Sri Lanka's capital city, Colombo, is a contemporary urban sprawl built on traditional foundations. Skyscrapers stand side by side with temples, huge shopping malls are a short walk away from traditional markets, and old colonial buildings contrast with the many modern apartment blocks. The city acts as the key travel hub for both national and international travel so most visitors will find themselves in Colombo even if they do not have much time to spend there. There are, however, a number of religious sites and museums that are well worth a visit before heading off to Sri Lanka's idyllic beach towns. The city even has its very own beach, Mount Lavinia, which is just eight kilometres from downtown.
Peak season is December to March as Sri Lanka enjoys the best beach weather during this time. Expect packed beaches and resorts. Low season runs between May and August due to monsoon rains, although the weather remains good in the south and the west. Cheap flights to Colombo are most common at this time, or in September to November when the weather is warm and dry.
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Bandaranaike International is the primary airport serving Colombo and it is on the coast 30 kilometres north of the city. The flight time from London is a minimum of 10.5 hours and cheap flights to Colombo involve at least one layover, typically in the Middle East or India. Direct flights are infrequent and generally tend to be more expensive. The journey into Colombo from the airport takes around an hour by road and taxis are available outside the terminal
For those of you who do spend a couple of days in the city there is plenty to see. Gangaramaya Temple stands on the banks of a small lake in Colombo centre and it is renowned for its many Buddha statues and a colourful exterior. The magnificent statues are made from a variety of materials including jade and ivory in a multitude of styles and sizes. History buffs should also head to the Colombo National Museum to learn about ancient Sri Lanka, its colonial past and the cultural journey that this amazing country has been on.
Mount Lavinia beach is eight kilometres from the centre and makes for an enjoyable day trip with its golden sands and sea view restaurants.
The city at sunset
The Seema Malaka Temple is a must-see
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