Immerse your senses in Sri Lanka

FROM a thriving city to lush green tea plantations. Beautiful beaches to wildlife sanctuaries. Sri Lanka is an absolute treat for the senses, writes Emma Lovell.

Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, will instantly immerse you in the vibrant culture of busy city life. The best way to see this fascinating city is by auto rickshaw tour. Nothing formal, just speak to a rickshaw driver near your hotel, agree on a price and ask to be taken around the main sites of Colombo for a day.

On your tour, you’ll see the diversity of religions present in Sri Lanka. Towering Catholic Cathedrals, pretty Christian churches, Buddhist temples over lakes and Hindu temples with an elephant giving blessings out the front. Admire the colourful kites as you drive by Galle Face Beach. Make sure to request a few stops along the way at the many jewellery and fashion stores to sample the beautiful wares.

Colombo has a bevy of five-star hotels and worldwide chains to choose from. But for a relaxing and authentic experience, try the charming boutique accommodation of the Colombo Court Hotel and Spa. Offering a stylish and welcoming retreat near to the centre.

The culinary delights on offer in Colombo were certainly a highlight for me. It’s all about taste! You’ll find a delicious fusion of flavours with a generous amount of spices and heat thrown into the mix. For a delicious and unforgettable meal, you must head to the Ministry of Crab at The Old Dutch Hospital food precinct. Mind blowing flavours with only the freshest of seafood on offer.

To explore more of the tropical side to Sri Lanka, it’s time to head to Negombo, a beach resort area north of Colombo, just 30 minutes from the international airport. Arrive to the sounds of the ocean and instantly relax as you rest up at one of the many resorts lining the golden sand beaches.

The agenda in Negombo is simple. Lie on the beach, swim in the pool, enjoy fresh seafood, indulge in a massage and repeat. Watch from the shore as locals head out in traditional fishing boats to bring in the catch of the day. The culture of this humble island meets the sea and sand in Negombo.

It’s time to get in touch with nature as you get up close and personal with the magnificent elephants of Sri Lanka. Travel three hours east from Colombo, heading along winding roads and through lush coconut plantations, to reach the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, which is home to more than 90 rescued elephants from around the country, this facility offers a sanctuary and refuge for these magnificent mammals.

Visitors can watch as the elephants take their majestic daily march from the orphanage through the streets to the local river for a bath and play. Guests will also have the opportunity to watch babies feeding and even offer some fruit treats to some of the more mature elephants. As an educational facility and a nature reserve, Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage is world-class and now synonymous with the Sri Lankan elephant.

You can comfortably visit the exotic Pinnewala in a one-day return trip from Colombo, or continue on your travels further east towards the stunning hill stations and tea plantations that Sri Lanka is so well known for. Travel to the exotic city of Kandy, encircled by hills with a tranquil lake at its centre. Breathtaking views await you at every point.

Kandy is home to the renowned temple which enshrines the Tooth Relic of the Buddha. Legends and traditions are at home here, lovingly kept alive by the friendly locals who will delight in sharing the folklore with you. Make sure to leave time for shopping as Kandy and the surrounding villages are the centre of Sri Lanka’s handicraft items. You’ll find exquisite gold and silver jewellery as well as precious gems, including world famous blue and star sapphires.

The one thing you cannot miss in this region is the train ride from Kandy to Ella. Many believe it’s the most scenic train ride in the entire world. If you dare, stand at the open doors or hang your head out the window as you pass over sky high bridges, gazing down over green valleys and rushing rivers below. Experience the culture of Sri Lanka as you travel through villages, tea plantations and thick forests. It’s an exotic train ride you’ll never forget.

Wherever you choose to travel in Sri Lanka, you will feel warm and welcomed. From trying on local fashions, to sampling the wicked spices of the curries and embracing the stunning landscapes. The people are so incredibly inviting and eager to share their culture with you. Sri Lanka will immerse you entirely in its exotic beauty. It’s a sensory delight and a destination that deserves to be on your travel wish list.

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