For the first time in 30 years the UK has lifted its travel ban for the northern regions of Sri Lanka after the British High Commission completed a security assessment. The original threats to British tourists were unexploded mines and terrorism, both of which prove to be amended, opening Sri Lanka for tourism!
Without a doubt Sri Lanka is home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in South Asia and those who know it should be happy to hear the news that the travel ban to the northern coast has been lifted. The ban originally affected five provinces: Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaittivu and Vavuniya.
Even though the Foreign Office has given British travellers the go-ahead, you still need to apply for permission from the Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence before going into these regions. It is a simple precaution.
So, now that the whole of Sri Lanka is okay for tourists, where to go and what to do?! From ancient ruins, to white sandy beaches, from colonial towns to rolling hills. It’s not hard to be totally won over by this island’s landscapes, cuisine, customs and laid-back pace of life.
Sri Lanka: a brief guide
Home to a thousand years of Sinhalese kings, Anuradhapura is the most important royal capital with palaces, promenades and elegant guest houses. The Brazen Palace and Mahasena’s Palace won’t disappoint, neither will Isurumuniya Vihara, a rock temple dating back to 200 BC.
This city’s more heralded ruins lay outside the city limits but are easily reachable by bike. Gal Vihara is a collection of Buddha images is the most famous of these ruins. Inside the city you can explore what remains of the royal palace and the quadrangle, a very concentrated collection of ruins enclosed by a wall. Inside are relics, shrines, century old bodhi trees and temples.
If you enter the city through the commercial district, don’t judge. Once you reach the gates of the fort, the city complete transforms into a charming colonial town that looks to haven’t have changed since the Dutch colonised this part of the island. The best views of the Indian Ocean and the island can be seen from atop the walls that encircle the fort. What is more remarkable here is that this town is a working city and the locals above all live for themselves and for their town, not for the tourists.
After landing at Bandaranaike International Airport (accessible with surprisingly cheap flights from London) you’ll meet Negombo, an extremely humble beach town. A good alternative to Colombo, Negombo has excellent beaches and far less traffic and tourist congestion. Explore the lagoon and soak it all up, it’s likely this place will quickly turn into tourist heaven soon!
Picturesque tea plantations and endless greenery… the Hill Country offers travellers a quiet and cool escape from the heat and buzz of the coastline. This region resisted European colonisation for 3 centuries and is where Sinhalese culture still thrives. The main city in this region is Kandy, at 500m altitude and just over an hour’s drive from Colombo, it should be on everyone’s list of must-sees in Sri Lanka.
Hindu temples break up the straight lines of modern architecture in the north, especially in Jaffna. There is something very different about the air here and in the region is strikingly different from the south. The language, cuisine and landscape are all different. It’s rare to see tourists in this area, but this will change in the near future now that the travel ban has been lifted. As a result though, locals are eager to share their heritage and their culture, being very proud of their traditions.
Have you ever been to Sri Lanka? Tell me about your trip, I love hearing travel stories!
Imgs: flickr cc