Sri Lanka may be a better destination for Holiday

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The distinctive civilization of Sri Lanka, with roots that can be traced back to the 6th century BCE, is characterized by two factors: the preservation of Theravada Buddhism (the orthodox school of Buddhism having its literary traditions in the Pali language) and the development over two millennia of a sophisticated system of irrigation in the drier parts of the country. This civilization was further enriched by the influences of Hinduism and Islam.

Looking for the next holiday destination? Forget India, it is the neighbouring island nation of Sri Lanka, which has emerged as the best country in the world to visit in 2019 by the Lonely Planet. Sri Lanka’s popularity is on the rise, especially among Indians, and is giving popular Indian destinations such as Goa and Kerala a run for the money. The primary reason for Sri Lanka becoming a hot favourite holiday attraction is that it offers travellers a plethora of options ranging from hill stations, beach escapes, adventure activities, historic sites to culture and cuisine. The small island nation caters to all ages.

According to the figure by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, tourist visits to Sri Lanka have risen dramatically from under 4.5 lakh in 2009 to an all-time high of 21 lakh last year, the Lonely Plant reported. This is also expected to further double by 2020.

In 1948, after nearly 150 years of British rule, Sri Lanka became an independent country, and it was admitted to the United Nations seven years later. The country is a member of the Commonwealth and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Colombo, which emerged as the main urban centre during British rule, remains the executive and judicial capital of Sri Lanka; Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, a Colombo suburb, is the legislative capital. For administrative purposes, the country has been divided into nine provinces and subdivided into 25 districts.

Flights :-

Since the end of militancy in Sri Lanka, there has been a complete turnaround and the Sri Lankan government has encouraged tourism from India to Sri Lanka. Some of the measures taken by the government include easing the visa process as one can now apply online and get an E-Visa within a period of 30 days.

“Sri Lanka is making it easier for visitors from India with the help of various policies like Open Sky Policy, allowing local carriers unlimited access to six Indian hubs – Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai – as well as giving Indian carriers greater access to Sri Lankan routes,” Manmeet Ahluwalia, Marketing Head, Expedia (India), said to FE Online. Ahluwalia added that the Sri Lankan government is also considering visa-free arrival to Indian travellers, which will make it easier for travellers to visit the neighbouring country.

Sri Lankan Airlines flies from 14 Indian destinations to Sri Lanka and have approximately 135 flights to the destination. All Indian airlines, be it full-service carriers like Air India, Vistara and Jet Airways or low-cost carriers such as SpiceJet and IndiGo connects from India to Sri Lanka.

Places to visit:
Colombo/ Bentota/ Nuwara Eliya/ Kandy/ Arugam Bay/Anuradhapura/Sigiriya rock fortress/The Cultural Triangle of Polonoruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla
ri Lanka is divided into 9 administrative provinces:

Map of Sri Lanka with provincial regions colour-coded

Central Province (Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Sigiriya, Dambulla)
Known as the "hill country" after its mountainous terrain.
Northern Province (Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vanni, Mannar)
Home to a majority of the country's Tamil-speaking population. It is being rebuilt after being ravaged by nearly three decades of war.
North Central Province (Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa)
The ancient kingdoms of Sri Lanka dating back over 2500 years. Rich in history, the area is known as the cultural triangle.
Eastern Province (Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Arugam Bay)
Home to a rare natural harbour in Trincomalee and miles of sandy beaches. Surfers' paradise.
North Western Province (Kurunegala, Puttalam, Chilaw)
Coconut plantations, dolphin-watching, salt production
Sabaragamuwa (Ratnapura, Kegalle)
Gem-mining capital of Sri Lanka.
Southern Province (Galle, Weligama, Matara, Tangalle, Unawatuna, Hambantota, Yala National Park)
Beach resorts galore.
Uva (Badulla, Haputale, Bandarawela)
Highlands. Tea, tea and more tea
Western Province (Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, Beruwela, Colombo, Gampaha, Negombo)
The capital and the commuter belt.

Visa rules

Online tourist visa can be obtained by all countries nationals, except Maldives and Singapore. It allows to stay in the country for 30 days and is valid for six months since it was approved. Application should be lodged in advance before entering the country and shall be done online. After this applicant will receive an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) which should be present at the port of entry in Sri Lanka and exchanged for a tourist visa. Visa charges are US$20 for SAARC countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan) and US$35 for others (2016). Officially ETA gets ready in 2 days, however, they usually send it in 10-20 minutes after the payment is done.

Besides, tourist visa can be obtained without getting a prearranged ETA right at the Bandaranaike International Airport (at a visa desk in the arrival zone before customs), US$40. Therefore online visa is not a pre-condition to board a flight/vessel to Sri Lanka.

Important: immigration authorities at Colombo airport are very demanding with respect to the accuracy of the passport number on your electronic travel authorization obtained online. A single digit mistake is taken as a reason to force you to buy a new visa and refer you to some obscure government office in Colombo for refunds of your online payments. Be careful about 1 vs. I and zero vs. O. The number should exactly match the machine-readable section of your passport, and not anything else (for example, Russian passports have a non-alphanumeric number sign that should be completely excluded).

Taxi companies

Taxis are a better way of getting around Colombo than three wheelers as, due to the metering, they often turn out to be cheaper. Rates are about US$0.55 and they have full day packages (approx 8 hours and 80km) for around US$40. They will also take you outstation for around US$0.30-0.35 per km with no waiting charges. You can also set up your own itinerary and travel around that way as opposed to whatever the tour operator tells you.

What to See ?

Ruwanwelisaya stupa in Anuradhapura

White-bellied Blue Flycatcher in Sinharaja National Park Admission fees for foreigners to many of the tourist sites in Sri Lanka are up to ten times those for locals.

Some popular sights in Sri Lanka are:

Sri Dhalada Maligawa and Peradeniya Gardens in Kandy.
The ancient temples in Anuradhapura, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa which are very beautiful.
Ancient City of Sigiriya.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
Beautiful villages which look like England in Nuwara Eliya. There are many tea estates and Hakgala gardens too.
The beaches of Unawatuna, Galle, Weligama, Bentota and northern areas.
Whales in Mirissa and Kalpitiya.
Wildlife in Yala National Park & Wilpattu for the best wildlife Safari experience. Go to Udawalawe National Park to see elephants and Kumana National Park (Yala East) for birdwatching.
The unexplored Sri Lanka in Jaffna and the islands in the Northern Province (Delft).
See Negombo's beaches, all sandy and blue.

With a recorded history of more than 2,500 years, Sri Lanka has a rich cultural and natural heritage and its World Heritage Sites are among the absolute highlights in the country. With eight recognized entries, Sri Lanka has the second most listed World Heritage Sites in South Asia (only India, with 30, has more). The most recent addition however are the vast Central Highlands (including three highland parks: Horton Plains National Park, Knuckles Mountain Range and the Peak Wilderness Protected Area), which were inscribed in 2010. Other than these, Sri Lanka has identified two prospective World Heritage Sites: Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara and Seruwila to Sri Pada (Sacred Foot Print Shrine), an ancient pilgrim route along the Mahaweli river in Sri Lanka


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