Sri Lanka’s reputation as the gem of the Indian Ocean is not unfounded, and a luxury holiday to Sri Lanka really is everything you’d hope it would be. An exotic paradise with an abundance of things to see and do, this is land of impeccable beaches, lush mountain terrain and magnificent wildlife and is also home to no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s this, combined with a well established tourist infrastructure and abundance of first-class hotel resorts, that makes it a destination perfect for those who want to explore, relax, feast and marvel during their 5 star holiday.
Things to do
You’ll see attractive terraced tea fields dotted all around the inland areas of Sri Lanka, and of course the country is famous for growing the renowned Ceylon leaves since British colonial times. It’s well worth paying a visit to a plantation estate for a chance to learn more about the country’s most famous export. You’ll get the chance to see local women picking the tea leaves and then learn about the entire process of preparing the tea - from fermentation to rolling, drying, cutting, sieving and grading. Many of the plantation houses also have pleasant teahouses where you can enjoy traditional Raj-style afternoon tea overlooking the lush tropical forests and terraces.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth is one of the most important Buddhist relics in Sri Lanka, and it is situated near the city of Kandy. The temple itself is well worth a visit, and its collection of pink buildings surrounded by a deep moat is striking against the cobalt sky. Believed to be one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka, the tooth was said to have been taken from the flames of the Buddha’s funeral pyre and smuggled into Sri Lanka during the 4th century AD, hidden in the hair of a princess. It’s a busy monument for tourists and Sri Lankans alike, so the best time to visit is in the morning when there are fewer visitors. Ritual prayers are conducted four times a day and you should definitely try and be present for these.
Families will love a visit to the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawela. This remarkable place is world respected for its successful elephant breeding programme, and a visit here allows you to see the injured or orphaned elephants being cared for until they are ready to be returned to one of the island’s national parks. You are given the opportunity to get up close to the elephants as they feed, bathe and socialise. You may even get the chance to help feed a baby elephant from a giant milk bottle – an experience not to be missed!
Where to stay
Where you choose to base yourself for your Sri Lanka holiday will depend on the time of year that you choose to travel. However, one thing that’s guaranteed is wherever you decide to stay - you’ll find magnificent beaches, exotic wildlife, and striking cultural sites. Most visitors arrive in Colombo, the island’s largest city, with its colonial splendour, bustling markets, and attractive Buddhist temples. From here, a drive up the West coast will bring you to the pretty beach town of Negombo, with its attractive and unspoilt coast dotted with fishing boats and palm trees, and Waikkal, famed for yet more pristine beaches, as well as its population of exotic butterflies. Both of these towns are quieter and less touristy than some of the larger resort bases on the island, so they are perfect bases for getting to know more about local life and culture.
Heading south, the town of Kalutara was once an important place for the spice trade, and now it is an attractive and unspoilt town, with a selection of superb hotels with plenty of facilities for families. For something a little different, why not consider Bentota Beach which occupies a spectacular location between a river bank on one side and the seafront on the other. This resort is home to luxurious hotels and impressive natural beauty. The jewel in the crown of a holiday to Sri Lanka is a stay at Galle, a majestic colonial town with a spectacular setting on the Indian Ocean. It is also home to some of the most romantic hotels on the island, and offers the perfect combination of relaxation, culture and nature .
Flight time from London: Approximately 11 hours.
Arrival Airport: Bandaranaike International Airport.
Entry details for British passport holders: A short stay visa needs to be obtained before departure through an online visa application process, the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). Charges apply. Passports need at least 6 months validity from your date of entry. Before you depart, check the latest travel advice at www.fco.gov.uk.
Time difference: GMT +6 hours
Currency: Sri Lanka Rupee.
Language: English, Sinhala and Tamil.
Here to help:
A local Signature representative will meet you at your arrival airport and direct you to your pre-booked transfer vehicle. Depending on where you are staying, this may be a direct transfer courtesy of your hotel, via a boat, vehicle or domestic flight. You'll receive a welcome pack containing local information and all contact details. A welcome meeting will be held at your hotel, or should you need advice during your stay, the local office is available to answer your questions.
Best time to go:
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, with wet and dry seasons, and the island’s size means that different weather patterns affect different parts. For this reason, Sri Lanka is considered to be a year-round destination because despite its weather patterns, half of the island is always in season. Broadly speaking, the inter-monsoon period between August and September is generally dry and warm, with rainfall being confined to short, sharp showers in the evenings rather than during the day. Outside of these times, it’s good to base yourself either on the southwest coast, which is best experienced between October and January, and the northeastern coast, which has lower rainfall between May and July. These are broad guidelines, and you may experience unseasonal weather outside of these periods.