The Guardian UK writes that “Colombo, Jaffna and Galle captivate readers, as do Sri Lanka’s national parks (with leopards), beautiful B&Bs, street food (with a real kick) and tea. Lots of tea!”
These recommendations are a rich smörgåsbord of the many attractions and experiences Sri Lanka has to offer adventurous and sedentary tourists alike, from culture to beach to mountain.
Winning tip: Helga’s Folly, Sri Lankan gothic
Have tea, dinner or cocktails in Helga’s Folly, a fabulously spooky gothic mansion in the midst of jungle flora with to-die-for views of the historic city of Kandy.
Every inch is covered in paintings, photographs, mirrors and dripping candles. This is where Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and Zandra Rhodes stayed and where the Stereophonics wrote an ode to its owner, Madame Helga.
The eccentric proprietor, former model Helga de Silva Blow Perera (pictured above), moves in circles of artists, politicians and intrigue, lives in the Folly and introduces herself personally to guests.
Cricket and street food
To get a real feel of Sri Lanka, spend a day at the cricket in Galle if there’s a match on. There are plenty of distractions as you sit on the grassy banks overlooking the old fort and watch the waves rolling in from the Indian Ocean while soaking up the sun.
The local fishermen turn up in the afternoon to chat and grill their catches. Spectators can try street curries from vendors all around the ground. Tickets and food won’t be more than £10 and you’ll make a lot of friends.
I spent an exhilarating day in Yala National Park, a pristine 130,000-hectare wilderness on the south-eastern tip of Sri Lanka. The landscape here feels alien: a flat expanse of twisted, bleached-white trees and hunched rock formations that evoke images of a prehistoric time.
The beaches are vast and wild, rising cliffs against grey sand and empty sky. Best of all though is the jeep safari: bouncing along sandy tracks, binoculars in hand, in joyful anticipation of glimpsing elephants, peacocks, monkeys, and saltwater crocodiles.
Tropical architectural guru
Sri Lanka’s celebrated architect, Geoffrey Bawa, coined a tropical modernism style based on Sri Lanka’s multi-ethnic traditional and colonial influences.
His buildings blend seamlessly with their surroundings – their interiors, too. A splendid way to learn about the man, his work and his art collection is to visit his house just off Bagatelle Road in Colombo.
The style is unique and the tour by occupants of the house who knew Bawa before his death in 2003 is very personal and insightful. The guidebooks say visitors have to book in advance, but we just turned up and were welcomed.
Read the full report here.