ROL Cruise recommends…
1. Sightseeing Fort Colombo
The capital centre of Colombo is found on Sri Lanka's west coast. Originally colonised by the Portuguese as a trading post, the city is now a hub for trade and tourism. The town centre, Fort Colombo, is easy to explore on foot, by rickshaw, or by a slightly more nail-biting Tuk-Tuk ride. Marvel at the eclectic architecture as historic buildings, such as the Buddhist Gangaramaya Temple, sit beside towering skyscrapers. Relax at the Royal Botanic Gardens or visit Galle Face Green, a palm tree-lined promenade bordering the Indian Ocean. Here, cricket and local concerts are commonplace, while small food stalls feed the small stretch of beach.
2. Enjoying the hustle and bustle
Just inland from centre is Pettah bazaar; a brilliantly chaotic experience from start to finish. Traffic jams surround the area as the streets and pavements fill with people buying all manner of wares. Market stall vendors hawk everything from fresh food and drink to textiles, herbs and second-hand electricals. If you're looking for sparkling gold and jewellery, head to the mile-long Sea Street.
3. Cooling off at the beach
Escape the heat at one of Sri Lanka's sun-kissed beaches. Take a trip to Hikkaduwa, a stretch of golden sand ideal for sunbathing, watersports and scrumptious seafood dishes. The calmer coastal waters of Bentota beach are a hub for snorkelling, scuba diving and kayaking, while Unawatuna beach has a lively party atmosphere. If time isn't limited, visit the picture-perfect bay of Passekudah on the east coast, or take a seasonal whale and dolphin watching tour.
4. Visiting an elephant orphanage:
Udawalawe National Park offers a sanctuary to many wild animals including deer, wild boar and water buffalo. It is renowned, however, for the abundance of elephants which roam its picturesque grasslands. Look out for wildlife as you enjoy a Jeep safari, then visit the Elephant Transit Home where orphan elephants are rescued and rehabilitated before being returned to the wild.
5. Going back in time:
Sri Lanka's history dates back more than 34,000 years and ancient relics are scattered across the central area. Trips inland take a few hours, but are certainly worth the effort. The road from Colombo to Kandy takes you through rubber plantations and rice paddies before revealing palaces, parks and the century-old Temple of the Tooth, built to house a single tooth said to belong to Buddha. Try to also make time for the sacred Kingdom of Anuradhapura and the towering Sigiriya rock fortress, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.