Colombo, Sri Lanka cruises
Your guide to Colombo.
Situated at the crossroads of the great spice routes, Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo has long been a gateway between East and West. Innumerable spices, textiles and treasures have passed through the city, bringing great diversity and resulting in colorful bazaars, vibrant temples and eye-pleasing colonial buildings. To this day, Colombo’s rich trading history shines through in its incredible food, thriving markets and the eclectic splendor of its architecture. Beyond the city, all manner of birds make their homes among the tangled vines of the outlying wetlands - this mangrove metropolis of energy and color welcomes you to its sandy shores with open arms.
Colombo’s delights are many and varied, with excellent museums, fine restaurants and opportunities to shop. The city is a melting pot of people and religions, which makes for a unique cultural experience. Of the countless religious sites, the candy-striped Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque and Buddhist Gangaramaya Temple are among Colombo’s most celebrated buildings. Colombo National Museum offers artifacts expanding on Sri Lankan history, while The Dutch Museum occupies former Governor Thomas Van Rhee’s official residence. Wolvendaal Church, built between 1749 and 1757, is among Colombo’s most important Dutch Colonial buildings and one of the oldest protestant churches remaining in Sri Lanka.
Eating and drinking.
Sri Lanka is renowned for its curries, many of which are made with chili and consequently very hot. Spices (cardamom, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon) feature strongly in Sri Lankan cooking and meat and fish, either grilled or wrapped in banana leaf, are also common. Puddings can be sweet and fresh fruit often merges favorites like banana and pineapple with natively grown varaka (jack fruit), durian and soursop. Kottu roti, sliced roti (thin bread) blended with chicken, beef, egg, onions, tomatoes and chili is a quintessential snack, local beers are very drinkable and a cup of tea is almost compulsory in this part of the world.
Colombo's modern malls and traditional marketplaces offer everything from handmade crafts to luxury brands. Shopping options include the harmoniously chaotic Pettah Market, the more upscale Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct and Arcade Independence Square. Fort, immediately south of the port, and neighboring Pettah are two of the best shopping areas. The former specializing in reputable dealers selling precious gems, the latter an area of crisscrossing bazaars where visitors can test their bargaining skills. South of Fort and Pettah are the shopping centers of Majestic City, Crescat Boulevard and Liberty Plaza. If you seek typical souvenirs then Laksala, Colombo’s government-run store, stocks carvings, batiks, instruments, masks and leather goods, locally made in Sri Lanka.
Seven miles northeast of Sri Lanka brings you to Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara Temple, one of three places visited by the Lord Buddha. The temple is famous for its decorated ceilings, frescoes showing Buddha and outer walls with carved elephants. Mlesna Tea Complex, about an hour from Colombo, guides visitors on the art of tea-grading and packaging. Tours end in a tasting session where teas can be purchased. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is 55 miles northeast along the Colombo-Kandy road. From just seven elephants in 1975, the sanctuary is now home to about 80, who are fed, cared for and routinely taken to the river to swim.