Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide) (2015)
From hurtling down a river on a raft to being pampered in a herbal spa, and from galloping across the sand on horseback to indulging in wellness therapy, Sri Lanka has activities for the energetic as well as many pleasant ways of relaxing.
Cricket is massively popular
Sri Lanka Tourism
Cricket is a national obsession in Sri Lanka, and the national team’s exploits are followed religiously. The cricket season begins in September and ends with the finals in April. Visitors can enjoy the benefits of temporary membership at the Colombo Cricket Club (31 Maitland Crescent, Colombo 7; tel: 011-268 1601-4). On a local level, boys playing cricket on village greens and on the beach are often delighted if you join in - though don’t expect an easy time!
Diving in the Indian Ocean
Sri Lanka Tourism
DIVING AND WATERSPORTS
Underwater Safaris Ltd (25 Barnes Place, Colombo 7; tel: 011-269 4012) offers wreck- and reef-diving expeditions at Hikkaduwa on the south coast, and there are also a number of PADI-licensed dive centres in Hikkaduwa, Bentota, Unawatuna and elsewhere around the coast. Bentota is the island’s main watersports centre, with various places offering windsurfing, jet-skiing, tubing water-skiing and more. The west coast, including Negombo, is good is good for kitesurfing and wakeboarding.
Swimming and snorkelling
There are many places around the coast which are safe for swimming, although equally there are many other places with dangerous currents and other marine hazards - always check locally. Snorkelling is possible at various places including Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Pigeon Island, near Trincomalee in the east.
The island’s main surfing destination is Arugam Bay, with waves best from May to October and a variety of breaks suitable for novices and experts. Hikkaduwa on the west coast is best from November to April and has centres with equipment and instruction. Midigama on the south coast also has good waves.
One of Sri Lanka’s major new attractions is whale-watching, with trips run out of Mirissa on the south coast. Reputable operators include The Whale and Dolphin Company ( www.whale-and-dolphin.com ), Mirissa Watersports ( www.mirissawatersports.lk ) and Jetwing Eco ( www.jetwingeco.com ).
This is popular at Kitulgala, on the southern edge of the hill country, where the choppy Kelani Ganga river provides boulder-strewn stretches of rapids. Check www.actionlanka.com for details of this and other adventure sports.
Sri Lanka boasts several beautiful championship-standard golf courses, at Nuwara Eliya (tel: 052-222 2835), at the Royal Colombo Golf Club (tel: 011-269 5431; www.rcgcsl.com ) and the Victoria Golf Club, Rajawella, Kandy (tel: 081-237 6376; www.golfsrilanka.com ). All welcome temporary members - and green fees are a bargain by the standards of most other countries.
There is a school attached to Heritance Ahungalla (tel: 091-555 5000; www.heritancehotels.com ) for riding along the west-coast beach. Horse-riding holidays are available through the Premadasa Horseriding School (11/12 Melder Place, Nugegoda; tel: 011-282 0588; www.premadasa.lk/riding.htm ).
The traditional system of holistic health care known as Ayurveda (from the Sanskrit, meaning ‘the science of life’) has been practised in India and Sri Lanka for centuries. According to the Ayurvedic system, all bodies are made up of varying combinations of the five basic elements (ether, fire, air, earth and water) and governed by three doshas (pitta , vata and kapha ). Rather than treating illnesses and symptoms in isolation, Ayurveda aims to treat the whole patient, to encourage a more balanced lifestyle. Several resorts on the west coast provide Ayurveda therapy to alleviate medical problems, while others practise ‘soft’ Ayurveda to inspire well-being. Ayurveda practitioners have to be licensed by the government, and the treatment is a soothing adventure in natural wellness therapy.
An Ayurvedic soak
Sri Lanka Tourism
Most major hotels boast a spa facility, with treatments ranging from the basic to the exotic. Many spas also offer traditional Sri Lankan Ayurveda treatment (see box).
The island’s hill country (see routes 7 and 8) is a walker’s paradise, with stunning scenery and a pleasant temperate climate. Many of the islands major tour operators can organise walking trips. Alternatively contact a local guide such as Sumane Bandara Illangantilake or Ravi Desappriya (tel: 071 499 7666/075 799 7667; www.srilankatrekking.com ), both in Kandy.