With a history stretching back over 3,000 years, Sri Lanka has a rich heritage and a vibrant culture just waiting to be explored. Monumental ruins and ancient temples dot the landscape of this beautiful country. Step off the beaten track and into something new with Sri Lanka.
Odyssey offers Senior & mature travellers small group cultural and history based tours to key places of interest in Sri Lanka.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Sri Lanka’s bus network is extensive and bus services are cheap, so buses are a handy way to get around. Trains link Colombo with all tourist towns, while taxis are common in all sizeable towns.
In Sri Lanka’s major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses with charm! On our long stay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Our guides seek to share their intimate knowledge and stories with our small groups.
Geography, environment and weather
Lying to the south east of India, the island nation of Sri Lanka has a total area of 65k square kilometres, with a coastline of 1,340 kilometres. Sri Lanka largely features flat plains, though the terrain does get more mountainous toward the south-central interior.
Sri Lanka has over 100 rivers, as well as 45 estuaries and 40 lagoons, while its mangrove ecosystem stretches over 7,000 hectares.
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, with warm temperatures being a near constant all-year round. Rainfall can get quite heavy, especially during the mid-year monsoonal period, so be sure to check weather reports and have some wet weather gear handy if necessary.
World Heritage sites
Sri Lanka has 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/lk). While every site has something of value, here are a few highlights:
- Sacred City of Kandy – the last capital of the Sinhala Kings and sacred site to Buddhism in Sri Lanka, the city of Kandy contains nearly 500 historic buildings and the serene beauty of Kandy Lake
- Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications – founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the Old Town of Galle features a visually striking blend of European architectural styles and South Asian influences
- Golden Temple of Dambulla – A sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site for over 2000 years, this cave monastery features ornate mural paintings and 157 statues
Festivals and events
Befitting its rich history and age-old cultural traditions, Sri Lanka has numerous colourful festivals and events. Sinhala and Tamil New Year is one of the major events on the national calendar, with families across the country by decorating homes, lighting firecrackers, and hosting lavish dinners for loved ones. Religious festivals feature prominently in Sri Lanka – notable examples include the Buddhist festival Vesak Poya, whereby Sri Lanka’s cities are decorated and illuminated by colourful lanterns, and the Kataragama Esala Hindu festival, which features colourful processions of dancers, musicians, elephants and acrobats.
- Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka, by John Gimlette
- The Tea Planter’s Wife, by Dinah Jeffries
- Cinnamon Gardens, by Shyam Selvadurai
Serendipity, by Ashok Ferrey
Eating and Drinking
Fragrant spices and herbs feature heavily in Sri Lankan cuisine. Dhal curry is a mainstay of Sri Lankan cuisine, in which spices like tumeric, fenugreek and mustard seeds add vibrancy and flavour to the lentil curry. Fish ambul thiyal (fish curry) makes use of Sri Lanka’s wonderful seafood, with fresh fish sauteed in a blend of spices including pepper, cinnamon, garlic and pandan leaves. Kottu roti is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular dishes – mades out of a mix of shredded vegetables, meat, spices, and pieces of roti, kottu roti makes for a very tasty form of street food. To wash down the spice and picquancy of Sri Lanka’s delicious food, a wood apple juice may come in handy – made from the South Asian wood apple fruit, wood apple is often drunk as a thick smoothie and has a unique taste.
Health and Safety
Generally speaking, Sri Lanka is safe to travel around in, though always exercise common sense while travelling. Be advised that outbreaks of dengue fever to occur in Sri Lanka, so protect yourself from mosquitos.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply in Sri Lanka operates at 230V and 50 Hz. Sri Lanka uses two plug types, Type D and Type G.
Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Sri Lanka has a single time zone, Sri Lanka Standard Time (UTC+5:30). Sri Lanka does not observe daylight savings.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Sri Lanka has an active tipping culture, though it is custom for tips to be earned for good service rather than to be simply expected. An approximate tip for hotel staff such as housekeepers and porters would be about 100 rupees, while a few hundred may be expected of a decent tour guide, though this can vary. A service charge of 10% is sometimes added to restaurant bills, but otherwise a similiar tip is appreciated.
Wifi is commonly available in guesthouses and hotels, though coverage may be patchy in rural areas .
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Sri Lanka. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Sri Lanka.
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of Sri Lankan rupees in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.