BANGALORE: For a country that is less than 450 Km in lenght and 225 Km in breath, Sri Lanka offers a plethora of activities and sites. Ride along in a safari’s or go scuba diving, or perhaps visit the gorgeous waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya or the scared Tooth Relic of Buddha in Kandy. Its a treasure trove of things to do and relish.
The country, which freed itself from the menace of the LTTE after a four decade old battle, surprises one with what it has to offer. The pristine beaches, with a row of coconut trees lining the coast may remind one of our very own God’s own Country - Kerela, but there is something about this place that captivates anyone who comes here. The East and West coast have a number of beautiful beaches where one can get lost in the sounds of nature. A little over 150 Km South of Colombo are a row of almost untouched beaches ( when compared to the shack-infested beaches of Goa). If Sri Lanka is serendipity, beach lovers will find a lot of it here in the likes of Kalatura, Bentota, Induruwa and Hikkaduwa, which adds to the resplendance of this island nation. The beautiful beaches with clear turquoise water that gently kiss your feet while the sand below is almost as soft as a carpet, is an experience not to be forgotten anytime soon.
Take a break from the sun, sand and beach and visit the turtle hatcheries in Bentota and Induruwa. The volunteers here collect turtle eggs and hatch them and shelter them for about one to two weeks till the infants are old enough to fend for themselves. Further South is the Dutch Fort in Galle. While you soak in the serenity and the beauty on either sides, it is not hard to see the damage that the Tsunami did less than a decade ago and its remnants still visible. The people of this nation always bear a welcoming smile, despite the tragedy.
Galle is located 52 Km from Bentota. The fortified Dutch fort encloses over 52 hectares. Built in the Bay of Galle, the fort was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese and then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century. Anything less than a day’s visit to the fort would be injustice to the historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument. After an idle stroll, walk into one of the roadside cafes for a gratifying meal. If you are the arty kinds, then Serendipity is the cafe you need to go with. Great food in a rustic yet colourful ambiance.
The country has also gained immense popularity among tourists on account of whale watching activities. Between the months of December and April the whales pass via Dondra Point and there are good chances that one may spot schools of Sperm Whale and Blue Whales while they migrate North East. A trip to see these magnificent creatures could cost you anything above LKR5,000 per person.
Kandy, is a tad more commercialised than the South-West coast of the country. Located 167 Km North from Galle, the city is placed high on the tourism list. From picturesque tea gardens to lazy strolls in the city area, there are many things to do here. The golden roof temple of the scared Tooth Relic of Buddha also draws its share of attention. A word of caution; sleeveless tops are prohibited in this temple. Every year in August, there is a special festival, Kandy Esela Perahera, which is celebrated in the honour of the Tooth Relic Temple. The Relic is taken on a city tour during the festival. The ten day long affair is a beautiful spectacle of lights, throbbing rhythms of the Kandyan drums and exotic smells in the air.
Roughly 40 Km from Kandy on the way to Colombo, you will pass via Pinnawala, famous for its elephant orphanage. The orphanage holds over 40 adult elephants and young ones. A visit inside will cost you LKR500. There are three rates for entry, ‘Foreigner’ ( People with fairer skin), SAARC countries ( which includes or brown skinned) and Sri Lankan. For an additional LKR250 you can also feed the calves. For an additional LKR250 you can also feed the calves. The star attraction of the orphanage is however a 20-year-old female elephant who lost one of her limbs due to a land mine. A visit to Sri Lanka can cost you lesser than a trip to Delhi, if the prices and the season is right. So one can celebrate an international holiday instead of a domestic one.
Transport: There are frequent flights that leave from Chennai to Colombo.
Handy tips: Once there, hiring a taxi for the entire duration of the holiday will be a good idea. The taxis are rented on a daily basis.
Pick up a local sim to avoid international roaming charges. Local tourism books are easy and efficient guidance.