With four major religions and more than 25 public holidays annually, Sri Lanka has mastered the art of colourful, entertaining and tourist-worthy festivals. While most celebrations are religious in nature, all are welcome to partake. Whether you are looking to expand your cultural knowledge or experience a different religion, here is our rundown of the Sri Lankan festivals you must see.
Sri Lankan cuisine is a reflection of both its diverse landscape and its resourceful people. With a tropical environment of coconut-fringed wet zones, arid dry zones and cooler tea-coated highlands, almost anything can grow and live here. This means that vegetables, fruit, fish, meat and spices are all in abundance and come in a wide variation. Though, considering how many foreigners visit Sri Lanka it is surprising how few actually manage to sample the local food. The restaurants and cafes tend to cater to Western tastebuds, and the larger and more posh hotels stick with international fare. Since Sri Lanka does not traditionally have a dining-out culture, much of the best food is cooked in the home, and if you don’t mix with the locals, you are unlikely to uncover the culinary delights on offer here.
Colombo is Sri Lanka’s largest city as well as its capital. While beaches tend to be the real draw for a holiday in Sri Lanka, if you take a break from sunning and relaxing on the beach and head into the capital, you’ll be able to see a lot more of the Sri Lankan culture. There’s a mix of modern buildings and ancient temples, high-fashion shopping malls and pretty parks, and much more. Come explore Colombo no matter how short your time in Sri Lanka is. Once you get past the sprawling city layout and crowded city centres, you’ll find that the city grows on you, and the longer you stay, the more you’ll love Colombo.
Travelling within Sri Lankan borders is a fairly easy task, though commercial flights are limited to daily flights between Colombo and Jaffna. Buses and trains are therefore the most popular mode of transportation between cities, with pros and cons to each. There is one option that is often overlooked, but it’s the perfect way to enjoy seeing important sites and cities in Sri Lanka. Take a tour of the country via bike and you’ll be able to cycle around historic sites and make your own schedule. Use our sample itinerary to help you plan distances and places you’ll be able to see in just 9 days on the road.
It’s sweet, it’s spicy, it’s vegetarian, it is, really whatever you want it to be. Kottu is the food of Sri Lanka, and you would be crazy to leave without taking a bite. Also known as kothu or koththu Roti, this dish is made primarily of Godhamba roti, spices and fried vegetables, with optional add-on ingredients of egg, meat, fish and cheese.
Colombo is Sri Lanka’s largest city and the commercial capital. As such, there will be much to explore here, but if there is one destination you shall not miss, it is the Pettah Market. Arranged in traditional bazaar layout, you will find each street devoted to a different type of good. Merchandise is piled high in tiny shops and laid out for purchase along the pavement. Whether you are looking to stock up on traditional goods, purchase fresh produce for the day’s meal, or just ingest the sights and sounds of Colombo, the Pettah Market is the place to be.
When headed off to Sri Lanka, depending on where you go, it can either be easy to communicate or hard to understand how much your daily purchases might be. Though many tourist areas will be privy to the English language, it may still come in handy to learn a few phrases or words in case of trouble or at the very least, to lend a respectful tone. The language to know is Sinhala and these phrases or words will help.
Anywhere you choose to dine in Sri Lanka is going to be a great experience. The cuisine of this island country is unlike any other, and with a wide assortment of places to choose from, you’ll have a hard time picking just one place for lunch or dinner! Cuisine from the Cultural Triangle tends to be based off meals and traditions from Kandy—the most populous city in the Triangle. Kandyan cuisine has a distinct flavour and traditional Sri Lankan food is a wonderful mix of taste, colour and aroma. The island’s location made it a popular stopping off point for foreign traders so indigenous spices such as cinnamon and cloves have been enriched by diverse culinary influences from around the world.
Northern Sri Lanka has been known as the Rajarata, or “The King’s Land” for millennia. Nowadays, this traditional name for this region has been surpassed in popularity by a more modern name--the Cultural Triangle. The origins of the name date back to the 1970s and the Sri Lankan government’s attempt to restore and promote the region’s great ruined monuments for the modern tourist industry – perhaps inspired by the “golden triangles” of Thailand and India.