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SRI LANKA
 
Colombo
 
       
 
Sri Lanka’s capital is a fascinating city, blending its older culture with modern Western influences. A palm-fringed drive of 34km (21 miles) leads from the Katunayake (Colombo) International Airport to Colombo. Nearby is Fort, so-called as it was a military garrison during the Portuguese and Dutch occupation from the 16th to the 18th century, is today the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Pettah, 2km (1 mile) from Fort, is a busy bazaar area. The Vihara Maha Devi Park, named after the mother of one of Sri Lanka’s greatest kings, is noteworthy for its collection of beautiful flowering trees, a blossoming spectacle in March, April and early May. The park is open daily until 2100 and is well illuminated. The Parliament Building is at Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte. Other attractions include the Planetarium, the National Zoological Gardens and several museums and art galleries.
 
Sites of worship
 
There are numerous Buddhist temples scattered around Sri Lanka: Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, 10km (6 miles) from Fort; the Vajiraramaya at Bambalapitiya, 6km (4 miles) from Fort; Dipaduttaramaya at Kotahena, 5km (3 miles) from Fort; and Gothami Vihapaya, 7km (4.5 miles) from Fort. Also worth visiting are the Gangaramaya Bhikkhu Training Center and Sima Malaka at 61 Sri Jinaratana Road, Colombo, 3km (2 miles) from Fort; the Purana Viharaya at Metharamaya, Lauries Road, Colombo 4; and the Purana Viharaya at Hendala, 0.8km (0.5 miles) on the Colombo–Negombo road, en-route to the Pegasus Reef Hotel. Additionally, there are also some Hindu temples to explore: at Kochikade Kotahena, the Pettah and Bambalapitiya, Colombo 4; Sri Siva Subramania Swami Kovil, Gintupitiya – within walking distance of Sea Street, Colombo 11 (Pettah). Reflecting Sri Lanka's diverse communities, there also mosques worth visiting in the Davatagaha mosque at Union Place, Colombo 2; and the Afar Jumma mosque in the Pettah.
 
Kandy & the Hill Country
 
     
 
Kandy, a picturesque, naturally fortified town, 115km (72 miles) from Colombo, was the last stronghold of the Kandyan Kings. It withheld foreign conquest until 1815 when it was ceded by treaty to the British. It is now an UNESCO site and a cultural sanctuary where age-old customs, arts, crafts, rituals and ways of life are well preserved. Good sightseeing trips should take in the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa); Embekke Devale; Lankatillaka; Gadaladeniya; Degaldoruwa temples; museums; Royal Botanic Gardens; Peradeniya; Elephants’ Bath at Katugastota; the Kandyan Arts Association; Kalapura (Craftsmen’s Village) at Nattarampotha (6.5km/4 miles from Kandy); and Henawela Village – famous for its ‘Dumbara Mats’ (16km/10 miles from Kandy).
 
 
The Coast
 
             
 
Sri Lanka has approximately 1600km (1000 miles) of beautiful palm-shaded beaches as well as warm, pure seas and colorful coral reefs.
 
South West Coast
 
         
 
The best time to visit Sri Lanka's southern beaches is from November to April. Mount Lavinia, 12km (7 miles) from Colombo, is a good beach resort close to Colombo and the domestic airport. Overlooking the area is what was The Governors House, built in 1805 by Sir Thomas Maitland, and now is the famous Mount Lavinia Hotel. Beruwela, 56km (35 miles) from Colombo, has good bathing in the bay all year round. Bentota, 64km (40 miles) from Colombo, is a pleasant self-contained resort destination, between the sea and the river. The Bentota resort is an interesting diving spot where multi-hued fish can be observed among myriad reef-dwellers. Hikkaduwa, 98km (61 miles) from Colombo, is a beautiful coral reef and beach. Regarded as a haven for surfers, watersports enthusiasts and snorkelers, this is a beautiful and colorful marine area, rife for exploration. Galle, 116km (72 miles) from Colombo, is famous for its old Dutch fort, and is also a center for lace-making, ebony-carving and gem-polishing. Tangale, 195km (122 miles) from Colombo, is a beautiful bay and there is safe swimming all year round. Negombo, 37km (32 miles) from Colombo, near Katunayake International Airport, is Sri Lanka’s oldest and best-known fishing village. It stands on a strand separating the sea from a lagoon. The seafood here, particularly the shellfish, is a specialty. The safe sea and wide sandy expanse always entices a multitude of sun-seeking visitors. At Unawatuna in Galle is a beach area acclaimed as being among the top 15 beaches in the world, with safe waters within a picturesque setting. For those searching for geological quirks, Kundawella is the scene of a large blowhole that operates as a natural spout, gushing water into the air and over the rocks of the beach.
 
East Coast
 
             
 
Visitors are advised to check with the Tourist Board regarding the situation in these areas prior to departure. The best time to visit is from April to September. Trincomalee, 257km (160 miles) from Colombo, is the ideal refuge for the beach addict. It boasts one of the finest natural harbors in the world and excellent beaches. All watersports, including fishing, are available here. There are many tempting underwater shipwrecks to explore for the intrepid diver. Batticaloa, 312km (195 miles) from Colombo, surrounded by a large lagoon and a small, well-preserved fort, famous for its ‘singing fish’ (from April to September, on moonlit nights, musical vibrations can be heard from the water). Kalkudah, 32km (20 miles) from Batticaloa, is ideal for bathing as the sea is clear, calm and reef-protected. Passekudah, close to Kaludah, has a fine bay, clear waters and safe swimming. Nilaveli, 18km (11 miles) from Trincomalee, is very much a resort center - all beach and watersports. Whale watching is also one of its special attractions. Arugam Bay, 314km (196 miles) from Colombo, 3km (2 miles) from Potuvil, has a beautiful bay and good surfing.
 
Jaffna
 
   
Jaffna is 396km (240 miles) from Colombo, at the country’s northern tip, and is both city and seaport. It was once noted for its Hindu temples, Dutch forts, the Keerimalai Baths, the tidal well and the Chundikulam Sanctuary. Jaffna has many scenic beaches, the best known of which is Casuarina Beach. Check with the Tourist Board, Embassy or High Commission whether the area is off-limits to foreign visitors.
 
Water Sports
 

Operators in the main resorts conduct diving expeditions and supply equipment. The island has intervals of coral reef off the coast from south to north. Diving or snokelling in the area, you may come across rays, eels and clownfish, as well as a variation of brightly colored coral. With over 1600km (1000 miles) of fine beaches and several swimming clubs, there is plenty of scope for swimmers. Water-skiing and yachting are available. Windsurfing is a sport that is gaining in popularity and facilities are located in Bentota, Beruwela, Kalutara and Negombo. Sport fishing is popular 

in Sri Lanka and several clubs offer membership to visitors. Deep sea fishing is popular because there is an abundance of game fish in the waters surrounding Sri Lanka, such as queen fish barracuda, Spanish mackerel and tuna.
 
Wildlife and flora
 
           
 
There is a number of animal and bird sanctuaries and national parks where protected wildlife can be viewed. Several species are unique to the island, while some others have been introduced. Sri Lanka is well known for its elephants, sizeable numbers of which can be seen in Gal Oya and Uda Walawe National Parks and at Handapangala. Other large mammals include leopards, deer and bears. Wild boars, porcupines and monkeys also exist, especially the Grey Langur, which is common throughout the island. The native purple-faced Leaf Monkey is to be found in the higher hill regions. Of the 38 species of amphibian, 16 are unique to the island. Reptiles include two native crocodiles, the star tortoise, five species of turtle and many snakes. The five species of poisonous snake are rarely found in towns and villages. 
The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was founded in 1975 with seven elephants. Originally its objective was as a tourist attraction but over the years it has become a venue for scientific captive breeding and now some of the original seven orphans are watching their grandchildren grow up. It is an education center passing its message of conservation on to thousands of people who have visited the orphanage. 
Dolphin watching expeditions set sail from Kirinda and Bentota. Whales can be seen in some areas around the islands of Batticaloa, Weligama, Negambo and Chilaw. Species of dolphin prevalent in the area include bottlenose, spotted and spinner dolphins. Species of whale include the common blue, sperm whales and orcas. 
The island’s flora varies greatly, ranging from temperate to tropical forests and from arid scrubland and plains to lush hills. There are rhododendron forests as well as tropical rainforests. Orchids and flowering trees can be seen in season.
 
Other
 

Rugby, hockey, cricket, football, tennis, squash and other games are also available. Apply to a local Travel Information Center. Membership is offered on a temporary basis at several golf courses.