Conveniently located close to the airport, just an hour north of Colombo, Negombo is a wonderful start or end point for your Sri Lanka holiday. As well as being a great resting place after a long flight, this youthful north-west coastal town has plenty to offer tourists looking to get a taste of Sri Lankan culture. Head to the lagoon or the beach and watch the local fishermen bringing in their catch in colorful catamarans, bleached by the sun; cycle along the extensive network of canals which links Negombo to Colombo, built by the Dutch in the 17th century; admire the colonial churches scattered around the town; explore the surrounding rice fields and coconut plantations, or simply stroll along the beach and take in a beautiful sunset.
An Insider's Perspective of Negombo
Although today this historical city is comprised of a multitude of enigmatic and captivating ruins which allow visitors to explore Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s heritage architecture, in its heyday Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s shining capital, founded in 377 BC as the island’s first civilisation and which remained so until the 11th century AD. The stately royal city is a resilient one, having endured multiple invasions from South India which it steadfastly stood strong against until 995 AD. Anuradhapura’s imposing dagobas and sprawling monasteries are testament to its deeply-embedded Buddhist roots, earning it the title of a World Heritage Site. It’s also home to what is believed to be the world’s oldest tree: the Sri Maha Bodhi, which is said to be a cutting from the tree under which Buddha sat and attained enlightenment.
Anuradhapura is vast: sprawling across 40sqkm, it is difficult to explore all of the citadel in one day, so we recommend getting around by bike as the paths are flat and the routes between the remains are scenic – a guide will accompany you every step of the way. Having a site guide will dramatically enhance a visit to Anuradhapura, bringing to life the historic ruins which span 1,300 years.
Other things to do in this area include: birding at Kaludiya Pokuna, an abandoned Buddhist temple shrouded within a tranquil wilderness; trekking through Ritigala Forest Reserve in search of the remains of an ancient Buddhist monastery which lie hidden within the jungle, and hiking up the mountain peak of Mihintale, said to be the place where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka. Relax after a tiring day exploring these fascinating cultural sites with an authentic Ayurvedic spa treatment.