It is not necessary to follow the tourist trail to enjoy a break as a tourist in Sri Lanka – here are 5 ways to discover it the way the locals do.
With overwhelming natural treasures, thousands of years old cultural cities, unique and delicious foodie scene and more than thousands of kilometres of pristine beaches, Sri Lanka has long been a destination for travellers around the world.
Immortalized by many UNESCO world heritage sites as one of the oldest cultures in the world, it is easy to understand why world travellers come in their droves to joyous in the vividness of cultures and flavours of this tropical holiday hotspot.
1. Isolated Sri Lankan beaches
Think Sri Lanka, think palm-fringed beaches. Being a tropical island, one of the most striking natural assets of Sri Lanka is the beaches and almost every traveller encounter Sri Lankan beaches during their holidays.
Beaches are one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island. A large number of travellers choose either the east coast beaches or west coast beaches for a refreshing beach holiday. The beaches are open to anyone to have a stroll.
There are several beaches in the country that have been managed to escape the hoards of a crowd eager to basking the sun. Most beaches on the southern coast and beaches in the north-west part of Sri Lanka are yet to be discovered by the mass tourism.
About 80% of Sri Lanka’s tourist traffic takes refuge in the beaches such as Bentota, Kalutara, Hikkaduwa, Negombo, Unawatuna, Kalkudah and Pasikudah. Most of these beaches are located on the west coast of Sri Lanka and a few of the beaches to be found on the east coast.
Few west coast beaches such as Mt.Lavinia, Wadduwa, Panadura, Ambalanoda, Induruwa are calm and quiet places and suitable for a relaxing beach holiday. Compared to beach resorts such as Bentota, Negombo, and Hikkaduwa these beaches are far and widely vacant. There can be a sizable concentration of local families in those beaches during the weekend, however hardly any local tourist to be seen during the weekdays.
2. Kelaniya Temple
Think Kelaniya temple, think Solias Mendis. Sri Lanka is a country in southern Asia with a large number of Buddhist devotees, 70% of Sri Lankan citizens believe in Buddhism. Buddhism was introduced to the island in 2nd century BC and Buddhism is the most prominent religion in the island since its inception.
Kelaniya temple is just a few minutes away from the economic hub (Colombo) of Sri Lanka. The temple is located towards the northern border of Colombo. Kelaniya is one of the many popular Buddhist temples in Colombo. What makes it stand out from other temples is the inheritance of valuable religious murals.
Solias Mendis, a world-renowned Sri Lankan painter spent most of his time in the temple. The murals of Kelaniya a temple includes some of the best works that he carried out during his lifetime. Other than a place for Buddhist devotees to carry out their religious activities, Kelaniya temple is one of the most popular tourist attractions due to the paintings contributed by Solias Mendis, most of these ceiling and wall paintings are still in very good shape.
Ceiling and the walls of the Kelaniya temple depict a large number of stories from the Sri Lankan society and the life of Buddha better known as Jataka stories. Most of these stories are depicted by Mr Mendis. Mr Mendis had visited Ajanta caves, Ellora caves, Bagh caves and Sarnath in order to increase his skills as an artist. Later he had used the techniques of Indian Buddhist arts as well as traditional Sinhalese arts as he was making Buddhist murals at Kelaniya temple.
3. Pettah market
Although every visitor of Sri Lanka is rarely failing to make a visit to shopping complexes such as Majestic city, downtown Kandy, Odel large number of them fail to hit the mesmerizing Pettah market. Located at the heart of Colombo, the Pettah market is unique in many ways and has the largest stock of goods compared to any shopping complex in Sri Lanka.
The Pettah market provides a wide range of products from textiles, leather goods, and household items to medicine, vegetable and fruits. If you are bargain hunter don’t think twice to buy what you need here, because the Pettah market is popular as a place to make retails purchases at a wholesale price.
The goods are available at a wide range of prices based on quality. Usually, the prices of goods sold by street vendors are cheaper than the prices at shops. However, there may be differences with regards to the quality of the products sold by the street vendors and according to the local people, the quality of those products sold by the street vendors might be bit inferior.
The Pettah market is not located in a multi-storied building as usual shopping malls; it occupies a large area as labyrinthine streets and alleys within its borders. The streets and alleys are mainly differentiated by the products being sold. Usually, the buyers need to find the correct street based on the products they wish to buy. There are thousands of shops and street vendors in each street giving the opportunity to buyers to find the best products based on their buying power.
4. Alternative neighbourhoods – Marine drive
Just a few kilometres from the central Colombo, the low-key neighbourhood marine drive feels a whole world away from the hustle and bustle of the busy street of downtown Colombo. It is an independent locality facing the Indian Ocean, just south of Colombo, in its own right until the late 1900s; this laidback suburb keeps the air of a multi-cultural, small-town community, and is today a famous haunt for local travellers.
With the rapid modernization of its infrastructure, the marine drive has become a place for leisure seekers. Large numbers of new, modern hotels line up the main road along with bars, cafeterias, restaurants, casinos, galleries, spas, night clubs, and many local eateries. Wander its modern street and you will mostly encounter local city dwellers and very few camera-wielding foreign tourists often plague other parts of Colombo.
5. Alternative food and drinks
Like in most major cities, getting away from tourist traps and finding truly Sri Lankan food can be a tricky game, especially in the tourist resort areas of Sri Lanka. But the deep south of Sri Lanka, which was not known to most foreign travellers, comes to the fore as a destination to try some authentic Sri Lankan cuisines.
Some of the most talked about restaurants in the area are widely popular for providing a large array of delicious and fresh seafood specialities. Rice and curry undoubtedly the most favourite dish among the local tourists. You may find the combination of rice and curry in all parts of the island, however, the fish curries coming from Deep South of Sri Lanka is believed to have a delicious, unique flavour.
Take a seat at a restaurant and tuck into a Sri Lankan spicy omelette, boiled shrimps or deep-fried pieces of tuna fish, and cashew nuts or peanuts all served in small portions and washed down with some locally distilled Coconut arrack. Once you finish with your fill, enjoy a few more drinks in one of the beach restaurants found in the area while enjoying the gorgeous sunset over the Indian Ocean.