Colombo may be the gateway to this beautiful Indian Ocean isle, but beyond the capital there is a wealth of wonder to uncover in the ‘Teardrop of India’
The Diyawanna Oya Walkway is Colombo’s newly-refurbished public space, featuring miles of paved paths
and landscaped gardens, adjacent to a tranquil lake: the Diyawanna Oya. Couples can also enjoy a romantic stroll along the idyllic Dehiwala Beach and Mount Lavinia. As a hotspot for tourism and nightlife, the latter – steeped in history – is now a neighbourhood bustling with beach activities and delectable eateries. Meanwhile, centrally-located in cool hill-country, Nuwara Eliya is a wistful location to lose yourself in love. Its aura is imbibed from a colonial past, with manicured lawns and buildings such as the Queen’s Cottage, General’s House and the Town Post Office setting a quaint visual tone.
For a real ‘us against the world’ adventure, hop aboard a train. The Ella to Kandy route clocks in at seven hours, and there is stunning scenery along the way. (Snack on in-carriage delights such as freshly-cut pineapple and mango with cinnamon, as the locomotive motion lulls you). A must-mention is Rumassala Mountain near Unawatuna: hike hand-in hand up to the Peace Pagoda for heart-racing sunset-views across the ocean.
The family-friendly one
Kids love animals, but rather than seeing them pent up in a zoo (the wildlife, not your children), view the creatures in the wild against the majestic mountain backdrop of Udawalawe National Park. Most popular here are without doubt the elephants, which fend off fellow popularity contestants like crocodiles, macaques, white-necked storks and other stunning fauna. Invoke your inner Indiana Jones with a visit to the ancient ruins and UNESCO heritage sites of the garden city Polonnaruwa. Or prefer to see the resplendent ‘fruits’ of nature? Visit the attention-arresting Gem Museum in the ‘City of Gems’ Ratnapura, with its breathtaking display of locally-mined precious stones that include sapphires, rubies, and amethysts. If you find yourself opting for a bout of neighbourhood shopping, head to Pettah. Despite being in the midst of widespread historic restoration, it pulsates with the sound and colour of its local markets. Kids will love Bombay Sweet Mahal: an open-fronted shop that offers an array of vibrant Indian treats, which tempt within colourful display cases. Be sure to try the thick, chewy nut musket.
The adventurous one
Sri Lanka is more than white-sand beaches and stunning views, and Cycle touring is a fun way of seeing the rugged nature of country. Take a tour that pedals past the scenic towns, sleepy hamlets, and tea and rubber estates of Kitulgala in the west… which was the famous location of 1957’s Bridge On The River Kwai, and is where you can raft down the white water rapids of the raging Kelani River, or abseil down a gushing waterfall.
Trade two wheels for four (by four), and thunder off-road to tackle the hair-pin bends of the Devil’s Staircase near Belihuloya, and use the vehicle to splash through streams on the exciting ‘dragon drive’ to Galoya National Park. Try an adventure of patience, taking the opportunity to spot leopards slinking around Yala National Park. And don’t forget the country’s Indian Ocean locale: on the coasts, Kalpitiya, Ampara and Trincomalee enable scuba diving among wrecks and possible dolphin pod encounters. Some adventure tours even tackle the tastebuds: so diverse is local fare (from fresh seafood to fiery curries), that a culinary excursion is an adventure in itself.