The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka

Best known as one of the world’s leading exporters of tea, the small Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka is also a well-kept secret among seasoned travelers, with its friendly locals, palm-fringed beaches and ancient Hindu temples buried deep in lush jungles. After suffering through a civil war for over two decades, Sri Lanka is now welcoming tourists again and has become one of the fastest growing economies and most interesting destinations for tour holidays in the world.

Colombo

The port city of Colombo serves as the gateway to Sri Lanka. Situated on a natural harbour that has been used by traders for over 2,000 years, the sprawling Sri Lankan capital is an intriguing mix of the modern and ancient, with modern skyscrapers juxtaposed against crumbling Hindu temples, colonial mansions and ornate mosques.

The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka

If you only have a short time to spend in the city before moving inland to explore, take some time to visit the Galle City Green, a palm-lined seaside promenade where you can sample food from local street vendors and pick up curios at bargain prices.

Sigirya Rock Fortress

Travel inland towards Sri Lanka’s mountainous interior and you’ll find the imposing edifice of the Sigirya Rock Fortress, an ancient fortress fused into a volcanic rock that towers over the surrounding plains.

First used as a Buddhist monastery, over the centuries the Sigirya Rock was appropriated as a suitable location for a royal fortress, giving birth to a sprawling human settlement that includes fortifications, irrigation systems and lush gardens.

Visitors to the Sigirya Rock Fortress can roam its three tiers, marveling at the detailed frescoes that were painted onto the rock surface over the millennia, and at the ancient Mirror Wall, a porcelain-covered rock wall that was once polished to a mirror-like sheen.

Yala National Park

Yala National Park is the premier destination for those who wish to explore Sri Lanka’s ecological heritage. The park includes a wide range of habitats, from beaches to forests, wetlands and open grassland.

The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka

The grassland is perhaps the best place to view the Park’s wide selection of wildlife, which includes over 200 bird species and 40 mammalian species. Sightings of the large Sri Lankan elephant population and of the leopards that populate the park are common.

Tea Plantations

No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without a visit to one of the plantations that grow the country’s most important cash crop – tea. Sri Lanka’s tea plantations are located in the country’s highlands, a picturesque landscape of lush, terraced hills framed by mist-cloaked mountains.

Sri Lanka is the world’s second largest producer of tea. The crop was introduced to the area as recently as 1824, when the British recognized Sri Lanka’s highlands as the perfect environment for cultivating fine tea.

Tea, temples and game parks are just a taste of what awaits on the island of Sri Lanka. To explore Sri Lanka, consider taking a guided tour with Thomas Cook Escorted Tours, one of the world’s leading tour agencies.