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Travel Logs July 2013

Compulsive Traveler

Sri Lanka - ‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean’

By Sandra Scott

Get to Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage at 9 a.m. to be there for feeding time. You can almost feel their excitement as the elephants are led to the river for what amounts to play time.

 

vt_scott0713b The Europeans have been visiting Sri Lanka for the last ten years, enjoying the country’s excellent beaches, archeological sites, and wildlife, but North Americans are just beginning to learn about the wonders of this small island nation that hangs like a pearl from India. The warm, welcoming people speak English. After all, Sri Lanka was an English colony for many years before becoming an independent nation in 1948. It was called Ceylon until 1972. After years of turmoil peace has arrived and so have the tourists. 

  1. Beaches: The coast is lined with beaches which are the main tourist draw. Negombo with a variety of resorts is the beach closest to the capital city of Colombo and near the airport while Bentota favors the upscale market. Many of the finest beaches are located along the south coast with the beaches in the far north and east being the most pristine.
  2. Galle: The Dutch city of Galle is the best preserved colonial city. The quiet streets are lined with Dutch-style villas and buildings, with the entire area being enclosed by an impressive rampart from which there are great views of the Indian Ocean. The beaches of Sri Lanka are the nesting grounds for five species of sea turtle. Visitors to Galle can learn more about the effort to preserve the endangered turtles at one of the turtle hatcheries just minutes from the city.
  3. Sigiriya: The ancient rock fortress and palace ruin is one of the icons of Sri Lanka and a World Heritage Site. Surrounded by a moat, the determined can climb to the top of the citadel to explore the palace that dates from AD 477, view the frescos, and explore the water gardens.
  4. Ancient capitals: Anuradhapura was the vast capital of Sri Lankan civilization of 1500 years ago and Polonnaruwa is home to an amazing collection of Sinhalese art and architecture from the 8th century until 1310 CE when it, too, was a capital. They account for two of the eight World Heritage Sites.
  5. Elephant Orphanage: Get to Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage at 9 a.m. to be there for feeding time. You can almost feel their excitement as the elephants are led to the river for what amounts to play time.
  6. Temple of the Tooth: Located near Kandy, the Temple of the Tooth is one of the most treasured Buddhist sites. Rituals are performed three times daily – at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. An evening visit can be combined with attending a cultural show at a nearby theater.
  7. Safari: Yala National Park is the second largest such park in Sri Lanka having been designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1900. It is best known for its variety of wildlife. While it is not always possible to see the elusive tiger, safari goers are sure to see monkeys, deer, wild boar, and elephants.
  8. Gems: The famous Star of Sri Lanka, a 193-caret Blue Star Sapphire came from the mines of Sri Lanka as did Lady Di’s emerald which now belongs to Kate Middleton. The best moonstones come from Sri Lanka with the bluish ones being the most desirable. Visit the Meetiyagoda Moonstone Mine to see how gems are mined and to purchase a unique remembrance from Sri Lanka.
  9. Tea: Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea and it is a critical part of the country’s economy. In the area around Nuwara Eliya (Little England) the rolling hills are blanketed with tea trees. Visit one of the several tea factories to learn how the tiny green leaf becomes some of the world’s finest tea.
  10. Food: Fresh seafood is a given. But the Portuguese, Dutch, English, and Indians have all contributed to make the food of Sri Lanka a delight to explore. Rice and curry dishes dominate, but try jaggery made from the palm tree. The most popular breakfast is egg hopper whereby eggs are cooked in a wafer thin, cup-shaped pancake. Plain hoppers can be eaten with curries and sambols.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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