In the last article posted in the 'Travel' section of BM Times, we had begun our virtual tour of Sri Lanka with the focus firmly on the commercial capital – Colombo. But only a glimpse of Colombo in the name of Sri Lanka tourism is not only inadequate but it also leaves one wishing for more. The size of the island country is highly deceptive if one takes into consideration the range and variety of the attractions it offers. In fact, an entire volume may be dedicated on the subject of Sri Lanka holiday travel. In this second part of the article, we have tried to present information on a few other places in Sri Lanka that more or less capture various aspects of amazement. This is by no means all-inclusive and may be seen as only a sampling of the array of delights.
Kandy, the last royal capital of Sri Lanka is a major tourist destination. Famous for the Temple of the Tooth and many other temples the city could be called the cultural capital of the island. A dress code applies for entering the temple. The magnificence has been enhanced by the octagonal pavilion. Kandy Perahera, the parade of golden caskets is a must see if one is visiting Sri Lanka in July or August. More than 50 elephants parade the city accompanied by the drummers, dancers and chieftains in the final night.
This bustling market town is rich in cultural diversity from songs dances and handy crafts to ancient temples and adventure activities. Kandy is a good transit point to the north or hill country in the south. Adjacent to the Temple of the tooth are three of the four major Hindu shrines taking part in the Kandy Perahera. Shrines are dedicated to Gods Vishnu and Natha and Goddess Padmini. Hindu shrines taking part in the Buddhist pageant is a good example of the Sinhala and Tamil co-existence that lasted for centuries.
Kandy is served by bus from almost all parts of the county with many intercity busses serving the traveling tourist. Travel time from Colombo is about 2.5hrs and about 2 hours form Nuwara Eliya and an hour and a half from Sigiriya. There is an intercity train service from the Colombo fort railway station and the travel time is approximately about 2 hours. There are several car rental companies operating from Kandy in case more private transport is preferred.
Situated at around 2000m above sea level and surrounded by lush tea plantations Nuwara Eliya is the main hill resort of Sri Lanka and the heart of the tea industry. Once a pleasure retreat of the European planters the town till today retains its old world charm with many English style bungalows and buildings. Nuwara Eliya is a cool retreat in tropical Sri Lanka and also is a popular haunt for local tourists especially fro March to May.
Nuwara Eliya offers many activities for tourists including tea plantations visits, golfing, horse riding, boating, hiking and of course exploring the beauty of the landscaped gardens, waterfalls and plateaus. For many miles before reaching Nuwara Eliya from either direction there are acres of tea plantations and tea estates. There are many factories open for visitors and are provided with tea sales outlets. Some of the estates also offer accommodation facilities.
There are many popular waterfalls around the town including the Devon Falls, the Ramboda Falls and the Laksapana Falls and these could be visited as a part of trekking and/or hiking expeditions. Nuwara Eliya offers good adventure sport locations because of its landscape.
Nuwara Eliya is about 76 km from Kandy or 180km form Colombo. For those who are travelling from Colombo there are two main routes, one via Kandy and the other via Hatton. Train travellers must get off at Nanu Oya (about 20Km from Nuwara Eliya) and could take private transportation to the town.
Where beaches are concerned Sri Lanka offers the maximum in choice. Beaches comprise 1,340km coastline in the island and stretch from the long-established tourist destinations of the southern coast, to the vast beaches of the deep south, and the less-visited expanses of the north and east. There are many large hotels catering the tourists but are often busy during the weekends with local tourists.
Bentota is a major beach resort south of Beruwala with many large hotels offering beachfronts. Beautiful sandy beaches and shallow waters abound the area. There is a popular fresh water lagoon which is a popular water racing location.
Hikkaduwa is the popular surfing town with magnificent coral reefs with abundant tropical fish, beautiful clear waters and white sand beaches etc. Hikkaduwa is a place for all the water sports you could imagine and has plenty of hotels, shops and restaurants.
Unwatuna probably has the best beach in the west coast of Sri Lanka, which is a also a breeding ground for turtles. Legend has it that Unwatuna was created from a piece of earth from Himalaya, which had slipped the hands of mighty Hanuman in the Ramayana epic. Galle is the capital of the southern province and a city with a vibrant history. The Dutch atmosphere is still very palpable in its many historical buildings not invaded by modern construction. The beautiful beach of Unawatuna is just 6km south east of the city centre.
Matara is the southern most major town in Sri Lanka, the terminus of the coastal rail line, and has a distinct Portuguese and Dutch influence. The star shaped fort at Matara is an unusual and a unique structure. There are several beautiful and less crowded beaches along the coast between Galle and Matara and the closest to the town is at Polhena.
A wide coral reef largely surrounds Sri Lanka's coastline making it ideal for diving. The gentle movement of the Indian Ocean offer great opportunities for surfing. There are first-class waves in Arugam Bay on the east coast, and along the south coast at Hikkaduwa and Mirissa. However, in other places the calm water is ideal for swimming, as in Unawatuna and Nilaveli. The more indulgent activity of snorkelling is a popular pass-time in many southern coastal areas, particularly the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary, and on the east coast around Pigeon Island off Nilaveli, near Trincomalee. Bentota is famous for water-sports because it also has a river where beginners can gain experience before heading into the ocean.
Finally a word of caution. It is important to respect the Ocean at all times. Strong currents run parallel to the coast and lifeguards are not easy to find in case assistance is required.