best places to visit sri lanka galle fort

Best Places to Visit in Lovable Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is simply lovable. I’m very fond of Sri Lanka – its gentle and lovely people, laid-back lifestyle, rich ancient history and culture, delicious spicy foods and fantastic beaches. As such, I don’t have anything negative to say about Sri Lanka. Whenever anyone mentions this tear-drop island nation in the Indian Ocean, I wish I’m back on the island again. My first trip to Sri Lanka was in 2009 – barely five months after the civil war had ended – every now and then, our vehicle was stopped at various checkpoints in the city for inspections. It was a whirlwind trip as my friends and I had only four days off from work. I returned to Sri Lanka in 2014 for a longer stay – seven days – to explore some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Central Sri Lanka. By that time, there were no more checkpoints. Just recently, a friend asked me for travel tips in Sri Lanka. As I shared my experiences with her, it got me thinking that I should write a round-up post on some of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. If you’re planning to travel to Sri Lanka for

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An Evening at Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

Temple of the Tooth in Kandy – no visit to Sri Lanka especially Kandy, is complete without visiting this temple. The temple is actually a royal palace complex, a former palace of the Kandyan kingdom, and it houses the relic tooth of Buddha. The relic is very significant in the politics of ancient Sri Lankan kingdom that whoever holds the tooth governs the country. The Temple of the Tooth is also a UNESCO world heritage site. The first time I came to Sri Lanka in 2009, I had visited this temple during the day. Here’s the entrance of the royal palace complex. But during this second visit in August 2014, it was different for a change to visit the temple in the evening. As we walked from the temple grounds to the main shrine, we could hear sounds of drums and trumpets, beckoning devotees to come to the temple. Sri Lankans, many of them dressed in white and carried flowers of jasmine and frangipani, hurried past us. Unlike typical royal palaces (ancient included), the Temple of the Tooth palace complex is not elaborately decorated. The walls are white and are carved with openings which are filled with candles for special

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polonnaruwa buddha statue2

In Pictures: Polonnaruwa…and Duran Duran

Duran Duran…that got your attention, didn’t it? Well, hold that thought and I will explain shortly 🙂 We were on the quest of visiting and exploring UNESCO heritage sites in Sri Lanka. After 2 days of visiting Dambulla Caves and climbing up Sigiriya the Lion Rock in the Central Province, our drive went slightly further up to North Central Province. The drive from Peradeniya to Polonnaruwa was about 3-4 hours. For this excursion, we had to wake up earlier than previous days, thus we set off at 7am. We stopped en route to have breakfast, and thank goodness, we did as the exploration of this world heritage site required hours under the hot sun and and in a dry environment. Polonnaruwa was the royal capital of Sri Lanka in the 11th century AD but its origins could be traced even much earlier to 2nd century BC. The capital was strategically important to defend the kingdom of Anuradhapura from foreign invaders so much so it was known as the Fortress City. Based on a pamphlet which I bought from the museum gift shop, Polonnaruwa was at its highest glory due to 3 rulers: Vijayabahu the Great, Parakrambahu the Great and Nissanka

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Sigiriya The Lion Rock

Picking up from where I left off in chronicling the Sri Lanka holiday – we saw the beautiful Sinhala frescoes and Buddha statues in Dambulla Caves – we continued to move on to Sigiriya, only just 30 minutes drive from Dambulla. Sigiriya is a massive rock of 600 feet high and top of the rock was once a palace of King Kasyapa dated back to 5th century, The King built a gateway to his palace in the form of a lion, hence Sigiriya is also called the Lion Rock in Sinhala. The entire site was built as a palace and fortress. There were gardens, moats, mirror wall with frescoes. The Lion Gate was built at a mid-level terrace and the palace itself was on the flat top of the rock. Sigiriya is a UNESCO site and apparently was one of the best examples of urban planning in ancient times. Unfortunately, the fortress and the palace were abandoned after the king’s death. We arrived there in the afternoon and boy, it was hot. And I wasn’t really in the mood of climbing rocks or hills in that kind of heat but we went anyway. Our host, George advised us that we

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Dambulla Caves: Buddha Statues and Impressive Sinhala Art

We felt fresh in the morning – had a good night sleep and ate a hearty breakfast of toast, egg roti and a cup of tea (lots of tea here in Sri Lanka!) – and most of all, we were excited. We had read quite a bit on the UNESCO sites prior coming to Sri Lanka and it was our intention to see these places. We discussed with our host’s daughter, Michelle, the evening before, and she offered to arrange for a private car and driver to take us to Dambulla Caves, Sigiriya and Kandy city for US$65 a day. As it turned out, the driver was our host himself – George – we finally met him at breakfast. George has been in the tourism industry for almost 20 years now, and he is actively running Kandy Guesthouse and Michelle Tours. George and Michelle made every effort to ensure their guests are well taken care of in the guesthouse and provided excellent service in their tour excursions for guests, not only within the nearby province but pretty much everywhere in the country. The journey from Peradeniya to Dambulla was about 2 hours (or perhaps a little longer as we stopped

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Kandy Guesthouse In Idyllic Peradeniya

In my last post on our arrival in Peradeniya Railway Station after a 3-hour train journey from Colombo, we were whisked off by our host’s driver to our accommodation for the next 3 nights. We stayed at Kandy Guesthouse, reachable from Peradeniya within 5 minutes’ drive while Kandy is only 15 minutes away. Peradeniya is famous for the Royal Botanical Gardens and is the location of the University of Peradeniya which is the second oldest in the country. We came across Kandy Guesthouse when we were browsing for accommodation options on the net. Its 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor helped quite a lot and as we scrolled down the page reading reviews of this guesthouse, we couldn’t help but felt drawn towards it. And it had indeed exceeded our expectations. When we arrived at the guesthouse, we were greeted by the host’s daughter, Michelle. She led us into the house and immediately brought us to our bedroom which was situated at the back of the house on the ground floor. As we climbed down the stairs to the ground floor, we heard a loud roaring sound behind the house. At first I thought it was pouring down with rain but it

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It’s Always Pleasant in Sri Lanka

The first time I visited Sri Lanka was in October 2009. The 25-year civil war had ended just 5 months prior to my visit. Sri Lanka was in my travel bucket list for quite some time but it was way down the list because of the war. Until a friend of mine from India who had travelled to Sri Lanka several times for business reassured us that it was safe for tourists, war or no war…and he offered to travel along with us at that time. When I arrived in Sri Lanka in 2009, I fell in love with the island immediately. Despite the war and tight security (army roadblocks every few kilometres), there is something uniquely wonderful about Sri Lanka – gentle and lovely people, laidback lifestyle, delicious but spicy foods, beautiful greenery landscape…and the beaches are just awesome! Don’t expect the Maldives kind of beach, but there’s something about coconut trees and strong breeze from the sea, you just go…aaahhhhh…relax. Chill. Have a beer. We had visited the city Colombo, a pit stop at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, toured the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, and went on a coastal drive to the beaches in Galle. Fast

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In Pictures: Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a beautiful island and I came to this island just as the civil war ended. When I arrived in Colombo in Oct 2009, there was something different about the capital city. It didn’t feel like a capital city but like a beach city. There were cars, traffic, skyscrapers, however, it felt different like the wind was blowing my hair and all my worries flew away. The city puts you in a different mood altogether. As the days went on, I was so glad that the war ended in May (5 months before I arrived) because this tear-drop island has so much to offer. There are beautiful beaches, historic temples, wildlife, culture, delicious food (and fresh seafood!), cheap shopping and most of all, friendly and laid-back people. Apart from exploring Colombo, I visited Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, a Buddhist temple which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. And I enjoyed the drive along the beach to Galle and admired the vast area of a Dutch fort called Galle Fort. But the one thing which I would always remember from this trip was visiting Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage for wild

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