Unique Must-Do Experiences in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has seduced travellers for centuries. Marco Polo described it as the finest island of its size in the world, while successive waves of Indian, Arab, and European traders and adventurers flocked to its palm-fringed shores, attracted by reports of rare spices, precious stones, and magnificent elephants.

Marco Polo’s bold claim still holds true. Sri Lanka packs an extraordinary variety of places to visit within its modest physical dimensions, and few islands of comparable size can boast a natural environment of such beauty and diversity. Lapped by the Indian Ocean, the coast is fringed with idyllic – and often refreshingly undeveloped – beaches, whilst the interior boasts a compelling variety of landscapes ranging from wildlife-rich lowland jungles, home to extensive populations of elephants, leopards, and rare endemic bird species, to the misty heights of the hill country, swathed in immaculately manicured tea plantations. Neither does the island lack in man-made attractions.

Sri Lanka boasts more than two thousand years of recorded history, and the remarkable achievements of the early Sinhalese civilization can still be seen in the sequence of ruined cities and great religious monuments that litter the northern plains.

North of Kandy, the tangled green hills of the central highlands tumble down into the plains of the dry zone, a hot and denuded region covered in thorny scrub and jungle, and punctuated by isolated mountainous outcrops that tower dramatically over the surrounding flatlands. Despite the unpromising natural environment, these northern plains now more popularly known as the Cultural Triangle, served as the crucible of early Sinhalese civilization, centred on the great cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, whose grandiose monuments still serve as potent reminders of the golden age of Sinhalese civilization.

At the spiritual heart of the Triangle lies the great ruined city of Anuradhapura, capital of the island and one of medieval Asia’s great metropolises, dotted with vast monasteries, elaborate palaces, enormous tanks, and a trio of monumental dagobas, excelled in scale in the ancient world only by the Egyptian pyramids.

The remains of Polonnaruwa, the island’s second capital, are more compact but equally absorbing, while few visitors miss the chance to climb the spectacular rock citadel of Sigiriya, perhaps Sri Lanka’s single most extraordinary sight.

Other leading attractions include the marvellous cave temples of Dambulla, a magical treasure box of Buddhist sculpture and painting, and the religious centre of Mihintale, scene of the introduction of Buddhism to the island.

Imagine gliding majestically above these ruined cities! Hot air ballooning is a unique must-do experience in Sri Lanka and a real treat for individuals and in particular family groups looking for that something special – it’s one of the best family holiday experiences in Sri Lanka.

With little or no sensation of movement, hot air ballooning is a magical way to experience a country. Soaring high on a peaceful morning to get breathtaking views of the 5th Century fortress palace that sits 600ft above the surrounding country will live long in your memories. Enjoy a champagne breakfast whilst drifting over the Sigiriya rock fortress, cave temples, and the unspoilt wilderness that is characteristic of the Cultural Triangle. Ballooning adds an intimacy with the landscape and people that most travellers volunteer as “an experience of a lifetime” whilst floating in harmony with nature. Apart from the occasional burst of the burners there is little to disturb the unusual silent environment.

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