Sri Lanka, a small South Asian nation of dense tropical forests, sublime sandy beaches, and a proud culinary tradition, has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years. For its size, it has an unusually high number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which range from striking ancient ruins and splendid old towns to spectacular nature reserves and breathtaking highlands.
Major sights of interest - a few suggestions
The Golden Temple of Dambulla
Well over 2,000 years old, the Golden Temple of Dambulla is acclaimed for its Buddhist mural art and is a truly spectacular, unique cave system. See dozens of stupendous statues and five wonderful sanctuaries in an enormous monastery complex that has been permanently inhabited since the 3rd century BC.
The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Dating back more than 1,000 years, Polonnaruwa has been inhabited by numerous civilisations during its time, and was once a royal capital. It's noted for its towering 55-metre Rankot Vihara stupa, and Buddhist sanctuaries such as the impressive Atadage Temple, otherwise known as the Temple of the Tooth.
The Ancient City of Sigiriya
Another must-see for history fans, Sigiriya commands terrific views of the Sri Lanka rainforest from its prominent 180-metre-high position on the 'Lion's Rock'. Observe its awe-inspiring ruined buildings and sculptures, and see the remnants of a remarkable fortified palace.
The capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo has a proudly cosmopolitan atmosphere, with restaurants serving a wide array of delicious cuisine. This bustling cultural hub, which was once named 'the garden city of the East', is home to the impressive Dutch Period Museum and the opulent National Museum, and has numerous elegant boulevards.
The Hortons Plains National Park
Containing some of the highest mountains in Sri Lanka, the Horton Plains National Park is revered for its magnificent panoramic views, and comprises lush forests, serene lakes, and attractive waterfalls. It's also a haven for wildlife; an extensive variety of mammal and bird species thrive here.
See the formidable Buddha monuments of Buduruwagala, which are approximately 1,000 years old and include the tallest Buddha on the island.
Accommodation - some suggestions
For somewhere upmarket, you could book a stay at the exquisite Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa Sri Lanka in Bentota, charming Jetwing Beach, or the majestic Royal Palms Beach Hotel in Kalutara. Other more affordable accommodation establishments include the romantic Vivanta by Taj hotel in Bentota, the sublime Hotel Mermaid & Club in Kalutara, the value-for-money Aliya Resort and Spa in Sigiriya, and the very relaxing Cinnamon Citadel in Kandy.
The best time to visit Sri Lanka
If you're pondering on when to book flights to Sri Lanka, consider visiting during the drier season. This typically lasts from November to April in the west or south coast, and April to September along the east coast. You can also escape the heat by heading up to Tea Country, which is high up in the mountains and is significantly cooler, albeit wetter, than lower-lying areas of Sri Lanka.