Sri Lanka Vacations

Sri Lanka is an island nation that is located in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of India. The capital of Sri Lanka is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. Sri Lanka has been ruled for centuries by a series of monarchs that were part of a Royal Family that formed the Anuradhapura Kingdom that was established in 377 BC. by King Pandukabhaya and this Royal Family ruled until 1815. According to mythology, the majority of Sri Lankans are direct descendants or Prince Vijaya and are called Sinhalese from their culture that has strong ties to Theravada Buddhism. There are many Buddha statues located on the island that date back to the 1st century and were built during the Anuradhapura era.

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Sri Lanka Vacations: Things to see while on vacation in Sri Lanka

Geography

A tropical insular paradise, the "Teardrop of India", spotted in the waters of the Indian Ocean, in the south eastern part of the Asian continent, Sri Lanka has lately became a world renown travelling destination thanks to its tropical lush forests, splendid beaches and picturesque landscape. Add to this a plethora of cultures and a rich historical heritage, and you have an inviting piece of universe to discover.

Bearing the full influence of their very tropical climate, Sri Lanka is split into a “wet area” the South West part of the country and the mountains, and the “dry area” which encapsulates the rest of the island. The evergreen forests are harboring rare essence trees like the mahogany, ebony, ironwood or satinwood and were transformed into protected areas that shelter among other elephants, leopards, deers, peacocks, crocodiles and hundreds of species of birds. Its fertile soil allows important productions of tea in central highlands, coffee, rubber, cinnamon and coconuts in the southern lowlands.

Sri Lanka island is circled almost entirely with fine sand beaches and tranquil sparkling lagoons, the coastline develops after that into a coastal plain, that slowly rises into hills and heavily forested mountain region.

Primarily known as beach destination, Sri Lanka vacations are a great pleasure of exploring the lovely beaches, sunbathing or simply swing in a hammock under a shading coconut. Displaying more than one thousand kilometers of iconic white sand beaches, Sri Lanka offers everything you might imagine from top surfing destinations in the world like the Arugambay Beach or Hikkaduwa Beach, stylish luxury resorts on Bentota Beach, traditional fishing on Negombo Beach, dive, snorkel or swim with the dolphins in Kalpitiya, to spotting the giant blue whale in Mirissa.

Landmarks

Millenia old history materialize into a rich cultural heritage, and Sri Lanka is no exception. Trying to depict the best of the best spots for your Sri Lanka vacations is really a Sisyphus work, you will never be completely satisfied with your selection. But let’s give it a try and name some spectacular sites to visit.

You should start of course with the Cultural Triangle, true evidence of a glorious past and a great ancient civilization. The gorgeous citadel of Sigiriya, the ruined cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, the fascinating Dambulla cave temples and Mihintale’s dagobas and shrines.

A former kingdom capital with royal palace by the 5th century, a former Buddhist monastery from the 3rd century BC till the 14th century and nowadays a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya is a magnificent ancient rock fortress. One of the best-preserved samples of antique urban planning, the complex comprises the ruins of the royal palace, an extended network of fortifications, canals, gardens, ponds, fountains and alleys. Sigiriya ancient city was constructed on a steep slope that ends with a 200m high plateau, resulted from an extinct volcano magma which towers over the jungles below. On this rock was built the entrance of the palace, having an enormous lion shape, so the name became the Lion Rock. Sigiriya Gardens are considered to be among the oldest landscaped on earth and have three distinct layers: terraced gardens, water gardens and boulder gardens.

Anuradhapura, the heart of the ancient Sinhalese civilization, symbol of its grandeur and flourishing times, was royal capital for 113 kings spread over a millennium and, also, a great monastic center of Buddhism. Anuradhapura has been classified UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historical significance, as one of the antique perpetual inhabited cities in the world and its architectural and irrigation achievements. The city was one of the main shrines of Buddhism and included colossal monuments, in principal gigantic Dagobas, erected on circular foundations and circled by stone columns, specific to the Sinhalese stupas. The three dagobas are the second largest architectural creations of the ancient world, after the pyramids of Giza.

Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital of Sri Lanka, also UNESCO World Heritage Site, knew its glory after the destruction of Anuradhapura. Polonnaruwa touched the apogees during the reign of Parakramabahu I, on the 12th century. Today, the monumental ruins of the spectacular garden city, that included palace buildings, dozens of temples and dagobas, are vivid testimony of a great civilization.

Golden Temple of Dambulla is the most prominent and best-preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka, and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. There are about 80 caves in the area, but five of them are more important sheltering approximatively 150 Buddha statues and vivid color mural paintings covering a surface of 2100 sqm. The paintings are displaying a collage of styles starting with the 2nd century BC till the 18th century, during the Kandyan era, so, a painted history of Sri Lanka along 25 centuries.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic or the Sri Dalada Maligawa is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in the world, and is placed within the royal palace complex of Kandy, the last capital of the ancient Sri Lankan kingdom. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic as the name states houses the relic of Buddha’s tooth and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. The tooth relic is walked around the town in a procession during the Esala Perahera Festival.

A Sri Lanka vacation you should not miss the opportunity to experience a leopard safari or a visit to Yala National Park, the second widest wildlife park and the most attractive for tourists. Yala park is composed of five blocks, is a wildlife sanctuary and is renowned for its fauna and an important conservation center for elephants, leopards and aquatic birds. Yala prides with the highest density of leopards on earth, shelters about 215 species of birds, part of them endemic to Sri Lanka, and 44 mammals. Also traces of ancient civilizations are to be found in the park, Sithulpahuwa an ancient temple and Magul Maha Viharaya, a formerly royal wedding place.

Culture

At a first glance, Sri Lanka may seem as one of the most westernized nations in South Asia, because of its powerful tourism industry and extended use of English, but that’s just an appearance. The cultural differences will appear without delay. The Sri Lankan culture endured along the centuries Indian cultural influences, since most indigene kings married princess from India, and European influences, because of Dutch, Portuguese and British invasions.

Even if the Sri Lankan society aims to equality, caste and class stratification is still very bold, also the ethnicity and gender differentiation. Marriages are still in great part arranged by the families, ethnicity, caste and socioeconomic status being highly respected. Moreover, within the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim ethnic groups, marriages within the family, among cousins are still preferred.

Etiquette rules are important within the Sri Lankan society and are mainly used to point out the social rank. Linguistic markers are used by the Tamil and Sinhala groups to distinguish status, social distance of intimacy. In general, names are not used within social interactions, nicknames or different titles are preferred. Women are expected to avoid physical contact with strangers, men in particular, and to be always properly dressed and covered. Emotional behavior in public is rare, people speak in low tones and greetings have most often the form of smiles.

Buddhism is the prominent religion of the majority of Sri Lankan, thus there is a degree of mix with the other religions resulting three principal ethnic groups: Sinhala/Buddhist, Muslims and Tamil/Hindu. Here is preached a very simple lifestyle, led by happiness, humility and a friendly attitude, which conveyed to hospitality as a nation’s best characteristics. The ritual practices and foundational beliefs of these religions, dating two millenniums, together with their variety of customs and traditions contribute to a rich and diverse culture that define the identity of Sri Lanka.

This unique identity reflects almost everywhere from colored festivals that attract hordes of tourists, to architecture, arts, martial arts and even food. Gourmand and gourmet persons, will find the exotic Sri Lankan cuisine a real delight. Even if the Indian influence is obvious, the local cuisine is unique and versatile, has its own style using local products and sometimes ingredients found only here. Sri Lanka cuisine is considered among the spiciest in the world and the extensive use of coconut provides it with a special flavor. Sea food is a specialty of the house and locally produced tea and coffee complete the banquet.

A remarkable reflection of the local culture is the ayurvedic medicine, thought to be able to attain great results for health. A myriad of ayurvedic clinics and spas emerged as major tourist attractions, so, a Sri Lanka vacation without visiting such an establishment will be without any doubt incomplete.