Bijou island with a big personality
Sri Lanka is the perfect place for those who want more than just a fly-and-flop holiday. Ancient fortresses, Buddhist temples, tea plantations, wildlife reserves – there's a lot to see on this teardrop-shaped island.
That's not to say the beaches aren't worth talking about. The coastline here is long and sandy, and the beautiful beaches tend to come backed by palm groves and the odd luxury hotel. The beach at Bentota is one of the best, with golden sands and first-class sunset views. At its southern end, you'll often see the famous stilt fishermen, who perch on precarious poles in the shallows to reel in their catch.
Venture away from the coast and you'll find lush rainforest and hills carpeted in emerald-green tea plantations (the leaves for your morning cuppa are likely to have been picked here). The mountains are best explored by rail – old-fashioned trains chug through them, stopping off at quiet hill towns along the way.
Sri Lanka has an incredibly rich history, which is on show in its ancient kingdoms and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Head to Anuradhapura and you'll find centuries-old temples and stupas, visit Kandy for impressive colonial architecture, or spend a day exploring the walled old town of Galle. Sigiriya, an ancient fortress city sat on top of a rocky outcrop, is worth a visit too.
Incredible wildlife is another feather in Sri Lanka's cap. Explore one of the country's nature reserves or national parks and you might spot elusive leopards, cheeky monkeys and herds of graceful elephants. The birdlife is also pretty exotic – keep your eyes peeled for endemic species like red-rumped swallows and orange-billed babblers.
This south-coast resort boasts a glorious coastline, with caramel-coloured sands stretching out between palm groves and the waters of the Indian Ocean.
The coast just north of Trincomalee lines up golden sands, tropical mangroves, colourful corals, and – between May and October – waters speckled with blue whales.
Flights from the UK take approximately 10 hours 30 minutes.
Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons – one in the south-west between May and September, and one in the north-east between October and January. Galle and Bentota are in the south-west, and the most popular time to visit is between December and March for hot, sunny weather and an average temperature of 30°C.
UK citizens will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. You can apply for a 30-day tourist visa online before you travel.
Tipping is common in Sri Lanka. You should aim to tip 100 rupees at restaurants, and the same again per day for hotel maids and porters. It’s not necessary to tip taxi drivers, although you could round up the fare to the nearest 50 rupees if paying cash.
The official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil. English is widely spoken too.
No vaccines are required or recommended for travel to Sri Lanka, however all routine immunisations need to be up to date. For full details, please contact your GP.
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