in the middle
Sri Lanka oozes charm and character. Thousands of elephants hurtle through its backcountry, roaming from the rugged bluffs of the Knuckles Mountains to the babbling rivers and thorny scrublands of the Yala National Park. Ancient temples hide in caves, kingly palaces crown the cliffs and the remnants of Portuguese and British rule pepper the cities, from throbbing Colombo to the fortified ports of Galle in the south.
This is a place for culture lovers, history buffs, surfers, safari-goers and pretty much everyone in between. Compare the best Sri Lanka hotels on dealchecker and come explore the exotic, enthralling Tear of India.
Colombo, the capital, is one of the most popular entry points to the country, not to mention the home of the acclaimed Sri Lanka National Museum and the salt-sprayed Galle Face Green Promenade, where beautiful sunsets over the Indian Ocean are on show every night.
On the bends of the south coast, sparkling, shimmering Bentota is where Sri Lanka's beaches really come into their own. Choose an uber-luxurious resort just metres from the sand, or go for something a little more rustic in the lively towns of Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa, where green jungles cascade right down to the edge of the Laccadive Sea.
Charming Kandy, with its royal palaces and colonial frontispieces, is another top choice. Set in the cooler highlands in the heart of Sri Lanka, this tea town is for the trekkers and culture vultures.
Sacred spots and must-see shrines abound in Sri Lanka. Kandy's Temple of the Tooth, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts jewel-inlaid domes and golden stupas, along with one mysterious relic of the Buddha himself. The Dambulla cave temple, meanwhile, has been carved straight out of the mountainside. There are plenty of cheap hotels in Sri Lanka for those eager to explore these heritage gems.
However, it's Sigiriya that's perhaps Sri Lanka's top draw. This soaring bluff of ancient rock that lurches from the forest in the heart of the country plays host to water gardens, temples and the grand court rooms of the old Mauryan kings.
Nature lovers should make a beeline for the dry and dusty hills of Wilpattu, where gazelles spring above the waterholes and then visit Yala National Park, where galumphing elephants and leopards roam.