Located at the south end of its much more imposing neighbor India, Sri Lanka is slowly showing up on independent travelers’ radar since the end of the civil war in 2009. Theatre of inter-ethnic conflicts for over 30 years that left dozens of thousands dead, the country – now at peace – is not only home to a rich cultural history, it has some of the most beautiful tropical landscapes in Asia, incredible wildlife and smiley, friendly and generous locals.
Of course, not everything is happy and shiny in the land of serendipity. Around five percent of the population lives below the poverty line, environmental degradation is highly visible with forests disappearing and human/wildlife problems increasing, plastic pollution is evident on the fifth largest plastic-polluting nation on the planet and finally the fate of stray animals is heartbreaking for any animal lover.
Yet, the month I spent there earlier this year was incredible in every way. I met so many kind-hearted people, laughed with locals, learned to surf (badly), practised yoga (a lot), ate delicious local food, learned about so many different religions, rescued beach puppies and cried a lot when it was time to leave.
So, in case you’re going soon, here are my top four of what not to miss if you’re in Sri Lanka!