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Pearl of the Indian Ocean 

Sri Lanka, the land of gorgeous beaches, rolling hills of tea plantations, elephants, and Buddhist culture, can be your post-vaccination destination when you reboot travel, writes Sujoy Dhar 
Last Updated : 31 July 2021, 19:30 IST

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Kandy
Kandy
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Nuwara Eliya Gregory Lake. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR
Nuwara Eliya Gregory Lake. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR
Galle Sea
Galle Sea
Elephant shower at Pinnawala
Elephant shower at Pinnawala

From a top floor deck of a beachfront property in Galle, this sunset amid the pandemic is one that would forever be etched in memory. The overlapping layers of crimson red, blue, grey and yellow had turned the sky over the ocean in Galle into a canvas that only God can paint. A few wind-swept coconut trees silhouetted against the setting sun only added to the magic.

Nuwara Eliya is Little England

After you land in the capital city of Colombo, you can head straight to Nuwara Eliya district, known for its colonial charm, rolling hills and famous Ceylon tea gardens. This famous upcountry town of Nuwara Eliya, known for its subtropical highland climate, is at 1,868 metres (6128 feet) above sea level. Nuwara Eliya is also shadowed by Sri Lanka’s highest mountain Pidurutalagala. While the lovely tea plantations are a big draw of Nuwara Eliya, the town also offers a breathtaking view of Gregory Lake. This is a man-made lake constructed by the British in 1873 and named after Sir William Gregory. After a shower, the glistening Gregory Lake can look like a picture postcard.

Off to Kandy

Winding through the misty rolling hills of lush tea plantations, when you head for Kandy, a UNESCO Heritage site, you are greeted by magnificent views of the mountains and the forested valleys and lakes. In Kandy, you can be bowled over by its centrepiece attraction — the lake. Known for its history and culture and its beautiful colonial buildings and Kandyan architecture, Kandy is one of the most sacred places of Buddhism. A visit to the sacred Temple of the Tooth enshrining the important relic of Buddha is the obvious thing to do.

Since Kandy is home to Buddhism’s most sacred relics, it draws Buddhists across the world. The Royal Complex situated around the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake — comprising the King’s Palace, the Queen’s Palace, the Audience Hall, the Royal Boat House and the Royal Summer House — represents the zenith of ancient Sri Lankan architecture.

Kandy has many religious-cultural attractions. But if you want to enjoy the city and also the seclusion of an eco-friendly refuge, you can choose a property in some little remote corner of Kandy.

Rockstar Sigiriya

From Kandy, head for Dambulla, which is famous for its rock cave temple complex. But instead of staying in the town, check-in into a property in a secluded zone amid a natural surrounding that combines expanses of hills, water body and forests. But in the morning get ready for an uphill task which is the challenge of Sigiriya, the dramatic rocky outcrop that has been a world heritage site since 1982. Sigiriya is famous for its palace ruins (King Kashyapa, 477–495 AD when he built his new capital) on top of a massive 200-metre high rock surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs and other structures.

It is a Fortress in the Sky. On the summit are the remains of the Royal Palace. Halfway through the trek, you find a small plateau where the King had built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure — Sinhagiri, the Lion Rock. Reaching the flat-topped summit of an ancient civilisation, catch a sweeping vista of emerald forests and faraway mountains.

Elephant shower

From Sigiriya on the way to the coastal resort town Bentota, stop over at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on Colombo-Kandy main road. Elephant watching here can look a bit staged but nevertheless, to see the Mahouts leading the elephants to Ma Oya river for bathing at certain hours of the day offers a sight of a large number of elephants together in a semi-natural setting.

Bentota

This beach attraction should not be missed. Choose a property flanked by the Bentota River on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other so that waking up you either walk into the beautiful beach or choose some water sport in the river. Bentota is a lagoon set in the tropical greenery. Located in the Galle district, Bentota is on the southern bank of the Bentota River mouth with a ribbon of golden sands forming the seafront. From swimming and water skiing on the rivers or estuaries to snorkelling, scuba diving, windsurfing, parasailing or fishing, Bentota packs everything.

To Galle

The pièce de résistance is the scenic Bentota to Galle coastal ride. This drive by the Indian Ocean will be one of your memorable Sri Lanka experiences. Once you are in Galle you know you are just 116 km away from Colombo. Galle, on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, is known for Galle Fort, the fortified old city founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The architecture of Galle is an amalgam of the Portuguese, Dutch and later the British. Overlooking the Galle Fort is one of the world’s most picturesque stadiums as it is fringed on two sides by the Indian Ocean.

In Galle, you can stroll down the cobblestone streets of the old city while the Galle Fort remains the slow beating heart of history since the 16th century.

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Published 31 July 2021, 19:17 IST

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