Reasons to Visit
The Cultural Triangle contains some of Sri Lanka's finest historical sites, including the ancient capitals of Pollonaruwa and Anuradhapura. These vast complexes house temples, palaces, wonderful carvings and huge stupas. Equally jaw-dropping is the Rock Fort of Sigiriya which offers 360° views, more than justifying the climb to the top!
Sri Lanka is famous for its idyllic beaches which stretch from the undeveloped eastern coast all the way around to the west near Colombo. The beaches and the accommodation vary from small intimate boutiques to luxurious resorts on private beaches and larger hotels in more bustling places.
No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without seeing some of its abundant wildlife. The best places to enjoy this are Uda Walawe, Yala, and Minneriya National Park. Here you can enjoy an exciting jeep safari which takes you close to wild elephants, crocodiles and even the illusive leopard.
Sri Lanka rises up from the coast to the hills, a rolling landscape dotted with tea bushes, and interlaced with streams and waterfalls. The lush landscape and cool climate prove to be an ideal combination for tea and Sri Lanka has long been a pilgrimage site for tea planters and tourists looking for the perfect cuppa!
Brightly painted elephants, fireworks, beating drums, and twirling dancers - Sri Lanka's festivals are as colourful and elaborate as the temples they centre on. The country’s largest festival, the Kandy Perahera revolves around the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth which is a must-see on any visit to Sri Lanka.
Some of the country's finest sandy beaches and quiet coves are found along the southern coast. Palm trees and brightly painted fishing boats on the shoreline complete the idyllic scene.
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Our Sri Lanka specialists are experienced and passionate about the country - between them they have spent many weeks a year researching new experiences and ensuring everything is of the highest standard. They know Sri Lanka inside out.
StuartSri Lanka Specialist01993 838 331
SarahSri Lanka Specialist01993 838 304
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Whilst many see Sri Lanka simply as a beach destination, head inland and you will be rewarded with a hidden world of reclining Buddhas, spice and tea plantations, Kandyan drummers and elephants.
All tours are accompanied by private chauffeur guides who are proud of their country’s remarkable history and who will be keen to help you get the most from your tour. As they also act as driver, you can learn a great deal about everyday life whilst on the road, take advantage of restaurant suggestions, or monitor the cricket score. All the vehicles are air-conditioned with saloon-style cars usually provided for couples and minivans for groups of friends or families.
The British-built train network is a wonderfully nostalgic and sedate way to travel, while the ‘tea plantation’ train between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya is highly recommended for its stunning hill scenery and ambience.
The past few years have seen numerous new hotels opening in Sri Lanka, with tea planters’ bungalows, private beach villas and small boutique hotels providing comfortable character accommodation. Many historical buildings including gentlemen’s clubs and private homes now take in guests, and a number of distinctive hotels and beach villas designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most famous architect, offer elegant and luxurious options.
For those interested in wildlife, we can suggest hotels where wonderful birds and the occasional elephant are likely to be seen.
As always, it is our first-hand experience which will help us to guide you in your choices.
The constitution now designates Sinhala, a language of Indo-Aryan origin spoken by the majority of the population, and Tamil as the official languages. English is widely spoken. Place names and signboards are in English and Sinhala, or English and Tamil, and sometimes all three.
You will find a huge variety of dishes across Sri Lanka. Rice and curry - often fiery hot but usually quite mild in hotel restaurants - are the staple, but the term 'curry' conceals an enormous variety of subtle flavours. Coriander, chillies, mustard, cumin, pepper, cinnamon and garlic are just some of the common ingredients. Mallung, a dish prepared with grated coconut, shredded leaves, red onions and lime, is an alternative to try.
Hoppers, a snack unique to Sri Lanka, are similar to a pancake served with egg or honey and yoghurt. The country has a wide variety of tropical fruit throughout the year. Pineapples, papayas and bananas are particularly good.
Visitors should not drink the tap water. The local mineral water is safe to drink, but always check the seal. Alcoholic drinks are widely available, though imported wines and beers are very expensive. There are some good local varieties.
PLEASE NOTE THAT AROUND THE MAJOR FESTIVAL DAYS AND THE MONTHLY FULL MOON POYA THE GOVERMENT MAY IMPOSE A BAN ON THE SALE OF ALCOHOLIC DRINKS. CONSUMPTION IS ALLOWED IN THE PRIVACY OF THE ROOM IF BOUGHT IN ADVANCE.
Allow about £10-30 a day for meal and drink expenses. A local beer will normally cost from around Rs100. A dish in a local restaurant could cost anything from Rs150 and start from Rs1000 at the top end of the range. Prices increase considerably for imported foods, wine and in boutique and top end hotels.
Tipping for good service is standard practice. As a general rule we recommend tipping the following per couple: chauffeur guides Rs1000 (approximately $10) per day. On game drives park wildlife spotter RS500 (approx $4), jeep driver Rs500 (approx $5), naturalist Rs1000 per drive. Safari camp staff approx Rs2000 (approx $20 shared). Hotel porters Rs50-100 per bag. For elephant rides - mahout Rs500.00, assistant Rs250 and maybe Rs250 of fruit to feed the elephant. Boat crew Rs300 per hour.
A 10% service charge is sometimes added to restaurant bills but otherwise a similar tip is appreciated. (PLEASE NOTE THAT 17.25% TAXES MAY ALSO BE ADDED IF THIS HAS NOT ALREADY BEEN INCLUDED IN THE MENU PRICE.)
The Sri Lankan currency is rupees (Rs). Notes are in denominations of Rs2000, 1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. The 500 and 100 notes are similar in colour. Coins are in denominations of Rs10, 5, 2 and 1; anything smaller has little use.
All Sri Lankan Rupees should be re-converted upon leaving Sri Lanka. Currency may only be changed at banks or at authorised money changers' and most larger hotels have a bureau de change. Avoid touts who hang around tourist spots offering good exchange rates, as these are invariably conmen. Both USD and GBP traveller's cheques are accepted. ATMs are available in larger towns. There are exchange booths in the airport where you can change your money immediately on arrival.
Ayubowan (May you have long life), said with the hands folded upwards in front of the chest, is the traditional welcome greeting among the Sinhalese. Use your right hand for giving, taking, eating or shaking hands as the left is considered unclean.
Modest dress is appreciated even in formal situations: jeans, trousers or skirts at least knee-length are appropriate on the streets, and cleanliness is highly valued. Tight or scanty clothing and displays of intimacy in public can offend local sensibilities and will probably draw unwanted attention. In rural areas women do not shake hands with men. Nudity and topless bathing are prohibited and heavy fines can be imposed.
As shoes must be removed before entering temples, it is a good idea in hot weather to carry a spare pair of socks to protect against the heat of the stone floors. You may need to cover your head in Hindu temples but uncover it in Buddhist temples. Some places, like the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, do not allow visitors to enter wearing shorts.
Always ask before taking photographs and videos of people and don't pose in front of religious images and paintings. Photos within airports and of military installations and bridges are not permitted.
'Running in the Family' by Michael Ondaatje: A colourful memoir of the author's Burgher family and eccentric relations capturing the essence of Sri Lanka. 'Sri Lanka in Style: Tropical Design and Architechure' by Dominic Sansoni: A beautifully presented photographic potrait of stunning homes, gardens and hotels around the island. 'Buddhist Stupas in Asia: The Shape of Perfection' by Bill Wassman & Joe Cummings: A beautiful coffee table book with a short section devoted to Sri Lankan stupas.
Kandyan drumming - a very lively and energetic Sinhalese tradition and regular performances can be enjoyed in Kandy. A traditional conch shell being blown at dawn for the morning puja in Kandy.
Rice and curry, often fiery hot but flavoured with coriander, chillies, mustard, cumin, pepper, cinnamon and garlic. Hoppers, or appas, a snack similar to a pancake served with egg or honey and yoghurt.
Coconut milk, straight from a freshly opened coconut is always safe to drink even from the most basic roadside stall. Tea - the best quality is exported and the usual cup of tea served is weak and milky.
Ayubowan (both hello and goodbye).
Giant buddha images and statues, tea covered hills, elephants, the towering rock outcrop of Sigirya, south coast sandy beaches, fabulous boutique hotels.
Tea and spices.
Start planning your tailor-made holiday to Sri Lanka by contacting one of our specialists...
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Further reading:Tours in Sri LankaWhen to GoHighlightsItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationCountry Guides
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