Places To Visit Off The Beaten Path In Sri Lanka
Throughout history, the island nation of Sri Lanka has invited many intrepid travellers, from the fabled explorer Marco Polo to spice merchants. Today, the island’s mystique still exists, so it comes as no surprise that Sri Lanka is regarded as a must-visit holiday destination. However, since this tropical paradise is so amazing, most sites can feel over-commercialised; this article is here to help guide you through Sri Lanka far away from the crowds.
Mannar is definitely one of the most underrated towns in Sri Lanka which is a real disservice to this wonderful town. Located on Mannar Island which is nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Mannar and is joined to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. Mannar was an important seaport and was occupied by all three colonising nations (the Portuguese, Dutch and British). The town was also the hub of the legendary Sri Lankan pearl fisheries, a practice that no longer exists. Today, the town is scattered with ruins of old colonial structures; one such structure is the Mannar Fort which was built by the Portuguese in 1560 but then later taken over by the other powers. Mannar Fort is thought to be the most picturesque fort and it is a great place to watch the sunset from.
Found on the west of the country, Kitulgala and its surroundings are thought to be the wettest region in Sri Lanka. The small town sits on the cusp of the Kitulgala Forest Reserve which means it is surrounded by lush verdant trees and is this ideal location for the adrenaline junkie. Kitulgala is home to a number of adventure camps that offer many exciting outdoor activities from ziplining, abseiling, and canyoning. The main attraction though is white water rafting; Kitulgala is the country’s #1 white water rafting destination since the Kelani River flows through the jungle and creates a series of rapids that will suit any level of a rafter.
Hambantota is a vibrant town on the south coast of the country, and it’s considered to be the heart of the ‘deep south’. The town was a vital agricultural location for the Ruhuna Kingdom (one of the country’s ancient kingdoms) but even then, it was an important maritime town with ships as far as China and Thailand stopping here. While you’re there, visit Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya, a Buddhist temple built by one of the country’s beloved kings, King Kavan Tissa. Hambantota is also an excellent place to base your trip so you can explore the rest of the south as well as Yala National Park.
Gal Oya National Park
Overshadowed by the far more popular national parks like Yala and Wilpattu, Gal Oya National Park found in the Uva and Eastern Provinces is a hidden gem. This massive national park was established in 1954 and serves as the main catchment area for Sri Lanka’s largest manmade reservoir. If you’re looking for some solitude then Gal Oya is the place for you. The park is home to endemic species of flora and fauna, including elephants, sambar deer, mugger crocodiles and leopards. Also, the park is one of the last few places inhabited by Sri Lanka’s indigenous people, the Veddas, you can visit their tribe and learn about their way of life.