Howdy folks. I thought I’d spare a few thoughts on Sri Lanka today. After this year’s visit in late March-early April, I’ve visited Sri Lanka twice, and I have to say it’s a wonderful destination in Asia. But – and here’s the warning – the secret is well and truly out! Visiting Sri Lanka in 2018 you certainly won’t be alone. And the occasional unrest, as was seen earlier this year, does not deter people.
This graphic here shows you just how much tourism has boomed in the last ten years. From just over 4 million in 2009 to 2017. So, the question I guess is, why? And what are people flocking to this large island around 50km (at its closest point, although I’ve seen conflicting figures) from India?
Well, to start with – the war in Sri Lanka is over. I think it’s fair to say that there are still ethnic tensions, that there are still groups and individuals not treated fairly in Sri Lanka, but as far a physical war and the constant threat of terrorism, that is long since past. On the other side I think it’s only fair to mention that there are still people trying to flee Sri Lanka as refugees. But I endeavour not to get too political here, and frankly I just don’t know enough about it.
Another reason as to why people are heading to Sri Lanka, and this is just my own theory, is that it presents a chance to see the Sub-continent without going to India. People who are curious about India but are concerned about a variety of issues they might experience when travelling there, are seeing Sri Lanka as a viable alternative now. It’s not as crowded, it has a friendlier reputation, India is seen by many in negative light when it comes to poverty and cleanliness – and travellers worry about being hit by ‘Delhi Belly’. This is largely a perspective issue I guess.
Also, Sri Lanka may appeal to those looking for a change from South-East Asia – which sees incredible numbers of tourists these day itself. It’s not quite as developed, there ARE less tourists in Sri Lanka, and it offers a few things those countries don’t. And the other factor is the injection of tourist from China in the last 15 to 20 years. Honestly, I hardly recall seeing or meeting a tourist travelling in 1999 wherever I went (except maybe a few spots in Europe), today international travel is something more and more people from China are trying, and Sri Lanka is seeing a real injection of Chinese tourist at present.
So what is it that people are coming to Sri Lanka before – in a nutshell? Well there are beaches and surfing in the south. Surfers are rushing to the beaches of the south where the waves are seriously exciting and perfect for hopping on a board. Apparently. It’s not my thing, I am not a surfer. For starters I have the wrong body shape. I was asked a couple of times if I surfed when I said I was Australian which could only make me laugh.
The whale watching is really a highlight and the fact that there are so many around you are almost guaranteed a sighting – and they adhere to strict guidelines of not getting too close to the whales so that there is no (as far as I am aware) adverse effects on these amazing mammals. The ocean is SO WARM! There are a number of shipwrecks around Galle and the south also if you’re into diving. Not all the beaches are best for swimming, due to rocks and fierce waves but if you can find a place the water is unbelievable.
Sri Lanka has a colonial past that includes the Portuguese, Dutch and British and you’ll see remnants and buildings from that era especially in Colombo and Galle – Most of Galle is set inside the magnificent fort.
Then there is the older history of Sri Lanka – one such highlight is the fortress on the top of a huge rock at Sigiriya. The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy (set on a beautiful lake), the Caves at Dumbulla and so much more.
It’s also a great place for hiking and nature – Horton Plains and Adam’s Peak are two places for great hiking. The Hill Country is full of amazing villages and tea fields connected by a great train ride. And there’s plenty of nature to explore around there too, waterfalls and the like. The whole country is green and beautiful.
Food – well I was amazed! There is such a good range of options now, at least in the tourist spots. Except for Kandy which still seems to suffer for a lack of eateries. But overall, I was impressed by what I could find for all budgets. Yes, you can still get a cheap Sri Lankan meal if you’re backpacking.
So yeah… no Sri Lankan Tourism did NOT pay me for this post! I guess …. Sri Lanka ia an amazing place to visit. Yes, there are negatives. Transport still needs a bit of improvement, not all carriages are in good nick on the trains and they need more reserved services between Galle and Colombo. And there is still plenty of hassle from the auto-rickshaw drivers. But it’s got so much to recommend it.
So, next time you’re planning an overseas venture, might I suggest you could do a lot worse than a trip to Sri Lanka! Thanks for reading, and May the Journey Never End!