Even though Sri Lanka is a small island, it is packed with opportunities to have extraordinary travel experiences, whether you are fond of sampling delicious food, a culture vulture or looking for some pampering on a luxury holiday. The list below is a 10 Sri Lanka experiences that cannot be left out from any Sri Lanka holiday.
10 essential Sri Lanka experiences
Sri Lanka popular holiday destination in South Asia attracts a large number of holidaymakers every year. Sri Lanka is a holiday destination to experience one of the unique cultures in the world, which dates back to more than 2 millennia. The traditional culture is one of the very interesting aspects of Sri Lankan lives. People of Sri Lanka always respect their culture and try to retain the uniqueness of their culture despite the foreign influence.
Sri Lanka was under foreign administrations such as Portuguese, Dutch, and English and for a short period of time under French. But, none of the foreign administration was able to make a considerable impact on the native Sinhalese culture and tradition. Sri Lanka is a fast-developing nation in the region and fast approaching the modern lifestyle. Sri Lanka can be described as a country, which is least corrupted by globalization.
The best way to experience this cultural holiday destination is diving into Sinhalese culture by yourself. Sri Lankans are very warm and friendly people and they are ready to help the tourists to get to know their culture, tradition and lifestyle. Here are a few things that may help you to experience the typical Sri Lankan life.
1. Sip a glass of arrack
Arrack is the drink of working people of Sri Lanka. This alcoholic drink is virtually available at every corner of the island. It also can be described as the most favourite alcoholic drink on the island. Some men gather into the local arrack bars and sip a glass of arrack after hard work of the day. It gives them some physical strength. The local bars are the best location to mingle up with working men of Sri Lanka. This alcoholic beverage is made of distilled coconut syrup and can be consumed as a mixture of fruit juice, water, soft drinks and all other beverages.
2. Wear a Sarong
Sri Lankans are very enthusiastic about fashion but still very conservative. All the new fashions appear in Italy available in Sri Lankan shopping complexes within a short period of time. But, Native people are extremely cautious about selecting suitable dresses for them.
Sri Lankans are very conservative when it comes to dressing code and they are reluctant to show up the body for outsiders. They usually choose cotton dresses, which is suitable for warm and humidity of the environment. Even though they love to dress up in modern dresses, Sri Lankans give the priority to traditional dresses such as Sari and Sarong in all important occasions and festivals. Sarong is the traditional dress of men while sari is the traditional dress of women.
3. Visit a temple on a full moon day
Sri Lanka Lankan life cannot be completed without the touch of Buddhism and Buddhism is an integral part of Sri Lankan culture. Usually, Sri Lankan visits the Buddhist temple on full moon days. Full moon day of every month is dedicated to observing Buddhist religious activities. Therefore full moon day is declared as a public holiday in Sri Lanka.
The people are encouraged to observe the five precepts of the day and alcohol and meat products are not available to buy in groceries and public bars. People gathering to the temples early in the morning and engage in religious activities from dawn to dusk. The rich volunteers of every village supply the food and drinks for people, who love to participate in religious activities.
4. Eat rice and curry
The traditional Sri Lankan meal is consisting of many ingredients. It is usually described as rice and curry. Rice is the staple food of Sri Lankans and curry is the best-suited accompaniment for rice. You may think that Sri Lankan traditional meal is similar to Indian and Tai cuisines. But, Sri Lanka dishes are a lot spicier and contain low fat against the meals prepared in Thailand and India. The spicy curries are very hot and tasty but rice is neutralizing the burn effect of the curries.
5. Betel chewing
The mixture of betel believed to have a potent effect with a mixture of certain elements of medicinal plants such as marijuana. The mixture had been widely used in Southern India and they were specially produced for maharajas in India.
The dark green leaf, which one sees often by the side of the Sri Lanka roads and markets, is known as betel leaves (Piper betel). You may also have seen it and might be wondering what it was. The leaf is one of the main ingredients of betel mixture that comprised of areca nut (Areca catechu), lime and several other spices with tobacco. Small pieces of areca nut and paste of lime with tobacco are rolled into betel leave than put into the mouth. The chemicals of betel, areca nut and other ingredients are released during the chewing and react with the saliva.
The chemical reaction between the betel leaf, areca nut, lime and saliva make a substance that keeps the chewers addicted to the mixture. The mixture is well known as Bulath in the Sinhalese language and Bida in Tamil. The valuable leaf is known as Vettel in Tamil and renamed to betel by the Portuguese colonial rulers. Since then it is known as betel in all leading languages. In the early stages of betel chewing, it had been a social ritual and took place in every important event such as wedding, funeral, parties and other social gatherings.
6. Spotting wild elephants
Spotting wild elephants is one of the unforgettable Sri Lanka experiences for any foreign traveller. There are dozens of places to spot wild elephants, but I would like to choose Udawalawe national park-west and south coast, Minneriya national park-central province, and GalOya national park-east coast. All 3 national parks are equally good for this thrilling Sri Lankan experience.
All 3 national parks allow you to spot a large number of wild elephants within a short period of time. Choose the best national park based on, where you are travelling to. And morning is the best time to starts an elephant safari when animals are gathering around waterholes and walk all around the park searching for food.
7. Sample hoppers -one of the best Sri Lanka experiences for foodies
Hoppers is a staple food of Sri Lankan breakfast, hopers are widely available on the island from street food outlet to high-end luxury hotels. Hoppers are bow-shaped delicate pancake made of rice flour, coconut milk and few other condiments. Hoppers are coming in 3 flavours plain-hoppers; honey-flavoured hoppers and egg-hoppers, egg hoppers are served with an egg in the centre of the hopper.
Even though there is not sufficient evidence to prove that is a local food item, hoppers are not available in most other countries, so don’t miss the opportunity, indulge whenever you can here. Honey flavoured hoppers are favourite among the kids, which is sweet in taste and dark brown colour. The best accompaniments for hoppers are fish curry (fish cooked in coconut milk), meat curry (meat cooked in coconut milk), symbol (mix of chilli paste and grated coconut), or Luniumiris (chilli powder mix with a pinch of salt).
8. Climbing Sigiriya Rock you should be fit enough to enjoy this Sri Lanka experience
Sigiriya rock is the iconic tourist attraction in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, and in the bucket list of every traveller. Climbing the Sigiriya rock is an unforgettable experience for any travellers, as it enables the visitors to have a breathtaking view over the surrounding jungle of Sigiriya rock fortress. The granite thorn that is hewn on to the natural rock was used by the king Kashapaya in 5th century AD; the view from the thorn commands a spellbinding view over the Sigiriya wildlife reserve, presumably, the King had enjoyed the same beautiful scenery that we admire today.
Down the rock fortress is one of the oldest landscaped garden in the world dating back to 5th century AD, showcases knowledge of advance trigonometry, and the firm grasp of hydraulic principals by the ancient engineers. The natural fountains are still working, when the nearby lake is full. Gigantic Swimming pools, granite caves, ancient paintings, ponds and many other ancient constructions are strewn in the garden.
9. Herbal massage is one of the most popular Sri Lanka experiences for travellers
Ayurveda is the most ancient healing method of Sri Lanka, believed to be introduced to the island in 6th century BC by a group of Indian immigrants. Since then it has developed to a fully-fledged healing system that capable of curing wide-range of diseases. Ayurveda is equally good for treating diseases and maintaining health and fitness.
Ayurveda wellness retreats are scattered all around the island, but most of them are established along the west and south coast beaches, thereby the visitors can enjoy the bliss of Ayurveda while relaxing on the pristine beaches.
The Ayurveda is one of the best ways of rejuvenating the body and mind with natural elements such as leaves, flowers and fruits, that’s the whole concept behind Ayurveda. Ayurveda treatments suppose to reestablish the tri Doshas and maintain the correct balance of them focusing on detoxification, mental hygiene, spiritual healing and rejuvenation. Oil Massages, herbal bathe, herbal remedies, and dietary practices prescribed by the doctors are the most common therapies in use.
10. Spotting leopards
Leopard is the biggest carnivore on the island and it is the King of the Sri Lankan jungles. This majestic creature is an ultimate showpiece for every traveller that makes a safari tour in Sri Lanka. Unlike leopards that you encounter in other parts of the world, Sri Lankan leopard is bigger than most of them, because Sri Lankan leopard is a subspecies of the leopards family and called “panthera pardus kotiya”. Sri Lankan leopard is endemic to Sri Lanka. The number of leopards in the jungle was reducing rapidly in the past due to the hunting under the British administration (1796-1948), and the leopard was included in the red list of IUCN. However, thanks to the conservation effort the number of cats is on the rise during the last several decades and the future of the cat seems to be good.
If you wish to see a leopard you better head on to Yala national in Southern Sri Lanka because Yala is the best national park in the world to spot leopards. Plot number 1 of Yala national park has the highest concentration of leopards compared to any other national park of its size. I have done Yala safari many times and I had seen leopards many times. The regular safari at Yala lasts around 3-4 hours, during which you may spot a leopard. However, it is highly recommended to make a full day Yala Safari, it considerably increases the chances of spotting leopards.
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