Out Adventures’ Sri Lanka Serendipity tour ends in the country’s capital, Colombo. The city boasts nifty neighbourhoods, superb sites and renowned restaurants.
Scroll through our tips on how to best experience what was once coined the Garden City of the East.
What to Do and See
Haggle with local shop owners in the Pettah neighbourhood. The district is the densest commercial area in Colombo and has become famous for its bustling bazaars. Be sure to snap a few pics of the famous 1857 Khan Clock Tower on your way in.
In the opposite direction of Pettah is Cinnamon Gardens. Tuk tuk to Cinnamon for a taste of Dutch and British colonial architecture with such sights as Old Parliament, the President’s house and Old City Hall.
If bazaars and old buildings aren’t your thing, spend some time in Galle Face Green or Viharamahadevi Park. Galle Face is a stretch of cleared space along the sea famed for its kite flyers. There’s a narrow beach, plenty of entertainment and on the Southern end a number of food and juice vendors. Viharamahadevi Park is a gorgeous garden best experienced in March, April or May when the trees are in full bloom. If you’re lucky, you may find a snake charmer serenading a serpent or two.
Finally, a tour of the National Museum is great to either begin or conclude a cultural trip in Sri Lanka. It’s the largest museum in the country and does a decent job summing up the island’s vast history. The main attractions are found in rooms 2 through 5, but we always reserve some energy for the agriculture and science displays.
What to Eat
On tour we tend to eat in hotels and tourist-friendly restaurants as local cuisine doesn’t sit well in our guests’ stomachs. However, if you want to brave a potential afternoon on the toilet (or your stomach is just iron-lined) kottu (a spicy roti), isso wade (shrimp fritters) and their fragrant curries could be worth the discomfort. Be warned, Sri Lanka is one of the spice capitals of the world and even a mild curry can be a fiery experience.
Where to Stay
We LOVE the Galle Face Hotel on the coastal front of Colombo. It is a stunning colonial building with a surprisingly modern interior. It has all the usual amenities including a salt water swimming pool and multiple top-notch restaurants and bars. If you can spare the extra rupees, snag a sea-facing suite.
Sri Lankans tend to have a negative opinion of homosexuality. For this reason, we recommend avoiding public displays of affection. It also explains the lack of LGBT-friendly bars/clubs available. A quick Google search will list off a few queer establishments, but honestly, we’ve never been to them and don’t feel comfortable recommending any. If you do decide to head to any of these bars and clubs, act responsibly.
Sri Lanka Serendity runs March 4 – 14, 2018.