As Sri Lanka enters its eighth year since the end of the civil war, the country's star looks set to continue its ascendance - 2017 marks 150 years since the first tea bush was planted in Sri Lanka, triggering a national (and global) obsession. TNT has the low-down on why the island formerly known as Ceylon will be your cup of tea….
Sri Lankan Beach credit: val_shevchenko
Bounty advert beaches
Trust TNT when we say that you will be enthralled by Sri Lanka’s sparkling shores. Surfers should head to Hikkaduwa - Sri Lanka’s top surfing spot. Everyone else should make for Unawatuna - aka the country's most popular beach.
Take a hike
Should you - heaven forbid - get bored of the beaches, seek out the UNESCO Heritage Listed Sinharaja rainforest. In parts, it is undeniably a steep scramble but persevere and you’ll have the magnificent forest to yourself.
Regardless of where you travel in the island that Marco Polo hailed as “the finest of its size,” expect a welcome as warm as the weather from the charming and hospitable locals who are happy to share their world with you.
It's much more accessible than India
Sure Sri Lanka can be chaotic and crowded but the noise and bustle is quieter than its big subcontinent sibling, India, and as introductions to the subcontinent go, it’s a gentler one.
The enviable climate
While February in Britain may be dark, damp and, let’s face it, utterly dismal, the scenario in Sri Lanka couldn’t be more different. Expect balmy not blistering temperatures – in short, perfect weather to acquire a tan without suffering sun stroke.
While it might be a bit of a long, expensive schlep to reach Sri Lanka, once there it’s all blissfully affordable and you’ll spend less in a week than you would on a night out in London. Time to pack the t-shirt and sunnies and get going?
Nine Arch Bridge, Sri Lanka credit: Buddhika_Jayawardana
Fantastic public transport
Sri Lanka has a train system that Londoners would kill for – namely it’s cheap and, crucially, on time. What's more, a train journey is one of the defining experiences of Sri Lanka being rich in local colour and providing points of contact with local people.
For a dose of culture, head down the coast from Colombo to the historic city of Galle, whose weighty walls protected Galle Fort from the Boxing Day tsunami of 2006 when many places weren’t. Do as the locals do and stroll around the old ramparts at sunset.
Typical Sri Lankan dishes credit: rizwanrafeek
Nuwara Eliya Central Market, Sri Lanka credit: tunart
The sensational food
Eating Sri Lankan style is one of life’s pleasures. Start your day with pittu (rice mixed with grated coconut and then steamed in a bamboo mould) and hoppers (bowl shaped pancakes). Lunch and dinners, meanwhile, is all about rice and cur-ry. Searching for a sugar hit? Wattalapam (coconut milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs and spices) is where it’s at.
And, of course, you can’t leave Sri Lanka without visiting the picturesque hill capital of Kandy, steeped as it is in centuries of tradition: this was the last stronghold of the Sinhalese Kings during the Portuguese, Dutch and British rule. Make time to check out the Temple of the Tooth which houses the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha.
Get up close with elephants
For encounters of the elephant kind, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which houses more than 90 abandoned and wounded elephants, won’t disappoint. Time your visit to coincide with bathing time when all the elephants are taken to the river close by.
Indulge in Ayurveda
During your spell in Sri Lanka, make time to try Ayurveda - an ancient system of medicine that uses herbs and oils to heal. Under Ayurvedic principles, all body types are organised into three doshas - take a bow vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth and water) - which need to be in balance in order to enjoy optimum health