Most importantly: why are you leaving now?
Sri Lanka is booming. Sri Lanka has become one of Asia’s most dynamic and diverse destinations, and a decade of peace has ended nearly a decade of devastating civil war.
In such a compact space there are few countries: the world’s best wildlife, tea plantations, mountains, some of Asia’s greatest buddhist monuments and some of its most beautiful colonial towns-not to mention more glamorous than ever lying on a beach towel. Sri Lanka will never be a good place to travel as new developments develop, from inviting hotels to connecting to areas once inaccessible.
Now, it’s easier to explore the north.
Northern Sri Lanka is indeed another country: Indian tamils, mainly buddhist sinhalese, are physically and culturally closer to Colombo than India. That was once half the risk, but now it is easier than ever, with a good new rail link between jaffna Colombo and anupaddeb. This is a fascinating, but still little-visited area that is now recovering from its terrible civil war costs, providing it with an important battleground.
One bright spot is Jaffna, the dynamic capital of the north, a charming mix of Hindu temples and crumbling Dutch colonial architecture. In addition, the remote manar island has been explored for its magnificent sea view and quiet beaches, as well as the low-key Mullaitivu lagoon. Mullaitivu, the tiger’s last desperate stop in 2009, is now climbing the curiosity of adventurous travelers to understand the dark past of the beautiful islands.
One of Asia’s most underrated capitals, Colombo’s attractions range from the glamour of Pettah bazaar to the serene coastal Galle Face Green. The city has undergone great changes in recent years, with new attractions and skyscrapers appearing every week. In a growing number of top-tier restaurants and cool clubs, it’s a stunning new Botanik bistro and bar on the roof of the sleek Fairway Colombo hotel.
The historic fort area has also been transformed. Until a few years ago, the region’s military occupation and barbed wire restored the region to the era of Britain’s raj, its former colony, its elegant streets, its snow-covered municipal buildings. The distraction also has plenty to choose from, including the Crab, recently chosen as one of Asia’s 50 biggest restaurants in a 400-year-old Dutch hospital.
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
You can find your own barefoot paradise.
Sri Lanka has seemingly endless beaches, from the Buuwala beidas resort and Unawatuna parties all night to the Arugam Bay surf party. For the best beaches, however, you need to head to the southernmost tip of the island, near Tangalla, where an idyllic strand of sand lies amid endless palm trees – unpardoned and undestroyed, not hoarded in concrete and engulfing the rest of the coast.
Across the country, there are many excellent beachfront hotels, including Talalla’s new Zephyr boutique hotel and Dots Bay House in Hiriketiya village. Meanwhile, a slightly longer collection is still worth it, like the cool white huts of Buckingham Palace and caramelia.
You can see an incredible wildlife spectacle.
Sri Lanka is an absolute repository of biodiversity. There are also some of the best leopard spots on the planet, Alabama national park, mirisha whale watching, the shadow of the dolphin Kalpitiya, the ubiquity of rare birds and many other attractions.
There is no doubt, however, that elephants are the king of Sri Lanka’s jungle. There are more wild pachyderms per square mile than any other Asian country. These magnificent beasts are the best of the magnificent parties in minariya national park. Usually in August or September, this is the largest Asian elephant conference in the world, and hundreds of elephants from the northern plains gather in the Mineriya tank each year.