Ten Must-See Sights in Colombo, Sri Lanka

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Have you ever been to Sri Lanka? Whether you have only a day as part of a cruise, or a much longer time to explore, this diverse and fascinating country will reward your time. Our Sri Lankan guide Ruwan has been an active and popular guide in Colombo and throughout Sri Lanka for many years. Today he’s sharing with us his thoughts on the 10 best places to visit while you’re visiting his city of Colombo.

While Colombo is not the capital of Sri Lanka, it unofficially serves as the commercial and cultural capital of the Island. When we visit Colombo what do we see? Is it easy to explore the city by our self without assistance? Colombo is an easy going city with so many transportation options available like public buses, tuk tuks, cars, trains, mini buses, etc to help us get around.

When planning your time in Colombo, there are 10 attractive things I believe you should visit:

1. Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
This is one of the most popular and sacred temples in Colombo. The history of this temple goes far back to the 6th century B.C. According to history, the Buddha visited Kalaniya and preached dharma here on his 3rd visit to Sri Lanka. So Buddhist people believe in this very much and worship here. It has got the main features which Buddhist temple must have (Image House, Bodhi tree , Monastry complex ). The second important thing about this temple is its attractive and valuable paintings, both old and new. The old paintings were done by King Keerthi sri Rajasinghe who ruled the country during the Kandyan period (in 1769 AD). New paintings were done by the great artist solias mendis (1897-1975).

2. National Museum
The National Museum is one of the main attractions in Colombo. This huge museum building was established in 1877 by Governor Sir William Henry Gregory. There are a number of galleries under various names and periods: Evolution of Buddha Image, crafts, coins, ceramic wares, vaddha culture, ancient lams, paintings belong to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods, and many more galleries to help you learn more about Sri Lankan culture.

3. Hindu kovils (Hindu Temples)
Kathiseran Kovil on Galle Street and Sri Bala Selva Vinayagar Moorthy Kovil near Captain’s Gardens are good examples of multi religious culture and the peace and harmony that exists in Colombo.

4. The Gangaramaya Temple
Gangaramaya Temple is located in Colombo 02 near Beira Lake. This is a Buddhist temple which includes Image house, Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) and the monastery complexes. This temple receives much attention during Nawam Perahera festival in February every year and demonstrates an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture.

5. The Fort
At present, there is no real fort remaining that we can see. But the major Sri Lankan port, banks, and hotels are the major things we can see at this site. The Dutch Museum, Grand Oriental Hotel, Hilton hotel, Galadari Hotel, old parliament building, President’s house, intercontinental hotel, world trade center building, market, bus stands, main railway station, etc. In the early period, this area was the centre of the town, so there is a concentration of historical buildings and architecture that can be seen here. We can see things in detail if we walk through some of the streets instead of just looking through the windows of a car. Going through vegetable and fruit market will be crowded, but worth visiting and watching for the memories it creates.

6. Viharamadevi Park
This city park originally started as Victoria park by the British, and was then renamed Viharamahadevi (name of a Sinhalese queen). This is located in Colombo 07.This area is known as Cinnamon Garden and was very popular for cinnamon during the colonial period. At present, this area has provided prime space for high class residents, prestigious schools and University of Colombo. There are more things and stories to remember.

7. Galle Face Green
South of Colombo along with the lined coconut trees (cocus nucifera) of Galle road is the Galle Face Green. During colonial times, the British used to do various recreational activities here like cricket and football. This is an ideal sea front location to sit, relax and feel evening breezes while watching the sun set. This is a crowded place with locals on weekends. Colonial style Galle face Hotel is located at the end of the Galle Face Green. At the beginning of Galle Face green, you will see Galadari hotel and old parliament building. Cannons which were used during wartime are still available along the coastline of gall face green.

8. Dehiwala Zoo
Some people visit Colombo on day tours so they don’t have time to go to see Sri Lankan wild elephants but Dehiwala Zoo is the solution for day tour visitors. They can see elephants, birds and other mammals in the day time and watch their show in the evening at the zoo. At present, authorities keep improving the zoo so hopefully in the near future we can see large areas for caged animals.

9. Wolvendaal Church
This was built in 1749, one of the oldest Protestant churches still in use in Sri Lanka. This church is considered one of the most beautiful and historically valuable churches in South Asia. Wolvendaal is nicely located overlooking Colombo.

10. Beach life
Colombo has beach life too. Mount Lavonia Beach is the ideal location, close to Colombo. If you come on a day tour, then Mount Lavinia is the best place to feel sun, sand and sea. The area is good for swimming and the facilities are up to international standards. There are restaurants, pubs, clubs and shops available with easy access to cover the needs of any type of tourist.

Thanks for the great suggestions, Ruwan! Any travelers planning to visit Colombo or take a day trip to surrounding areas should consider getting in touch with Ruwan to design the perfect itinerary for your time in his homeland.
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