Your ultimate guide to Sri Lanka

Restaurants and bars, museums and galleries, shopping, hotels, travel and more…

High Five – July
Travel

High Five – July

From the East to the West, and North to the South, Sri Lanka is brimming with excitement this month. The weather is just right for an adventure in the East Coast, with surfing, whale watching, wild safaris and lively nightlife. Winds along the Western shore offer thrills for the kite surfers, while the atmosphere in Colombo is vibrant as Aadi Vel processions take to the city streets. Kataragama, on the South of the island, draws thousands of devotees for its annual Perahera. Do not miss out on discovering the beautiful landscapes and thrills of the North. With the South African team touring Sri Lanka, cricket fever is in the air too. On this tropical island, there is something for everyone.

The calling of Kataragama Deviyo
Things to do

The calling of Kataragama Deviyo

The Kataragama Esala Perahera, set around the historic Ruhunu Kataragama Maha Devalaya in the south-east of Sri Lanka, begins this month with much reverence. An awe-inspiring annual ritual, which has been held for centuries; the festival draws thousands of devotees from various faiths and ethnicities who unite in worship as they pay reverence to the god Kataragama, the deity with six faces and twelve hands, mounted upon a peacock. The 15 days of the festival is a deeply sacred time in Kataragama. There is an air of exultation, with streets beautifully lit-up and decorated for the celebrations worshipping the deity also known as God Skanda and Lord Murugan. Worshippers of the God travel from across Sri Lanka for the festival. One of the most importance aspects of the Kataragama festival is the Pada Yatra. It is a walk of faith by devotees who travel from Jaffna to the island’s Southern coast in time for the Kataragama Perahera. Generally, the procession commences from Nagadeepa in the North and thousands of pilgrims brave the walk through wild terrain amidst rain and sun. The origins of the Pada Yatra are linked to the Veddas or indigenous people of Sri Lanka, who made the long journey in honour of their jungle princess Valli Amma, who was God Kataragama’s consort. As a testament to their profound belief, the pilgrims -men, women and children, embark on this spiritual voyage, walking through the East coast jungles and dry land with only the bare necessities. They camp in t

Adi Vel reverence for Lord Murugan
Things to do

Adi Vel reverence for Lord Murugan

In fact, the Aadi Vel festival in Colombo coincides with the Kataragama Perahera in the South of the island. Aadi Vel custom in the city is said to have started in 1874, when the colonial government forbade devotees from embarking on the traditional walk to Kataragama known as Pada Yatra owing to a spread of cholera. The Kataragama festival is a celebration of national significance and those who were unable to travel, initiated their own observance around Murugan temples in Colombo. There are two main Aadi Vel festivals in Colombo; one begins from the Sammankodu Sri Kathirvelayutha Swamy Temple in Pettah and travels to the Sri Manickavinayagar Temple in Bambalapitiya. The other parades the streets from the Kathiresan Kovil in Pettah to the New Kathiresan Kovil in Bambalapitiya. Aadi Vel is a colourful festival. The chariot decorated with two beautifully carved wooden horses and colourful garlands and flowers is drawn amidst a great deal of display. It bears the idol of Lord Murugan with his vel (golden spear) and his consorts, Theivaanai and Valli. As the chariot parades the streets, devotional sounds of Thavil and Naathaswaram – a traditional drum and wind instrument reverberate. The sound of fire crackers rings through, heralding the celebration of the great warrior god. Followers chant “haro hara”, while devotees smash coconuts before the chariot in fulfilment of vows, and countless bare trays with garlands, betel leaves, fruits, coconuts, burning incense sticks and ca

The Happening Hospital Street
Things to do

The Happening Hospital Street

Surrounded by the aura of Sri Lanka’s colonial past, Hospital Street in Colombo Fort is the city’s quaintest street. At night, the paved path transforms into a bubbly and relaxing venue with live music and great food. Along the street are a range of bars, restaurants and café serving delicious food and beverages on terraces that open out to the avenue. At the corridor of the Dutch Hospital are the acoustic bands playing soothing music or the DJ filling the air with energetic tunes. Sitting on the tables arranged along the street at night, people are animated with laughter and chatter as they unwind after a busy day at work. It is the best place for a meet up with friends, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. As the night progresses the ambience takes many forms, ranging from soothing to energetic and toe-tapping to groovy. A few steps away is the open courtyard of the Dutch Hospital Precinct, which adds to the liveliness in the vicinity. Many travel between the courtyard and Hospital Street socialising and experiencing the best of both atmospheres. Hospital Street has become a popular place for those seeking unique experiences in an iconic atmosphere. Hence, there are street food festivals, jazz nights, art exhibitions and even cultural shows taking place nearly every month. During these events, the quaint path twinkles with lights and is sheathed with mouthwatering aromas rising from the live food stations. It’s an ambience that welcomes everyone, from families to

Arugambay at Night
Things to do

Arugambay at Night

After a day of sunbathing, surfing and exploring, the cooling night provides the ideal atmosphere to enjoy the many cuisines and snacks available. If you simply want to have a roti, hopper or a crispy vadai you can make a quick stop at one of the food carts while walking along the road. Lamps are lit and grills are fired as the restaurants get ready to serve. Fresh fish and various types of seafood are laid out for diners to make their pick. This area is renowned for its selection of seafood. Thereafter, the dish is prepared according to their preference. Spicy aromas drift in the air, as the BBQ is prepared. There are restaurants that serve delicious pizzas, burgers, Sri Lankan, Italian, Chinese, Mexican and also fusion cuisine. However, if you wish to try something different you could head to some of the hotels such as the restaurant at Blue Wave Hotel, which offers both Sri Lankan and international cuisine. You may also dine at Arugambay Roccos, amidst the relaxing ambience of the Square. The delicious cuisine are freshly made and will be definitely satisfying as you enjoy the evening. Take a short ride to Whisky Point and dine at Dream Garden. With a delectable menu, you can enjoy your dinner while admiring the charming surroundings. Paper Moon Kudils also provides a unique experience as you savour the flavoursome dishes served at the Kusini. Prepared freshly, with many of the ingredients from their very own garden, the cuisine is a blend between Sri Lankan and contin

Explore art and culture

Theatre guide: what's on this month
Art

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 visiting the art galleries – featuring some of the best exhibitions of paintings, jewellery and photographs – and the wide array of musical performances.

Sri Dalada Maligawa
Art

Sri Dalada Maligawa

Situated in Kandy, the last capital of the Sinhala monarchy, the Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth Relic is considered one of the holiest places of Buddhist worship in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex in the 17th century CE which, houses one of the two relics of the tooth of the Buddha.  The tooth relic is enshrined in an upper floor chamber, the door of which is covered with gold, silver and ivory. The tooth relic rests on a gold lotus flower and is encased in seven gold caskets studded with precious stones. The Esala Perahera is one of the most colourful religious ceremonies associated with the temple. This annual festival of yore, parades the streets of Kandy for ten consecutive days in August. Decorated elephants, princely men, and torch carriers accompany the tooth relic as dancers and drummers gyrate resplendently to the sound of drums. The Sri Dalada Museum is spread across two floors in the Aluth Maligawa, the latest addition to the Maligawa, and comprises of relics and gifts that were given to the temple

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil
Attractions

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil

Built in 15th century CE, the Nallur Kovil in Jaffna is sacred to the Hindu believers of Sri Lanka. Incidentally, it was built by the adopted son of a Sinhala King, Parakramabahu VI of the Kotte Kingdom, who built it for the benefit of the Hindu populace of Jaffna after defeating the invading forces of the Vijayanagar Empire of South India. The original Nallur Kovil was razed to the ground by the Portuguese and later rebuilt in an adjacent location by the Dutch in 1734. The Nallur Kovil, set amidst the scorched terrain of the North, still has a sacredness that is radiated in the front courtyard, the Dravidian architecture and the majestic and ornately carved gopuram or tower at the entrance. There are many festivals at Nallur Kovil that attract Hindu devotees from around the world, in addition to the many spectators who take pleasure in the pomp and pageantry of the celebrations.

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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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Amethyst Resort Passikudah

Amethyst Resort Passikudah

Set along the pristine coastlines of Passikudah Beach, Amethyst Resort, Passikuddah offers a spacious outdoor swimming pool and provides windsurfing activities. Free Wi-Fi access is available at all public areas. Air-conditioned rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a seating area and a writing desk. The en suite bathroom will include shower amenities and a hairdryer. Getting around the island is easy with bicycle and car rentals. Amethyst’s 24-hour front desk can also assist with laundry/ironing services, room service and travel arrangements. Guests can unwind at Taprobane Restaurant specializing in seafood dishes or enjoy a drink at The Kool Pool Bar and The Barrel Pub. Located just 5 km from Valachchenai Railway Station, the property is also just 600 metres away from the city centre and 28 km from Batticaloa Town.

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Kalundewa Retreat

Kalundewa Retreat

This is a place with the potential of becoming every nature lover’s haven. Located atop the lakes and paddy fields of Dambulla , the hotel offers a chance for guests to take in the breathtaking beauty of the centre of the Cultural Triangle. The resort has accommodation in chalets built on the lake as well as a bungalow with a lake view in the paddy fields. The “bakmee chalet’ is convex in dimension and has glass walls that create an intimate transparency with the surroundings. Bird watchers will have the sheer delight of waking up to the calls of Sri Lankan birds calling from the wilderness. Guests who don't wish to be disturbed by nature can stay in peace in the adjoining bungalow. Treks and visits to the nearby village can be organised on request.

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Heritance Negombo

Heritance Negombo

Offering an outdoor pool and a restaurant, Heritance Negombo is located 2.1 km from St Anthony's Church. Free WiFi access is available and rooms come equipped with a minibar. Featuring a view of the sea, every room includes a flat-screen cable TV. A hairdryer and bathrobes are provided in the en suite bathroom. Extras include a sofa, a desk and ironing facilities. At Heritance Negombo you will find a fitness centre. Other facilities offered at the property include a tour desk and shops (on site). The property offers free parking. The hotel is 2.8 km from Negombo Beach Park and 2.9 km from Maris Stella College. Bandaranaike International Airport is 12 km away.

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Sri Lanka shopping guide

Lalitha Jewellers
Shopping

Lalitha Jewellers

Lalitha Jewellers has for generations had a reputation for crafting exquisite bespoke jewellery. It is a name that resonates with years of quality, trust and value. The uniqueness of the creations at Lalitha Jewellers is in the wonderful fusion of both modern and traditional designs. With delicate and distinctive patterns, their in-house selection is eye-catching. Their jewellery with complementing colour coordination and intricate designs reveal the skills of the craftsmen. Lalitha Jewellers also guarantees authenticity and quality through a careful selection of precious metal and gems. The exquisite jewellery are especially crafted in 22k gold and 18k gold with yellow, white and pink hues and platinum. The designs are embellished with precious as well as semi-precious stones such as diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and aquamarines carefully selected from gem mines across the island. The jewellery is also adorned with Chinese and Japanese pearls. At their flagship showroom, customers feel at ease as experienced staff guide them through the elegant collection and expert bespoke services offered by Lalitha Jewellers. As a result, many families have patronised Lalitha Jewellers for generations. The design process usually begins with an initial brief and sketch by an experienced designer. This is later produced in a 3D design for the client’s approval. Every step is taken to ensure they meet the customer’s requirement during the transformation of the design from pap

EastStar Handloom
Shopping

EastStar Handloom

They are dedicated to serve a range of quality handloom products. Their collection includes fabrics, sarongs, sarees, shawls, ladies top and beach wraps in an array of colours to aesthetically mix and match. One can choose from a range of soft fabrics with bold and vibrant colours against elegant stripes. Ladies can browse through a range of exclusive silk sarees, cotton sarees, silk cotton sarees, glossy cotton sarees as well as Elenna tops. While men can avail themselves to a fine collection of vibrant sarongs and shirts. EastStar also displays bags, slipper and necklaces to complement the outfit.

Ahmad Tea
Shopping

Ahmad Tea

‘Ceylon Special’ by Ahmad Tea is the London-based brand’s flagship boutique in Colombo. The ambience of the outlet is quaint, with large pastel paintings creating a truly vintage Victorian aura. However, in traditional Sri Lankan style, shoppers are served cups of tea with jaggery. There is a vast selection of tea and every blend at the outlet has its origins in Sri Lanka. Their range includes classic brews such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast, and regional teas from all tea-growing regions in the island. They have graded teas such as Ceylon Tea OPA and Ceylon Long Leaf as well as varieties of Green Tea. One of the highlights of the boutique is the enticing selection of flavoured teas. These include Lemon and Lime Twist, Strawberry Sensation, Vanilla and Peach and Passion Fruit. Ahmad Tea offers a delightful range of packaging. As a globally renowned brand established in England, their fine blends are packed in artistic metal caddies with imagery representing key land- marks in England. Tall tins adorned with pretty Victorian motifs make for ideal gifts. Inspired by Sri Lankan tradition, tea is packaged in wicker baskets such as the Hambiliya or the Tea Wallet. Selections of Ceylon Tea are also available in bamboo boxes. Staff are well-informed and assist in selecting a tea that suits you. Personalised tea-tasting can also be requested. Ceylon Special by Ahmad Tea is the place to shop for premium Ceylon Tea or a personalised gift.

The Kids Ware House
Shopping

The Kids Ware House

Located conveniently, The Kids Ware House caters to needs of kids of all ages. The store houses a massive collection of toys, clothes and accessories. Always in vogue, there’s a wide range of products for infants. The collection of clothing at Kids warehouse is exceptional. For girls, there are dresses, skirts, shorts, tops, t-shirts, leggings, pants and a lot more. A cute range of baby suits with slogans, shorts with lace borders and stylish patterns perfect for an outing, chic mini skirts and a range of clothes for the tomboy await on shelves. The section for girls also contain bags, key tags and watches, stationary, books and accessories to compliment the perfect outfit. A section dedicated to swimwear has swimsuits in bright colours with frills, with popular cartoon characters and crocs ensuring child safety. Colourful pillows, pencil cases, hair bands and school bags for the girl between the ages of twelve to fifteen are also available along with dresses and tops. Polka dotted sun dresses perfect for a day at the beach, kuruthas and pants, jumpers for an evening with friends, comfortable yet stylish wear to be worn during an outing and even beaded elegant dresses for a function such as a wedding are all available at the store. There is a wide range of attire for boys, inclusive of shirts, t-shirts, trousers, sports wear, dungarees, shorts, and other. Sweatpants too are stylish guaranteeing your young one to make an impression on whomever he meets. One would also find