<p align=”justify”>Very often, our globe-trotting plans inadvertently tend to ignore the more modest destinations. These are unexplored places that are not frequently blogged about but have a remarkably unique quality that merits exploration. These enchanting destinations are surreptitiously hiding right under our nose, while our ambition takes us to the more popular and fashionable destinations.</p>
Suspended from the southern tip of India like a drop of water, is one such mesmerising destination. Sri Lanka or the Emerald island – as the country is commonly referred to – is bordered by a necklace of palm beaches, fortified by a majestic mountainous interior and punctuated with scattered highlands that boast of the country’s famous tea plantations. So here’s your cheat sheet to Sri Lanka, with its exotic tropical landscape, its gentle people and possibly the best source of cuppa!
<b>What’s the brouhaha all about?</b>
From an Indian perspective, Sri Lanka has always been confined to the historical epic of Ramayana and lived under the influence of an overbearing neighbour. Needless to say, despite its internal problems, the country has emerged as a top destination for travellers thanks to its biodiversity, cultural richness and especially, its hospitality.
Sri Lanka is one of the easiest destinations to get around and one of the friendliest countries you will ever visit. In a single trip, you can squeeze in hinterlands, coasts, mountains, forests, rivers and tea and rubber plantations!
<b>What to look out for?</b>
The country is home to eight World Heritage sites, including the ancient city of Anuradhapura which is considered sacred by the Buddhists. Visit the ‘Temple of the Tooth’ and be a part of the extravagant sacraments in the holy city of Kandy. Over to the highlands, the neatly-terraced tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya must definitely make it to your list. If you are a wildlife enthusiast visit the national park in Yala to be amazed by leopards, elephants and a huge variety of birdlife.
Last, but not least, pick your beach to suit the season and your taste. There are calm and serene beaches while others are great for surfing. For a beach experience that reflects local life, head to the south, where fishermen perch on stilts dug into the sand, casting lines into the ocean for their daily meal.
<b>What about food cravings?</b>
Sri Lanka is a rich melting pot of cuisines. It is strongly influenced by South Indian, English, Dutch and Portuguese cuisine. Being an island with tropical climate, it goes without saying that fish and coconuts would be extremely common. Rice and curry is the staple, and you will find at least 50 different types of curries that will complement your rice. If you had to pick one, the sour fish curry <i>Ambulthiyal</i>, is quite popular. Sri Lankans love their spices, so a trip here is always a binge-fest for spicy-food lovers. If you are looking for a local favourite, try the pol sambol, a traditional Sri Lankan delicacy made of freshly ground coconut as an accompaniment with the rice and curry.
<b>How do I get there?</b>
Sri Lanka’s main airport is the Bandaranaike International Airport, 35 km north of Colombo. The country has a highly efficient transport system and if you are not looking for luxurious travel, you can get around the country quite easily. You can hire cabs or mini-vans and for local conveyance <i>tuk-tuks</i> (three-wheelers) are your best bet.
<b>And what about the budget?</b>
Sri Lanka is an absolute delight for budget travellers. The inexpensive transport, affordable guest houses and filling meals at local cafés will ensure that you won’t have to spend more than Rs 1500-2500 per day. You might have to dish out a bit more for the wildlife safaris. Bargaining is legit here, so don’t hesitate!
<b>Any travel tips?</b>
If you’re travelling to the west coast, then the best time to visit is October to March. Other than that, Sri Lankans are one of the most generous and likeable hosts you will ever come across. Try to spend time with local families and you will forever change the way you host your guests.