CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka

Exploring The Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka

CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka

For an island nation about half the size of the state of New York, Sri Lanka has incredible diversity in its landscapes. From a vast coastline to high mountains and rich fertile valleys, there is something to see for any kind of traveler.

Earlier in the year, Karthika Gupta had an opportunity to spend 10 days exploring Sri Lanka with the country’s Department of Tourism. She shares some of her adventures exploring this beautiful island – from her people to her culture to her diverse landscapes.CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Colombo City Buddha StatueFrom Karthika

I have to admit even though I am an Indian, having lived in India for the first twenty years of my life, a trip to Sri Lanka was never something that I entertained. Maybe some of it had to do with Sri Lanka’s almost 30 year civil war but I never really thought of Sri Lanka as a place someone like me would be visiting. I am quite an off-the-beaten-path kind of traveler. I love nature and wildlife, and am deeply curious about culture and history – of a country, people and community. I would much rather visit a museum than go to a mall. So I wondered if Sri Lanka would be a place for someone like me.

But boy was I wrong. Sri Lanka blew me away with all the amazing diversity this island nation has to offer. Sand, sea, wildlife, mountains, rainforests, ancient history and colonial culture are all packed into this country. You can literally drive for a few hours and go to a part of the country so very different from where you came from. The island of Sri Lanka is surrounded by a stunning coastline with countless beautiful beaches and lagoons lined with mangroves. In the center of Sri Lanka are mountains soaring above the flatlands with thick subtropical jungles. This country has some amazing biodiversity which ranged from dry arid areas in the North-West, North and East of the island to humid tropical rainforests in the central and Southern parts of the island. Exploring the diverse landscapes of Sri Lanka really gave me such great insight into her people.

So if you have been thinking of Sri Lanka and wondering what this country has to offer, here are some of the thing you can expect to see and experience in Sri Lanka.

<My trip to Sri Lanka was sponsored by Sri Lanka Tourism, but all opinions and impressions are my own.>CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Sea Kite Surfing Kalpitiya Pier

Sea/Sand/Surf In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has some amazing beaches and surf sports all around the island. We ventured into Kalpitiya which is known all over the country for its epic kite surfing. Kalpitiya and especially Kappalady lagoon, where kitesurfing had started in Sri Lanka, enjoy the reputation as the windiest places in Asia making it ideal for kite surfing. Located on the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka, the Kalpitiya peninsula juts out about 40km into the windy Indian ocean. Here the Indian subcontinent is closest to the country, as the crow flies. The warm waters along with the flat and shallow lagoons make it a prime kite surfing spot for more than eight months in the year.

The kitesurfing season in Sri Lanka during the winter months run from mid-December to end of March. The winter  season is different from the summer kitesurfing season in Sri Lanka where the mornings are calmer and ideal for being out on the water. The summer season lasts from May through October where the area around Kalpitiya turn into some of the windiest kite spots in Sri Lanka making it ideal for kite surfing.CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Sea Kite Surfing KalpitiyaAnother amazing thing to experience in Kalpitiya is the incredible marine wildlife. From November through March, several hundred of dolphins make the waters around Kalpitiya their home. Dolphin watching tours are a great way to get out into the water and see these majestic creatures. We took an early morning boat ride and within minutes of being in the water, saw so many dolphins swimming all around our boat. And if you are really lucky, you might even see whales that make these warm waters home for the winter. Winter is also a perfect time to spot whales in these waters. Sperm Whales are the most common. The Blue Whale, Minke, Dwarf Sperm whales and even Orcas have been spotted. We spotted a Bryde’s Whale on our dolphin adventure. It was certainly the highlight of the trip.CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Dolphin Watching Kalpitiya-1 CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Sea Kite Surfing Kalpitiya Hotel On The WaterWith its laidback and authentic vibe, numerous kite surfing spots, thriving marine wildlife and tropical nature Kalpitiya is a must-see for anyone visiting Sri Lanka.

Forests of Sri Lanka

I have to admit, prior to my trip to Sri Lanka, I had no idea Sri Lanka had mountains. But in fact, Sri Lanka has a beautiful mountain range called Knuckles. This range also called Dumbara mountain range is located off Kandy, in the northern end of Central Highlands. It is flanked by the Mahaweli river basin to the north and Matale plains to the west. Knuckles mountain range features 34 peaks ranging in height between 1900 meters and 900 meters. Five high mountain peaks of the range are formed in the shape of a clenched fist causing the British settlers in Ceylon to name the mountain range ‘Knuckles.’

Knuckles mountain range is a World heritage Conservation Area that has a diverse terrain of grasslands, rugged mountain peaks interspersed with streams and cascading waterfalls. It has an equally unique biodiversity in terms of the animals and plants that call this forest home. Knuckles range is home to mammals such as wild boar, spotted deer, giant squirrel, barking deer, purple faced leaf monkey, mongoose and porcupines.CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Mini Worlds End Mintale

The Cloud forest in the Knuckles range is a very unique eco-region and is only found above 1000m in the central highlands. This is characterized by a persistent fog at the vegetation level, resulting in the reduction of direct sunlight and thus of evaporation. Within cloud forests, much of the moisture available to plants arrives in the form of fog drip, where fog condenses on tree leaves and then drips onto the ground below. The high humidity changes this place into an evergreen forest. The cloudy forests of Sri Lanka contain many unique and threatened species. We saw some truly unique lizards and spiders in the forests around Knuckles. Owing to their rich biodiversity, this region is considered a super hotspot for Flora and Fauna and is of global importance.

Mini World’s end which is at a height of around 1192m is an observation point located at the southern end of the Knuckles range. From this location, you can get a panoramic view of the knuckles range and some of the villages situated in the foothills. CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Mini Worlds End MintaleUnfortunately, less than 5% of Sri Lanka’s original cloud forests remain due to widespread clearing of forests for cultivation of commercial crops, primarily tea. So being able to visit this was a truly unique experience.

Wildlife in Sri Lanka

Wildlife here is as varied as the island itself! From elephants, leopards, sloth bears, deer, ottars and numerous birds, going on safari in Sri Lanka is a real treat. In fact, 102 terrestrial mammals have so far been discovered on the island. 90 of them are indigenous species, of which 14 are endemic to Sri Lanka.  With 12% of the country designated for wildlife protection, it is easy to get a taste of Sri Lankan wildlife – from safari parks to wildlife sanctuaries like the Elephant Transit Home , you can see animals in their natural habitat.

Known as one of Asia’s top wildlife destinations, Sri Lanka has over 22 national parks that are spread out across the island. We visit Wilpattu National Park which is by far one of the largest parks in the country. But other popular ones are Yala National Park, Gal Oya, Wdawalawe, Wasgomuwa, Minneriya and Horton Plains. The topography and terrain of each of these parks are quite unique and even the flora and fauna varies from park to park.CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Wildlife Wilpattu National Park Elephant In The Water CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Wildlife Wilpattu National Park Land Monitor CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Wildlife Wilpattu National Park Short Barn OwlWilpattu National Park was a spectacular park to visit. Close to Anuradhapura, the unique feature of this park are the numerous lakes (or villus) that attract thousands of birds and animals, especially during the hot summer months. We saw countess birds, an elephant cooling off in the water and even a herd of wild bore that came to the water’s edge to drink.

Culture of Sri Lanka

The earliest recorded civilization in Sri Lanka dates back to the 3rd century when the capital city of Anuradhapura was established. Buddhism followed and a civilization rich in Indo-Aryan culture began to take root. Unofficial records date civilization in Sri Lanka to the 6th century B.C. when an exiled Indian price Vijaya settled down and established the Sinhalese kingdom. Over the centuries, many different rulers controlled Sri Lanka and her people. From invasions from South India, to the Portuguese and the Dutch and finally the British, they all left their mark on the culture and religion of this country.

Today the people of Sri Lanka are of diverse race and faiths. The majority are Sinhalese who are Buddhists. Among the minorities are Tamil Hindus, Tamil Christians, and Muslims. All these faiths are sometimes practiced side by side and that is really beautiful to see as an outsider. Places like Anuradhapura, Kandy and even Sirgia give a glimpse of the diverse culture of this country.CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Anuradhapura Stupa Rama First Stupa

Anuradhapura is a must-see place to visit in Sri Lanka. This ancient city, once the capital of Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C, offers lots of historic and spiritual value to travelers. From the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree which is said to be a sapling of the original Bodhi tree in India, to ruins and excavations dating back thousands of years, there is so much to explore in this ancient place. It also has one of Sri Lanka’s first stupas called Stupa Rama that is said to house some of Budha’s remains. In most of the stupas and temples around Sri Lanka, it is required to wear white and cover up shoulders and knees, so make sure to dress appropriately.

CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Anuradhapura Bodhi Tree-1CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Anuradhapura Bodhi Tree

Sigiriya or Sinhagiri which means Lion Rock in Sinhalese is an ancient rock fortress with a lost city on top. This is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. But some locals consider it to be the 8th Wonder of the World! It is certainly very impressive and when you climb on top you begin to appreciate the majesty of this ancient city. And ti imagine it was built around 480 A.D by King Kasyapa. Legend has it that he killed his father to capture the thrown and then fled to Siriya and built his palace on top of this impressive hill. The rock itself is 200 meters high and surrounded by beautiful gardens. The climb is 1200 steps. The first bit is a relatively easy climb but starts winding up and becoming narrow as you go higher and higher. It is definitely a bit of a work-out, but once you’re up there, you will be left speechless by the amazing 360deg views of the Sri Lankan landscape.

CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Sigiriya and gardens

Colonial History in Sri Lanka

Long before this island nation was called Sri Lanka, it was known as Ceylon. And before that, Arab merchants and traders called her Serendip and affectionately referred to Sri Lanka as the ‘the pearl of the Indian Ocean. However, like many developing countries around the world, Sri Lanka too had her fair share of colonial invaders. The Portuguese, Dutch, and British all set up shop in the country at different times, and all left their own mark on Sri Lankan culture.CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Galle Lighthouse

Today the remnants of these rulers can be seen all over the country. Colonial architecture can be seen in places like the historic center of Galle, which is full of with Dutch-colonial buildings and in places like Nuwara Eliya which is considered Little England because of its Tudor style homes and tea plantation history. Celebrated Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa left behind many stunning modern buildings that combine colonial, tropical, and Le Corbusier-influenced elements. British colonists in Ceylon created large coffee plantations in the early 19th century. However, the crop was devastated by a fungus and soon they began growing tea instead. By the end of that century, tea was the country’s major crop. Today, Sri Lanka is the fourth largest tea-producing country in the world. Visiting a tea factory in Nuwara Eliya and staying in the old colonial 136 year old St Andrews hotel was definitely another highlight of my Sri Lankan adventure.CulturallyOurs Diverse Landscapes Of Sri Lanka Tea EstatesSri Lanka was such a delightful surprise. The country’s diversity taught me so much about history and culture, her people moved me with their love for their country, kindness and openness. In Sri Lanka, they welcome you by saying ‘Ayubowan‘ – which is a salutation used to greet someone by wishing the recipient a long life. What a beautiful way to refer this country to your heart!

I hope you will consider visiting Sri Lanka for yourself. With its diverse landscapes, stunning natural beauty and numerous activities, I know you will have an incredible adventure!

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Incredible Experiences In Sri Lanka By CulturallyOurs


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Leave your comments below

  1. Brianna says:

    It looks like you had a fantastic time in Sri Lanka! All your photos and experiences there really make me want to visit. The mountains look like a lot of fun to explore, and like there are lots of opportunities to see wildlife.

    • Karthika Gupta says:

      It is such a culturally rich country and there are so many things to explore and experience in Sri Lanka – something for everyone for sure and I cannot wait to get back there.

  2. josy A says:

    I find it interesting that before visiting you didn’t expect Sri Lanka to be good for you. I have wanted to visit for yeeears! One of my friends learned Sinhalese, and the more she told me about it, the more I want to go! I love how green and lush it all looks. 😀

    • Karthika Gupta says:

      Josy, I just was not sure how I would feel because I really enjoy more nature and the outdoors – I am not much of a city person. But the diversity and cultural richness of the country was far beyond anything I imagined and I absolutely fell in love with this place. Cannot wait to get back there and explore more of the outdoors!

  3. Jenni Flett says:

    It’s so lovely to see it exceeded your expectations! It just looks wonderful and all that wildlife!!

  4. Sarah says:

    I was supposed to visit Sri Lanka this year but those plans have been canceled! 🙁
    I hope I can go next year though!

  5. Kim says:

    Looks like you had such a great time! Sri Lanka has been high on my list for ages!

  6. Omg! This is def on my list – looks HEAVENLY! Great pics! 🙂


  7. Anna says:

    I´ve never realized there were so many epic things to do in Sri Lanka! The Lion Rock is especially impressive! Thanks for the inspiration – your photos are beautiful!

  8. Georgina says:

    What an incredible experience of a beautiful country. Would love to experience the cloud forest in Knuckles range. Sri Lanka looks beautiful through your lens.

  9. Jan says:

    Sri Lanka is a beautiful country! I visited this place (hold your breath) 30 years ago! It’s probably time to do another visit to Kandy, Anuradhapura and Nuwara Eliya. Thanks for an informative blog post. 🙂

  10. Jenn says:

    This is so fascinating to me. For me, Sri Lanka has always seemed like such an unattainable far off place. I feel like I am starting to learn so much more about it as a tourist destination and hope to make it there one day!

  11. Yukti Agrawal says:

    I agree Sri Lanka has diverse landscapes. The non ending beaches to stunning hills. Not only landscape it has wonderful colonial historical past and also wonderful temples.