Aug 14 (Evening Standard) At the start of this year, Sri Lanka was experiencing a tourism boom and with visitor arrivals up 12 per cent from 2018.
Following April's terrorist attacks, Sri Lanka's international arrivals fell by 71 per cent, the lowest since Sri Lanka's civil war ended a decade ago, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.
To combat this drastic drop, the Sri Lankan government is now waiving the visa fee for tourists from 48 countries (the UK included) saving Brits £30. The new initiative came into place on August 1 and will be available for one-month visas. The British Foreign Office downgraded its travel warnings on June 6 and Sri Lanka has seen a slow uptick in visitor arrivals ever since.
A tranquil place, Sri Lanka is full of happy people, misty mountaintops, lush waterfalls, great waves, seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Geoffrey Bawa architecture and chilled vibes. Not only that, it is also home to the oldest and most holistic medical system in the world - Ayurveda.
Excellent street food is also a highlight of time spent on the island. Expect to fall in love with some of the classic dishes like Kottu Roti, a dish made of chopped up roti bread, fresh veggies and meat, served with a spicy curried gravy; and string hoppers (for breakfast) as well. It'll be the happy greetings of 'Ayubowan' (good wishes for a healthy and long life) from the local people though that will be your favourite thing.
Be sure to catch the train from Ella to Kandy - a stunning 6.5 hour journey winding through lush green hills and tea plantations, past colourful houses and cute little villages - the perfect glimpse into life in the hills. Local street vendors jump on the train at different stops to sell local food - deep fried prawns and vegetables from one vendor, mandarins from another, hot roasted peanuts with chilli salt from another. The lush mountainscape, narrow bridges, and village life is extraordinary and beautiful.
Colombo is a big and dusty city, so we recommend staying only for a night and then heading south for the beaches and then up to the mountains. Here is a list of some of our favourite hotels in Sri Lanka.