Travel Destinations

Colombo Unveiled: Discovering the Allure and Rich Heritage of Sri Lanka’s Capital

The Worth Watching Colombo

Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka is not so far away from the Bandaranaike International Airport. Being the most populated city on the island, it exhibits the multicultural aspect of the country very well. This diversified facet brings you enough and more activities to get involved in, while you visit the city of Colombo.

This article describes the traveling vibe of Colombo City, followed by the best places to stay in, plus: things you should be careful of during your visit over here.

The Colors of Colombo

The capital city is well-urbanized and facilitated. This doesn’t mean that Colombo has no natural eye sights. Seethawaka Botanical Gardens and Attidiya Sanctuary are the two most popular environmental zones of the Capital city. Colombo being the neighbor of the Indian Ocean is quite dry and usually, it carries a temperature over 30°C. Therefore, better not to forget your shades. To make yourself even more comfy, I suggest you wear light clothes.

Ample travel modes are available for you to wander within Colombo, inclusive of public transport channels and cabs whether you want a cheap fast method of transport or a luxury limousine it’s easy to find in the capital. You do not have to worry about traveling in Colombo.

Gangaramaya temple
Buddha Statues at Gangaramaya Temple – Image by Andromachos Dimitrokallis

Sri Lanka is well-mixed with various cultural habits and Colombo is the best sample that brings you all those joys. In fact, you can taste some contrasting vibes from one visit, within a couple of minutes!

Best Things to Do in Colombo

Enjoy a Peaceful Seaside

Colombo is located right on the western coastline of Sri Lanka. It is rich with different types of beaches and each is blessed with a unique vibe. If you are here with your little kids just to tread the waves and enjoy some seafood with tropical drinks, I would recommend Wellawatte Beach.

Ample food stalls are waiting for you along the road, and each is well rich with rampant seafood items. Never unsafe for a sea bath too, but if your wish is to have the thick and thin of a solid sea bath, Mount Lavinia Beach should be your choice.

Mount Lavinia Beach is considered to be the best place to have a sea bath in Colombo. Even if you are a beginner at sea swimming, Mount Lavinia would be an ideal place to start with. The spacious beach is a paradise for those who are in love with beach volleyball, and it is a frequent scenery where locals play football on this beach. But as a play corner, the fame the Galle face beach has won is unsurpassable.

Galleface Beach is staring at the heart of the administration city, hence surrounded by chessmen-like buildings. Usually, the feel of a beach is backed by tropical forestry, but contrastingly this brings you an exceptional feel that you could experience from nowhere else.

The sea is neighbored by a roomy park where you could peacefully sit down and pass the time. Hence, this is a magnificent mixture of a relaxing seaside and a greenish charming park. Enough and more food stalls are available to fix your mood and the fancy-toy sellers bring your kids the best ones to play in the green park. Hence, by the time you leave here, your mood is fixed to the max.  

The Multi-Cultural Spiritual Places

Sri Lankan population is well-mingled with the four religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islamism, and Catholicism. Colombo is an exact sample that brings you the four cultures in one place. The majority of the population are Buddhists; hence the mostly available spiritual places are nurtured with Buddhist Culture.

Gangaramaya could be recognized as the foremost popular Buddhist temple in Colombo. It is located at the very bottom of the administrative zone of the state, and the most appropriate landmark to describe the location is Beira Lake.

The term Gangaramaya carries the idea of “temple by the lake”. As the name itself suggests, this view is catchy, and such a view amidst an urbanized area is worth visiting. The statues inside are well-nurtured with Buddhist architecture. This statue sight will make you feel as if you are in a parallel universe, therefore never miss to spend some time here during your visit to Colombo!

Bellanwila is recognized as the most historical Buddhist temple in Colombo District. It is believed that a bud of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi has been planted here at least 2500 years back, and even now you could witness the well-grown Bodhi tree. (Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is the tree that umbrellaed Lord Buddha when Lord Buddha was doing meditations.)

Due to this sacredness, Buddhists that live in Colombo frequently come here to get blessings. The temple is neighbored by the Bellanwila park where you can walk around the eye-catching lake peacefully. Even bicycle rides are available in this park for cheap. Enough and more food stalls are available to get you refreshed. The orange juice outlets by the lake are my favorite!

One can argue that Kelaniya Temple is the most historical Buddhist Temple in the Colombo area. But technically it belongs to another district called Gampaha. But as it is very closer to Colombo city, why should I refrain from describing it too?

It is believed that Lord Buddha has visited this place, hence Buddhists have a huge respect for this temple. The traveler inside you is well catered by the Buddhist architecture of this place. The frescoes inside the temple are next level, and you can feel the joy of that sight from nowhere else. I highly recommend you visit this place if you could manage your time!

Moving on to the Islamic Spiritual places, Red Mosque is truly worth watching! The eye-catching color combination which is being used in its walls is really cherishing. From the brick pattern to the arch pattern, a nowhere-like architecture is being used. Therefore, a wise trip advisor will never miss recommending the red mosque to his fellow travelers. Words fail to describe the feeling it gives, but your eyesight is able to!  

Red Mosque – Image by Mohammad afras

The number of churches in Colombo is uncountable and every church carries a grand look alike. Meanwhile, St. Luke’s Church in Borella is truly exceptional! While every other church has got the Roman vintage, nurtured by Dutch and British architecture, St.Luke’s Church in Borella is nourished by Sinhala Architecture. Hence, undoubtedly this is the world’s one and only church of that type.

You might have witnessed many churches of many types, but you might have never visited a Church made of Sinhala architecture, I guess. So, why miss seeing it during your visit to Colombo?

The Wonders in Colombo

Lotus Tower, which is the tallest tower in South Asia, is the icon of Colombo nowadays. Its height is 1,150ft and is inclusive of 13 floors. It has got this name as it is viewed as a lotus bud. You should never miss visiting the lotus tower as it brings you every thin and thick of a city visit. The first floor is a 5G Innovation Centre while the second floor is where you could pass your time with magnificent ESport time.

The third floor is where you can get a 360° view of Colombo city, while the fourth floor is a luxurious banquet. All other floors bring you various joys inclusive of grand pubs and restaurants. Needless to describe the joy of visiting the rooftop of the subcontinent’s tallest tower. All in all, you have no valid excuse for not visiting this tower!

The national museum of Sri Lanka is also located in Colombo. Over 10,000 historical items are exhibited here, hence worth watching. The museum is built by the British Government when Sri Lanka was a colony of Britain. Hence, the building is of the British style.

Nearby, you can see the island’s prime extravaganza stadium Nelum Pokuna. It has gotten its name as a result of its shape of a lotus pond. Viharamahadewi Park, which is the biggest manmade park on the island is a few steps away from there.

Best of Sri Lankan Shopping Culture

Pettah is the biggest street shopping city in Sri Lanka. If you could wear a comfy dress and carry a big water bottle with you, you can spend even a whole day wandering in the 12 famous streets of Pettah. Each street brings something endemic. I must say before you start your journey, that robbers are considered to be usual in Pettah, and better be extra careful throughout your visit over there. In a nutshell, the twelve streets of Pettah are as follows.

  • Olcott Mawatha – Clothes and Accessories
  • Front Street – Bags, Luggage, and watches
  • Prince Streets – Electronics, toy items, Carrom Boards, wigs
  • 1st Cross Street – Mobile devices and related accessories
  • 2nd Cross Street – Clothing
  • 3rd Cross Street – Retail shops, wholesale shops, and textile shops
  • China Street – Party deco items
  • Maliban Street – Wedding Cards, wrapping papers
  • Bankshall Street – Artificial flowers, surgical equipment, and chemicals
  • Khan Clocktower – Books
  • Bodhiraja Mawatha – Kids’ toys, Kids’ jewelry

If you need a more comfortable shopping experience, I recommend Racecourse and Dutch Hospital. The two buildings were built by the British and Dutch respectively when they invaded Sri Lanka a couple of centuries ago. Now these buildings are converted into luxurious shopping malls. Your wallet needs to be really heavy if you wish to visit here, similarly, the items you would be purchasing are of the best quality too.

And if you carve branded high-quality items you should consider visiting One Galle Face Mall next to Shangri La Hotel, Colombo City Center, or Majestic City. All your IT-related carvings can be satisfied by visiting Unity Plaza, a dedicated IT shopping mall in Colombo 3, and Liberty Plaza, another shopping mall that is quite popular for mobile phones and accessories while you can also find many other items there as well.

To collect some typical Sri Lankan souvenirs, Laksala would be ideal. The handcrafts and wood-carved ornaments that carry the so-Sri Lankan themes are the most demanded items by overseas tourists. Laksala is right in front of the University of Colombo and is located on the 138 bus route which is considered to be the busiest bus route of Sri Lanka.

Best Times to Visit Colombo

Anytime in the year is okay to visit Colombo. As you know by now, Colombo is located in the coastal area of the island. Therefore, the sunny vibe would be there throughout the year alike, unless you have visited Sri Lanka during the monsoon season. In monsoons, Colombo once in a while experiences some rains, but it will never wash out the joy of your visit.

May and June would be rather ideal to visit Colombo, as Sri Lanka celebrates its foremost religious festivals of Vesak and Poson during that season. Colombo being the capital, gets itself decorated with pandols that describe Buddhist literature. Frankly speaking, they are worth watching! The designs are so Sri Lankan and available for you nowhere else. Usually, Colombo is the city that has the greatest number of Pandols during the season.

The gigantic lanterns and the models that exhibit the Siduhath Birth are some famous items. In fact, nearly every house gets decorated with some sort of lantern during the period. Hence, on any street you walk in, you face a nice experience! Colombo is having these spectacular exhibitions in way royal manner. Hence, you are really lucky if you could witness them as you cannot get that experience from anywhere else on this earth! Sri Lankans are anyway famous for their hospitality; hence people organize free food stalls during the season. After the must-watch deco session, you can get refreshed for free!

April season would also be fine to visit Colombo. Sri Lanka celebrates its prime cultural festival known as Awurudu in April. Even though decorations won’t `be there as much as in Vesak and Poson, you would be able to participate in Awurudu Fun Games and you can enjoy special Awurudu Food they prepare once a year.  Some hotels that host foreigners, organize Awurudu Fun Games and Awurudu Food Tables, just to expose their overseas visitors to this experience. The feedback comments given by the foreigners are all positive!

Best Hotels to Stay in Colombo

All the five-star rated hotels in Colombo are simply recommendable! Colombo is the most privileged city in Sri Lanka, and the wealthiest of people on the island nation reside in Colombo. Hence, the most luxurious hotels on the island are also located in Colombo. Therefore, finding a super-duper hotel to stay in is not a big issue at all. To name a few, Shangrilla Hotel, Galleface Hotel, Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury… all these hotels carry perfect feedbacks from visitors.

Things You Should Be Careful During Your Visit to Colombo

Locals marketing their helplessness and asking you to throw away some bucks is a frequent scenario in Sri Lanka. But be mindful that all who pretend to be helpless are not helpless for real! Some do it as a business. So, better not to give away anything that tries to win your sympathy. You might feel this is inhumane, but I suggest you not encourage the cunning business!

Taxi drivers will rush to you saying that they would drop you at the fairest rate, but they will end up exploiting you by the time you have to get down! Hence, if you need to use a taxi, better to use an app that allows you to book a taxi that comes with the authorized rate. Before you get down you can know the rate through the app, hence the driver cannot cheat on you.

On the other hand, use the buses if you are up for an adrenaline-rushing adventure. With compared to the developed countries, buses in Sri Lanka are far behind. The discipline of the bus drivers is a serious issue on this island. Trains are the safest and cheapest, but please refrain from trying to capture selfies from the footboard! For the places where trains do not cater, get taxis but I recommend you use those apps I talked about.

Fake tourist guides are there like mushrooms! Whenever they see a foreigner, they start their business. Hence, if you need a tourist guide, please hire a reputed traveling agent, without picking anyone from the road. Or, the locals are always willing to help even if they can’t speak English when in doubt feel free to ask for help from a local who is minding his own business and not trying to sell you or show you something.

Here we come to the end of the article. To sum up, you can visit Colombo anytime during the year to enjoy its unsurpassable beaches, multicultural vibes, and unique shopping experiences. The multicultural vibe of the city is what makes your trip worthwhile! Colombo is simply a mixture of all the tripping senses typical to a city visit.

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