Sri Lanka is a tantalising teardrop of an island where leopards and wild elephants sit beside ancient Buddhist temples and green hilled tea plantations, a place where soft golden sands melt into tranquil waters. This remarkable and rewarding island has no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and is an intriguing destination for travellers who want to dip their toes into both the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and an extraordinarily rich culture.
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On any given day you could find yourself meeting elephants at Pinnawala Orphanage, tracking the elusive leopard through Yala National Park or searching for sperm whales, pods of dolphins and mighty blue whales off the coast of Mirissa. Budding ornithologists can also try to spot the 400 plus bird species that reside on this beautiful island. If you’re more interested in a good cuppa, head for the hills and the tea growing region of Nuwara Eliya, where spectacular plantations rise up out of the mist.
But Sri Lanka is not all tea, wildlife and beaches. Its dominant religion is Buddhism, and the meditative culture is apparent everywhere you go, with holy sites including Kandy’s Temple
of the Tooth Relic, the fascinating Dambulla Cave Temple and the giant reclining Buddha statue at Polonnaruwa. The food is a big draw too, from the ever-present curry and rice to Tamil specialities like Odiyal Kool, a creamy, soup-like dish with seafood and vegetables.