Sri Lanka is truly paradise. It is a tropical, predominantly Buddhist island country located just 20 miles off the tip of southern India. It is moderately populated, with only 20 million people, and it has a genteel culture and stunning scenery that make it well worth a visit. It is one of the most unique and most rewarding destinations for the adventurous Asia traveler. Here’s why:
1. Sri Lanka’s curry cuisine is legendary.
When most people think of curry, they think of India. That’s mostly because India has over a billion people and many immigrants who open lots of restaurants in Western countries. Sri Lanka’s national dish is called “curry and rice” – a kaleidoscopic blend of exotic curries (like cashew curry and coconut-chile-lime relish) that hit every flavor center in your palette. The curries in Sri Lanka are based on coconut milk and seafood is quite popular. Sri Lanka food is absolutely over-the-top delicious. Imagine something like a cross between India and Thai food… but still completely unique.
The cultural capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy, is very much a spiritual power center. It features a large lakeside temple that houses the Lord Buddha’s tooth. Kandy features many low-key meditation centers that attract serious seekers from around the world. The spiritual scene is refreshingly different than the ashrams in India, some of which tend to attract tourists and con men.
3. Sri Lanka has the best beaches on the Subcontinent.
From the world-class surf breaks at Hikkaduwa and Araguman Bay, to the chill white sandy paradises along eastern Sri Lanka’s shoreline…. Sri Lanka has incredible beaches and coral reefs to explore, and many reasonably priced huts and resorts to fit any taste or budget.
4. Sri Lankans are some of the world’s friendliest and most hospitable people.
The Sri Lankan people, like the Tibeteans and Malagasy of Madagascar, are legendary for their hospitality, friendliness and good cheer. They are a jovial people who love to socialize, snack and chill out as much as possible. My first few days in the country I had my “guard up” and I was suspicious as to why the people were being so nice… almost suspiciously “too nice”. It soon dawned on me that that’s just how they were… and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my visit!
5. Sri Lanka is renowned for its exotic jewels, fruits and spices.
Sri Lankan soil turns up some of the best diamonds, rubies and sapphires in Asia. It has an endless variety of tropical fruits to enjoy like rambutan, mangosteen, durian and lychee. And it is a spice paradise, the native land for cinnamon and cardamon Sri Lanka is home to many “treasures” to delight the senses.
6. Sri Lankan culture is delightfully eclectic.
Sri Lanka is a land where Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims live together in peace and harmony. It was colonized by the Dutch, the Portugese and the Brittish – who imparted a variety of European customs that were adopted with strange twists by the natives. You can find bizarre oversized masks, wild tribal dances with fire eating and backflips, syrupy sweet pop music that sounds a bit like reggae, and 11-story Buddhist temples whose walls are painted with religious stories in comic book format.
7. Sri Lanka still has “unexplored” frontiers.
There was a terrible civil war between a Tamil sepratist group in the north and Singhalese in the south that mercifully ended in 2009 when the terrorist leader was killed by the Sri Lankan army. Since then, there has been true peace in Sri Lanka, and many former “off limits” areas of the North and Eastern coast can now be visited. These are pristine places with no resorts or tourist infrastructure, so get there soon and enjoy them while they are still pure!