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Tucked away at the bottom of India and surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the island of Sri Lanka is a haven for wildlife, filled with solitary beaches and snorkelling opportunities, plates of spicy curries, bustling cities and temples galore.

The usual mentality of people visiting Sri Lanka is to choose either the greenery and wildlife of the hill country and the north, or the relaxing vibe of the south, where all those beautiful beaches are. However, there’s no reason why a trip to Sri Lanka can’t take in the best bits of the whole country - particularly now that the previously war-torn north has become more accessible to tourists (although there is still a visible presence of the former situation in the region, such as checkpoints and so on). A well-planned trip to the country has the potential to include everything from a surf lesson in Weligama and a dive to an old shipwreck to a cooking course in Galle town and elephant feeding in Kandy.

Colombo:

Many travellers pass through this sprawling city and head down to the south without as much as a backward glance. Don’t make the same mistake – Colombo has plenty to offer visitors, from museums, galleries and tours to balloon rides,meditation centres, golf, shopping and restaurants.

Things to do:

Get your camera out and be prepared for a whole lot of sightseeing. Colombo has a seemingly endless list of temples, churches, mosques, bell towers, and period buildings to see; and yes, some of them really are worth a visit. The Sri Kailawasanathar Swami Devasthanam Kovil is said to be the oldest Hindu Temple in the country and is one of the most elaborately decorated buildings you’re likely to see, while the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple is the most famous Buddhist site in the city. For culture vultures, the Colombo National Museum houses artefacts important to Sri Lanka’s history, while the National Art Gallery alongside the museum is a great place to check out the country’s best artists. Indoor exploring isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and luckily Colombo has an abundance of outdoor activities. The cycling tour of the city is a great way to get your bearings and see Colombo’s hotspots. Choose from a suburban cycling tour - taking in the Talangama Wetlands, semi-urban areas, and lake surrounding the Sri Lankan Parliament - or the urban tour, which includes the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, Manning Market station, and Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court.

If you’re keen to stay active, but want to try something a little more adventurous, there are white-water rafting trips in the area, or you can organise a hot air balloon trip over the city. When all the ballooning, biking, and general hubbub of the city gets to be a little bit much, relaxation is the order of the day. There are seemingly hundreds of day spas in Colombo, which offer everything from a quick foot rub to a full-on body polish. If you’re in need of an even longer break from the hustle and bustle, there are several yoga classes (or courses) to try.

Going out:

Although Colombo doesn’t have quite the nightlife reputation of Bangkok or Hong Kong, like any big, bustling city there are still plenty of pubs, clubs and bars to be found. Curry Leaf restaurant is well known for serving fantastic Sri Lankan fare, and there is also plenty of street food on offer from stalls dotted around the city. Big spenders would be well-advised to head to the Fort district – which is also the financial centre of the city – where there are a string of upmarket cocktail bars, as well as fancy hotel dining. Alternatively, a little way down Galle Road, there are a number of drinking establishments and clubs (both classy and questionable) to choose from.

Stay:

Escape the city’s hustle and bustle at Colombo Beach Hostel in Mount Lavinia, or, for a more central location close to the action, try Clock Inn Colombo.


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Big Trip: Sri Lanka
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