All visits to Sri Lanka begin at the Bandaranayke International Airport, on the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, Colombo. Most visits should start from the west coast beaches which include Negombo, Beruwala and Hikkaduwa. Negombo is quickly and easily accessible from the international airport and offers some of the country’s nicest beaches with tourist hotels popular for water sports and diving. Beruwala is a small town spread in the south western coastal belt and is the starting point of the 130 km long stretch of beach ideal for bathing, all year around. Hikkaduwa is on the south coast of Sri Lanka and is famous for its beach and corals. Hikkaduwa is also a well-known international destination for board-surfing.
Beyond Hikkaduwa visitors can find a string of wonderful beaches, starting from Galle. Galle is the main town in the southern part of Sri Lanka and Galle fort is a world heritage site. Unawatuna, which is very close to Galle, is a village popular with backpackers and is famous for its biodiversity. Unawatuna beach is very popular even among the local tourists. Further along the coast you will find Weligama, Mirissa, Tangalle and Matara popular for lovely beaches and full of natural picturesque beauty. East of Matara is Tissamaharama, Yala and National Bundala Park leading to Kataragama, one of Sri Lanka’s most important pilgrimage destinations. Yala National Park lies 24km northeast of Tissamaharama and is one of the premier wildlife destinations in Sri Lanka. Bundala National Park is a short distance from the Yala National Park and is also bird sanctuary. Bundala is also famous for sighting of wild animals.
Inland from Colombo is the hill country full of tea estates and breath taking waterfalls. Within the region is the symbolic city of Kandy, famous for Temple of the tooth and the colourful festival known as Esela Perehra.Nuwaraeliya lies close to the highest point of Sri Lanka and is the centre of the tea industry. Spectacular Horton Plains National Park is also within the Nuwaraeliya district. Ella, Haputale and Bandarwela are some of the towns and villages which offer an appealing mixture of magnificent views and wonderful walks.
Close to the hill country is the summit of Adam’s Peak which is another major pilgrimage site. Adam’s peak, also call Sri Pada by the locals, is well known for the sacred footprint of Buddha. The mountain is about 2.2km tall and is surrounded by forested hills. South of Adam’s Peak is the gem mining centre of Ratnapura and is the best starting point to visit Uda Walawa National Park and the tropical rain forest Sinharaja. Uda Walawa National Park is the closest national park to Colombo and is best known for its high population of Asian elephants. Sinharaja rain forest has been designated as a world natural heritage site by UNESCO and is one of the few virgin rain forests in the world.
North of Kandy is known as the cultural triangle with glorious temples and dagoba’s scattered within the cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Sigiriya and Mihintale. North and east of the cultural triangle are Trincomalee, Nilaweli and Uppuweli which were re-opened recently for visitors, after the civil war. The Trincomalee beach is famous for surfing, scuba diving, fishing and whale watching. Just north of Trincomalee is the surfer’s paradise of Arugam Bay and further north of Sri Lanka is the fascinating city of Jaffna.