Sri Lanka - North to South
Kandy, the ancient hill country capital of Sri Lanka remained a defiant Sinhalese stronghold resisting invasion long after other areas of the country had been defeated. The town is built around an artificial lake created in 1807 by the last Sinhalese ruler. With cool mountain breezes and deep blue skies (when the mists clear), the buzzing markets, colourful streets and cultural landmarks create a vibrant jewel in the mountains. Sites of interest include the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the World Buddhism Museum and Ceylon Tea Museum.
Jutting out of the landscape of Sri Lanka's heartland is the towering rock of Sigiriya aloft which sit the ruins of the Kingdom of Kassapa. Stairways clinging to fresco adorned sheer rock wall lead the visitor past natural caves and water gardens, toward the summit palace. Now a World Heritage site Sigirya was abandoned in the 14th C and rediscovered by British explorer John Still in the early 1900s. Whilst widely believed to be the fortress of King Kassapa in ad 477-95 some archaeolgists believe Sigiriya was religious site and the ruins are the remains of Buddhist monastery.
The Sri Lankan capital Colombo has a long been an east-west trading port with successive colonial invaders taking control from the Portuguese and Dutch to the British, prior to independence.
The city reflects this blend of influences. Stretching along 50km of the western coastline, the Galle Road is Colombo's central navigation route connecting a wide variety of neighbourhoods. Fort, as its name suggests, is an area created in the 19th C surrounded by sea and moats. Colonial buildings and modern architecture mingle in this central city hub. Pettah is one of the oldest districts where communities of different faith co-exist and the streets overflow with markets, street vendors and bargain hunters. You can visit the Dutch Period Museum, featuring colonial artefacts. The Cinnamon Gardens are Colombo's most exclusive area with grand embassy buildings, museums and galleries.
Jaffna is the is the capital city of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, and is geographically closer to the south of India than it is the the Sri Lankan capital Colombia and Indian influences are strong in the area. Over the course of history it has been a much contested region. Many battles were fought here during the early years of civil war and the town has only in recent times been accessible to visitors. There is still a visible military presence. Despite the markings of war the town is lively and colourful and buzzing with activity.
The town features a wide range of influences: Muslim and Sinhalese Hindu temples, Buddist dagobas and colonial Christian churches from Dutch, Portugese and British colonial eras can all be seen here. This Tamil town is gradually rebuilding as communities return and resettle. There are leafy streets with colourful buildings, you will find traditional cafes in the market area, serving rice with lentil stew and vegetables on banana leaves, and South Indian snacks. The new public library replaces its original (burned to the ground in 1981) as a symbol of the city’s ancient intellectual tradition. Kandaswamy Temple is Jaffna’s most important religious landmark.