated coconut and lightly roasted rice-meal powder traditionally steamed in a bamboo mold and served with a gravy dish of fish and roti, a leavened pancake made out of wheat flour stuffed with fish, eggs, or vegetables.
The food might be a bit of an acquired taste for some people, but there are some local dishes that you might enjoy right off the bat. Take care when choosing a restaurant however, as your stomach might not be able to handle the food that a hole-in-the-wall place is selling. Over the years, other cuisines from around the world have made their way to Sri Lanka, Nowadays, there are Arab, Indian American, English, Portuguese, Dutch, and many other types of restaurants on the island to satisfy any type of craving that you may have.
What to Shop For
A popular trading post in the world for centuries and an important stop for shipping routes, the island is rich with goods. One such good that is extremely popular with locals and tourists is fragranced spices, especially cinnamon. When you are looking to buy this particular spice, look for the more tender, well-rolled bark instead of the more mature, darker bark. It will last longer and taste better. Make sure that the spices you buy are sealed well and are high quality. Otherwise, the scent will not last long. Other souvenirs should you look into getting are handcrafted boxes, vases, lanterns, trays, silverware, ritual masks, lace, wood carvings, batik and handloom textiles, and lacquer ware. The island has a healthy gem stone trade with the widest variety of precious gem stones among the world’s gem producing countries. There are topazes, blue sapphires, garnets, star sapphires, aquamarines, moonstones, rubies, and cat’s eye just to name a few. To be sure that you do not over-pay for a gem, check the stones for chips or faults, bargain to get the best prices possible, and go to a well-reputed shop to get the best bang for your buck.
Where to Stay
Even Sri Lanka is a smaller island than some, there is no shortage of accommodations available. There are small, but exquisite boutique hotels for those looking for an excellent level of service at high prices, cozy, quaint bungalows with a relaxing porch, suite apartments ready for rent, guest houses that range from a limited budget to a luxurious one, home stays with local families, and of course, affordable tourism hotels ready for visitors to choose from. Happy travels!