Sri Lanka has it all. You can have your dream holiday here whatever your requirements- wide soft palm-lined beaches for lazing, plantations to canoe or drive through, cool plains, lush forests, ancient temples, colourful festivals enhanced by smiling friendly people welcoming you.
Its compact size enables you to cover many experiences in a limited time and though an established tourist destination, remains largely unspoilt. Go now and beat the crowds.
We love Sri Lanka and have chosen to share with you the best and most beautiful hideouts for your holiday and help you explore your favourite places your way. If you are seeking gilt marbled banquet halls, buffet queues and 11am aerobics classes, then you should join the sun and fun all-inclusive packages, we can offer these but we always prefer to encourage travellers to explore the real Sri Lanka and boutique hotels.
When to go?
The general year-round temperature does not vary much. The two monsoons...
...are distinct, meaning there is always a sunny beach. For more weather details see the climate review. Global warming has affected Sri Lanka too and the weather patterns are unpredictable at times. Monsoons can be short heavy showers or light drizzle all day.
December to March is the busiest season, ie more crowded, more expensive and liveliest atmosphere. For diving here, the water is calm and clear during this period. The Central Highlands – walking, cycling, bird watching etc –are cool and mainly dry Dec-April.
July to September are perfect months for those who don’t like intense heat and humidity but enjoy the odd day sunbathing. After the Spring monsoon, the plant life and white water rafting are also at their best.
The South East Coast now offers good beaches, diving and surfing from May to September but tourism is only just regenerating, so costs are low.
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.
“Guides” and touts may be a nuisance in the South West but usually respond to a firm “no Thank you”! Take care on the roads- the highway Code has not yet reached here.
Sri Lanka is likened to a tear drop falling from the South East coast of India. From North to South it stretches 433km and is 244km wide, comparable to Ireland or Tasmania.
The central hill country rises a little South of centre and is surrounded by a coastal plain. The flat dry Northern plain extends up to the tip and ends in an archipelago of low, flat islands.
Adam’s Peak at 2243m is spectacular and offers outstanding sunsets, but Pidurutalagala (2524m) near Nuwara Eliya is the highest point.
Capital: Colombo. Population of 1.2 million and the political, economic, social and cultural centre.
Population : 19.2 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 Cities but you may have to resort to sign language off the beaten track.
Colombo & Kandy 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. However, some can occasionally adopt a touch of “The Kumars” and disrespect their less privileged native neighbours. We would suggest that you extend words of encouragement and friendship to all Sri Lankans, which,in turn, will be appreciated and ensure an enhanced holiday experience.
Tropical with distinct dry and wet seasons in different regions. Humidity is not as intense as Hong Kong / Singapore. There is always a sunny day somewhere so don’t be swayed by the large tour operators who promote November to March only. Colombo and low-lying coastal regions have a temperature of 25-29ºC all year round with humidity of 80%. In the hill country the temperature drops- Kandy averages 20ºC Nuwara Eliya 16ºC, with coolish nights. The sea maintains a constant 27ºC all year. There are two monsoons:
From May to June and October to mid November in the South West/South and from December to January in the North/East and South East.
There are magnificent, but rapid sunsets and virtually no twilight.
|Very hot. Ideal for sunbathing, diving and sunbathing|
|Hot. Ideal for sightseeing. Occasional shower|
|Unpredictable weather but fine for sightseeing and some sunbathing. Warm with showers mostly at night.|
|Heavy monsoon rain in 70% of the island. Very hot and dry on East Coast|
Food & Drink
Rice and curry is the staple diet for Sri Lankans. This is a colourful and delicious affair and every chef and region has its own delicacy. All fruits and vegetables are brought together but personal favourites of Boutique Sri Lanka are: Pumpkin and mango curry in coconut milk, Organic boiled vegetables, Para fish, Pol sambol and jackfruit. Sri Lankan curry’s are full of spice but not very hot and no heavy sauces. Locals eat with their hands in order to truly mix the flavours.
Traditional dishes also include, Devilled Beef (hot & spicy but delicious), seafood, grilled cuttlefish (squid or calamari), Sri Lankan omelette, hoppers (egg pancake sometimes with added sugar), String hoppers (rice noodles), fish egg rolls (similar to pancake roll) ambul thiyal (a tuna based pickle). Seafood is delicious on the coastlines eg. Para fish, jumbo prawns in season (Feb/March), lobster, tuna, whilst the River / Tank fish in-land, is also tasty. Trincomalee, Beruwala (SW), Welligama, and Colombo are the main fishing harbours.
Bites are usually served with drinks in local bars and guesthouses. Locals dip into plates of devil beef and prawns as the Arrack slides down. The meat can be rather gristly and their appeal disappears as they go cold. Roti is commonly found on street corners - a doughy pancake used as wrap for vegetable and fish rolls or chopped up with vegetables. A tasty snack.
Breakfast for locals is hoppers or Dahl and bread. Hotels will often offer a full Sri Lankan breakfast but will need notice the night before. Another Boutique Sri Lanka favourite, and rarely found, is Pittu (coconut steamed rice) served savoury with fish curry or sweet with brown sugar and coconut milk. Coconut sugar pancakes are a must for those with a sweet tooth- a speciality at Kudakaliya.
Alternatively, a Western breakfast is always available- typically with eggs, toast and an abundance of tropical fruit.
Desserts are not common place in Sri Lanka but gourmet menus at Aditya or the Sun House will tempt you every day with some homemade mouth watering puddings. Cargills ice cream, Pineapple fritters or traditional Buffalo curd and Kithul treacle are more commonly found desserts but equally delicious.
Sri Lankans do have a sweet tooth though – Rasa Kavili, Jaggery (sugary sweets/fudges) and cashew nuts are a common treat.
Fruits: Common tropical fruits like Mango, Papaya, Rambutan, Pineapples and Bananas are in abundance. Other favourites which are seasonal or rare are Mangosteen, Wood apples, Durian (usually in jam). The freshest fruit can be enjoyed at Hideaway Villa or Paradise Farm both tucked away on private pineapple and fruit plantations.
King Coconut juice (not to be confused with the baby hairy coconut) and mango/papaya juice is drunk daily by the locals and is brimming with goodness.
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 hard man’s tipple. Pure alcohol and a derivative of the Coconut palm. Our opinion is that it tastes of paraffin and brings back bad memories of Greek / Italian nights on Ouzo and Sambuca.
Quality International wines can be found in most of the hotels/villas that we have recommended but at a price. Local wine is not great.
The local beer is Lion or Three Coins, both have a cool flavour- but do excuse even the best trained barman for not being able to pour a decent pint!
In the finest hotels, tea is usually Lipton or Dilmah, what we Western folk take for granted as ‘just TEA’. Join tasting sessions and walk the estate trails at Ceylon Tea Trails. In local guesthouses and in small towns, the tea is of poor quality - unfortunately, all the best ‘tips’ get exported. The locals tend to drink it black and with sugar so do specify. Those looking for a good cup of coffee in Sri Lanka will be hard pushed unless they visit The Fortress or coffee enthusiasts at Ganga Garden.
History & Politics
Early years: It seems that the first Sinhalese people arrived in Sri Lanka from North India around 5-6th centuries BC, gradually replacing the Veddha hunter-gatherers. The kingdom of Annuradhapura developed in the 4th century BC and remained the center of Sinhalese kingdoms for almost 1500 years when it was superceded by Polonnaruwa, further South East. The system of free labour for the King enabled the building of the vast tanks (lakes) and irrigation systems, still in use. In the middle years 1252-1400 Sri Lanka suffered attacks by China, Malaysia, and Sth India, until in 1505 the Portugese arrived to monopolise the spice and cinnamon trades.
Kandy became the last Royal city of the Sinhalese in the 15th Century, whilst the Tamils migrating from Sth India established themselves on the Northern Jaffna Pa.
Colonial Years: Kandy enlisted the help of the Dutch to oust the Portugese colonists but succeeded only in replacing one European power for another- for the next 150 years. They have left some stunning antique furniture in their wake.
The fine harbour of Trincomalee attracted the British and in 1802 Ceylon became a Crown colony. The door was opened to British settlers who established coffee, then tea, rubber, and coconut plantations. This led to road and rail construction, administrative, educational and welfare development and the introduction of English as the official language.
Independence: In 1948 Ceylon became an independent member of the British Commonwealth and in 1972 changed its name to Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan government is now committed to reopen and redevelop the North/East which were previously out of bounds to tourists.
Government: The country is divided into 9 provinces, united under a democratically elected President, Hon Maithripala Sirisena and recently elected Prime Minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe