SRI LANKA
Regional Image of Elephants bathingElephants bathing

Though its total area is only 66,000 square kilometres, Sri Lanka packs in an amazing variety of scenery, architecture, flora and fauna. Wild animals like elephants, tropical birds, and monkeys (best spotted in national parks like Yala West or Bundala) roam the island, and tropical flowers pop up in the most unsuspecting corners. Sri Lanka's landscape ranges from the endless beaches of the south, to the rolling hills of the interior, to mountains like Adam's Peak, a place of pilgrimage for a millennia.

For sunshine and beautiful beaches, head to seaside destinations like Hikkaduwa, the most popular beach resort in Sri Lanka. A villa by the shore makes for a perfect escape and is an especially popular option in December and January, when this area is warm and bathed in sunlight.

The hill country, home to many of the island's tea plantations, is beautiful as well. Kandy is the main city in this area of Sri Lanka, and a villa in this pretty town puts you in the historical heart of Sri Lanka's Buddhist centre. Here you'll find the Dalada Maligawa, where the island's most important religious relics are kept.

Also interesting are Sri Lanka's cities. Colombo, the capital, is a vibrant and often hectic place that serves as the island's business and administrative centre. For a look at Sri Lanka's history, head to the ancient city of Anuradhapura, founded in 300 BC and the ruling centre for 1000 years. The city is home to many important temples and holy sites, like the Sacred Bo-Tree. Galle, a port city long held by the Dutch, boasts fine colonial architecture.

Although 80 percent of Sri Lanka's coast was affected by the tsunami of December 2004, the beaches and shore-side towns are returning to normal and most areas can be visited without a problem. The coast north and south of Hikkaduwa were hit hard, but property owner Gavin Gillham says that "within the first 2 months of the tsunami the vast majority of businesses in Hikkaduwa were operational and the beach was looking better than ever." Sri Lanka's interior was virtually untouched by the storm, meaning that it's still easy to explore the island's inland treasures.

Regional Image of Elephants bathingElephants bathing

Sri Lanka is a year-round destination. To avoid the monsoons, visit the west coast, south coast and hill country from December to March, and head to the east coast from May to September.

Regional Image of Elephants bathingElephants bathing

You can get to Sri Lanka by flying into Colombo, the main gateway city. Once on the island, the crowded but always colourful buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws are the cheapest way to get around, though trains are more comfortable. For more independence, hire a car or motorbike.

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