Sri Lankans are a minority group in Singapore. The first wave of Sri Lankan immigrants came in the 1900s, and they were mostly involved in civil service, law, medicine, education and housing sectors. While small in numbers, some of their best and brightest have been an integral part in the development of Singapore. You might recognise some popular names like the late Mr S. Rajaratnam, who was Singapore’s first foreign minister as well as our Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. While this group of Sri Lankans settled down in Singapore, Sri Lanka itself had been embroiled in a brutal civil war for 25 years. The past decade has seen serious rebuilding works and a steady return to peace. Today, Sri Lanka is an increasingly popular destination for travellers, offering not just sights and attractions but unforgettable experiences.

Best time to visit

Best time to visit

Since Sri Lanka is flanked by the Laccadive Sea and Bay of Bengal from three sides, different seasons would be best suited to visit different parts of the country. The west and south coasts and the hilly regions are best experienced during the winter months from December to March. To fully enjoy the east coast, visit during the warmer seasons from April to September.

Getting there

There are daily flights to Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo city from Singapore.

Where to stay

Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

This beachfront property isn’t just a popular accommodation for its pristine sea views, but for its rich heritage. Awarded as Sri Lanka’s best heritage hotel, the Galle Face Hotel is a great stay for anyone who wants to experience true Sri Lanka indulgence and hospitality.

Cultural Treasures to Look Out For

Sri Lankan Art

Traditional Sri Lankan art takes heavy inspiration from Buddhist culture and other religious beliefs. One of the best places to observe Sri Lankan art form is through caves and temple paintings found in places like Dambulla and Kandy.

Terracotta pottery

Terracotta pots are a common sight throughout Sri Lanka. Keep an eye out for these when you’re dining at a local eatery.

Baila – traditional dance music

This is classical dance music that is still played during parties and weddings today.

 

Interesting Places to Visit

Every corner of Sri Lanka seems to stand against the test of time. We recommend these 10 attractions that you shouldn’t miss while reminiscing about the old Sri Lanka.

Colombo — Capital city

Building Boom: While Colombo is undergoing a massive transformation in the city’s skyline, the local shops and colonial buildings are still strong in characters. Great for those seeking comfort while balik kampung.

1. National Museum of Colombo

VisitColombo.com

Kickstart your cultural tour of Sri Lanka with a visit to the National Museum of Colombo. The immaculately maintained building features classic-Italian architectural elements. When walking into the compound, visitors will be greeted by an ancient Buddha statue that dates back as far as the 4th century. The galleries and library are chock full of history and information, so make sure you devote at least an afternoon to soak in the proud and rich heritage of the Sri Lankans.

Admission Fee: Rs. 500

Address: Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 00700

Opening hours: Daily, 9 am – 5 pm

How to get there: Take a bus and alight at Glass House Bus Stop

 

2. Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque (Red Mosque)

 VisitColombo.com

While walking along the streets of Colombo, it’s nearly impossible to miss this iconic sights. The candy-striped mosque with its tall minarets is more than a hundred years old can be seen from every street corner in the city. For female travellers who wish to enter the magnificent compound, be mindful. Dress appropriately by covering the arms and legs. The adjacent streets are also filled with busy markets, shops and bazaars, bursting with life and energy.

Address: Second Cross Street, Colombo 01100

Opening hours: Daily, 10 am – 12 pm

Getting there: Take a tuk-tuk, taxi, or the local bus to Gunasinghepura bus stop

 

3. Ceylon Tea Plantations

For a country known for its tea plantations, it would be a shame to miss out on a visit to the highlands of Sri Lanka to check out a Ceylonese Tea Plantation. When the British first established the colonial rule, they saw that the region would be fertile for tea plantations. This quickly became the lifeline of the nation. Embark on guided tea garden and factory tours, enjoy an afternoon tea and visit some of the local plantations. Rest your head at one of the hotels built on the hillside like Ceylon Tea Trails, Hatton before setting off for the next destination.

Address: 2/1, St. Benedict’s Mawatha, Colombo 13

Getting there: You’ll be required to drive into the remote safari, either with a rental car or arrange for a private driver to bring you there.

 

Galle

Jewel of the South: With Dutch-colonial architecture sprawling across the coastal town, Galle is buzzing with working communities. Hipster souls will love tracing their roots here, especially with the rows of stylish boutiques and quirky arts!

3. Galle Fort

CC2.0 by calflier001

Having been built in the 16th century, the Galle Fort saw further reconstruction and modifications by the Dutch, British and Portuguese over the centuries. Today the structure stands as a historical monument that illustrates the European influence over South East Asia in the 16th to 19th century. While you’re there, visit the Dutch buildings and monuments that still remain, like the Old Dutch Hospital, The Clock Tower and the old Dutch Government House.

Getting there: From Colombo city, you can either take the highspeed bus or a train to Galle.

 

4. Galle International Stadium

CC3.0 by Shehanw

The cricket stadium was once one of the most scenic venues in the world, surrounded by sea views on either side. After it was devasted by a tsunami in 2004, the international community helped to raise money to rebuild the stadium. Immerse yourself in the locals’ love of the Cricket sport by catching a live game at the stadium.

Address: Colombo Rd, Galle 80000

Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm | Saturday, 9 am – 12 pm

 

Tissamaharama

The Most Pristine Kampung: Going to Tissa seems like transporting you back beyond the colonial era — lush green wildlife reserves wherever you go. Rest assured, you can now stay in a fancier lodge, unlike your ancestors who had to set up their own tents.

5. Yala National Park

One of the most popular spots throughout the year, Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park is home to rich wildlife offering visitors a chance to encounter wild animals like elephants, deer, and even leopards. With over 1,200 sq km of land, the park can take over a day to explore. Rest up at the Wild Coast Tented Lodge before heading back into the park to continue your safari adventure.

Location: Hambantota

Opening hours: Daily, 6 am – 6 pm

Getting there: You’ll be required to drive into the remote safari, either with a rental car or arrange for a private driver to bring you there.

 

Other Cities

7. Polonnaruwa

Treasure Hunt: Balik kampung to Polonnaruwa is like going on a treasure hunt expedition where the ruins are the testaments of its glorious past.

CC2.0 by Hafiz Issadeen

A secluded ancient city in inland Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa was a treasure trove of artefacts and monuments, all closely situated from one another. Polonnaruwa was a thriving commercial and religious hub of Sri Lanka almost a millennium ago, and its remains are still around for visitors to observe.

Getting there: It’s a four-hour drive from the nearest city, Kandy. Rent a car or hire a private driver to bring you to Polonnaruwa.

 

8. Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

For History and Culture Buffs: You will never run out of historical sites or cultural attractions in Kandy. Kandy is far less touristy than Colombo and Galle, but that’s Kandy’s unique charm for you to balik kampung.

CC2.0 by Hafiz Issadeen

The Temple of the Tooth was given its name because it houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist artefact — the tooth of Buddha. Visitors won’t actually get to see the tooth as it is kept in a series of gold caskets. The temple complex is still worth a visit as it contains other smaller shrines, temples and even a museum.

Address: Sri Dalada Veediya, Kandy 20000

Opening Hours (for the main temple): Daily, 5:30 am – 8 pm

Getting there: The temple is a 15-minute walk from the Kandy railway station.

 

9. Cave Temple Complex, Dambulla

Balik Kampung To A City: If you enjoy the hectic daily lives of getting stuck in the traffic jam while exploring the town, Dambulla might be a good bet. Balik kampung with a city vibe that is!

In the southern part of Dambulla, the Cave Temple complex features five caves containing almost 150 Buddha statues and paintings. The paintings date back over 2,000 years and are a great example of the painting style unique to Sri Lanka. Over the many centuries, conservation efforts have been put in place either by retouching it or creating new artwork.

Admission fee: Rs. 1500 (adults) — The ticket office is located at the base of the complex.

Opening Hours: Daily, 7 am – 6 pm

Getting there: From Dambulla bus terminal, it’s a 10 to 15-minute walk to the base.

 

10. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Rambukkana

Stopover Kampung: A quick stopover from Colombo to Kandy. Take a break from your car ride to immerse in the ultimate kampung experience: playing with elephants!

CC BY-SA 2.0 by Joanne Goldby

In between Kandy and Colombo, there is an elephant orphanage where you can feed and nurse wild, orphaned elephants. Learn how the orphanage rescues the elephants and nurse them back to health. The caretakers give visitors several activities to take part in like bottle feeding and herding. Take the chance to visit Pinnawala while you’re in Sri Lanka to experience what it’s like to care for the wildlife.

Admission fee: Rs. 2500 for adults

Address: B199, Pinnawala 71100, Sri Lanka

Opening Hours: Mon – Fri, 8:30 am – 6 pm

Getting there: The orphanage about an hour’s drive away from Kandy city.

 

Sri Lankan Cuisine: Must-Try Dishes

Much like its own history, Sri Lankan cuisine has been shaped by foreign influence, introducing new flavours to its dishes. Some common food ingredients that you’ll see across Sri Lanka are rice, coconut, and spices.

Credit: Veronica Phua via Burpple

Hopper

A Sri Lankan staple, hoppers are bowl-shaped pancakes that come with a steamed egg in the middle.

Best in: Hoppa Galle Fort, Galle.

Credit: Veronica Phua via Burpple

Puri with Aloo Baji

Puri is deep-fried rounds of flour and it is often paired with aloo baji, which is spiced or curried potatoes.

Best in: Shanmugas, Colombo.

Kukul mas curry

A curry dish made of chicken and coconut milk.

Best in Sharon Inn, Kandy.