Pearl of the Indian Ocean

By Sarmi Sri

I have been doing enough science over the past few weeks that I have decided to steer away from anything science related in my blog post.

Pasikudah beach, Pasikudah

I instead have decided to reminisce over my previous two holidays in Sri Lanka. Before I start, I would like to state that I am not affiliated with any travel agencies and will not be liable to any part I may play in influencing your holiday plans this summer.

Sri Lanka has had its share of hardships over the years, trapped in a civil war for over two decades and the devastating tsunami in 2004. An end to the civil unrest in 2009 has finally allowed this beautiful country to pick up its pieces and is becoming a fast growing hot spot for tourists. Such a tiny island caters to a huge range of interests, whether it’s a relaxing holiday with breathtaking beaches that you require, a love for natural beauty, or if you want to explore the rich cultural heritage sites available.

I visited my birthplace after a 14-year gap and was stunned by how far this war-torn country has come. We decided to make it a road trip, starting from the capital city Colombo and making our way up north through some of the most iconic places Sri Lanka has to offer.

Our first stop was the elephant orphanage in Pinnewala, an establishment that was founded to
feed and house young abandoned elephants. Here we got to witness the elephants getting bathed and with some tactful bribery from my part I got to feed the baby elephants too! For those of you who want to experience riding them, the Elephant Black sa
fari allows you to do this at a number of different National Parks further down south of the island.

Our next stop during the road trip was the hill country where you can find a bunch of tea plantations located at the center of the country. Sri Lanka is one of the top countries in tea exportation and for those of you who have yet to try Sri Lankan
tea, you are
missing out on something amazing. We visited the Mackwoods Ladbrookellie plantation where we were given a free tour and shown the different stages in tea production before finally concluding our tour with sampling a range of teas that they offer.

We then moved on to Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress that was built a
round 500 AD
. Although in ruins now, evidence of the palace, gardens, ponds and frescoes remain, making this a good example of ancient Sri Lankan at its finest. We climbed this 200m high structure – battling against the heights, creaky iron steps, and at one point some
hornet’s nests, to reach our prize; a spectacular view of the layout of the fortress and beyond it.

Temple of the Thousand Pillars, Trincomolee

As we travelled up north we decided to stop off at a few cultural heritage sites. Hinduism and Buddhism are the main religions practiced in Sri Lanka and despite being an atheist I was stunned by the beauty of these temples. Particularly worth mentioning is the Golden temple in Dambulla, a breathtaking temple located inside a cave, and the Temple of the Thousand Pillars in Trincomolee, a temple built on top of hill that overlooks the bright blue ocean.

Golden temple, Dambulla

In my more recent trip to Sri Lanka I decided I wanted to sample some of the many amazing beaches that the island has to offer. Down the southwest coast is Galle, famous for its lighthouse and Dutch colonisation. As you travel up along the west coast you have Benthota beach and Hikkaduwa beach, both of which also offer water sports.

Hikkaduwa beach, Hikkaduwa

Further up along the west coast is Puttalam, which provides a much quieter beach than the rest. On the east side you have the beautiful golden-sanded Nilaveli beach in Trincomolee and further down south from it is Pasikuda beach, which in my opinion is the best and unfortunately also the busiest place we came across.

Just off Trincomolee is the pebbly beach on Pigeon Island, which also gives you the opportunity

Pigeon Island, Trincomolee

to dive in and experience the beauty Sri Lanka holds beneath the water, including coral reefs!

So with summer right round the corner I can only conclude by saying Sri Lanka welcomes you with open arms!

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