7 Things to Do in Colombo
So you’ve made it to Colombo, the capital and the greatest and the busiest port city of Sri Lanka. This is where you’ll find an amalgam of differing cultures, religions as well as people belonging to varying socioeconomic classes. Now you must be aware that Colombo offers a diverse range of attractions and activities because it is, in reality, a city of both bustling businesspeople as well as of traditional culturists and monks who preserve the rich and unique cultural heritage of the land. If you are new to the city, you might want to consider hiring a travel guide or book a private day trip from the many travel agencies at work in Sri Lanka. In fact, it is advisable and preferable to tour the city with professional tour guides, who would provide insights to different aspects of Colombo’s culture, make your trip less stressful and of course, you would be at a lesser risk of getting lost in a foreign land.
Anyhow, after you’ve booked your day trip or half-day trip, you would want to know where to go, unless your travel guides have it all planned out for you. In any case, here’s a list of interesting places to be and things to do when you are in Colombo.
The Beira Lake
The Beira, named as such by the Portuguese, is the single most prominent attraction in Colombo, simply because it is located at the very center of the city. So, in a way, if you didn’t see the Beira, it would be as if you did not visit Colombo at all. It has been repeated often by visitors and residents alike that in the busy hustle bustle of the city, the Beira Lake provides a place of calmness and serenity, isolating one from the stress and hurry of the rest of the city. With the beautiful blue water and the many wild animals here and there, one can freely and leisurely walk around, sit with their loved ones (or lovers, as many allege that the Beira Lake is a lovers point) and have a cup of coffee or an ice-cream in the cool shady trees.
The animals to be found include various species of tortoises, monitor lizards, storks, pelicans and other birds. However, you should also be aware that some people have complained of the pollution in some parts of the Beira Lake; indicated by a green layer of moss and algae on the water and waft of the moist associated odor.
The Gangaramaya Temple
The Gangarama Temples are a collection of traditional Buddhist temples, offering the tourists interested in history, culture and, well, love of nature, a treat for the soul. The Seema Malaka (Assembly Hall for monks) is an important constituent of the Gangarama Temples, known to be places of meditation more than places of prayer and worship. Although there is an entry fee to tour the temples, fortunately for all foreigners, the temples are extremely tolerant and welcoming of people of almost all religions.
The temples present unique architectural styles in their peculiar huts and roofs, along with statues of Buddha, Vishnu etc. in all shapes and sizes, a so-called Relic Chamber and a Buddha’s footprint as well, which by no means seems like a normal human foot (it is likely to be intended to be a piece of art than an actual archaeological landmark).
Thou Art Welcome to the National Museum
For those of you more erudite tourists more interested in the fascinating stories of ancient Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka), Colombo offers its prestigious National Museum, also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum. Being established by a British governor in the late 19th century, the museum offers the usual big and small artifacts related to ancient kings of Kandy. In addition, the museum also has the National Museum Library for the more scholastic of visitors.
Shopping, shopping, and more shopping
Here’s the deal. If you don’t buy stuff when in Colombo, you had better stay in your hometown, unless of course if Colombo IS your hometown. The city offers the typical grand and expensive shopping malls as well as cheaper local markets. The famous Odel shopping mall is your typical huge emporium shopping complex, with branded products and celebrities’ photos here and there. And of course, there’s the food court, cinema and what not. Another posh area to visit if you are not for the money is the Cinnamon Gardens. The Cinnamon Gardens is an opulent neighborhood with multiple places that could win your interest, such as the Nelum Pakuna Theatre, Arcade Independence Square, the National Art Gallery or the Lighthouse. If you are more interested in more economical places to shop, you might want to check out the Pettah, but check it out early in the morning if you want to get things done smoothly.
For the love of the beach
And of course, we could not possibly leave out the most obvious feature of the busiest and largest port city of Sri Lanka. The Beach! Why, the cool, moist winds, the soft sands, the cool drinks, windsurfing, boating, swimming and so much more simply begs you to come and have fun. Surfing, of course, while being an awesome skill and sport can also be dangerous if carried out without a guide or trainer. Fortunately, you can easily find professionals on the beach side to give you a boat ride, speed boating lesson, surfboards and yes, lifeguards are there as well.
Also, while you’re there, be sure to befriend a dolphin or two!
Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla Cave Temples
Another exciting place to visit is one of the greatest and oldest historical landmarks of Sri Lanka. The Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla Cave Temples are a short distance from Colombo, Kalutara and other nearby cities. Generally, it is a long and time-consuming journey if one attempts to go there using public transport i.e. on one’s own. It is recommended that you hire a tour guide or a private day trip for you are a group. You can easily find tourism services online. One such service provider is ‘Beyond Escapes’, who provide various tourism services at most affordable costs.
We won’t be detailing all the historical significance of the rock here, lest we spoil all the fun for you history lovers and take away the opportunity from your tour guides. However, you should know the Sigiriya Rock is an ancient 5th-century fortress with relics preserved in it. It also affords a stunning landscape from above (Google Images recommended). And of course, the Dambulla Cave Temples are filled with murals and statues of Buddha (no surprise there probably).
Last but not the least, is the elephant rides to be had when in Colombo. Being one of the main attractions of the land, almost every foreign tourist opts for a fun elephant ride when they visit Colombo. Again, ‘Beyond Escapes’ is one of the agencies that provide a private day trip to Yala National Park and a lunch or dinner BBQ by the seaside (yes, we know, it couldn’t be any more awesome).
With this, we come to the end of our list of major things to do when in Colombo. We hope you’ll do each of these when you visit Colombo and thank us for pointing you in the right direction.