Culturally diverse Colombo is the perfect gateway to understanding Sri Lanka!
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A foodie's paradise
A foodie's paradise
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Getting to Colombo
Transit time: 3hrs from major cities
Cost ₹7,000 per person
Holiday IQ brings to you an in-depth article about the destination Colombo. Reading this will help you receive all the necessary information that you need to know before planning for a trip to Colombo. Colombo is the commercial capital and the largest city of Srilanka. It is the financial center of the island and a popular tourist destination. The name Colombo was first introduced by the Portuguese in the year 1505 which is derived from the Sinhalese name kolon - thota, meaning "port on the river Kelani". Another theory behind giving the name Colombo was naming it as kola - amba - thota, which means “Harbor with leafy mango trees".
History: -Colombo is a well known historical natural harbor mostly used by Arabs, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Portuguese and Indians. Portuguese were the first ones to invade Colombo and were highly benefited by the treaty that was signed between Parakaramabahu VIII (King of Kotte) and the Lourenco d Almeida (Portuguese explorer). Having received the full control over the coast line in exchange of the security they became successful in capturing the whole of Colombo and then made it the capital of Srilanka. In the beginning of the 16th century, the Dutch came to Colombo and agreed to help King Rajasinha II of Kandy to wage a war against the Portuguese. Then, in 1656, the Dutch captured Colombo which remained under the control of the Dutch East India Company till 1796. Britishers then captured Colombo in 1796. After 1815, the Britishers started constructing houses and other residential structures, giving it a rise to the present city of Colombo. John MacDowell became the first collector of Madras. The tramps and the granite flooring built at that time are still visible today. In 1948, the colon ism ended in Ceylon and it became an independent country. Even today the ideas and the thoughts of the Portuguese, Dutch and Britishers can be seen in the architects, clothing, food, etc.
Holiday Packages: -The top two holiday packages available to go to Colombo are:
Ramayana Tour Package: - It is a package for 7 days and 6 nights. The total estimated cost per person is Rs. 27500. It includes return economy airfare in Srilanka Airlines, transportation facility in an air conditioned vehicle along-with an English speaking chauffeur, Sightseeing of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Sigiriya and Bandaarawela. The entrance fees, lunch and dinner, expenses incurred on telephone calls, laundry, etc are not included in the package cost.
Super Saver Srilanka Tour Package: - This package is for 6 days and 5 nights with an estimated cost of Rs. 25999 per person. It will include accommodation, meals i.e. daily breakfast, lunch and dinner (starting from lunch on Day 1 and ending from breakfast on Day 6). Transportation facility along with an English speaking chauffeur is also covered in the package. Note that the vehicle is not for disposal and any expense incurred other than above will not be covered under the package.
Attractions: -The beautiful landmarks that you must visit when you go to visit Colombo are:
Gangaramaya Temple: - This temple is one of the most important temples in Colombo. Its architecture highlights the mixture of the Srilanka, Thai, Indians and Chinese architecture. It is a complex and a little scary spot with a lot of items inside it. It includes a library, a museum, and a display hall of the gifts received from the devotees all over the year. The gifts at large are made in Ivory. The temple has a lot of Buddha statues made of stones, white plastic and gold. At one corner there is a sad - faced elephant which is actually a real stuffed elephant.
Beira Lake: - Close to the Gangaramaya temple is the Beira Lake. In the middle of the lake there is a small island containing the Simamalaka Shrine, which was built from the donations made by the Muslim Sponsor. The lake in the colonial era was used for transporting goods within the cities and is still known Beira, the name given by the Portuguese. It is really a nice and peaceful place to take a break and enjoy the sightseeing with green colored water.
Viharamahadevi Park: - It is now known as Victoria Park, is a public park which is located next to the National Museum and the Town Hall. It is named Victoria Park after the name of the Queen Victoria. The park includes the huge statues of Buddha and a series of water fountains. It even includes a mini zoo and a children's play area. Its open air stadium is used for conducting concerts and public events.
Galle Face Green: - It is the large stretch of green lawn located next to the narrow beach and the sea area. It is a historical landmark situated in the heart of the city along the Indian Ocean coast. It was originally built by the Dutch to give a clear way to the cannons, but now it is a peaceful and a perfect place for walking, running, playing cricket & football and for flying kites. It is a great place to watch the sunset. Along the stretch area there are also a lot of food vendors selling hygienic street foods at cheap rates and some of the places also have tables on the pavement.
National Museum: - The beautiful building of national museum was built by the British governor of Srilanka and is surrounded with a lovely and peaceful courtyard. As you will go inside you will see the statues which tell the stories of ancient Srilanka. There are also various displays of the items owned by the former royal family of Srilanka, like the king's golden throne and crown.
Old Dutch Hospital: - It is a nice place to have lunch. It is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in the Colombo fort area built by the Dutch in 1681. Today it has nice furnished houses, restaurants, cafes and shops. The food served there is even quite delicious and worth trying.
Independence Memorial Hall Square: - It was built in the memory when Srilanka attained independence from Britain in 1948. In front of the monument there is a statue of the first President of Srilanka. Now-a-days, this hall is used for conducting religious events and annual national day celebrations. It is a great peaceful place to visit as it is away from the crowded streets of Colombo.
Colombo Race Course: - It is a harness racing course in Cinnamon Gardens, Srilanka. Initially, it was used as a temporary airfield but in 2012 it was redeveloped as the Colombo Racecourse Sports Complex and became the first international Rugby Union ground in Srilanka, which was used to host all the rugby union home side matches. After further renovations in 2014, the floodlights were installed and a greater part of the grandstand was made available for shopping and dining complexes.
Mount Lavinia Beach: - It is a beach which is well known for its orange and coconut trees. Along the beach side there are numerous stalls for sea food eaters. It also has the famous mount Lavinia hotel located near to the beach where you can enjoy the night view and the night parties. Visitors generally prefer going to the beach during the evening time as it is a cool and less warm atmosphere at that time.
Where to Eat: -After roaming all day on the crowded streets of Colombo, it is quite obvious that you might feel like eating something. So, taking into consideration that you are vegetarian below is a list of the top rated hotels where you can conveniently eat your delicious vegetarian food. The list is:-
Chutneys at Cinnamon.
The Mango Tree.
Harbor court, The Kingsbury.
Seven Degree North.
The famous local foods & food items of Colombo that is worth tasting are: - The Coconut Curry at Cinnamon Hotel, Breads, Appams (or Hoppers) Paratha and Pittu, Srilanka pastries and snacks like Kokis, Athirisa and Srilanka tea. The rich tropical fruits like coconuts, mangoes, pineapples, guavas, bananas, jack fruits and the delicious Rambutan, which tastes like a sweet leeches fruit are also worth trying.
What to Shop: -Colombo has a wide variety of goods of high quality at reasonable prices. If you wish to shop by bargaining then you can do so by going to the street vendors and the outdoor markets such as the Pettah area across the Fort Railway Station. The variety and the quality of goods will definitely instigate you to buy everything that you see so the famous local items that you can buy are:-
Antiques: - In Colombo there are several shops that sell and display the antiques from the colonial period. A wide variety of ancient furniture, ornaments, brass lamps, Moorish porcelain and pottery is available in the famous places for antiques like the Ambalangoda and Galle Fort.
Traditional Items: - There are many home based cotton industries where the artisans make these traditional items so you can visit the villages of Colombo to know the way in which these items are made. The Government runs various outlets in Colombo like Laksala and Kandy or Lakpahana; here you can find these items easily.
Contemporary Crafts: - The local artisans make items with elephant dung, recycled paper, terracotta, scented woods, and oil and handloom fabrics. Many attractive products like elephant dung stationery, linen; relaxing massage oil, etc are available for the visitors to buy.
Gems and Jewelry: - The best quality of gemstones like Blue Sapphires, Red Rubies, Tourmaline's, Alexandrite, Garnets and Topaz can be purchased from Ratnapura, the famous town of Colombo. Even the jewelry can be purchased from the same place without hesitation as these industries are monitored by the National Gem and Jewelry Authority.
Handloom Products: - Products of clothing, curtaining, upholstery, table linen, etc. having bright and vibrant colors can be purchased from the villages of Colombo.
Tea: - The world's famous Ceylon Tea, Dilmah Tea and the Mlesna Tea are worth a buy. Apart from that there are a variety of blends of tea in different tea factories that you can buy directly from the estates like from the Labookelle estate in Nuwara, Dambatanne estate in Haputele, etc. These varieties of teas you can also find in the grocery stores like The Cargill’s Food City and The Keells Super located in the main towns of Colombo.
Spices: - Srilanka being the second largest cinnamon exporter in the world provides you with fresh and high quality spices which you can purchase from the plantations in Mirissa and Koggala. In Colombo the villagers process the cinnamon on the island of the Koggala Lake.
Activities: -The Galle Face Green has a large area on which the families as well as the children can enjoy. The children play sports whereas the health conscious people can have their evening walks. It is also a beautiful time spending spot for the newlyweds with a wide variety of stalls on the beach side. The Green is especially busy on Fridays and Saturdays. It also conducts various international and local concerts and performances such as the recently concluded The World Drum Festival.
Best time to visit: -Colombo is a year- round destination and can be visited any time in the year apart from the monsoon time i.e. between June and September, because at that time there are heavy monsoons. January – March time span is generally preferred by the visitors as it a partial sunny season and The Duruthu Perahera Festival is also held at that time.