5th century secular cave paintings or frescoes survive inside the cave of the 600-foot rock at Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the “Fortress in the Sky.” (cover photo)
Top 5 ACTIVITIES AND PLACES to Visit
by: Amber Creighton
Sri Lanka is a compact, teardrop-shaped island country located out in the Indian Ocean just south of India’s coast, northeast of Maldives. I have ventured into this nation the last two springs, March 2012 and 2013, both times as a journalist-guest of the Sri Lankan government; and I must say it really satisfies paradisical cravings of an escape-yearning-city-dweller like my Manhattan-self. What’s great is because it’s tiny, the major highlights are all within a few hours drive of one another and in just a few days a tourist can experience the best it has to offer.
1) Safari tour in Yala National Park
The safari tour in Yala National Park in Southern Sri Lanka is among the top reasons to visit Sri Lanka. A wild life refuge, the Yala National Park will reveal many native animals in their protected natural habitats including large crocodiles, leopards, water buffalo, elephants, sloth bears, wild boar, spotted deer, peacocks, and a gaggle of exotic bird life, that would make even the most experienced ornithologist twitch with excitement. Yala is now an easily accessible destination, thanks to the new Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Southern Sri Lanka.
2) Whale watching in Mirissa
Another unforgettable Sri Lankan experience is the whole whale watching experience. It begins with waking up before the break of dawn for the trek to Mirissa and witnessing the glorious sunrise unfold, remarkable from my vantage point at the Light House Hotel. Mirissa is a fantastic, traditional fishing bay with brightly colored boats and friendly villagers. It is from here where small whale watching boats take off and in just a half an hour to be among gigantic Blue Whales! The photos are no match to the stunning views when you get up close and personal with these magnificent animals. This was definitely one of the highlights of my voyage of Sri Lanka.
Top 5 Activities and Places to Visit in Sri Lanka – Slideshow
3) Archaelogical treasures at Sigiriya Rock Fortress
The archaeological treasures are not to be missed. I fell in love with Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Sigiriya is a “World Heritage Site” (one of many in this small country) and dates back to the 5th Century. It is known as the “Fortress in the Sky.” The secular cave paintings of 21 life-sized damsels survive in the form of frescoes inside the cave of the 600-foot rock. Two massive, carved lion paws guard the stone steps leading to the second tier of this incredible fortress. On the summit are man-made pools full of water lilies, and an arresting polished, stone throne carved into the mountainside where the renegade king addressed his subjects. The tragic history of this monastery-turned-protective-fortress is worth looking up. The views and hike are worth even more.
4) Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya, known in the past as “Little England” as it was once upon a time a country hill retreat for then British colonialists. It is in the hinterlands of Central Sri Lanka and has the ideal year round temperature of an English summer. This region is also where the famous tea plantations of Sri Lanka are located. Picturesque are the views of terraced mountainsides filled with colorfully dressed tea workers and remote stunning villas. Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, is rumored to produce the world’s best tea, Ceylon tea. The breathtaking Horton Plain National Park is here, a garden of Eden of impressive water falls, wild life, including very friendly Sambar deer (Elk-like animals which will take nibbles directly from your hand,) leopards, monkeys, etc. My favorite views are from World’s End (a 3,000-ft sheer drop-off with views clear to the famous Adam’s Peak, a beautiful mountain famous for it’s 3,000 vertical stone steps, and the Sea) and the stunning Blake Falls (a three-tier water fall).
The beaches of Sri Lanka are truly incredible and there are too many to mention. The scenery couldn’t be more sublime and the water is bathing-water warm. The waters are full of marine life from exotic fish, migratory blue whales, dolphins and more. Scuba diving and snorkeling are a must when exploring Sri Lanka. Certain beaches are ideal for surfers.
These are just a few of the reasons why you should visit Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is safe and offers affordable options for families, romantic escapes, honeymoons, destination weddings, and single adventure travelers. Come enjoy Sri Lanka for yourselves and let the memories begin!