Sri Lanka offers everything you’d expect from a tropical paradise. Idyllic beaches, coconut palm groves, monkeys chattering and vibrant birdlife, with fabulous street food and home-grown chai tea thrown in to boot. However the island is a country full of contrasts; from the blaring horns of gridlocked tuk-tuks in the capital, to the atmospheric misty mountains of the spiritual hill country – best explored by riding the colonial railway – there is something for everyone. We round up five of the best reasons why Sri Lanka has fast become one of the hottest destinations right now.
1) Incredible railway journeys
Train travel in Sri Lanka is an exhilarating way to see the island’s stunning scenery, and with some of the most spectacular railway journeys in the world, it’s an experience not to be missed. Introduced by the British during the colonial era, the first tracks were initially built in 1864 to transport tea from the highlands. The line was extended, connecting the capital of Colombo with Badulla, and is now heralded as the island’s most scenic route; mountains peak through misty clouds and waterfalls cascade amidst rolling alpine hills and tea plantations.
Another fantastic journey is the train ride from Colombo to Galle, where the tracks run adjacent to the coastline (and at times, actually along the beach). Air-conditioned carriages are now available on most routes, although you’ll be rewarded for travelling in the observation carriage - dizzying photo opportunities at every twist and turn of the track will keep photographers entertained for hours.
Explore Galle and the tea plantations, as well as Kandy and some of Sri Lanka's top cultural attractions, most beautiful beaches and most colourful wildlife on our
Luxury Honeymoon to Sri Lanka.
2) Gorgeous southern beaches
The island’s southern coastline is fringed with swaying coconut palms and glorious stretches of sand. Head to Tangalle if you’re after a real Robinson Crusoe style getaway; the golden sand undulates like desert dunes, shaped by a strong tide that transforms from a dazzling shade of turquoise to frothy white with each rolling wave. Whilst unsuitable for swimming, the sea is warm, and a natural rock pool makes a quick dip in the ocean still possible.
Kayaks can be hired for paddling through the huge mangrove lagoon behind the beach, home to kaleidoscopic birdlife, monkeys and more. Accommodation ranges from simple guesthouses to luxury cabanas, and a number of decent fish restaurants dot the shore – try the seafood at Sha Sha’s, and remember a torch for starry walks back along the beach. Tangalle remains low-key, perhaps due to its proximity to the turtle-nesting site at Rekawa. Pack your flip flops and a good book, and enjoy the sea breeze whilst suspended mid-air in a hammock between two leafy palms.
Try some yoga in Galle and relax on the beaches of Koggala on our itinerary Idling Down Sri Lanka's West Coast
3) Tea plantations and the hill country
Arriving in Nuwara Eliya, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in England; green forested mountains, picturesque meadows and a cool temperate climate characterise Sri Lanka's breathtaking hill country. Its name translates as 'City of Light', and a walk around this small town will conjure up images of the British colonial era, with the peculiar sightings of red-brick houses, Tudor-style half-timbered architecture, and red pillar postboxes. Vast tea estates offer tours, and outdoor activities are popular in the month of April, when the country celebrates its New Year. Similarly beautiful areas within the hill country include Ella - renowned for its breathtaking misty views through the 'Ella Gap' - and Kandy, located at the island’s heart and a perfect base for hiking to the nearby ancient palace of Sigiriya.
See Kandy, Sigiriya, the tea plantations and more on our Sri Lanka in Classic Style holiday.
4) Extraordinary wildlife
Sri Lanka is home to some of the most interesting and diverse wildlife on the planet, living in the midst of lush coconut palm groves. Two incredible national parks, Udawalawe and Yala, offer jeep safaris - the latter of which lays claim to the highest density leopard population in the world. Go early for the best chance to see game, and consider staying in one of the rustic safari-style lodges for an exhilarating night in the wild. Head to the sun-drenched southern coastline to go whale watching at Mirissa, or observe the natural spectacle of sea turtles nesting on the shore near Tangalle.
Experience Sri Lanka's wildlife, including elephants, dolphins, and leopards, on our exhilarating Family Wildlife Holiday.
5) King coconuts, egg hoppers and fresh fish curry
A tropical island isn't complete without coconuts, and with palm groves sprawling in every direction, there are plenty of opportunities to obtain that ultimate paradise ideal: sipping on a coconut. Breakfast takes on a new dimension with the egg hoppers - a typical street food of eggs fried in a bowl-shaped pancake – and dinner usually involves curry and sides cooked fresh to order using vegetables of the day, not to mention a heap of fiery chillies. Don’t forget to stop by a roti street stall for a bread snack typical of the Indian subcontinent – the cheese roti is to die for.