ABOUT SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka the CEYLON of yester-years; what early Greeks and Romans called Taprobane and the Arabs Serendib. SERNDIB yes, it was that, that bequeathed to the English language the word SERENDIPITY- the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident!
Sri Lanka is a year-round destination with consistently warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. There isn’t one perfect month and showers can occur at any time. The southwest coast and central hills are best between December and April, which is also an ideal time for whale and dolphin watching. The southwest waters become rougher in April, followed by increased humidity in May, so these months through to September are best spent further north and on the east coast. The central hills remain cooler all year and the only months we'd recommend avoiding are October and November, when rainfall is less predictable.
Colombo is the commercial and business center of Sri Lanka located on west cost. The city blends together with old colonial type building, high-rise commercial buildings and hotels. It is filled with shopping malls, airline offices bazaars and interesting tourist attractions. Some of the finest structures built during the colonial times still preserved in one part of the City. Colombo is home to majority of Sri Lankan corporate and Government offices. Colombo is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern life and colonial ruins, and a city population of over 600,000 people.
Hotels of Colombo city is located centrally which will make the visitors more convenient. Visitors have the choice of number ofstar class hotels with spectacular scenic view of the ocean among them “Galle face Hotel” and “Taj Samudra” which opens up to gall face green and to the ocean.
Colombo city is full of popular tourist attractions such as National Museum,Galle Face Green, Beira Lake,Cargills& Millers building, Independence Square, Viharamahadevi Park, Colombo Fort, Pettah bazaar, Beach Waadiya, Churches, Mosques and Temples of Colombo City,Railway museumand Mount Lavinia beach.
The name Colombo, first introduced by the Portuguese in 1505, is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhalese name Kolonthota, meaning "port on the river Kelani". It has also been suggested that the name may be derived from the Sinhalese name Kola-amba-thota which means "harbour with leafy mango trees".
Due to its large natural harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders since more than 2,000 years ago. However it was only made the capital of the island when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815, and its status as capital was retained when the nation received independence in 1948. In 1978, when administrative functions were moved to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Colombo was designated as the commercial capital of Sri Lanka.
PINNAWELA ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE
There are only a few elephant orphanages in the world. Pinnawela has now become one of the bigger orphanages and is quite well known worldwide. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is the most popular elephant parks in Sri Lanka, and with the chance to get very close to the animals and to watch them in the river, it is easy to see why so many local and domestic tourists flock there. The highlight of Pinnawala is certainly watching the majority of the herd (which is over 100 elephants in total) playing in the river. When you are inside the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage you will be able to feed them with milk (Feeding times 9.15 / 13.15 / 17.00).
Sir Arthur C. Clark mooted the idea that Sigiriya qualifies to be the eighth wonder of the world, ranked closely with the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.
Sigiriya should have been named one of the Wonders of the World, long ago, and now there is a proposal to name it as the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient world. Better late than never!
Sri Lankan architectural tradition is well displayed at Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water gardens, fountains (still working today) the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying levels and of axial and radial planning.
THE SIGIRIYA FRESCOES - FAMOUS ART
While Sigiriya is a great engineering feat, it is also a fine art gallery. It is believed that there were as much as 500 paintings but only 21 remain today. The drawings have been done free hand and corrections done by the artist can be seen clearly. The frescoes are very similar to the ones seen at the famous Ajanta caves in India.
Several scholars have interpreted the frescoes in different ways. To some, they depict female members of the royal household. Since most of them are in pairs, these have been described as portraying a queen and a maid or a lady-in-waiting. Difference in colour indicates that they are different personalities, these scholars argue. Pioneer archaeologist, H C P Bell says they are ladies of the king’s court on their way to a nearby temple because they are carrying flowers and moving in one direction. Another theory is that they are Kasyapas queens with attendants bringing floral offerings to a shrine, which seems to be located in Thusitha heaven, since the figures appear to be half immersed in the clouds denoting that they are in heavenly spheres. Are they Kasyapas queens mourning for the royal husband, was another theory about the damsels. The paintings would have covered most of the western face of the rock, covering an area 140 meters long and 40 meters high. There are references in the Graffiti to 500 ladies in these paintings.
John Still in 1907 had observed that, "The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery..................the largest picture in the world perhaps".
DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE
Dambulla cave temple also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka, situated in the central part of the country. There are five caves (shrine rooms) in Dambulla temple. All of these caves arc full of statues of Buddha and various personages of the Buddhist Order or History. There are 150 Buddha images in these caves. Cave No. 5 (the last in order) has no historical value as it was done in the second decade of this century. All of the other caves contain statues and paintings representing various epochs of Sinhalese sculpture and painting.
SACRED CITY OF KANDY
This sacred Buddhist site, popularly known as the city of Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in1815. It is also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.
In 1592 Kandy became the capital city of the last remaining independent kingdom in Sri Lanka after the coastal regions had been conquered by the Portuguese. Invasions by the Portuguese and the Dutch (16th, 17th and 18th century) and also by the British (most notably in 1803) were repelled. The last ruling dynasty of Kandy was the ‘Nayaks’ of Kandy while the Kingdom preserved its independence until it finally fell to the British in 1815. The British deposed the king, Sri WikramaRajasingha, and all claimants to the throne, thus ending the last traditional monarchy of Sri Lanka, and replacing it with their monarchy. As the capital, Kandy had become home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha which symbolises a 4th-century tradition that used to be linked to royalty since the protector of the relic was seen fit to rule the land.
Kandy Esala Perahera
The Esala Perahera in Kandy is one of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka, featuring dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, and lavishly decorated elephants. This is held in Esala (July or August) which is the month that is believed to commemorate the first teaching given by the Buddha after he attained enlightenment.
The Kandy Esala Perahera can be considered as the island’s oldest and grandest Buddhist Cutural festival.
With its origins traceable as far back as to the 3rd century, the festival held today is a procession of pomp and pageantary with spectacular showmanship of hundreds of traditional dancers, drummers and even including elephants and tuskers who carry the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha.
The Esala Perahera in Kandy is celebrated to honour the Sacred Tooth Relic and the four ‘guardian’ Gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Goddess Pattini. The Kandy Maligawa Perahera is followed in order by those of the Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Pattini ‘Devales’ (Temples dedicated to these Gods) which are situated in the vicinity of the Kandy Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth).
After the Kandyan Kingdom fell to the British in 1815, the custody of the Tooth Relic was handed over to the Buddhist Clergy. In the absence of the King, a lay custodian called the Diyawadana Nilame was appointed to handle routine administrative matters. The purpose of the Kandy Esala Perahera Procession is to beseech blessings of the gods to obtain rain for the cultivation of crops and to enrich the lands of the kingdom.
PERADENIYA BOTANICAL GARDEN
As Sri Lanka’s largest garden an elegant and spacious 147-acres (60-hectares) plenty of time is needed to stroll Peradeniya’s imposing Avenue of Royal Palms.
There are some 4,000 different species of plants at Peradeniya Gardens. The 10,000 or so trees, which are the stars, are mature, lofty giants, many of them tropical timber trees. Highlights of the collection include the Giant Bamboo of Burma, capable of growing to 40 meters height (130 feet) with a 25-centimetre (10-inch) stem diameter. And it can grow by a rapid 30 centimeters a day (12 inches).
Absolutely sensational is the century old giant Javan fig tree, its tentacle like roots spread across the enormous area of about 1,800 square meters (19,375 square feet) a massive central trunk beneath the tree’s vast canopy ‘umbrella’.
The Cannonball tree is also intriguing, with its cannonball-like fruit hanging off the trunk and large open, waxy pink-white flowers. So is the Double Coconut Palm, one of 200 types of palms displayed at Peradeniya – originating from the Seychelles, this tree produces the largest seed known. Its fruits take five years to mature.
The gardens showcase all of Sri Lanka’s flora and representative species from around the tropical world. Luminaries as varied as Queen Elizabeth II, Marshal Tito and Yuri Gugarin have planted trees to mark their visits to the garden.
NuwaraEliya is a mountain station at 1,868 m (6,128 ft) of altitude, in a splendid landscape. The city pretends to be particularly well-kept and neat, and the always green grass gives to the locality an aspect of “colonial British style".
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park or Ruhuna National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometres (378 sq mi) and is located about 24km northeast of Tissamaharama. There are five blocks in Yala National park and People can only visit block I and II.
Ruhuna National park or more affectionately known as Yala has been the most celebrated wildlife park in Sri Lanka for over a century. Yala is an ideal place to see variety of its wild animals, many kinds of birds, snakes and many more.
Galle is a major city in Sri Lanka, situated on the southwestern tip, 119 km from Colombo. Galle is the administrative capital of Southern Province, Sri Lanka and is the district capital of Galle District.
A treasured city in the pearl of the Indian Ocean, the city of Galle is an eloquent ode to the European style and culture that revolved around the colonial era of the island. Being invaded by the Portuguese and then the Dutch, Galle was sculptured by them in a uniquely distinct manner from all other cities in the country, which hail from a Buddhist Aaryan background.
A prominent port in the early history of east-west navigation, Galle was the natural focal point at the southernmost part of the Silk Routes that connected Asia with the Mediterranean. The Dutch improved and fortified this 36 hectare citadel by constructing an encircling rampart with 14 massive bastions isolating the peninsula from the main land.
Stilt fishing is a method of fishing unique to the island country of Sri Lanka, located near Galle.
Anuradhapura is yet another one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Site known for preserving ancient Sinhalese civilization. It is also the capital of the north central province of Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world and the oldest in Sri Lanka. The three types of architectural examples you’ll find here are monasteries, stupas (dagobas) and water tanks (pokunas).
Polonnaruwa | The Medieval Kingdom
Most commonly referred to as Sri Lanka’s second ancient capital, the city of Polonnaruwa is nevertheless a magnificently preserved city with rich archaeological monuments and natural beauty. Located in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, Polonnaruwa has both its ancient city, an adjoining “old town” as well as a “new town” located about 6km away. The archaeological sites are in a compact layout, within easy distance of each other.
The famous port city of Trincomalee, home to one of the world’s finest natural deep-water harbours, can be found along Sri Lanka’s Eastern Coastline. When you travel to Trincomalee the dazzling splendour of brilliant blue seas will be calling out to you in the distance, tempting you to spend hours of blissful rest on her firm white shores. Boasting a rich maritime history, the area offers an idyllic getaway at beaches such as Nilaveli and Uppuveli where you can just sit back, soak up the sun and immerse yourself in breathtaking coastal scenery.
Foremost of the attractions is the fascinating town of Jaffna, with its absorbing mixture of colonial charm and vibrant Tamil culture, while the Jaffna Peninsula and surrounding islands offer a string of remote temples, Hindu and Buddhist alike, beaches and more off-beat attractions. Yet the town has its own unique and complex identity shaped in true Sri Lankan fashion, by a wide cross-section of influences, including Muslim, Portuguese, Dutch, British and Sinhalese, with colourful temples set next to huge churches, and streets dotted with ancient Dutch and British residences.
Places to visit in Jaffna -
NallurKandaswamyKovil is located nearly 2 km away from the Jaffna city center, by the Jaffna Point Pedro road. This temple is considered as the most prominent Hindu religious attraction in the Jaffna peninsula. The annual NallurKovil festival attracts thousands of devotee not only Sri Lanka, but also from rest of the world.
According to the historical facts, the initial NallurKovil was constructed in year 948 and some development work done in 13th century during King Kalinga Magha time. Later this was renovated by prince Sapumal( son of King Parakramabahu vi) after conquering the Jaffna. Later Portuguese captured this area and completely demolished the Kovil in year 1621. The present kovil was started during the Dutch time in 1734.
Jaffna Fort –
Star shaped Jaffna Fort, spread over an area of 22 hectare within city limits, is one of the main tourist attraction in Jaffna. This Dutch Fort was built in 1680 by the Dutch over an earlier Portuguese fort.
Architecturally, it’s probably Asia’s best example of Dutch fortifications of its period. There is the King’s House, one-time residence of the Dutch commander, within Jaffna fort which is an excellent example of Dutch architecture of the period. One side of Jaffna fort is bounded by shallow lagoon water.
Uda Walawe National Park
Uda Walawe has developed into one of Sri Lanka’s most popular national parks mainly thanks to its large and easily spotted population of elephants – it’s the best place in the island to see pachyderms in the wild. This huge chunk of savannah grassland centred on the Uda Walawe reservoir is the closest Sri Lanka gets to East Africa. There are herds of buffalo, sambar deer, crocodiles, masses of birds, and tons of elephants. In fact, Uda Walawe is equal to, or even better than, many of the famous East African national parks.
Horton Plains is a beautiful, silent, strange world, lorded over by two of Sri Lanka’s highest mountains, Kirigalpotta (2395m) and Totapola (2359m). In fact, the famous ‘plains’ are actually a plateau soaring 2000m above the surrounding countryside, coming to a sudden halt at World’s End, where the landscape plunges dramatically to the forested lowlands. You’ll need to wrap up warm for the dawn hike across these bleak moorlands – however, it’s one of the most enjoyable walks in the country. And then, suddenly, out of the mist comes the end of the world and a view over what seems like half of Sri Lanka.
The ever smiling, mischievous dolphins will put on a show while some of the oldest and the largest sea creatures, the humpback and the blue whales, will nonchalantly glide past you, when you embark on a whale/ dolphin watching excursion off the Southern, Eastern or the West coast of Sri Lanka. The ideal locations for whale watching would be Dondra Point (accessible from Galle, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa) and Trincomalee while the sea off Kalpitiya teems with an abundance of dolphins.
Mirrisa is the most reliable place for whale watching in Sri Lanka because of a ninety percent chance of seeing whales in right season and a well-developed infrastructure.
These amazing experiences related with whale watching in Sri Lanka are available throughout the year. Mirissa is popular for whale watching from November to April due to calmer waters. From May to October, Trincomalee becomes a popular destination for whale watching.
Reaching these destinations is made quick and easy with daily scheduled flights to Trincomalee and Koggala.
The Sinhalese Alphabet: One of The Most Beautiful In The World
Coming across a list of the 5 of the world’s most beautiful alphabets, the Sinhalese alphabet was named the second most beautiful in the world. Considered one of the most expansive alphabets in the world, Sinhalese has more than 50 phonemes, though only 38 are frequently used in contemporary writing.
A Guide to Sri Lanka Trains
Sri Lankan rail tracks are popularly known for being one of the most scenic rail routes in the world. Traveling by train is probably the most comfortable and affordable way to trip and explore the beauty of Sri Lanka, particularly because the wonderful surroundings. Although may be a little time consuming, a train trip will never disappoint a traveler who wants to experience some breathtaking sceneries across the country.
Railway history runs back to 1864 which was initially introduced as a means of transporting coffee from plantations in the hill country to the port of Colombo. With the gradual rise of the tea industry and other agricultural developments, it is said that the railway tracks were eventually developed to facilitate the needs of the agricultural industry, like transport of labour, machinery, food, etc. in the coastal regions and other parts of the country.
ickets for reserved trains for popular routes such as hill country, like the Kandy-Ella stretch or Colombo-Jaffna, are often sold out very fast during the school holiday season, in the months of April, August and December. Usually the 1st class observation saloon and 1st class air condition, should be booked months before the peak seasons.
Luggages are not weighed before boarding, so you can simply carry your luggage inside the train and load in one of the racks above your seat. But it is advisable to keep any valuables closer to you. It is best to carry your own food but usually you find vendors wandering around with soft drinks, bottled water, delicious hot tea/coffee, and various tasty food items.