Just south of India is the equally exotic island nation of Sri Lanka – yours to explore via the capital city of Colombo. With thousands of years of history, a wealth of cultural diversity and incredible flora and fauna, there’s a wide variety of excursions to choose from when you visit Colombo, one of the ports on Holland America Line’s 2017 Grand World Voyage.
Tour the City
The city itself is a wonder, and a day spent touring Columbo is a memorable one. The island’s colonial past is visible in Dutch buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and British structures (including the Old Clock Tower) from the 19th century. Another clock tower marks the entrance to the Pettah Market, where you can browse the beautiful gold jewelry and see the red-and-white Jani Ul-Alfar Mosque.
The Columbo National Museum houses marvelous antiquities, including artifacts that date back to the fourth century BC. Among Columbo’s many temples, one of the most visually stunning is the Gangaramaya Temple, where a mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese architecture contains lavish collections of artifacts, including statues of Buddha and other gods.
If you love a day on the beach, Columbo is close to the lovely beaches of Negonbo, about an hour to the north. Once a center of the cinnamon trade, then a major fishing port, visitors come for the beaches and a lovely, 60-mile network of canals. Spend the day relaxing poolside at a luxury hotel or sunbathing on the beach, but take a break to browse the boutiques or enjoy a boat ride through the canals.
Beyond that you’ll find plenty of beautiful countryside to explore!
Explore the Arts
Sri Lanka has produced a number of noted artists and architects, and you can visit the country estate of Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most famous architect and founder of the tropical modernism style. The airy rooms and terraces of Bawa’s home are a masterpiece of bricolage (a creation that uses diverse materials), perfectly complemented by the surrounding gardens and lake.
After enjoying Bawa’s estate, stop at Barefoot, a unique shop created by artist, writer, weaver and designer Barbara Sansoni. You’ll love the colorful handmade fabrics, clothing, bags, toys and crafts.
Flavors of Sri Lanka
The flavorful cuisine of Sri Lanka reflects its history as a producer and trader of spices.
To learn how to cook classic Sri Lankan dishes, opt for an excursion that will take you into the kitchen of chef Mohara Dole. She will welcome you to her home and invite you to join her at the cooktop (be ready to chop vegetables and combine ingredients, with her guidance). The chef will demonstrate dishes inspired by her own Malay heritage and the rich traditions of her Sinhalese and Tamil friends and neighbors. Best of all, you’ll get to eat everything that you cook with Mohara!
Elephants are among nature’s most magnificent creatures, and are native to Sri Lanka, where they are protected. To see elephants up close at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, climb aboard the Viceroy Heritage train, Sri Lanka’s only remaining steam train (and an exclusive for Holland America Line guests).
At the orphanage, which has evolved into a breeding facility, you can see adorable baby elephants being bottle-fed, watch the herd take a splashy bath in the river, and even ride a friendly elephant.
If you’re interested in going even farther afield, it’s also possible to arrange excursions to Kandy, the mountaintop capital of ancient kings; or to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
Talk with Cruise Specialists about the HAL World Voyage and how you’d like to spend an unforgettable day in Sri Lanka.