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Country Profile

Why go to Sri Lanka?

“Sri Lanka has absolutely everything” cited as the 2nd best place to visit in the world by National Geographic channel, Sri Lanka is the best place to have your dream holiday, whatever your requirement is Sri Lanka has it all. Whether you prefer the west coast or the east coast, you’ll find extensive lush coconut palm-fringed tropical beaches for sun basking, tea or coconut plantations to canoe rides on a dugout canoe in a inland lake or a little cove, drive or trek through cool plains in the hills, lush tropical evergreen forests, ancient monuments, temples and fortresses, colourful festivals and mingle with the ever smiling friendly people of Sri Lanka welcoming you to their island paradise.

Sri Lanka, although a very well established tourist destination, remains largely unspoilt by outside influences and has retained its appeal. Due to its small size, a visit to Sri Lanka enables you to have many experiences in a limited time, go now and beat the crowds.

We at Best of Lanka adore Sri Lanka and have chosen to share with you the best and most attractive places of escape for your holiday and help you see the sights of your favourite places your way. We can offer all types of luxury 05 star properties but we always prefer to encourage travellers to explore the real Sri Lanka and hotels in true Livingston style, minus the rifle!

When to go to Sri Lanka?

December to March is considered the busiest season in the West coast, when the sea calms down but is more crowded, more expensive but will have the liveliest atmosphere anywhere. It’s the ideal time for snorkeling or diving here as the water is calm and crystal clear during this time of the year. The Central Highlands are the best place to try – trekking, cycling, bird watching and is cool and mainly dry from December - April.

From July to September are wonderful months for those who prefer the lesser extremes of heat and humidity, but enjoy the odd day of sun basking. This is also the time the plant life, birds and butterflies and not to mention white water rafting are also at their best after the Spring monsoon. The average year-round temperature does not change much, and fluctuates around 26 to 29 degrees Celsius, for more weather details see the climate review.

The monsoon seasons being very distinct, there is always a sunny beach to be found somewhere in the island although Sri Lanka also feels the effects of Global warming and the weather patterns are very much unpredictable at times where monsoons can be short with very heavy showers or light drizzle all day.

The Deep South and South East Coast now offers great beaches for diving, surfing or setting up a beach camp in a lonely stretch of unspoilt beach, and since tourism here is only just regenerating costs are lower than other locations in the Southern resort towns, best times to visit are from May to September.

If you are looking to escape Christmas and New Year at home, Sri Lanka is perfect and offers many celebratory parties on 25th and 31st. But it gets extremely busy and many of our hotels will take bookings a year in advance.

The North and East have been declared as safe to all tourists since 2009 and we take bookings to these areas though bear in mind that it has a long way to go before it reaches the standards that you’d want, but great beaches all round.

Geography of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is referred to as “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” falling from the South East coast of India. North to South Sri Lanka stretches 433km and is 244km wide, comparable to the island of Tasmania.

Sri Lankan central hill country rises a little off sided to the South from the centre of the island and is surrounded by the coastal plains. The flat, dry and in certain areas arid, Northern plain extends up to the tip of the Jaffna peninsula and ends up in an archipelago of low, flat sandy islands.

Sri Lankan central hills are rather like an anchor with the stem facing due northwest. Adam’s Peak at 2243m is the most magnificent, lying in the western slope of the central hills and offers outstanding sunrises & spectacular sunsets, however “Pidurutalagala” standing at 2524m near Nuwara Eliya is the highest point in Sri Lanka.

Capital : Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, though Colombo is considered as the commercial capital with an estimated population of 1.2 million and the, economic, social and cultural centre.

People Population : 21 million. Sinhalese 74%, primarily Buddhist, Tamils 18% predominantly Hindu, others Muslim, Vedda, Burgher, Malay, Chinese and European.

Religions : Buddhism, Hindu, Christian, Muslim

Language: Sinhala & Tamil. English is widely spoken in tourist resorts and the main cities while you may have to resort to travel guide if you plan going off the beaten track.

Colombo, Kandy and Galle have many wealthy Burhgers, decendants of European and Sri Lankan parentage. They are extremely friendly and open with Europeans and proud of their mixed heritage.

Climate of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan climate is tropical, with distinct dry and wet seasons in different regions due to elevation. Humidity is generally 80%, not as intense as Thailand or Singapore. Don’t be swayed by the large tour operators who promote November to March as the season, there are always sunny days somewhere in between as well, Colombo and low-lying coastal regions have a temperature of 25-29ºC. In the hill country the temperature drops- Kandy averages 20ºC Nuwara Eliya 16ºC, with coolish nights. The sea maintains a comfortable average temperature of 27 ºC all year round, making it ideal for swimming, snorkeling or diving. There are magnificent and rapid sunsets and virtually no twilight, a feature of the tropics.

The two monsoon seasons are;

  • South West – May/June & October r/November
  • North East; November – March

Food & Drink

Food

Boiled rice along with an assortment of fiery curries and fish consist the staple food of the Sri Lankans. Although a little hot for most western pallets, a very aromatic and delicious affair and changes with the region and chef having their own notions of delicacy. Personal favourites of team Best of Lanka is, Ash gourd or pumpkin boiled in a mix of coconut milk and curry powder, boiled vegetables, along with Tuna fish “Embulthiyal”, Pol sambol and jackfruit with boiled rice which is really mouthwatering. All Sri Lankan curry’s hot and spicy but dishes cooked for tourist will be milder. Sri Lankans use their right hand to mix all curries & rice together before eating.

Traditional dishes also include, fish “Embulthiyal” (a tuna based pickle), hot & spicy but deliciously cooked chicken, seafood or grilled cuttlefish (squid or calamari), Sri Lankan omelette with chopped onions & green chili, hoppers (a crusty flour n egg pancake) String hoppers (rice flour/ wheat flour steamed noodles) and fish egg rolls (similar to rolled pancake). The best seafood is found along the coastline of Sri Lanka from deliciously cooked Para fish (Spanish Makerel), Grouper or Sea bass (great when grilled), jumbo prawns (Feb/March mainly), lobster, many types of tuna. Sri Lankan also has quiet a variety of river/ Tank (wewoo malu) fish in-land, is also done and served maily in the inland hotels tasty. The main fisheries harbours along the coast are Kalpitiya, Negombo, Beruwela, Balapitiya, Weligama (Famous for stilt fisherman) Tangalle, Batticaloa & Trincomalee. Hotels recommended by us, insist on fresh deliveries of fish and fresh vegetables from Nuwara Eliya.

Local breakfast is usually “Kiribath” (Milk-rice) or hoppers along with “Lunumiris”, or a spicy Dahl(Lentil) curry with bread. A favourite breakfast of team Best of Lanka is Pittu (a coconut & rice flour mixed & steamed) served savoury with plain coconut milk is the best, but fish curry or sweet with brown sugar is also tempting. However if you want Sri Lankan breakfast, hotel will need to be notified the night before. Coconut sugar pancakes are a must for those with a sweet tooth. Optionally, Western style breakfast is always available- typically with eggs (scramble/bulls-eye/omelette), with bacon or sausages with toast along a selection of seasonal tropical fruit.

Buffalo curd and Kithul treacle are the most commonly found desserts, quiet delicious, and most hotels will tempt you with an assortment of mouth-watering home cooked puddings or watalappan. Banana or pineapple fritters along with bee’s honeys is another seasonal must try, and stewed Rhubarb crushed and served cold can be found in some of the more homely Tudor style hotels in Nuwara Eliya. Sri Lankan’s during the “Sinhala New year” festival comes out with “Rasa kevili” an assortment of sweet meats namely kokis, athirasa, Kewum, Aasmee a must try if you happen to be here during that period.

The locals dip into plates of deviled chicken/beef and prawns and are usually served as bites in all local bars, guesthouses & restaurants alike, as the Arrack slides down. The meat can be rather tough and their appeal wanes as they go cold. PolRoti- dough & desiccated coconut pancake is commonly found in “Roti carts” in all main city street corners by nightfall – or Parata - used as wrap for vegetable and fish rolls or chopped up with vegetables, is a very tasty snack.

Fruits: Tropical fruits like Watermelon, Mango, Papaya, Pineapples and Bananas are widespread throughout Sri Lanka. Other seasonal or uncommon favourites are Rambutan, Mangosteen, durian, Wood apples,(usually in jam).

Drinks

King coconuts(Thambili), pineapple along with papaya are great drinks to relish when it’s hot and brimming with natural goodness. Arrack, made from coconut sap is available throughout the island in many forms and blends and taste quite similar to brandy, is also the favourite local tipple.

Bottled water is readily available within hotels and at supermarkets. At small roadside stalls, check that the seal is unbroken as they have been known to refill bottles with boiled water. The local government water in hotel taps is fine for cleaning teeth and if boiled can be drunk or frozen as ice - best to check in.

Arrack is the local tipple. It is coconut based and tastes like a mild Brandy. Neat, it is extremely palatable but goes down more swiftly mixed with Coke / tonic or in a fruit cocktail. We would recommend Old arrack for a smoother flavour but there are a number of brands and types which you may wish to try out!

Toddy is the poor man’s drink around these parts made from coconut flower’s sap and should be flavoured straight off the coconut shell to make it authentic with a bit of salt in your mouth to cut the tangy flavour. Remember whatever you try take it in lighter doses if you wish to enjoy it, an over dose is an overdose and you’ll need a stiff “bloody Mary” in the morning.

Astralian and South African wines (cheaper) along with Quality International wines can be found in most of the hotels/villas that we have recommended but come with a hefty price tag, while locally produced wine is not that great, but cheaper. Lion Larger and three Coins are the two locally brewed beer brands, along with most other world famous brands, both have a cool flavour- but do excuse most barman for not being able to pour a decent pint, with the exception of the Star class hotels!

History of Sri Lanka

The history of Sri Lanka spans to the pre-historic times, (125,000 - 10,000 BC) with “Homo sapiens Balangodensis” found in Belilena, kithulgala. The first Sinhala settlers arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C. Buddhism was introduced in about the mid-third century B.C., and a great civilization developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (kingdom from circa 200 B.C. to circa A.D. 1000) and Polonnaruwa (from about 1070 to 1200) in Sri Lankan. Sri Lankan rulers of this era constructed stupendous manmade reservoirs, canals and irrigation networks that astound the modern engineer, giant stupas aimed at the heavens, rock fortresses guarded by moats, ruins of many palaces are some on offer on a trip to Sri Lanka. Adams peak in the western hills is a sacred site since of ancient and texts of Persian poet Ashref say that Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC) setup the steps and chains along this path before the advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, but Alexander didn’t become the great general he was until and after 336 BC by which time Arahat Mahinda had brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. The tireless wonderers of the ancient, Fa-hsien (399 – 424 AD) Marco Polo( 1254 – 1324 AD), and Ibn Battuta (1304 – 1377 AD) and have recorded setting foot in the island during their arduous journeys along the silk route.

Then the trade winds and waves brought Don Lourenço de Almeida to Galle Sri Lanka in 1505, lured by the “spicy breeze” of cinnamon. The coastal areas of Sri Lanka were controlled by the Portuguese in the 17th century and many of their architecture remains in Negombo and Galle in the form of fortresses along with their song and dance styles in Kafferinhoe, chikothi and baila calling for the spirit of jollity, with many a pleasant holiday spot to visit. Portuguese descendents still live in the East of Sri Lanka, who speaks Creole language, ideal place to see the charms of a by-gone era. The Dutch followed in the wake of the Portuguese in the 18th century and the remnants of the Dutch community can be still found in Sri Lanka as Dutch burghers. The islands Dutch settlements were ceded to the British in 1796, and the whole island was formally united under British rule by 1815. James Baker, a British colonial planter is credited for the introduction of Tea as a export crop to Sri Lanka in 1867, remnants of which are still visible at “Loolcondara estate” off Galaha in the District of Nuwara Eliya, along with Major Thomas Skinner who is credited for the national railway line completed to carry the upcountry produced tea to Colombo and the network of roads during the colonial era, and many of their resting spots strewn throughout the central hills and in the sea side towns in the form of Forts and bungalow’s are preserved in a charismatic, old colonial manner.

Portuguese Period

Dutch Period

English Period

The high & mighty British Empire drained after two world wars, crumbled under its own weight, and along with many other nations Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 from the British. Today Sri Lanka is governed as nine provinces united under a Democratic Socialist line of government with a parliament of elected members and a head of state. His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse is the current president of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.