The latest walking tour to spring out of Sri Lanka’s capital is fresh, fascinating and highly original. Join SK De Silva, born and bred in Colombo, as he takes you on a journey through Sri Lanka’s colonial past into its vibrant, multicultural present. Discover the various nations that have settled on this extraordinary island and the impact each one has had on Sri Lanka’s culture, in particular its religion, language and architecture.

Red Dot Tours has been exploring Sri Lanka for well over a decade, and we are always on the hunt for the newest experiences, run by the most inspiring, innovative people. We know when we find something special, and there is no doubt that SK De Silva’s tour of Colombo is a cut above the rest. SK is friendly, dynamic and passionate about the preservation of his country’s cultural heritage, and is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide.

Like many capital cities, Colombo is a melting-pot of cultures. As well as the traditions that live on from Sri Lanka’s fascinating ancient history, European influences are wide-spread across the country, which were infused into Sri Lankan culture from the early 16th century when the Portuguese settled on the island. Sri Lanka was colonised by the Portuguese (1505), the Dutch (1640) and the British (1815) respectively, and each nationality left behind a legacy which permanently altered Sri Lankan culture.

Nowhere in the city is the cultural diversity more apparent than Slave Island, which is the focus of SK’s walking tour. Slave Island, named by the somewhat unimaginative British, was once the port where the Dutch and Portuguese brought African slaves. This section of Colombo is now regarded as a multicultural hotspot and is home to people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including Moors, Malays and Burghers. The different religious beliefs, languages, food and clothing of everyone in this community mingle together to create a culture that is now wholeheartedly Sri Lankan.

Sri Lanka is preparing for a huge influx of European holidaymakers looking for a safe place in the sun as they shun traditional Mediterranean holidays because of the threat of rising terrorist violence.

 

The collapse in traditional holiday destinations has been quite startling. And to make matters worse The Times newspaper has reported that Isis attacks in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey will cause huge hikes in prices in safe havens such as Italy, Greece and Spain.

 

Beach

The Times quotes data from GfK, one of the world’s leading market research organisation

 

According to GfK, bookings in many holiday destinations blighted by terrorism – or just a fear of terrorism – have collapsed.

 

• Egypt – down 85% on the same week last year.

• Tunisia – down 93%

• Turkey – down 52%

• Dubai – down 34%

• Morocco – down 19%.

 

Egypt and Tunisia have both suffered tourist-related attacks, Turkey is reeling from a recent bomb blast in Istanbul and is desperate that troubles do not spread to its well-developed tourist market, and Dubai and Morocco have so far maintained a peaceful outlook.

 

While countries threatened by terrorism slash prices in an attempt to tempt back holidaymakers, other Mediterranean resorts are already hiking their prices as demand flies to unprecedented levels.

 

Sri Lankan travel companies and property owners are not about to crow at their good fortune. They have more reason than many to feel sympathy with those Mediterranean countries affected, having recently emerged from a 24-year civil war which caused great loss of life as well as hardship for much of the population.

 

Finally, the world is realising something that Red Dot Tours has known all along: Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful, intriguing and addictive travel destinations in the world.

 

In Conde Nast’s first post of the New Year, Sri Lanka was dubbed as one of the hottest places to visit in 2016. This once little-known island has finally achieved the status it deserves and the country’s currently booming tourist industry means there has never been a better time to visit.

 

Since we began doing tours in Sri Lanka, 15 years ago, Sri Lanka’s tourist industry has expanded and improved beyond belief, as the island was increasingly promoted as one of the hottest travel destinations in the world. With its stretches of stunning, untouched coastline, its incredible cultural heritage sites, and the abundance of wildlife that litters the island, it definitely deserves this newfound reputation.

 

Below is a selection of some of our favourite areas and attractions of the island, places that we brand as a ‘must-see’. This barely scratches the surface of the list of the gems in this spectacular country, but we think they are a good place to start.

 

Elephant herd at Minneriya National Park

Elephant herd at Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park

 

For anyone who is drawn to the island’s wildlife, Minneriya is a great alternative to the busier national parks in Sri Lanka. In particular, Minneriya is famed for its elephant: during the dry season herds of up to 150 wander through the park, which has become known as the Elephant Gathering.

 

Best time to visit: June – September

 

 

 

 

 

Knuckles

 

 

Knuckles Mountain Range

 

Knuckles Mountain Range – so called because it resembles the raised knuckles of a clenched fist – is a must-do for anyone who enjoys walking or trekking. With the highest peak 6,000ft above sea level, you are guaranteed sensational views, and will journey along tea plantations and paddy fields, through thick forest and past rivers and gushing waterfalls, the occasional village crossing your path. A wide-variety of flora and fauna can be seen here, as well as 130 different types of birds and many mammals, including monkeys, leopards, deer and wild buffalo.

 

Look out for: The Toque Macaque and the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, both endemic to Sri Lanka.

 

Cave paintings at Sigiriya

Cave paintings at Sigiriya

Sigiriya Rock Fortress

 

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is unmissable. Beautifully dramatic and culturally fascinating, the views from the top – and the climb up there – will leave you breathless.

 

Top tip: Avoid the heat of the day: climb early in the morning, or in the late afternoon.

 

Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo

Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo

 

Colombo

 

Sri Lanka’s capital is often overlooked by tourists, as they head for the stunning scenery of the hills, or the glorious beaches of the south and east coast. However, Colombo has much to offer. This vibrant city has its own beautiful cultural attractions, a swathe of dynamic bars and a range of great experiences, such as tea tasting or a guided city tour.

 

Best way to get around: Tuk tuk. They are cheap, fun and always within sight. You can even take a tour of the city in one…

 

 

2016 promises to be an exciting year for Sri Lanka – we hope you can join us for it.
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