Budget-friendly Sri Lanka offers bagful of memories to travellers

The travel time by flight from Kochi in Kerala to Colombo, which is the capital city of Sri Lanka, is just 70 minutes. Photo: Shutterstock/Vibrant Image Studio

The teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka is slowly but surely smiling again. Happy days are here as the nation recently clocked positive growth for the first time in two years after its economy had hit rock bottom. Sri Lanka has been able to take baby steps towards recovery after riding piggyback on its robust tourism sector. Presently, the island is earnestly rolling out red carpet to tourists who want to enjoy the pristine charm of Sri Lanka and even the residents of small hamlets are waiting with bated breath to receive travellers. If Keralites want to travel to another country without burning a hole in their pockets, then Sri Lanka is the ideal getaway for them. Without an iota of doubt, the small country would be a feast for your eyes, a balm for your mind and a treat for your palate. This is also one of the best times to visit the southwestern part of the country.

Tourism looking up
The travel time by flight from Kochi in Kerala to Colombo, which is the capital city of Sri Lanka, is just 70 minutes. If you are choosing Sri Lankan Airlines to travel to Colombo, you could get a taste of the warm hospitality of the Lankans onboard the flight itself. According to the latest numbers of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, as many as 151,496 foreign tourists had touched down on Sri Lankan soil till November out of which 20 per cent travellers are from India. Relatively less travel time and expenses and more value for Indian rupee in Sri Lanka make the island nation an attractive destination for travellers from India.

In a bid to give the much-needed boost to the tourism industry, the Sri Lankan government has waived visa fees to the tune of Rs 2,500 for tourists from India, China, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan. The air connectivity to Colombo is strong as Sri Lankan Airlines is operating services from nine cities, including Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, in India. Moreover, the plan is on the anvil to increase the number of services to 200 in the next two years.

The regional manager of Sri Lankan Airlines for India, Bangladesh and Nepal, V Ravindran said that the airline would provide special ticket rates, and serve sumptuous dishes during festival seasons such as Onam for travel enthusiasts from Kerala.

Wondrous Colombo
The most populous city of Colombo is the largest city in Sri Lanka. The exquisite architecture and exemplary design of the capital city reflect the rich heritage of the Dutch, Portuguese and British. Colombo metamorphoses into a European town with its Buddha temples, busy marketplaces, age-old temples, five-star hotels and traditional food joints. The Dutch Museum and the Independence Square vividly sketch the colonial past of Sri Lanka and the Colombo National Museum explains in detail the history and heritage of the island nation.

The places of worship such as Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, which is known as the Red Mosque; Gangaramaya Temple, which is a Buddhist temple; Sri Manika Vinayagar Kovil, which is a Hindu temple; and the St. Anthony’s Church, which was badly damaged in the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019, are situated close to each other. If you want to take a stroll, then Urban Park and Galle Face Green won’t disappoint you one bit. The best place to relish the magic of sunset in Colombo is the Promenade beach, and the Beira Lake would satisfy your urge to go boating. It is an absolute bliss to explore the oldest and the largest park in Colombo, the Viharamahadevi Park. The bird’s eye view of the Colombo city from the 350ft tall Lotus Tower is simply breathtaking.

Greenery all-around
Sigiriya, which is a Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) world heritage site, is around 128km from the Colombo airport. It is a sight to behold as Sigiriya, which is near the Dambulla city, is situated atop a 180m tall huge rock. The age-old fort, which has earned the sobriquet ‘palace in the sky’, was once the capital of Sri Lankan king Kashyapa.

The aerial view of the town while going on a hot air balloon ride is amazing. The Pidurangala cave temple and the Dambulla cave temple are a stone’s throw away from Sigiriya. A jeep ride through the heart of Minneriya National Park would provide a wonderful vista of herds of Asian elephants grazing in the wild.

History beckons
Anuradhapura, which is an ancient city in the north-central province of Sri Lanka, is a storehouse of many a historical tale. Interestingly, the city was the capital of the country for close to 1,300 years. Jaffna is a coastal city on the northern end of Sri Lanka and was the capital of a Tamil kingdom for ages. The city, which is replete with coconut and palm trees, is a perfect blend of Tamil and Sri Lankan culture. Jaffna is known for its juicy and succulent grapes and is the largest producer of grapes in the country. Though Jaffna had a turbulent past, the city is dotted with pre-historic temples and structures that mirror the magnetism of colonial architecture. It is no wonder that Jaffna is presently a popular and sought-after tourist destination in Sri Lanka.

The city of Nuwara Eliya is known as ‘Little England’ as it houses many buildings that have a colonial touch. Sea and beach lovers can check into Cinnamon Bentota Beach Resort to be on the lap of nature. The sea-facing rooms, expansive beaches, backwater views and boat ride through the verdant mangrove forest make the resort extra-special for tourists. The resort is an incredible creation of world-famous Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa.

Embracing the goodness of villages
The Sri Lankan government has chalked out a tourism development programme whereby the villages and their residents are part and parcel of the hospitality sector. The local artists and handloom and handicraft experts are allowed to display and sell their wares free of cost at five-star resorts and hotels. As part of promoting village tourism, culinary experts from various hamlets are invited to five-star hotels to dish out the traditional cuisine of Sri Lanka. It may be noted that 77 percent of employees of the Cinnamon Group are local people and the Cinnamon Village Hotel is the best example of that trend. The Cinnamon Group is also providing a platform to serve a nutrient-rich diet to school children. The train journey from Kandy, which is known for its rolling tea plantations, mist-covered hills, and alluring villages, to Ella is an ideal way to know the charming villages, though at a superficial level.

Mouth-watering cuisine
There is a lot in common between Sri Lankan and Kerala cuisines. The Sri Lankan chefs are smart enough to serve Kerala’s own ‘palappam’ and ‘idiyappam’ in different hues to the visitors. Seafood is the highlight of Sri Lankan cuisine. Small fish, crab and prawns are made according to the traditional style of cooking. Ceylon ‘poratta’ is a hit and is a must-eat delicacy for food lovers and others. Even the wayside shacks serve lip-smacking dishes that can satisfy your mind and palate. Cinnamon Habarana Village has a modest hut where you can sink your teeth into Lankan traditional dishes. As an Indian rupee is equivalent to four rupees in Sri Lanka, eating out and shopping can’t be much of a burden for tourists from India.

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