Sri Lanka is an island with pristine and seemingly endless stretches of beaches, timeless ruins, warm and welcoming people, thriving wildlife, rolling surf, exotic train rides, some of the world’s best tea and delectable local cuisine. It has been making waves in recent past, earning it the nomination of the best travel destination 2019 by the world renowned travel guide Lonely Planet.
Here are a few reasons why Sri Lanka is Lonely Planet’s number one destination for 2019:
1. Seven hot-spots that make Sri Lanka special!
Amongst the 7 hot-spots everyone should visit when in Sri Lanka, the cultural triangle takes the precedence. Of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Sri Lanka is home to 8 of them, and it is a must to visit Anuradhapura’s ancient temples and monasteries, the rock citadel of Sigiriya and its many frescoes and take the world-renowned Kandy-Ella train ride.
Picture credits- Gabriela Bell
Other interesting things to do in the Cultural Triangle include Minneriya National Park, home to the largest elephant gathering in the world, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy that houses the tooth of the Buddha and the Knuckles Mountain Range, named after the ridges of the mountain that look similar to the knuckles on a human fist.
Outside the cultural triangle, Nuwera Eliya sits in eternal temperate winter and is charmingly called ‘Little England’ because British settlers built their holiday bungalows there and on the other end of the spectrum, the island’s truly stunning beaches lapped by the warm Indian ocean, are unmissable.
2. Melting pot of culturally rich festivals
Sri Lanka is a haven of different festivals that take place in honour of the diverse religious beliefs embodied by 21+ million population – Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Eight festival’s worth visiting the island for include Vesak Poya – the Buddhist festival of lights, the Kandy Esala Poya Perahera, Maha Shivarathri – a Hindu Festival held in honour of Lord Shiva, Avurudu – the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, Ramadan and Eid-Ul-Adha and Christmas that is celebrated by everyone irrespective of religion.
3. Adventurous things to do in Sri Lanka
For the adventurous amongst us, exploring Sri Lanka’s wild side take top precedence. Visiting the island’s many national parks is essential especially since the country is home to more than 5,800 wild elephants – the highest density of wild elephants in the whole of Asia. Yala National Park contains the highest density of leopard’s, with Wilpattu Park and other enclosed forest reserves containing smaller populations. Best times to witness these majestic beasts are early morning or at dusk.
Those who are interested in enjoying picturesque views at high altitudes will enjoy trekking up Adam’s Peak, the island’s most sacred mountain. Reaching a height of around 2,243 metres (7,359 feet), it’s a 2-4 hour climb, and should be done early morning to see the incredible view at sunrise.
Sri Lanka is also the perfect destination for water sports from deep sea diving to white water rafting. Arugam Bay and Passikudah are the surfing hot spots. For snorkeling and scuba diving, Pigeon Island in Trincomalee, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Kalpitiya Beach are the places to be.
4. A Paradise for the indulgent shopper
Whether it’s a high-end designer luxury shopping, a budget spree or even if you desire to purchase unique trinkets, antiques, gems and souvenirs to take back home with you, Sri Lanka has something for everyone.
Colombo is home to a wide range of shopping precincts – from historic artefacts available at Lakarcade, Laksala, Lovi and Barefoot Gallery – where you can find Sri Lankan masks, jeweled elephants and other authentic souvenirs, as well as sarong’s and sarees. ODEL, Crescat and the newly opened Colombo City Center are also worth a visit.
The most unique shopping experience though is at Galle Fort, constructed by the Dutch in the 17th century. The city is a fantastic place to leisurely peruse shops, especially gems or stop by various quintessential cafés and restaurants for refreshment.
5. A culinary journey like no other
Sri Lankan cuisine is widely acclaimed as some of the spiciest food one can indulge in, in Asia. It prides itself on using locally sourced produce including herbs and spices specifically cinnamon, cardamom’s and nutmeg, fresh seafood such as the famed Sri Lanka crabs and traditional cooking methods.
Some of the country’s stand-out traditional dishes include the famed Egg Hopper, String Hoppers, Fish Ambul Thiyal (prepared using Goraka and locally sourced fresh tuna), Kottu (shredded roti served mixed with diced meat and stir-fried vegetables) and lest we forget, the sumptuous rice and curry washed down with a cup of the world famous Ceylon tea or Thambili (Coconut water).
6. Perfect retreat for mind and body wellness
Holistic wellness practitioners continue the tradition of Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. If you are looking to de-stress and are focused on mind + body wellness, will find a splendid range of spa’s that practice Ayurveda around the country, particularly at luxury hotel chains such as Cinnamon Hotels, where they can enjoy spectacular deep tissue massages, Ayurvedic beauty treatments and even aromatherapy. You can also visit Siddhalepa Ayurvedic Spa as well as Spa Ceylon.
7. The warmth of traditional Sri Lankan hospitality
Sri Lanka is defined by the warmth of its quintessential island hospitality. The country’s people are considered to be amongst the friendliest and most generous people in the world. This generosity is prevalent throughout the island and is visible in how people welcome you into their home, and always serve you a meal and offer to help in any way. It’s no wonder Sri Lanka is considered the best travel destination for 2019, from its world famous food, hospitality, spices, adventure, wildlife, beaches, mountains and tea, all packed into one tiny island – but you have to experience it yourself to believe in it!