When you think Emerald Island, you think of Ireland. But there’s an Emerald Island in the Indian Ocean also. But it’s more like a Pearl. That pearl is called Sri Lanka. Shaped like a pearl, this beautiful paradise lies just south of Southern India and is home to lush tea plantations, stunning beaches, beautiful relics and most of all, warm and hospitable people.
Beach lovers in the Middle East can save themselves the hassle of travelling 8-9 hours to South Asian beaches. That’s because Sri Lanka has stunning white sand beaches that are affordable and within 4 hours of Dubai, the travel hub for the region. You can find yourself rolling in the lap of luxury at the very high-end resorts, with private beach access and first hand viewings to dolphins as well as sea turtles. Families will find it easy and affordable to rent beautiful colonial homes by the ocean and spend weeks together enjoying beach life at a calm pace. If Dubai is running, in Sri Lanka everyone walks. This is why is a gem of a country to visit.
If the beaches of Bentota and Kosagoda don’t captivate you, try spending time in bustling Colombo, a unique mix of historical colonial British culture mixed with local flair as well as an modern sky line. Dotted between the old and the new, are countless temples with Buddha’s representing the main (but not only) religious identity in the Island. Walk around the streets of Colombo and you’ll see an over abundance of stray dogs trotting around comfortably. The ethos of the Island is peaceful and friendly so it turns out that nobody wants to harm animals and so dogs reign!
If dogs don’t tickle your wildlife fancy, perhaps you would like to go walking with the elephants at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Massive, lumbering pachyderms roam freely through the lush foliage down to bathe in the river. You can walk right down to the banks to see the elephants playing and bathing. Along the way, you will see kitschy touristy wares including hilarious elephant items such as paper made from elephant dung apparently a popular purchase!
The drive up to Kandy is breath taking. As the cool air rises from the mountain dew leaving a refreshing scent of soil andrain which becomes a distinct memory. Hakgala Botanical Garden is a horticulturist dream setting. One can easily spend a few hours on the trails coming across beautiful flora and some curious monkeys. The garden is situated between the tea plantations of Loolecondera Tea Estates, the first tea house in Kandy producing a very expensive silver tips tea.
The Paradise is not without its problems. The Asian pearl shaped suffered through a brutal civil war that affected thousands of people and strained intra community relations. Still, the country is trying hard to heal and over time, they hope they will find common ground. The Ocean gives this pearl life but is also remorseless and cruel. Who can forget the 2004 Tsunami? Even today, as you walk from one beautiful beach town to another, you can still see the skeletons of homes overrun by the Ocean. There is a particularly iconic Buddha statue in Hikkaduwa donated by Japan that commemorates the victims.
A seductive and beautiful country is filled with curiosity, pristine beaches, incredible wildlife, and a precious culture rich in hospitality. The teardrop shaped island is undoubtedly the “ Pearl of the Orient”.