A busy port city on the west coast of Sri Lanka, Colombo is the commercial capital of the island. Its streets are alive with colourful shops and markets, while temples and mosques reflect its multicultural heritage.
Where once this was a town you had to tolerate on your way to the beach, it is now a destination that is both popular and worthy of your affections.
The typically tropical climate means temperatures are warm practically the whole year-round. As long as you avoid the monsoon season, which you’ll be able to do by visiting in the driest months of January to March, you’re sure to find hot and pleasant temperatures.
If weather is of little concern to you, the religious celebration of Vesak is fascinating, with the city exploding in a festival of lights and colours. For alternative visual delights, the festive decorations found during the popular Christmas time celebrations are worth considering.
Galle Face Green is a hive of activity. The seaside promenade attracts crowds and commotion of all varieties, including meandering couples, animated families, kite flyers and food vendors. Visit as the sun is about to disappear beyond the horizon for a spectacular view.
Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, the famous Buddhist temple, is one of the country’s most popular and sacred sites. And Colombo Zoological Gardens has a collection of birds, reptiles and other animals from all corners of the globe.
About 20 minutes outside of the city is the most popular beach for those stopping in Colombo, Mount Lavinia. If you’re visiting the beaches of the south, then it’s not a fair comparison, but this strip of coast does offer a welcome retreat from the never-ending hustle and bustle of the city. And the beachside cafés and restaurants, where a relaxing meal and drink can be enjoyed on the waterfront, are worth the visit there alone.
The city offers a plethora of dining options. Of course, there is a wide selection of Sri Lankan dishes to be found, but there are also international options in many places, some of which can be accurately categorised as high-quality, while others merely high-priced.
The Dutch Hospital found in Fort provides a great many selections of appealing restaurants and opportunities to eat al fresco. The high-profile and immensely popular Ministry of Crab delivers the finest selection of, as you guessed, crab dishes anywhere around and is renowned as being one of the best establishments in the whole city. If you’re interested, then make sure you make reservations in advance.
From the Indian Ocean to the ever-expanding skyline, the vistas on offer are truly stunning, and enjoying them with drink in hand only enhances the experience. Galle Face Hotel’s Travellers’ Bar provides unbeatable views of the sunset over the ocean. While city-wide views can be enjoyed from the 26th floor at Cloud Red.
Sea Street is home to the Ganeshan, and the New and Old Kathiresan temples.
But the foremost cultural establishment of Sri Lanka is the National Museum. It houses a 9th Century Buddha and catalogues the ancient past of Sri Lanka, with many carvings, swords and colonial-period guns. The National Art Gallery is also situated nearby in Viharamahadevi Park.
An exploration of the city’s oldest areas on foot on the Colombo City Walks tour comes highly recommended. Or perhaps you’d prefer to see more in half the time by surging around the place in WWII jeeps on the Colombo by Jeeps tour.
The most convenient option of getting around the city, in the most part, is hopping into one of the many, many tuk tuks that you simply won’t be able to miss. If you think you could do a better job yourself, you could even hire one and zip around of your own accord. In addition to this traditional mode of transport, there are also local buses, taxis and buses that will connect you to the other nearby towns and resorts.
Sri Lanka has a typically tropical climate, temperature and humidity (approx 70%) remain high all year round, although on the coast a light coastal breeze makes this heat comfortable. Inland, the heat is significantly reduced due to the higher altitude. Rainfall is highest in May, and in Oct/Nov. The south-western coast has higher rainfall than the rest of the country, although many people find this a refreshing break, generally this occurs in the afternoon and is accompanied by thunder. The highest rainfall occurs in May (371mm) and the lowest is Feb (69mm). There is an average of 6-8 hours of sunshine per day, all year round.