It’s hard to identify just one thing that’s attracting travellers to Sri Lanka as it offers something different and special for everyone.
What was once a tiny island embroiled in a civil war and plagued with devastating setbacks is now one of the most sought-after destinations in the world.
Find a favourite beach, trek through misty mountains, let your hair go wild on a scenic train ride, see the sunset from the remains of a colonial fortress, spot Sri Lankan leopards in the wild, and wash your curry down with the local spirit, arrack.
Striking and diverse, natural and alluring, venture to this jewel in the Indian Ocean as soon as possible, before everybody realises just how much it shines.
Journey into the centre of Sri Lanka and you’ll find yourself on tight winding roads that lead you up through the hills and towards the misty peaks of Tea Country. Here, plantations stretch far and wide, interspersed with brightly painted rows of remote houses, tiny ramshackle villages with a local shop, school, and church thrown in for good measure, and old tea factories dating back over 100 years which are still in use today.
Do: Join a tea factory tour to learn about the tea-making process, see the working machinery in action, meet the staff, and put the kettle on. The Norwood Estate plantation dates back to 1870 and provides guided tours, beautiful landscaped gardens, and gorgeous views over Castlereagh reservoir.
The region is also excellent for trekking, and those feeling energetic can climb the famed 2,250 metre Adam's Peak holy mountain for sunrise.
The most beautiful way to depart Tea Country is by train from Hatton. The route is the same as that used to transport the tea for auction, and today it is touted as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. Zoom through the green landscape with your window open and breathe in all that fresh air.
Stay: Tientsin Bungalow, one of the Ceylon Tea Trails properties, is named after the Chinese village from which the original tea seedlings came. This thoroughly British residence is the home of an ex-planter family and the six rooms open onto an idyllic English countryside setting. The verandah doubles up as a place to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea, there’s an outdoor swimming pool, and plenty of secluded spots for hiding away.
Sri Lanka has fantastic beaches. The south and west are have lengthy golden-tan sands awash with passionate waters that come with a backdrop of orchards, rice paddies and villages. While some of the more popular beaches can get overcrowded, there are many that offer a more intimate escape with cute beach bars and water-sports facilities dotted under the palm trees.
Do: The ocean current in Sri Lanka tends to be on the strong side, which makes it ideal for surfing. Weligama stretches along the south coast and during low tide it’s perfect for lessons. Let your surf instructor give you a briefing session, and then hit the waves together for an hour of standing up and promptly falling down again (depending on your ability). Mirissa Beach is a smaller bay where you can go whale watching for the blue and sperm whales that populate Sri Lanka’s southern coast.
Stay: Cape Weligama boasts one of the most romantic spots in Sri Lanka, overlooking a secluded promontory on the island’s southern tip. The resort offers huge private residences and sizeable shared pools set among manicured gardens. The villas are stylish, relaxing, and super spacious, with big walk-in wardrobes and a sauna in the shower area. The restaurants and bars feature terraces that come with panoramic views over the Indian Ocean.
The south eastern tip of Sri Lanka transports you into a world of bleached white trees, waterholes, wild jungle and rocky outcrops. Head to Yala National Park, Sri Lanka's oldest nature reserve, where four-fifths of the park is strictly a designated Natural Reserve. Home to leopards, elephants, sloth bears, buffalo, mongoose and exotic birds, this is a place where the animals rule and everyone else is merely a visitor.
Do: Safari, safari, safari! All of the camps nestled among the wilderness arrange jeeps that will take you along the sandy tracks with binoculars in hand. They tend to go early in the morning and again in the afternoon for the best chance of animal sightings. Guests can also explore the rugged beaches, sip a sundowner while watching the sunset above a rolling sea, or simply sit back and watch water buffalo parading around the grounds and monkeys behaving badly.
Stay: Wild Coast Tented Lodge is a safari camp in Yala National Park brought to you by Relais & Chateaux. Despite the name, the beach front accommodation is made up of glamorous cocoon-like lodgings which include teak floors, leather chairs, free-standing copper bath tubs, and a top-notch sound system. The open-air restaurant looks over the infinity pool, and there’s also a spa offering treatments involving Ceylon tea and cinnamon. The perfect end to a dusty day of wildlife spotting.