Sri Lanka or Ceylon is an island nation situated just south of India on the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is also called the pearl of the Indian Ocean and is one of the world’s largest tea producers. Emerald green tropical forests, aqua blue seas and white sparkling beaches are just some of the things that Sri Lanka is known for. This beautiful landscape together with the rich and colourful culture and culinary characteristics make Sri Lanka a great country to visit.
The Portuguese discovered the country in the 1500’s, colonizing the island. The British took over in the 1700’s until 1948, where it became an independent state. During the first decade as a free nation, tensions increased between the country’s two main ethnic groups: the Sinhalese and the Tamil. In 1972, the country became a republic under the name of Sri Lanka. After continued clashes between the two ethnic groups, war ended in 2009 where the Tamil were defeated. Since then the situation has returned to being peaceful, with most of the refugees returning home and the country was able to become prosperous again.
To see and do
When you are free from your volunteer work there are exciting attractions and activities for you to see and do. Here are a few:
Despite that Sri Lanka isn´t a big country it offers great diversity and beautiful nature. Along the coasts you can see beautiful beaches and crystal clear water meanwhile the more central parts of the country offers moist rainforests. Throughout the country comes plenty of still rivers and along the high mountains there is an opportunity to take a swim in fresh mountain water and waterfalls. Sri Lanka indulges you with a dreamy nature experience. Contrasts are big from the vibrant city of Colombo to the silent jungles, but the greenery is never far away.
Yala National Park
The Yala National Park is situated on the southeast part of Sri Lanka and is mostly famous for its big population of leopards and Sri Lankan elephants. Here you have the opportunity to go on arranged safaris, either on half a day or for a whole day-. Other species living in this area are for example 200 different kinds of birds and 40 mammals such as water buffalo and sloth bear. A perfect weekend activity.
Minneriya National Park
Here you will find the biggest population of the Asian elephant.
This is an unforgettable nature experience. The city lies near Colombo in a big mountain area, located in the center of Sri Lanka. It is a haven for Sri Lankans due to the mild climate year around, this thanks to the geographical placement. Nuwara Eliya is a popular destination for the locals and it is characterized by its greenery, waterfalls and agriculture. The best way to get here is by train and from where you will enjoy the astonishing scenery outside your window. Also make sure to plan a stop on one of the many tea plantations.
It is said that the worlds end lies on Sri Lanka. Worlds End is a 2000 meter high cliff that lies in Horton Plains National Park in the south part of Sri Lanka. The park consists of varying terrain and mighty mountain tops. The view from Worlds End is something out of the ordinary.
Sun & sea
Sri Lanka is a fantastic sun and bath destination. With turquoise water of the Indian Ocean and swaying palm trees that stretch out over the white beaches you can enjoy several lazy days in the sun.
The best beaches you will find along the south and east coast of the country and this is where the local people also go to take a swim. If you feel like surfing Arugam Bay on the east coast is famous to be one of the world’s best places to surf on in the world.
In Mirissa you can, except for the incredible beach life also go on whale and dolphin view in world class. Snorkelers, surfers and sun worshipers are gathered in Galle. Here you can also enjoy Dutch architecture from the colonial time.
Two other amazing bath destinations are the horse shoe shaped bay of Unawatuna and Tangalle. A great alternative for you who are doing project work in Colombo and want to avoid long travel way is Hikkaduwa. A perfect one-day excursion that offers long beaches and coral reefs with a chance to take a swim with a sea turtle or two.
On Unawatuna that lies inserted in a bay shaped like a horse shoe. Along the beach you can hear the calm music from some of the small bars along the beach side. A perfect place for relaxation.
Worth knowing is that the bath culture on Sri Lanka are very different from the European tradition. In the less tourist explored areas such as the northwest parts and also around the capital Colombo it is rare to see the local people bathe or even dress themselves into bathing clothes. Often it is the men that take a swim and the women sits on the beach fully clothed. You never have to feel unsafe or uncomfortable in curious and friendly Sri Lanka, but you can count on getting a lot of attention if you go lightly dressed on the beach! On the beaches above mentioned the local Sri Lankans usually accustomed with tourists and there it is an okay to go in bikini or shorts. You will probably count on many laughs and shaking heads when you, in true European spirit, lie on the beach sun bathing in your sun chair when the Sri Lankans hides under jeans fabric and umbrellas.
From a cultural perspective is Sri Lanka truly a small pearl. The major of Sri Lankas local people is Buddhists and the whole country characterize by the open, curious and friendly mentality. Be sure to know that the Sri Lankans are proud of its country and history. By everyone you meet you will get a lot of suggestions of which monuments and historical places to see and go to. Several of the old temples says consist of relics from Buddha, for example the coffin with one of Buddha’s teeth opens in Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple once a year.
One of the highpoints on Sri Lanka is spelled Sigiriya and is a UNESCO-certify and 350 meter high mountain that looks like a giant rock. This is actually a erode volcano that now is surrounded by more then 2000 year old walls, water lily ponds and gardens. To climb up for Sigiriya on the narrow stairs is not child play in luxuriate sun – still the older generation of Sri Lankans pilgrim here to enjoy the old cave drawings on the walls and on the top – magical castle ruins and a unbeatable view over tight rainforest as far as the eye can see. A destination that you can´t miss.
Dambulla Cave Temple is another pearl on Sri Lanka cultural crown. If you want to get a Buddhist temple checked off on your bucket list, then UNESCO-certified Dambulla Cave Temple is the right choice. A simple Google takes you right to the main entrance with the hugh sitting Buddha on its roof. It will take many barefoot steps and meeting with hungry monkeys before you reach the temple that from the outside looks modest small with the Buddhist flag sway in the wind and incense in a close fog in the air. Inside a treasure hides with more than 150 Buddha statues in varying condition and size, among others the world famous “sleeping Buddha’s” with floor, walls and ceilings covered in old cave paintings. No one can go there and not be impressed by this place. Have you had enough of temples? Well if that is the case you should go north and travel to Anuradhapura – the Buddhist´s monks own favorite. An amazing town with a unique history.
The food culture in Sri Lanka is a treasure in itself. Sri Lankan food is much inspired by the Indian kitchen with several elements of coconut and less meat. A typical Sri Lankan dish is main curry with coconut milk, eggs, potatoes or some other protein rich source and some small curry stews on lens culinary, garbanzo or vegetables that can taste from worlds apart but amazingly good. Sri Lankan food is spicy if you eat on a restaurant but the host normally adjust the food after your preferences.
Before, and in between meals, The Sri Lankan people drink their world famous speciality- Ceylonte. This is one kind of powder boiled together with water and milk before it is flavored with sweetening herbs such as cardamom, vanilla or why not mixture your own chai. Don´t do the mistake to ask for tea without milk. In Sri Lanka the milk is as important in the tea as the flavor and it is amazingly good. Take the opportunity to visit a tea plantation during your stay to get a deeper knowledge in the production of tea.
In Sri Lanka the infrastructure is diverse. The cheapest way to get somewhere is by tuk-tuk and that is okay shorter distance, especially during rush hour when the big private cars stands with their tiers stick to the asphalt. Keep an eye out for tuktuk´s with the word “METER” on it, in order to avoid the unpleasant surprise of receiving big count in the end.
The traffic in Colombo is loud and hectic but with many beautiful views, for example Parliament Road that you will pass along the way to the volunteer project with the monks. If you are going for a longer daytrip the local organization will help you to get a private driver that will pick you up in a car. It is more expensive than a tuk-tuk but good price anyway.
Sri Lanka is known for its railways and by train you can go anywhere in the country. Forget all the sights, Cave Temples and volcano mountains – it is by train you will experience the true Sri Lanka. It is crowded at some points but the views are magnificent and along the way there are opportunities to meet new friends.
Sri Lanka has a tropical monsoon climate with high air humidity.
The average temperature lies around 25 degrees Celsius. During May – August there are monsoon rains blowing in over the north and east parts of Sri Lanka.
This means that it is always good climate somewhere on Sri Lanka and that you can visit the island year around.
- Meal for 2 people, mid-range restaurant, three-course: 1,550.00 Rs
- Water (1,5 liter bottle): 75.75 Rs
- Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle): 73.66 Rs
- Taxi 1 km (Normal Tariff): 45.00 Rs