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Sri Lanka: the best kept secret in travel

Once one of the best kept secrets in travel, Sri Lanka is becoming as accessible as it is beautiful. Recently added to the list of destinations offered by package holiday giant Thomson, the island nation is now appearing on the ‘must-go’ lists for more and more British holiday-makers.

It’s no wonder Sri Lanka is seeing a sudden surge in popularity. Proud home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches, Sri Lanka’s natural landscapes are its biggest draw. With no fewer than 20 protected national parks, the island’s green space gives endless opportunity for exploration, across forest, mountains and tea plantations (tea is still a cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s economy). The national parks are also home to Sri Lanka’s elephant population, which is just shy of 6000. Additionally, the country is one of the world’s best destinations for whale spotting, with tourists able to catch a glimpse of blue whales and sperm whales from its east, west and south coasts almost year-round.

Sri Lanka may be a land of adventure, but don’t fear if you’re looking for a delicious meal and a soft bed after a long day on your feet; the country has a world-leading collection of hotels and resorts. Read our article below for top tips on where to stay and what to see on your Sri Lankan holiday.

Negombo and Mirissa Beach

Negombo is a great place for those new to Sri Lankan culture to wet their feet. A major beach resort on the country’s Western coast, part of Negombo’s appeal is its proximity to CMB airport, meaning the journey from plane to beach is only around 6 miles.

Negombo has made the most of its convenient locality and has become a thriving tourist hub. With its long stretch of coastline playing host to some of Sri Lanka’s finest resorts, including boutique hotels and luxurious spas, it’s easy to find your piece of paradise next to the ocean. Some of the area’s more exclusive hotels lay on the edge of the Negombo Lagoon, offering views of both the tranquillity of the mangrove-lined lagoon and over the Indian Ocean.

One of Trip Advisor's top rated beaches in the whole of Asia, Mirissa is located on Sri Lanka’s southernmost tip. Guest houses are deliberately set back from the sand, so you can lie on the beach without seeing any evidence of civilisation. The local authorities have been fiercely protective over Mirissa’s beautiful coastline and are proud to have kept its shores free of construction.

Surfing and whale watching are the pursuits of choice here, with world class opportunities to do both. Evenings in Mirissa are quiet, however if enjoying freshly caught seafood while watching the sunset over the ocean sounds like heaven, it may just be the perfect place for you.

Colombo and Kandy

Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city, is a good place to begin your holiday, even if you only plan to visit as a stop-over. Filled with temples and well maintained parks, it is best to explore the city on foot if you want to catch as many sites as possible. The biggest tourist draw is the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara – a sacred and incredibly well preserved temple in central Colombo (just be sure you are appropriately covered up if you’re planning to go inside).

The city is lucky enough to be right on the coast; take the time to enjoy Mount Lavinia beach if you’re planning a longer stay in Colombo. In terms of accommodation Colombo has everything – beachside, lakeside or city centre, boutique, palatial or hostel, so budgets and tastes of every variety are well catered for!

Sri Lanka’s ‘second city’, Kandy is greener than Colombo, with forest at its edges and lakes and gardens dotted around the city centre. Home to the spectacular temple of the tooth, which invites visitors to see a tooth allegedly belonging to the Buddha himself, Kandy also houses many other temples as well as the giant Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue which overlooks the city.

It is best to stay slightly outside of the city; there are many boutique hotels in the hills surrounding Kandy which give convenient access to all the city has to offer whilst allowing you to relax in greener surroundings. Kandy is also a good stop off if you’re planning a trip up to Sigiriya, which lies around an hour and half’s drive north of the city.

Sigiriya and Sinharaja

Sri Lanka’s crowning glory is Sigiriya. Balancing on top of the 200m high ‘Lion Rock’, what was once a medieval palace in the clouds is now a fascinating ruin with on-site museum. Towering above the surrounding plains, visitors need to climb the rock to see the ruins. Don’t expect an easy journey – the steep staircases are no friend to those who suffer with vertigo. Brave the stairs however, and you’ll be greeted with the most spectacular views over the greenery of the surrounding national park.

Hotels have popped up in the park, providing tourists with tranquil accommodation and stunning views of Sigiriya; many give guests the option to stay in individual villas amongst flower or water gardens. Waking up in the shadow of Sigiriya is sure to be an experience you’ll never forget.

Sinharaja’s forest reserve is an astounding treasure trove. The dense rainforest was awarded Unesco world heritage status, due to its incredible diversity of flora, fauna and wildlife (a large proportion of which are endemic to Sri Lanka).

The Sinharaja forest reserve also leads the way when it comes to eco retreats. For tourists who want to make the most of Sri Lanka’s outstanding natural beauty without tarnishing it, the eco lodges located on the edge of the forest are the perfect resting point. Choose from guesthouses, private villas or, for those truly looking to get back to nature, tents situated under the jungle canopy.

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