Your ultimate guide to Sri Lanka

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Hot Spot: Buddha Rashmi Vesak at Gangaramaya
Things to do

Hot Spot: Buddha Rashmi Vesak at Gangaramaya

Experience enchanting lanterns, pandals as well as devotional songs; the most brilliant testimony to a people’s faith. As the Island hosts the official UN Vesak celebrations this year, there is all the more reason to witness this spectacle.

Vesak in Sri Lanka
Things to do

Vesak in Sri Lanka

The holy day starts with Buddhist families in immaculate white wending their way to temples where they will attend and obtain sil, which means staying in the temple till noon or night, abstaining from any vices or indulgences that whole day. The biggest Vesak festival in Sri Lanka is the Buddha Rashmi 2017, Vesak Kalapaya organised by the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo 2, the brainchild of the Venerable Galaboda Gnanissra thero. The centre of attention will be the Beira Lake. There will be pandals and competitions where hundreds of creative lanterns will be showcased, and bhakti geetha and cultural shows. President Maithripala Sirisena together with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, will declare open the Buddha Rashmi 2017, which will go on for five days from May 10 to 14. This year, Sri Lanka has the great honour of being the focus point of the UN Buddhist celebrations, and a great number of foreign dignitaries from as many as 100 countries, also the Premier of India, Narendra Modi, are to attend. From May 12 to 14, the UN Vesak Celebrations will see 400 delegates partaking in a Buddhist symposium and a cultural show. It is also a unique opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase her unique cultural significances. It is believed that Vesak is the day when all good instincts come out; and the most exemplified is generosity, which is apparent in the number of dansal or free food stalls that mark the roads every few metres. They can provide anything from a parcel of fried

Delicacies flavoured with Tea
Things to do

Delicacies flavoured with Tea

Today, tea’ is not content to sit in a charming fuming porcelain pot. It has waltzed into the world of gourmet food. The world’s cuisine has opened up to the endless possibilities of cooking with tea. The prospect of Camellia sinensis as a flavour enhancer is obvious enough due to its complex characters. Your confectionery, sweets and biscuits, can be invigorated with fresh tea as tea may infuse a zesty edge to an array of cakes, cheesecakes, muffins and even soft buns. Chocolates too can be positively inspired with a filling of syrup or a ganache made of a reduction of tea. Scintillating jars of tea based jam could bring light and joy to the breakfast table. Imagine infusing tea into pure alcohol? Tea leaves left after being brewed can be dried in an oven, mixed to a vat of spirit such as vodka, and then left to ferment for around a month. This concentrate, when filtered and frozen, can even complement a dinner with its own unique tangs. The seven main regional Ceylon Teas, each with a strength and taste inhaled from the very character of the area, must be carefully paired with different types of dishes. Low grown teas from Sabaragamuwa and Ruhuna are robust, strong and malty, thus they should be used for marinades and rich sauces for dishes made up of meat, poultry and red fish like tuna. With fish like seer or mullet, the texture is lighter and the white meat very soft, so the sauces and marinades should be of delicate teas such as Nuwara Eliya or Dimbulla varieties. M

High Five: May
Travel

High Five: May

Sri Lanka twinkles in many colours in commemoration of Vesak this month and Colombo comes alive for the Buddha Rashmi Pooja. Attention all surfers, it’s that time of the year when the waves of the East Coast rise up to greet you. The Island also offers a fruity adventure for your tastebuds and other delightful flavours. Hike to the hills, wander along the coast, ride the waves, safari in the wild or enjoy a fun night in the town; many delightful experiences await you in Sri Lanka.

Surf's up, so surf up on Eastwards
Things to do

Surf's up, so surf up on Eastwards

Arugambay, the east’s spirited heartbeat South of the province, it is indeed, every surfer’s paradise. With waves that tease the pros to ones that cradle the beginners, there are many surfing points including Arugambay (Main and Baby point), and Whisky Point, Pottuvil, Peanut Farm, Lighthouse Point, Okanda Point and Secret Point. Experience the simple life here, with wholesome food and the homey hospitality in cosy cafes and restaurants. At night the beach vibe is electrifying with parties and street food flavours that tantalise the taste buds. Explore the wild at the Lahugala National Park where even as you are on the main road, you can spot elephants. Wrapped in the epic of Princess Viharamahadevi, Pottuvil has many religious and historical sites; this includes the Magul Maha Viharaya and Muhudu Maha Viharaya and also other religious sites such as the Neelagiri stupa, the Okanda Temple and the Sangamankandi Jungle-Ganesh kovil. In Pottuvil, the days start early and the nights are long... Trincomalee, the cultural soul of the East It is home to the Island’s most beautiful beach Nilaveli with its sapphire waters and silver sands. Bask in the privacy of the scenic Marble beach with crystal clear waters or enjoy the shore of Uppuveli. The waters are ideal for diving and scuba diving, be mesmerised by the colourful world under the sea. Witness the magnificence of blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins in these deep blue Eastern waters. The waters off Pigeon Island a

Explore art and culture

The Silver screen calls you
Things to do

The Silver screen calls you

Advice: Check the movie time before going to the cinema.

Time Out theatre guide: what's on this month
Art

Time Out theatre guide: what's on this month

Visiting Sri Lanka this month? Here's our hand-picked selection of this month's best stage plays. Save the date and join in with the fun.

Art and Music
Art

Art and Music

When in Colombo, do not miss to visit the art galleries which feature some of the best exhibition of paintings, jewellery and photographs. 

Gangaramaya Temple
Art

Gangaramaya Temple

Established in the 19th century, the Gangaramaya Temple has become a landmark and a place of vibrancy in its relatively short history. The temple was administered by illustrious monks like the Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala, founder of the Vidyodaya University for monks and Venerable Devundera Sri Jinarathana. What was once a simple structure on swampy land has evolved to lay claim to a fusion of architecture and decor from Buddhist countries in the region. It has a library, a museum and an extraordinary collection of ornamented and gilded gifts presented by devotees to the temple on display. The Temple’s main event takes place in February during the full-moon day of Navam Poya. The annual procession is a show of culture and tradition displayed in colour and pageantry with bejewelled elephants and dancers parading the streets of Colombo.

Where to stay?

Galle Face Hotel

Galle Face Hotel

Established in 1864, Galle Face Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Asia. With rooms over looking the Indian Ocean, the hotel faces the long green sweep of Galle Face Green popular with the city’s residents as the sun sets. The hotel has been spruced up for the modern era and has two wings, where the wooden and earthy tones impart a sense of comfort and luxury. A leisurely alfresco-style evening at the Sea Spray restaurant, The Verandah or at the Poolside Bar and Terrance is a relaxing and reassuring experience in the city. The 1864 Restaurant in the Regency Wing is for formal dining and matches the splendour of the wing’s ornate rooms and suites. The hotel is currently completing its renovation of its original entrance hall and rooms in the Classic Wing.

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Hilton Colombo

Hilton Colombo

Located in the shadow of the twin towers of Colombo’s World Trade Centre, the Hilton Colombo is situated in the centre of the city’s commercial district with rooms recently refurbished to match the demands of today’s business or leisure guests.  With a popular tea lounge off the reception lobby and seven restaurants and bars serving cuisine from different cultures, the hotel is almost a destination in itself, a welcome retreat after a day in the city. Its swimming pool lies across the road, reached by a footbridge.

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The Kingsbury

The Kingsbury

The Kingsbury Hotel began life as the Ceylon Intercontinental Hotel in the 1970s but has recently been transformed from top to bottom into a glittery hotel with 229 elegantly furnished rooms with ocean views and an ambience of contemporary charm. The efficiency of accommodation is complemented with versatility afforded by numerous restaurants, bars, lounges, meeting rooms and public areas.  The Sky Lounge on the roof top is the setting for a great night out overlooking the Indian Ocean, except when it rains since the bar really is open to the sky.     

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OZO Colombo

OZO Colombo

Ozo Colombo is a glittering new hotel on Marine Drive overlooking the railway line to the south and the sea beyond, close enough to the city for business visitors and far enough away for holidaymakers. With comfortable rooms bright with light from its western view, the latest in amenities and its pleasant staff, Ozo Colombo is dedicated to affordable hotel living. A morning walk along Marine Drive or a dip in the rooftop pool is a great start to the day. ON14, the rooftop bar lounge is gaining popularity among the city’s trendsetters.

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Sri Lanka shopping guide

Vonel
Shopping

Vonel

Vonel is a brilliant addition to Colombo’s shopping scene. With a reasonably large shopping space, the store is jam packed with various fashionable pieces of clothing.  Upon entering Vonel, you realisethe range is truly quite extensive.  What’s more, they have a decent selection of men’s clothing and also have a few branded items. Prices are quite reasonable for get quality products.  Staff members are extremely helpful and make frequent recommendations having assessed your personal choice. 

Careems Jewellers
Shopping

Careems Jewellers

With more than 100 years of industry expertise, when it comes to jewellery making, Careems knows it all and does it all. Their products are modern, contemporary and are elegantly handcrafted using precious gems and metals. You can get anything from necklaces and bracelets to rings and earrings for both men and women, and what is more, you can even give them an idea of the desired design and get them to make it for you. 

Barefoot
Shopping

Barefoot

A sister store of the beloved Barefoot brand, this shop too, houses a variety of colourful and creative batik and hand made unique products. If you decide to visit the Dutch Hospital, be sure to step into the Barefoot store!

Tea Tang Boutique
Shopping

Tea Tang Boutique

Tea Tang produce tea of uncompromising quality from the best Sri Lankan bushes by using age old methods which have been nurtured through the ages.  The company’s tea collections include green jade, plantation, hillcrest and gift moments. The Liberty Plaza store is a great place to buy gift packets for friends and family members. The company is committed to ethical practices, and has fairtrade, halal and EU certifications.