27 most exciting ways to explore Sri Lanka!
Known for warm-hearted hospitality, harmonious multiculturalism, a heritage that extends for millennia, awe-inspiring art and craft, and exotic dishes, Sri Lanka presents a wealth of things to do and see for the traveller. Arugambay – listed as one of the top ten places to visit in Asia, the picturesque tea country, quaint Galle Fort and golden beaches scattered along the island’s shoreline are among the myriad of places to visit. Time Out Sri Lanka wants to make sure you do not miss out on any of these wonderful explorations. The DO List is based on the first-hand experiences and recommendations of Time Out Sri Lanka’s adventure-seeking writers. Discover the best of Sri Lanka, encounter the island in true Sri Lankan style and live through one-of-a-kind adventures that have been our personal favourites. Including places to visit, things to do, flavours to savour and sights to behold, each destination and dish has been selected to ensure you will have a fulfilling journey in your travels across the country. The experience is personalised with a ‘hint’, a discovery from our own explorations to ensure you ‘Don’t Miss’ out on making unforgettable memories. Check off your bucket list right here in Sri Lanka! If it’s on the DO List, we guarantee that you are in for a treat of a lifetime… Tried our recommendations and had the time of your life? Then spread the word with the hashtag #TimeOutDOList
Five awesome day trips from Colombo
It is also a convenient gateway that lets you travel to other parts of the tropical island for a day of adventure before heading back to the city. Below we have compiled a list of places within reach of Colombo where you can explore the island life amidst wildlife and stunning natural scenery.
Enjoy a walk at the Independence Square
An oasis of calm in the heart of the Colombo city, the Independence Square is a popular recreational destination to the residents and visitors alike. The wide green lawn is shaded by the sporadic tree, providing the perfect canopy to picnic under, or merely to relax with friends and family. Two sets of fountains add to the charm and a cycling and a jogging path runs around the premises. There is almost always a solitary jogger or a pair to be seen. Wander into the lush greens of the Independence Square and sit awhile, away from the hubbub of the city or explore the many attractions the site offers. Independence Memorial Hall is constructed in the centre of the premises marking the site where Sri Lanka gained independence years ago. Discover the statue of D S Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of the country, and the awe-inspiring history of the battle for independence in Sri Lanka, in the Independence Memorial Museum. Stroll along towards either side of the Square and explore the many food and shopping opportunities offered to you at the Arcade Independence Square Mall or the Race Course Mall, both with exciting histories. The Independence Square is magical at dusk, when the street lamps and ground lights illuminate the dense green, and lights glint from the colourful water fountains. Visit for relaxing evening after a hectic day and take a quiet stroll with enchanting views.
Wonders of the South
Southern Sri Lanka is not only popular for its endless number of exotic beaches as well as religious sites such as the Paravi Duwa Temple. Traversing further inland from Matara, is the quaint town of Deniyaya. Travellers taking the hairpin bends can experience the cooling climes of the verdant hills and rows of neatly pruned tea estates. The mist-enveloped town has a charming surrounding with cascading beauties in the nearby vicinity. Taking the bends, one can witness frequent sightings of the flourishing fishtail palms also known as jaggery palms, camouflaged by the dense forest. The verdant mountains, lush greenery and cooling climes provide a surreal feel. Tappers climb the trees that grow to an average height of 40ft to tap the kitul mala. Morning hours are the best time to collect the sap of the palm tree. If you wish to see the making of the kithul pani, it is ideal for you to visit in the early morn- ing hours to see the kitul tappers in action. Once the sap is collected, it is brought down to be boiled to a fluid consistency, which once left to cool becomes the kitul pani. The cooled pani is packed in bottles and distributed to many places. Those in search of authentic kitul pani can enjoy this sweet delicacy with hoppers, curd or yoghurt, a wonderful combo! While there’s plenty more to explore, a good hike to reach the cascading beauty of the Patna is what matters. Hikers can enjoy the serenity of the atmosphere while experiencing attractive views of changing land
Art and Music
When in Colombo, do not miss visiting the art galleries – featuring some of the best exhibitions of paintings, jewellery and photographs – and the wide array of musical performances.
Cheer on your favourite sports personalities as the games move forward.
Thai Pongal 'The Festival of Harvest'
Celebrated by millions of Hindus across the world, Thai Pongal reinforces the custom of thanksgiving to the sun god. ON the festival day, even before the break of dawn, Hindus spruce up and decorate their abodes with fresh banana leaves and garlands of mango leaves or Mavillai Thoranam. A makeshift hearth is arranged in front of the house to prepare the ‘Pongal’, a delectable dish prepared using a range of lavish ingredients including red/white raw rice, milk, jaggery, mung dhal, cashew, raisins, and ghee. Signifying prosperity and fortune, two freshly cut sugarcane plants are also positioned on either side of the hearth. The floor is adorned with vibrant murals a unique traditional art called Kolam. As the rising sun signals the dawn of the auspicious hour, from the oldest of the family to the youngest, all gather around the makeshift hearth to witness the milk bubbling from the pot. The delightful sight of creamy milk overflowing the pot heralds good fortune drawing heartwarming cries of ‘pongalo pongal’, meaning ‘overflowing’ abundance. Afterwards, the delicious pongal rice is cooked and the first portion dedicated to the Sun God is kept within the Kolam as an offering of great reverence. Families visit temples to pay homage to the divinity and to seek their blessings in order to thrive in the forth-coming cultivation season as well. Pongal rice and sweetmeats are shared among relatives as a way of strengthening relationships and inculcating new bonds. The day foll
Resplendent Duruthu Perahera
Every January, the streets of Kelaniya resound with the cracking of whips, rhythmic sounds of traditional Sri Lankan drumming and the reverent cries of sadhu, sadhu as the Duruthu Perahera takes to the streets. It is proceeded by two smaller processions Udamaluwe Perahera and the Dathu Perahera respectively held on January 17 and January 18. On January 19, the spectacular Maha Perahera or Randoli Perahera will leave the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. Throngs of devotees and spectators eagerly line the streets and anticipates the first thunder-like crack of the whip that heralds the oncoming perahera. Then the shimmering fireballs interrupt the gathering darkness. As the hewisi bands serenade the devotees, standard bearers carry the provincial flags of Sri Lanka. Following them, the Peramuna Rala, a Kanyan chieftan perched atop a caparisoned elephant makes his way through the streets. In his wake troupes of dancers perform traditional Sri Lankan dances. In between different segments of the procession, richly adorned elephants elegantly step in tune to the music. The dazzling display pays homage to the Buddha, and is accompanied by the pageants for the Gods Vishnu, Vibhishana and Kataragama the guardian deities of the temple. A reverent silence spreads over the gathered crowds as the majestic temple tusker comes into view. Borne on its howdah, is the beautifully adorned casket of the sacred relics of the Buddha. As the gentle elephant passes, the devotees raise clasped hand
2019, a year to travel, plan ahead!
With a prepared list of Sri Lankan attractions in your hands, we invite you to explore the wonders of Sri Lanka.
January High Five 2019
As the New Year dawns, Sri Lanka is brimming with excitement and fresh beginnings, and the opportunity to discover its beautiful destinations. The annual Duruthu Perahera in Kelaniya emanates spirituality and is ideal to appreciate the cultural and traditional heritage of the country. Throughout the island nation, there is a lively atmosphere as January brings with it many festivities to usher in the year 2019. We wish you a Happy New Year!
Five Stunning Beaches in the South Coast
For an amazing getaway, or a magical holiday, the beach is an ideal choice. And here in tropical Sri Lanka, the island offers a wealth of lovely beaches where you can lounge in the soft sand sunbathing or dip into the cool aquamarine waters of the sea to enjoy a refreshing swim. Conditions are ideal at some points for surfing, while the thriving coral reefs off the coast at others allow you to swim with exotic fish, turtles and other aquatic life. One of the most popular destinations for a perfect beach holiday is the south coast, preferred by both Sri Lankan and international tourists. Its ease of access and the number of pristine beaches ensure that southern Sri Lanka, with its peaceful ambience and colonial architecture is a timeless tourist hub. Below we have compiled a list of five of the most beautiful beaches in the south coast.
7 Christmassy things to do this season!
Tis the season to be merry and jolly. It is time for fellowship with loved ones and time to savour delicious goodies and delicacies. Cosmopolitan at its core, Colombo provides a multi-dimensional Christmas experience with international flare and a truly Sri Lankan identity.
The day’s catch at Lellama
Lellama is where throngs of fishermen in Negombo have been engaging in the fishing trade for years. In the early morning hours, the area is usually bustling with hundreds of fishermen unloading their boats. The market reflects a painting coming to life, as buyers and sellers hustle to get the freshest catch for the best price. The quick movements of unloading the boats and hauling in the catch in the brisk twilight hours will leave one awe-struck. Piles and piles of freshly caught fish laid on the sand will grab one’s attention. The entire process unfolds in sequence similar to a drama. Fishermen unload the nets in a rhythmic pace and fill the cane baskets. These are then taken to the stalls where they are displayed with pride. Buyers surround the stalls, and bargaining takes place in high pitch volumes. Walking farther through Lellama, one can witness rows and rows of neatly displayed fish, their plump silvery bodies glimmering under the dim lights. From the Yellow Fin Tuna to Saalayo (Goldstripe Sardinella), to Hurullo (Trenched Sardinella), Red Snappers and thick cuts of Thalapath (Indo-Pacific sailfish) are displayed. Lobsters, squid, mud crabs, jumbo prawns and ribbonfish, entice an attractive price. From the stalls, one can glimpse vistas of the tranquil Negombo Lagoon, with its quiet waters often disturbed by the frequent sails of boats, setting off to embark on another day’s hard work. There is also a vibrant line-up of boats docked near the lagoon. The Negombo Fish
House of Fashions is back on Duplication Road!
One of the foremost shopping destinations in Sri Lanka, House of Fashions once again opened their former store located on Duplication Road, Colombo 4, fulfilling overwhelming requests from their customers. The spacious House of Fashions provides a uniqe shopping experience to its customers. Preethi and Neelamani Jayawardana decided to open their second location, co-incidentally their previous store, on Duplication Road, Colombo 4, due to the overwhelming requests from loyal customers who missed the convenience and proximity of the store. “Once we opened the House of Fashions Mall in Borella, we were happy and we had no intention of opening another. Otherwise, we would not have closed this building for four years. Our customers requested from us repeatedly and thus we decided to reopen”, explained the dynamic duo. Maintaining the familiarity of the store, minimum changes were done. Neelamani and Preethi Jayawardana, Founders of House of Fashions ©BT Images The ground floor is dedicated to household items such as linens, towels, pillows, kitchen utensils and other items. The open space floor also features a tea corner with a fine selection of Ceylon Tea, a range of Sri Lanka spices, coconut products and souvenir t-shirts. The elegant spiral staircase takes customers to the first floor ladies wear collection. The section displays pants, trousers, skirts, dresses, blouses, t-shirts, nightwear and office wear in a variety of designs, colours and sizes. ©BT Images ©BT Imag
Things to do for the avid cricket enthusiast
The England tour of Sri Lanka once again brings the excitement of cricket to the island with five ODIs, three Tests and a T20. While flocking to the stadiums to cheer on the Lions, don’t forget to check out the manifold attractions that are waiting to be discovered in the area. Dambulla Visitors never fail to be amazed by the amount of history that surrounds the city of Dambulla. Famed for its rock cave temple and beautiful scenery, Dambulla is a popular destination for tourists. Its proximity to the iconic Sigiriya Rock Fortress is also another reason to visit the city, and many tourists are eager to make a combined tour of Dambulla and Sigiriya. ©BT Images Cave Temple The Royal Rock Temple complex contains five separate caves that feature stunning Buddhist statues and paintings. Considered to be some of the most evocative Buddhist arts in Sri Lanka, the images are several centuries old. It is said that King Valagamba of Anuradhapura took refuge in the caves during the 1st century BC when the Chola invaded the island. Once he regained his throne, he converted the caves into a Temple, and over the centuries, later kings subsequently added more paintings. King Nissanka Malla had the cave interiors gilded, thus giving it the name Ran Giri (Golden Rock). From here, you can get superb views of the region and the Sigiriya rock. Golden Temple The Golden Temple sits at the foot of the cave temples. The modern structure is built in the shape of a cube. A golden statue of Buddha in
A Spooktacular Night in Sri Lanka
When the moon awakens and the black cats are seen, may luck be yours this Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve is celebrated annually across the world on October 31. The tales of old connect these festivities to the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, a festival that marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. As the occasion was believed to be the bridge to the world of the dead, villagers would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Evolving into a popular expressive culture, today Halloween embraces the making of decorations, jack-o-lanterns and displaying fruits and vegetables, harvest figures, paper witches and skeletons around homes. Masquerading around the streets in all sorts of fun, chilling costumes; trick-or-treating is followed by all-night parties. The day is not complete without an abundance of candy. Although Halloween is not a traditional holiday for the island of Sri Lanka, there are many things to do on the eve of October 31. Halloween themed night outs and parties with all-night DJs as well as amazing deals on food and drinks make this spooky night quite unlike any other. Restaurants and hotels may also feature exclusive Halloween inspired dishes on their menus. There is sure to share a blur of activities including the traditional apple bobbing Halloween game. Visit stores that cater to finding a wild bunch of accessories to invent that perfect look of disguise. Halloween party photo booths and prizes for the scariest
Oktoberfest in Sri Lanka
Can you pass the Brezeln– pretzels please? The celebrations of Wiesn, most commonly known as Oktoberfest, takes us to the world- famous European beer festival and travelling fun fair. Held throughout Germany, it has been a significant part of Bavarian culture since 1810. Celebrating custom, traditions and the love for merriment, the much-anticipated event is revelled by both locals and tourist alike with a variety of traditional delicacies, numerous attractions such as amusement rides, side stalls and games. It’s also the time for enthusiastic beer chugging. Today, Oktoberfest festivities have spread all around the world. In fact, even on the sunny island of Sri Lanka, Oktoberfest has become a yearly ritual. The celebrations treat everyone on the island to an amazing extravaganza of Bavarian-themed cuisine, music and dance with many hotels re-creating the spirit and traditions of the original Oktoberfest. Serving special brews and authentic German staples such as as bratwurst, schnitzels and sauerkraut, the entertainment that you are sure to enjoy throughout the night may vary from activities such as the Chicken Dance to brew competitions as well as music from Bavarian bands and other traditional services. It is quite a joyous occasion; full of good food, drinks and cheer. As the Germans say, “Prost- Cheers” to an Oktoberfest with a Sri Lankan twist to keep you hyped up all night! Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi hoi hoi! See ‘October Shenanigans’ for Oktoberfest events in Sri
Regal Waterfalls of the Hill Country
As you drive along the roads of the Hill Country in Sri Lanka, through the trees, you begin to spy long plumes of white frothy water off in the distance, cascading down from great heights, only to plunge into wide rivers or deep pools. Waterfalls have an untamed beauty that draws the attention of both the young and the old. A trek through the surrounding greenery can take you closer to the stunning site, where a cool mist will envelop you. The thundering roar of a waterfall provides a stimulating soundtrack if you want to dive into the refreshing water of the river fed by the water carried in the fall. In the monsoon season, the waterfalls of Sri Lanka are a sight to behold, due to the additional water volume. While the dry season can reduce the volume of water, the torrent of ceaseless water can awe visitors with their sheer beauty. Sri Lanka has numerous waterfalls of all size and shape; from tall waterfalls that fall in one unrelenting line to small-scale waterfalls that contain several levels. Discover the power of a waterfall and be amazed by the experience. Bambarakanda Falls Plunging from a height of 863 ft, the Bambarakanda Falls has the honour of being the tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka. The falls can be seen through the pine trees between Belihul Oya and Haputale. From a distance, it appears as one uninterrupted white ribbon that stretches from the skies to the ground. Diyaluma Falls The second highest waterfall in the country Diyaluma is found in the Badulla dist
In the search of forts around the island…
A rising of the richness of history within Sri Lanka’s magnificent fortresses. A true experience of Sri Lanka cannot be complete without a visit to some of the great forts, which date back to thousands of years. Sri Lanka was occupied by colonial empires of the Dutch, Portuguese and the British; these colonists as well as the past Kings of the island left behind many western styled forts, of amazing architecture. The Kalpitiya Fort stands at the entry point to the Puttalam lagoon. With only a single arch entrance it can be seen as square in shape, with massive walls made out of coral and limestone. Within the fort, the walls of a chapel, dining hall and prison can be seen as well as the remnants of two wells. ©BT Images Galle Fort, recognised as a World Heritage site, the beauty in architecture and history is preserved. You can spend an entire day exploring the area within; activities are in abundance such as shopping, dining, exploring the history or watching the sunset at the wall. The Matara fort protects the the old town of Matara with its thick granite and limestone walls. The Old Dutch Church with tombstones dating back to 1686 AD are fascinating. ©BT Images With a unique shape of a six pointed star, a visit to the Star Fort and its museum can bring back the ancient glory of the Dutch colonial era. The arch of the main entrance has an embossment of the VOC and the coat of arms of Governor Van Eck. Fort Frederick is used today by the Sri Lankan military, but expl
A day in Galle…
This Southern coastal town features sunny beaches, museums, historic sites, shopping destinations and delectable cuisine. Both Sri Lankan and international tourists flock to Galle simply to soak in its laidback ambience. Perfect for a weekend getaway, Galle has a wealth of cultural marvels for the tourist to indulge. The city had a thriving hub for commercial trade even before the Dutch Era and has a fantastic story that visitors can unravel while exploring the city and all its wonders. Galle Fort The UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated overlooking the Indian Ocean is one of the most popular destinations in Galle, and draws a large number of tourists. The houses within the fort has been converted into chic boutique shops, colourful art galleries, antique shops and restaurants. A walk along the inner streets of the fort always brings you to trendy shops or cafés. ©BT Images The lighthouse The lighthouse within the fortress is a steady structure that has been a part of the site through the decades guiding the sailors ashore. The Maritime Archaeology Museum Located within the Galle Fort, the museum offers amazing insights into the Sri Lankan maritime traditions through the years. Galle National Museum Known to be constructed in 1656, the museum displays an array of archaeological and anthropological objects. This includes the ancient carvings, Beeralu collection, objects reflecting the influence of the Dutch such as large water vessels, VOC porcelain objects and weapons u
All Aboard the Ride of Adventure!
The sunny island of Sri Lanka of the Indian Ocean has always been known for its formidable natural landscapes and the numerous escapades one can venture forth with. Ranging from the underwater safaris, kite surfing, traversing the Knuckles, mountain biking and white water rafting; there is an abundance of activities to encounter on land, air and sea. Get your heart racing and adrenaline pumping with a weekend at Amagi Aria. Amagi Aria fulfils some desires of adrenaline junkies on the beautiful Negombo lagoon, with their exciting range of water-based activities. As the only location in Sri Lanka with certified hosting of an international training course for jet ski racing, you can participate in mini-training sessions conducted by trained professionals. Aside from that, kayaking, wake boarding, boat rides and tube surfing are more of the options you can choose from to have some fun in the sea. In order to relax after all that excitement, the hotel also offers a welcome drink, a great lunch buffet as well as tea and coffee with a slice of cake; this all inclusive of using the pool. If you come in a group of 10 or more, also check out the complimentary room for day use provided by the hotel. The beach, the pool, the sun, fun-packed activities, amazing food and amenities designed for comfort and relaxation makes Amagi Aria a great package to try out on your visit to Sri Lanka.
Kandy – charming citadel of the hills
Kandy is a quaint town amidst the cooling climes of the island with a rich heritage and legendary tales to reveal to the traveller. Kandy, being the cultural capital of the island is one of the destinations of the cultural triangle and thus many significant features including its unique architecture. The bustling town coupled with royal heritage and legendary sagas attract the visitor with vivid sightings and scenic locations. Continuing to preserve the capital’s heritage, Kandy is a must see destination when visiting Sri Lanka. The majestic complexes and illustrious monuments resemble the epitome of the Kandyan era. Of the many remarkable sites is the revered Sri Dalada Maligawa, which hosts it annual Esala Perahera in August The Pulsating beat of the esala perahera. Kandy is renowned for its several cultural and religious sites and attracts large crowds all year round. We recommend many fabulous things to do while in Kandy. Immerse in mesmeric views of the cool climes wafting with mist in the early morning hours. The hill country is a truly charming destination with many historical accounts to explore. Things to do: A visit to the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens The impressive stretch of 147-acre is occupied with verdant flora. Well pruned walkway provides a sense of peace and relaxation as one walks through the garden. The scenes of fresh green trees tended branch out to several categories in the surroundings. The Great Lawn is where families are seen gathered for a pi
Live it up in Colombo – At Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct and Hospital Street
Looking for relaxation, delicious cuisine and retail therapy? The 17th century Dutch Hospital in Colombo Fort is a shopping precinct encompassing all that is Sri Lankan, where the lively and relaxing ambience as well as restaurants, bars and shops attract crowds throughout the week. With extensive wooden doors and windows, charming colonnades, low slung tiled roofs and subtle colours, the aura of a bygone era is fostered within the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct. Encapsulated within this historic charm are the Colombo Jewellery Stores, Harpo’s Colombo Fort Café, Ikoi Tei by WIP, Luv SL, Ministry of Crab, Semondu, Spa Ceylon The cobbled courtyards are hotspots especially after dusk with many sitting on concrete benches enjoying the lively company and breezy atmosphere. It is one of the best places to spend a day while shopping and relishing delicious meals all day long. Indeed, the corridors are usually filled with shoppers and diners immersed in the casual ambience. The Dutch Hospital Precinct is the ideal venue to catch up with friends or unwind with soothing tunes in the backdrop. Behind the Dutch Hospital is Hospital Street, one of the cities most charming pathways. With twinkling lights and jazzy music, the street transforms into an entertaining and delightful space at night with delicious food. Fairway Colombo hosts a series of events throughout the month, from sizzling street food festivals to groovy jazz nights to cultural shows reflecting Sri Lankan heritage. Amidst
A Taste of Ethnicity
Explore the cultural landmarks and the heritage of the island. From exotic beaches to historically famed sites, there are plenty of places to visit. When in the island, experience an abundance of Sri Lanka's rich culture and history in the Southern province. Dondra Head Lighthouse The lighthouse was built by the British in 1989. The 150 ft tall structure was constructed solely using stones, were shipped from Scotland and weigh over two tons each. The lighthouse is currently operated and maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. It is also the tallest lighthouse of Sri Lanka and in the South East Asia. One of the four international lighthouses in Sri Lanka, it consists of seven floors, 14 two panel windows and 196 steps, which, once climbed provide a breathtaking view. However, prior permission from the Ports Authority is necessary in order to gain access to the top. The Dondra Lighthouse is positioned at a crucial point in the Maritime route, and is still active and guides ships and boats and. It also transmits radio wave signals to surrounding lighthouses in the country. Galle Fort Galle Fort in the cultural capital of Galle, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Fort is vibrant with many shops, galleries, restaurants and cafes which allow the visitor to immerse in the cultural hub of Galle. Overlooking the Indian Ocean, there's a little bit of history embedded in the origins of the quaint fort. Built by the Portuguese and extended by the Dutch and British, the Galle