Sri Lanka has so much to offer the mature holidaymaker that the difficulty can be whittling down that list of ‘must-dos’ and ‘must-sees’ to a manageable itinerary.
This Indian Ocean island boasts a wonderful and diverse array of scenery, including rainforests, golden beaches, several wildlife reserves and a host of cultural attractions.
Here are some of the things you can see and do on your holidays in Sri Lanka:
Explore the great outdoors
Sri Lanka supports a wide range of outdoor activities. A favourite is kayaking along the Mahaweli River, Sri Lanka’s longest river which stretches 335km
Typically, your oudoor activities will involve travelling through Wasgamuwa National Park in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. One option, possibly for the most hardened of mature travellers, is a four-day expedition that includes three nights of camping. Take this excursion and you can expect to see a great deal of wildlife including elephants, crocodiles, monkeys and birds galore.
For a more sedate trip, you could sign up for a trekking tour and explore the beautiful countryside on foot. There are lots of options to choose from, including Sinharaja Rain Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Wilderness Area, the hill country and the National Parks.
Take a rail trip
Step back in time to the golden age of travel and take the train from Kandy in the south to Ella. The trip, which lasts around seven hours, is thought to be one of the most scenic and beautiful train journeys in the world. The railway system is the legacy of the British, who built it in 1864 to transport tea and coffee from the hill country to Colombo.
The journey is a steady ascent through woodland and past picturesque villages into the island’s famous tea growing country. The route is also dotted with tea plantations, typical of Sri Lanka’s hill country.
The trip, which lasts around seven hours, is thought to be one of the most scenic and beautiful train journeys in the world. The railway system is the legacy of the British, who built it in 1864 to transport tea and coffee from the hill country to Colombo.
The journey is a steady ascent through woodland, past picturesque villages into the island’s famous tea growing country. Villages eventually give way to forest and the line begins to climb steeply up to Pattipola, the highest station, at 1898m. There are stunning vistas of deep valleys and ravines, with views of mountains, before the track begins to descend back into tea country, affording the most spectacular scenes yet, with its waterfalls, valleys and peaks. Remember to pack a camera!
There’s no need to bring food as at every station you’ll find people selling mouth-watering food, such as rice and curry, chilli fritters, corn on the cob, fresh pineapple and mango.
Watch a cricket match
With players such as the retired Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene as their legendary heroes, the Sri Lankans are passionate about cricket. They play with a smile on their faces and spectators are generally extremely friendly, as they are everywhere.
There are seven grounds where you can watch cricket matches, some of the most popular being in Colombo and Kandy. The pick of the grounds for the sheer beauty of its location is Galle, which is overlooked by a historic fortress and fringed on two sides by the Indian Ocean. The original ground was destroyed by the Tsunami in 2004 but has since been rebuilt. Check out the ODI and T20 fixtures for some big-hitting action.
There can be few more thrilling sights in the natural world than seeing whales close up and your holidays to Sri Lanka offer a golden opportunity to have a glimpse of these majestic mammals in their natural habitat.
The best vantage spot for spotting sperm and blue whales is Dondra Head, close to Galle. Alternatively, try Mirissa and Hikkaduwa. There are several operators offering boat trips aimed at getting you as close as possible to these gentle giants. Bear in mind that December, January and April are the best months for whale-watching.
Catch a festival
With its rich diversity of religions, there always seems to be a festival around the corner in Sri Lanka. So, whenever you’re planning to book hotels or holidays in Sr Lanka, the chances are you’ll be there when there are celebrations.
Esala Perahera, held in Kandy in July or August, is the grandest of all Sri Lankan processions. Thousands of people travel from all over the island for this event, which is believed to date back to the 3rd century BC and marks the time when the sacred tooth relic of Buddha was first brought to the island from India.
You’ll see gorgeously caparisoned elephants, fire-eaters, as well as acrobats, dancers and jugglers from various regions of the island. The entire event is a riot of colour and sound, with drums and singing filling the air.
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