An epitome of strength and archaeological excellence, Galle Fort is one of the most prominent tourist places situated towards the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. Built by the Portuguese in 1588, this manmade marvel has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Flanked by the ocean on three sides, the fort houses mini markets, coffee shops, restaurants and museums, including the National Maritime Museum. A complete world in itself, the streets of Galle are enveloped in a unique old world charm, which is further accentuated by the simple and rustic lifestyle of the fishermen families staying here. In the evenings, you can walk up to the lighthouse, or visit the Meera Mosque and the Dutch Reformed Church.
If the idea of a trek strikes your mind while in Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak (also known as Sri Pada) is the place to be. Ascending the peak takes around 2 to 3 hours as thousands of natural and manmade stairs lead you to the summit. The path is well lit, and lined up with refreshment shops. Mid-way, you will come across a Peace Pagoda built in 1978, and the view from the top is a soul-stirring experience.
Buying souvenirs or packing in some local flavour comes naturally while exploring a new country. One walk through the Pettah Market in Colombo, and you are sorted. Jewellery, apparel, artefacts and handicrafts – you name it, and the tiny shops tucked into each other will likely have something to pique your interest. Bargaining is the mantra to get the best deal, but if you are not keen, simply sign off with a smile; the shopkeepers here are too busy for a chase!
If you like green spaces and want a relaxing break, you can visit the Viharamahadevi Park, earlier known as the Victorian Park. The largest park in Colombo City, it has a number of water fountains, a small zoo and a play area for children. And yes, do not miss out on the popular Buddha statue. The Park has an illustrious history, and was built by some of the most well-known British architects during Sri Lanka’s pre-independence era.
While you are exploring Colombo, this imposing red structure cannot miss your sight. Built in 1909 under the aegis of the Pettah Muslim Community, the Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque is one of the oldest structures of the city. Also known as the Red Mosque, it was not built by seasoned architects, but by Habibu Labbe Saibu Labbe, an unlettered yet creative hand who drove its construction through sheer talent and passion. It is believed that the mosque once stood as a landmark for sailors approaching the city.
New Kathiresan Kovil
Kathiresan Kovil is a Hindu temple dedicated to Skanda – the War God. Located in Bambalapitiya, a small township, you will come across two Kathiresan Temples – the New Kathiresan Kovil and the Old Kathiresan Kovil. If you happen to visit Colombo in the month of July or August, you can participate in the Vela Festival, which kicks off from the New Kathiresan Kovil. The two temples house shrines of Lord Ganesha, Lord Indumpan and Lord Murugan, amongst others. The colourful frescos and statues of the temple attract locals and tourists from varied ethnic groups.