Rediscovering My Roots: Going Back to Visit Sri Lanka
As I sit here recalling about my childhood, I find myself yearning for a connection to a place I once called home. I was born in Sri Lanka, a land rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. However, due to the civil war that plagued the nation for many years, my family and I were forced to leave when I was just a child. Decades have passed since then, and I have not had the opportunity to return to the land of my birth. Now, as an adult, the desire to reconnect with my roots has grown stronger, fueled by the tales of travelers who have explored the mesmerizing landscapes of Sri Lanka. It is time for me to embark on a journey to rediscover the beauty of this country and create my own memories.
Sri Lanka, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” is a land of diverse landscapes, from lush green tea plantations to pristine beaches and ancient ruins. Its vibrant culture, warm hospitality, and flavorful cuisine have captured the hearts of many, making it a popular destination for travelers seeking both relaxation and adventure. As I reflect on my childhood in Sri Lanka, I can only recall fragments of memories, and the longing to explore the places I once called home has become a driving force in my life.
The decision to return to Sri Lanka is not only a personal pilgrimage but also a quest to understand the country’s history, culture, and the profound changes it has undergone since my departure. The civil war that marked my childhood has left scars on the nation, but I am eager to witness the resilience of its people and the strides they have taken towards rebuilding and healing.
One of the primary reasons I yearn to visit Sri Lanka is to reconnect with my roots and understand the cultural heritage that shaped my early years. From the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to the sacred city of Kandy, each place tells a story of a rich past and a resilient people. Exploring these historical sites will not only provide me with a sense of nostalgia but also offer a deeper understanding of the historical tapestry that makes Sri Lanka unique.
The natural beauty of Sri Lanka is another compelling reason to make the journey back. The emerald-green tea plantations in the central highlands, the breathtaking landscapes of Ella, and the pristine beaches along the southern coast beckon me to explore the diverse ecosystems that make up this tropical paradise. The allure of witnessing elephants in their natural habitat at Udawalawe National Park and the chance to climb the iconic Sigiriya rock are experiences I have longed for since childhood.
The warmth and hospitality of the Sri Lankan people are legendary, and I am eager to reconnect with relatives and family friends who have been a distant presence in my life. Their stories, shared over aromatic cups of Ceylon tea, will undoubtedly provide me with insights into the changes that have unfolded in the country over the years. Reuniting with my roots is not just about visiting places but also about rekindling relationships and fostering a sense of belonging.
Culinary delights play a significant role in any travel experience, and Sri Lanka’s diverse and flavorful cuisine is no exception. From aromatic rice and curry dishes to the unique flavors of hoppers and string hoppers, I am excited to indulge my taste buds in the authentic flavors of my homeland. Exploring local markets, savoring street food, and learning the art of traditional Sri Lankan cooking will add a delicious dimension to my journey.
While the desire to visit Sri Lanka is deeply personal, I also recognize the transformative power of travel. This journey is an opportunity for self-discovery, a chance to bridge the gap between my past and present, and a celebration of resilience and growth. It is a testament to the fact that, despite the challenges and adversities, one can return to the roots and find beauty, strength, and inspiration.
As I prepare for this long-awaited journey, I am filled with a mix of emotions – excitement, anticipation, and a hint of nostalgia. The landscapes that once served as the backdrop to my childhood memories are waiting to be rediscovered, and I am eager to create new moments that will shape the narrative of my connection to Sri Lanka.
Upon my return, I look forward to sharing the tales of my adventure, the beauty I encountered, and the emotions that welled up as I walked the streets of my childhood. This journey is not just a trip; it is a pilgrimage to rediscover a part of myself that has been tucked away in the folds of time and distance. Through my experiences, I hope to inspire others to embark on their own journeys of self-discovery and reconnect with the places that hold the key to their roots.
Sri Lanka, with its timeless beauty and resilient spirit, awaits my return, and I am ready to embrace the journey that will bring me closer to the land that will forever be a part of my identity.
Here are best spots that I am looking forward to visit:
Sigiriya Rock Fortress:
A marvel of ancient engineering and design, Sigiriya Rock Fortress stands proudly as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka. Rising dramatically from the central plains, this ancient rock fortress is adorned with stunning frescoes and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Climbing to the top, visitors are not only treated to a glimpse of the well-preserved ruins but also a sense of awe at the historical and architectural significance of this iconic site.
Delve into the rich history of Sri Lanka by exploring the well-preserved ruins of Polonnaruwa, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once the thriving second capital of the country, Polonnaruwa showcases a remarkable collection of ancient structures, including temples, palaces, and statues. Visitors can walk among the ruins, marvel at the intricate carvings, and immerse themselves in the historical grandeur of this ancient city.
Nestled amidst picturesque hills, Kandy is a cultural gem that beckons visitors with its serene beauty. The city is home to the revered Temple of the Tooth Relic, a sacred site for Buddhists. Visitors can partake in the cultural richness by attending traditional dance shows and exploring the charming streets surrounded by lush greenery. Kandy offers a perfect blend of spirituality, history, and natural splendor.
As the first capital of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura boasts ancient ruins that are a testament to the island’s rich heritage. The city is renowned for the sacred Bodhi tree, believed to be a descendant of the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. Exploring the vast archaeological site allows visitors to witness the grandeur of ancient stupas, monasteries, and irrigation systems that shaped the course of Sri Lankan history.
Step back in time as you wander through the charming streets of Galle Fort, a UNESCO-listed site that preserves Dutch colonial architecture. The fort, surrounded by the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean, encapsulates a unique blend of European and South Asian influences. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets, visit historic buildings, and enjoy panoramic views from the fort’s ramparts.
Tucked away in the hills, Ella is a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Surrounded by verdant tea plantations, this quaint town offers stunning landscapes and the opportunity to hike to Little Adam’s Peak for breathtaking views. Ella’s serene ambiance, coupled with its tea estate charm, makes it a perfect destination for those seeking relaxation and natural beauty.
Udawalawe National Park:
Embark on a thrilling safari adventure in Udawalawe National Park, renowned for its diverse wildlife. The park is a sanctuary for elephants, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species. Visitors can experience the awe-inspiring sight of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat while enjoying the picturesque landscapes that define this national park.
Dambulla Cave Temple:
A cultural and spiritual marvel, the Dambulla Cave Temple is a UNESCO-listed site that showcases intricate cave paintings and Buddha statues. Carved into a massive rock, the temple complex offers a serene and contemplative atmosphere. Visitors can explore the caves adorned with religious art, gaining insight into the rich cultural and artistic heritage of Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park:
For wildlife enthusiasts, Yala National Park is a must-visit destination in Sri Lanka. Home to a diverse range of fauna, including the elusive leopard, Yala offers an unparalleled safari experience. The park’s varied ecosystems, from dense jungles to open plains, provide a captivating backdrop for encountering Sri Lanka’s wildlife in its natural habitat.
Embark on a spiritual journey by climbing Adam’s Peak, a revered pilgrimage site known for its religious significance. Pilgrims and visitors alike ascend the sacred mountain to witness the breathtaking sunrise, often accompanied by a mystical shadow cast by the peak itself. The climb is not only a physical challenge but also a deeply spiritual experience, with the summit providing panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
Fondly known as “Little England,” Nuwara Eliya charms visitors with its colonial-era architecture, cool climate, and lush tea plantations. Nestled in the central highlands, this town offers a serene escape from the tropical heat. Visitors can explore tea estates, enjoy scenic landscapes, and partake in leisurely strolls through beautifully manicured gardens.
A haven for surf enthusiasts, Arugam Bay is a laid-back beach town on the east coast celebrated for its world-class waves. Surfers from around the globe flock to its shores to ride the challenging breaks. Beyond surfing, the town exudes a relaxed vibe, making it an ideal spot for beach lovers seeking a tranquil escape with the rhythmic sounds of the Indian Ocean.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage:
Witness the awe-inspiring sight of elephants as they bathe and roam freely at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. This sanctuary provides a nurturing environment for orphaned and injured elephants, allowing visitors to observe their daily routines and enjoy moments of interaction. The experience offers a unique opportunity to connect with these gentle giants in a responsible and ethical setting.
Renowned for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life, Hikkaduwa is a paradise for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. The crystal-clear waters beckon visitors to explore the underwater world, teeming with colorful corals and exotic fish. Beyond the aquatic wonders, Hikkaduwa’s lively beach scene and bustling markets add to its allure as a must-visit coastal destination.
Whale Watching in Mirissa:
Set sail on a thrilling adventure off the coast of Mirissa to witness majestic whales in their natural habitat. This enchanting experience allows visitors to observe these gentle giants as they breach and play in the Indian Ocean. Mirissa has gained a reputation as one of the best whale-watching destinations, providing a memorable encounter with these magnificent marine creatures.
Explore the cultural richness and Tamil heritage of the northernmost city, Jaffna. Rich in history, Jaffna invites visitors to discover ancient temples, vibrant markets, and a unique blend of South Indian and Sri Lankan cultures. The city’s resilience after years of conflict adds depth to its character, making it a captivating destination for those seeking a glimpse into the diversity of Sri Lanka.
Horton Plains National Park:
Lace up your hiking boots for a trek through Horton Plains National Park, culminating in the awe-inspiring viewpoint known as World’s End. The park’s expansive grasslands, mist-covered hills, and diverse flora set the stage for an exhilarating hike that rewards visitors with panoramic views of the plains stretching out below.
Embrace the tranquility of pristine beaches and delve into the rich history of Trincomalee. This coastal city invites visitors to relax on its sun-kissed shores, explore ancient temples, and visit the iconic Koneswaram Temple perched atop Swami Rock, providing commanding views of the Indian Ocean.
Glide through the serene waters of Koggala Lake on a boat ride, exploring its small islands and observing the vibrant birdlife. This tranquil lake, surrounded by lush greenery, offers a peaceful escape and a chance to connect with nature. Visitors can also witness traditional stilt fishermen at work, adding to the charm of this picturesque destination.
Wilpattu National Park:
Immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka’s largest national park. Known for its dense forests and natural lakes, Wilpattu provides a wilderness experience with the opportunity to spot elusive leopards, sloth bears, and a variety of other wildlife species in their natural habitat.
For adventure seekers, Kalpitiya is a mecca for kitesurfing enthusiasts and those eager to witness dolphins and whales. The expansive lagoon and pristine beaches create an ideal setting for water sports, while the surrounding ocean is home to playful dolphins and migratory whales, offering a unique and exhilarating marine experience.
Opt for a less crowded alternative to Sigiriya by ascending Pidurangala Rock. This vantage point not only provides stunning views of the surrounding landscapes but also offers a unique perspective of the iconic Sigiriya Rock. The climb to Pidurangala Rock is a rewarding adventure for those seeking a different angle on the region’s natural beauty.
Indulge in sun-soaked relaxation on the golden beaches of Bentota, a coastal town that beckons with its inviting waters and water sports activities. Ideal for those seeking a blend of leisure and adventure, Bentota offers opportunities for water skiing, jet-skiing, and boat safaris along the Bentota River.
Minneriya National Park:
Witness the awe-inspiring gathering of elephants during the annual Minneriya Elephant Gathering. This spectacular event sees large herds of elephants converging around the Minneriya Tank, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat against the backdrop of the park’s verdant landscapes.
Explore the vibrant fishing town of Negombo, known for its bustling markets, canal system, and fresh seafood. With a rich colonial history reflected in its architecture, Negombo offers a lively atmosphere where visitors can stroll along the beach, visit historic churches, and indulge in delicious seafood cuisine.
Visit the iconic Kalutara Bodhiya and experience the tranquility of the Kalu Ganga River in the coastal town of Kalutara. The sacred Bodhi tree, surrounded by intricate religious structures, adds a spiritual dimension to the town, while the river’s gentle flow provides a serene backdrop for relaxation and introspection.
Immerse yourself in the artistic and cultural heritage of Ambalangoda, known for its traditional mask making. Explore lively markets showcasing vibrant masks, witness artisans at work, and gain insight into the significance of these masks in Sri Lankan folklore. Ambalangoda also offers a lively atmosphere with its weekly market and coastal charm.
For adventure enthusiasts, Kitulgala is a playground for white-water rafting and exploration of lush forests. The scenic Kelani River offers thrilling rafting experiences, while the surrounding landscapes provide opportunities for jungle trekking and birdwatching. Kitulgala’s natural beauty and adventure activities make it a sought-after destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Known as the “City of Gems,” Ratnapura is a hub for gem mining and trading. Explore gem mines, learn about the fascinating world of precious stones, and witness the intricate craftsmanship involved in the gem industry. Ratnapura’s cultural and economic significance as a gem center adds depth to its allure for those intrigued by the world of jewelry and gemstones.
Climb the ancient rock of Mihintale and visit the Mahinda Monastery, a site considered the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Mihintale holds historical significance as the place where Buddhism was introduced to the island by Mahinda, a missionary monk. The climb to the summit offers not only panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes but also access to ancient ruins and religious monuments, providing a profound connection to Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heritage.
Hike to the top of Diyaluma Falls, the second-highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, for a mesmerizing view of the surrounding landscapes. This scenic waterfall, cascading down multiple levels, invites adventurers to trek through lush greenery to reach its summit. The effort is rewarded with a breathtaking panorama and a sense of awe at the natural beauty of the island.
Enjoy stunning views of the sprawling tea plantations from Lipton’s Seat, a vantage point named after Sir Thomas Lipton, a pioneer in Ceylon tea. The viewpoint provides a captivating panorama of the central highlands, with terraced tea fields extending as far as the eye can see. Lipton’s Seat is not only a scenic stop but also a tribute to the legacy of tea cultivation in Sri Lanka.
Enroute to Nuwara Eliya, visit the picturesque Ramboda Falls, a beautiful waterfall set against the backdrop of lush greenery. The cascading waters create a tranquil ambiance, and the site serves as a refreshing stop during the journey through the scenic hill country.
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue
Admire the colossal Buddha statue overlooking Kandy at the Bahiravokanda Vihara. This iconic statue, visible from various vantage points in the city, offers a serene and contemplative presence. The site provides a tranquil escape and panoramic views of Kandy, making it a must-visit for those seeking spiritual solace and breathtaking scenery.
Marvel at Sri Lanka’s highest waterfall, Bambarakanda Falls, as it tumbles down a rocky precipice surrounded by lush greenery. The remote and scenic location adds to the allure of this breathtaking natural wonder, making it a worthwhile stop for those exploring the island’s diverse landscapes.
Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
Explore the historic Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, a Buddhist temple near Colombo with deep cultural and religious significance. The temple’s architecture and religious relics contribute to its spiritual ambiance, while the murals depicting scenes from Buddhist folklore provide a visual journey into Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage.
Immerse yourself in the eclectic mix of modern architecture and cultural relics at Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo. This bustling temple complex houses a fascinating array of artifacts, statues, and religious items. Visitors can explore the temple’s various structures, including a museum, library, and a serene lakeside pavilion.
Spend a day surrounded by diverse wildlife at the Dehiwala Zoo, located in the heart of Colombo. Home to a wide array of animal species, including mammals, birds, and reptiles, the zoo provides an educational and entertaining experience for visitors of all ages.
Located near Ella, Ravana Falls is a picturesque waterfall with cultural significance tied to the Ramayana epic. The cascading waters create a refreshing spectacle amidst the verdant surroundings, making it a popular stop for those exploring the hill country.
Kithulgala Adventure Center
Indulge in adrenaline-pumping activities at the Kithulgala Adventure Center. Known for white-water rafting and jungle trekking, this adventurous destination offers a thrilling escape into the heart of Sri Lanka’s lush landscapes.
Explore the beautifully landscaped gardens of the Lunuganga Estate, designed by renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa. This tranquil retreat, set against the backdrop of a serene lake, showcases Bawa’s mastery in blending architecture with natural elements, creating a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing environment.
Take a boat ride through the expansive wetland area of Muthurajawela Marsh for bird watching and a close encounter with nature. This marshland, teeming with diverse bird species and other wildlife, provides a serene escape from the urban hustle and bustle.
Kanniyai Hot Wells
Relax in natural hot springs believed to have therapeutic properties at Kanniyai Hot Wells. Surrounded by lush greenery, these hot springs offer a rejuvenating experience, inviting visitors to unwind and soak in the healing waters.
Discover the ancient Buddhist monastery of Kudumbigala, nestled in the eastern wilderness. This secluded and historic site, surrounded by natural beauty, offers a peaceful retreat and a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s rich Buddhist heritage.
Maligawila Buddha Statue
Admire the tallest free-standing Buddha statue in Sri Lanka at Maligawila. This colossal statue, carved from a single limestone rock, is a testament to ancient craftsmanship and serves as a significant religious and cultural landmark.
Lover’s Leap Waterfall
Visit the enchanting Lover’s Leap Waterfall near Nuwara Eliya, where cascading waters plunge into a scenic gorge. The waterfall is accompanied by a romantic local legend, adding to its allure as a picturesque and memorable destination.
Hike to the ancient monastery ruins surrounded by the Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve. Ritigala Monastery, nestled amidst dense forest, offers a sense of serenity and historical significance. The hike to the ruins provides a journey through nature and a glimpse into the secluded world of this ancient monastery.
Explore the Jaffna Fort, an iconic stronghold that has withstood centuries of cultural and political changes. Originally built by the Portuguese in the 17th century, the fort was later modified by the Dutch and British, leaving behind a fascinating blend of architectural styles. Walk along the sturdy ramparts and within the historic walls, gaining a sense of the strategic significance this fortress held during various colonial periods.
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil:
Immerse yourself in the cultural and religious ambiance of the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, a significant Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Murugan. Marvel at the temple’s impressive architecture adorned with intricate carvings, and witness vibrant religious ceremonies that showcase the rich traditions of the Tamil community. The Nallur Kovil is not just a place of worship but a testament to the enduring cultural heritage of Jaffna.
Pay homage to the intellectual and cultural resilience of Jaffna by visiting the Jaffna Public Library. Once destroyed during the civil conflict, this reconstructed library stands as a symbol of revival and restoration. Step into the library to explore its extensive collection of Tamil literature, manuscripts, and historical documents, highlighting the region’s intellectual prowess and literary heritage.
Jaffna Archaeological Museum:
Delve into the rich history and archaeology of Jaffna by visiting the Jaffna Archaeological Museum. The museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts, sculptures, and exhibits that provide insights into the cultural evolution of the region. From ancient artifacts to more recent historical items, the museum offers a comprehensive journey through Jaffna’s past.
Stand at the northernmost point of Sri Lanka and explore Point Pedro, a location known for its scenic landscapes and coastal beauty. The Point Pedro Lighthouse, an iconic structure against the backdrop of the sea, offers panoramic views of the surrounding waters. Capture the essence of the northern coastline and enjoy the tranquility of this remote destination.
Keerimalai Hot Springs:
Rejuvenate your senses at Keerimalai Hot Springs, known for their natural therapeutic properties. The hot springs, surrounded by scenic coastal views, provide a relaxing experience. Locals and visitors alike frequent this site, seeking the healing benefits of the mineral-rich waters.
Chundikulam National Park:
Immerse yourself in nature at Chundikulam National Park, a protected area renowned for its diverse flora and fauna. Ideal for birdwatching, the park offers a sanctuary for various bird species within its wetland ecosystems. Nature lovers can explore the park’s trails and appreciate the beauty of the northern wilderness.
Unwind at Casuarina Beach, a serene stretch of coastline adorned with white sands and casuarina trees. The tranquil setting provides an ideal escape for relaxation, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the northern shores while taking leisurely strolls along the beach.
Nilavarai Bottomless Well:
Unravel the mystery surrounding the Nilavarai Bottomless Well, a natural underground spring believed to have no visible bottom. The well, steeped in cultural and mythological significance, attracts curious visitors eager to witness this enigmatic natural phenomenon.
Kankesanthurai (KKS) Lighthouse:
Take in breathtaking panoramic views of the northern coastline from the Kankesanthurai Lighthouse. Standing tall against the backdrop of the sea, the lighthouse serves as a picturesque vantage point, allowing visitors to capture the beauty of the northern shores.