Sri Lanka is a beautiful tropical tear-shaped island nation just off of the south eastern coast of India. Sri Lanka has a rich history and culture. This coupled with the fact that Sri Lanka is surrounded by unspoiled pristine beaches and sprawling verdant countryside. Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon and was ruled by the British from the 1800s till 1948. Sri Lanka gained dominion status under the British Commonwealth on Feb 4, 1948 and became a republic in 1978. Sri Lanka has a lot of importance in the Hindu mythology. In the Ramayana saga, Ravana, a demon king based out of Sri Lanka kidnaps Sita, the wife of Lord Ram during their 14 year exile. Lord Ram, helped by an army of monkeys, wages and wins the war against Ravana, thereby rescuing Sita.
Buddhism is the main religion followed by Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Through the centuries, the country's history and culture has been influenced by the Portuguese, the English and the Dutch - Galle is a very good example of the Dutch influence while the tea estates are an example of the English influence in the country.
Best time to visit
The country is blessed with gorgeous landscapes ranging from tropical highlands in the central region to beautiful shimmering beaches in the southern and eastern regions. The weather is warm and tropical in most of the regions in the country. The best time to visit Sri Lanka is December to March (dry season at the west coast) and the shoulder season is April and September to November.
We decided to visit the country just before the tourism season starts in November to get advantage of good season weather and to avoid the brimming crowds of tourists that come with the season. We weren't able to visit the east coast though, because of the monsoons there during this time. To read about our 8 day budget itinerary- click here.
What to do there
Sri Lanka offers amazing things to do for every kind of tourist and traveler. If you are into hiking, central Sri Lanka offers amazing hiking trails through the tea estates that are iconic in this region. The mountains are 2,000 m high and the water falls in this region are equally beautiful. If you are a beach person, then you have the southern and eastern coasts full of sandy beaches with beautiful blue waters. Snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, jet skiing, you name it..everything can be done at the beautiful beaches. If you are looking for some rich history and culture, then the north is the place for you. The cities of Anuradhapura - the former capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy, Dambulla, Sigirya and Polonnaruwa offer great ruins of the ancient kingdoms dating back 2000 years. Overall, it's a beautiful destination and you will cherish every moment.
Food and transport
The food in Sri Lanka is delicious and super affordable. It is similar to the cuisine in South India, especially Kerala's. The most popular and scrumptious dish is called 'Hoppers' (which is like a rice-based crepe) with any curry (chicken/fish). You should also try locally popular fruits like wood apple, passion fruit and jack fruit. Travelling around Sri Lanka is easy, thanks to a fairly good public transport system. However, it needs a little planning and advance booking, especially for trains. The train journey from Kandy to Ella is very picturesque and breathtaking as the train goes through tunnels, tea estates and around the mountains, and we highly recommend it. To read more about the trains in Sri Lanka and how go get around Sri Lanka by train, read this blog post.
People and language
Sri Lankans are very friendly and always willing to help out the tourists. The main local languages of the country are Sinhalese and Tamil. Since tourism is a big part of the local economy, even most tuk-tuk drivers know and understand English. So, it's really easy to get by, without knowing a few key words of the local languages. That said, we think it's always a great idea to know a few important words in the local language wherever you go. A little thing that always comes in handy to break the ice, and get to know the locals! We've put together a short list of Tamil and Sinhalese words that might come in handy when you're in Sri Lanka. To read more about these, check out this blog post.