As if you need ten reasons to travel to Sri Lanka! Sri Lanka, the Resplendent Isle, the Pearl of the Orient. Splendid temples, ancient ruins, welcoming people and flavourful food are all to be found within this small country. Search for elephants, leopards and water buffaloes, walk among tea plantations and waterfalls to rainforest-covered peaks and take a spectacular train ride through the highlands. Top it all off with some time on the dazzlingly white and often untrod beaches.
Here are the top ten reasons why you should travel to Sri Lanka.
1. Glorious food Cultures as varied as Dutch, Portuguese, South Indian, Malay, Arab and British influenced Sri Lankan cuisine resulting in a long list of tasty choices. Kotthu rotti, curries, vadai (deep fried snacks) and fresh seafood are but some of the highlights.
2. Spot a leopard Board a jeep and ride the tracks in Yala National Park where the highest density of leopards in the world makes this one of the finest places to see them.
3. Visit a temple Thousands of years of history influenced by the four major world religions has left Sri Lanka with many a beautiful temple. From small ornately carved village shrines, to Kandy's famous Temple of the Tooth, a visit to a holy place should be on any itinerary.
4. Climb to a fortress Take an early morning hike past lily-pad-covered moats, water gardens and quiet shrines and up the steep staircases leading to the top of Sigiriya. Your reward is a spectacular vista of mists rising from the forests far below.
5. Hit the beach Miles and miles of sandy beaches make for a great relaxed end to your tour of Sri Lanka. Crack open a coconut, find a hammock and snuggle up with a good book. Tangalle, Mirissa, Bentota and Kalutara are some of the best beaches.
6. Watch a whale Board a boat and head out on the high seas. Sri Lanka sits right next to the annual migration of blue and sperm whales between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. December and April are great months to see whales (the months in between only slightly less so).
7. Go colonial Galle's Fort, the old Dutch quarter, is Sri Lanka's best preserved colonial town. Spend an afternoon ambling around the streets lined with Dutch-period homes, poking into little boutique shops and cafes and just see where your feet take you.
8. Climb a peak Adam's Peak has attracted pilgrims for more than 1000 years. During the months of December through May you can join them and climb the steep trails at night aided by the lights of thousands of lights, to see the sun rise over the hills below.
9. Ride the rails Travelling by train from the Hill Country to the surrounding lowlands is a spectacular ride. Within 90 minutres your drop 800 metres as the train travels through cloud forest and tea plantations, offerring breathtaking views along the way.
10. Cycle the backroads Saddle up and follow the quiet backroads of Sri Lanka. Chat with the locals and stop to smell the flowers. Cycling enhances your senses, slows the world down and brings it into focus.
11. And as a bonus, consider Ayurveda Being locked up in a steaming vessel may not look all that inviting, but follow your Aryuvedic steam bath with a massage, and you will come away renewed and rejuvinated.