Colombo is the largest city and capital of Sri Lanka, offering a heady blend of tropical environment, colonial villas, and modern cityscape. It dates from 800 AD and there is history to explore around every corner. You can wander through the many temples and sample some delicious food while soaking up the atmosphere.
The sunsets in Colombo are truly breathtaking. Head to Galle Face Green Promenade to watch this spectacular show as you wander among food stalls, street vendors, and picnicking locals.
The beachfront of Mount Lavinia is a popular area for nightclubs and bars with visitors and locals alike. The party goes on until dawn.
The Colombo National Museum and Dutch Period Museum tell the story of the city's fascinating history, right back to Arab rule in the 900 AD.
The city is a great place for street food, with stalls everywhere selling little packets of vegetables and rice. Bakers sell vegetable, fish, and egg rotis and the seafood restaurants are excellent.
The elephant show at the National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka takes place every day at 5:15 pm and is a must-see Colombo event.
Between the plethora of fountains, playgrounds, and carefully manicured lawns this park attracts hundreds of visitors every day. The center of the park features a large gold Buddha Statue, paying homage to Sri Lanka's spiritual roots. On special occasions, elephants can be seen wandering through the courtyard waiting for their turn in the spotlight of the next cultural ceremony. The park is surrounded by restaurants and cafes, complimenting the calm and peaceful atmosphere of Viharamahdevi Park.
It's hard to miss an opportunity to pay homage to the spiritual guru Buddha while traveling in Colombo. The Gangaramaya Temple is a healthy blend of modern architecture and true cultural spirit with an overarching message of meditation, self-reflection, and material non-attachment. But the Gangaramaya Temple is more than just a passive spiritual experience. Here you can get involved in one of many service projects aimed at helping the local community and strengthening interpersonal bonds in Colombo. Some of these opportunities open to the public include vocational training, "Tree Bank" ecological conservation efforts, and a Center of Indigenous Medicine.
Located along Colombo's eastern coastline, Galle Face Green has been used as a cultural gathering point and urban park since it's inception by the Dutch in 1859. The narrow strip of beach is ripe with sunbathers, swimmers, and sports enthusiasts who travel outside of the city center for some fresh air and community spirit. There are also many food carts selling Sri Lankan specialties like Isso vadei, a lentil paddy topped with spicy prawns. If you're one for large open spaces and meandering promenades, it's hard to beat a day out at Galle Face Green when traveling around Colombo!
With the humid tropical temperatures in Sri Lanka, finding a place where you can cool down and relax is a real treat. Just outside of the city center is the Mount Lavinia Beach, famous with locals and tourists alike for it's close proximity to downtown and many modern amenities. The area is known for its "golden mile" of beaches, clubs, and restaurants catering to the energetic urban lifestyle of Colombo. Travel tip: the beach can get very crowded on the weekends, however the Mount Lavinia Hotel offers a private beach for a small fee which also includes access to the pool and a buffet meal.
Hospital, police station, apothecary - this building has served many different purposes over the years. The Dutch Hospital is considered one of the oldest building in Colombo's history of Dutch-occupation with an estimated date of construction leading back to the 17th century. In 2011, this historic building was converted once more into a shopping center with dining opportunities, retaining it's original architecture while also modernizing it's purpose to suit the local community's needs.
Colombo has a tropical climate and is warm to hot throughout the year. Monsoon season is June to September, which is best avoided.
Colombo's main airport is Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), 22 miles north of the city at Katunayake. A taxi will take you into the city in around 30 minutes for a fare of Rs3,000, while the bus will cost just Rs110.
There are infrequent trains to other major Sri Lankan cities. A fare to Katunayake costs Rs30.
Driving in Sri Lanka is not recommended. Roads are in poor repair and often crowded with livestock and pedestrians.
Buses are the principal transport network in Sri Lanka and services are frequent. Fares from neighboring cities are as low as Rs100.
The Metro City Hotel on Justice Akbar Mawatha has clean, affordable rooms, while the Grand Oriental on York Street is an old colonial luxury hotel with immaculate rooms.
Mount Lavinia - this is Colombo's main tourist area, with great beaches and lots of bars and restaurants. It has great nightlife and lots of accommodation options.
Kollupitiya - this is an upscale neighborhood with a good choice of restaurants and some of the city's best hotels.
Bambalapitiya - Bambalapitiya is a bustling suburb. It has lots of eateries and is home to the Majestic City mall. There are also casinos and cinemas.
The local bus network is good but it's best to find out which number you require before your journey. Fares are Rs100 or less.
The traditional local taxi is the three-wheeler tuk-tuk. The initial fare is Rs50 and then you pay around Rs75 per mile. Standard taxis are available but are more expensive and slower in the busy traffic.
Driving in Colombo is not for the faint-hearted and probably best left to the local bus and tuk-tuk drivers. If you do decide to drive, local rental companies include Malkey Rent A Car and prices start at Rs1,400.
Major malls include Liberty Plaza and Majestic City, while Odel is a good department store. The Pettah Market is the place to negotiate for all manner of goods.
A quart of milk costs around Rs185 and a dozen eggs Rs200. Keells Super markets are dotted throughout town.
Try a 'lunch packet' of rice and vegetables from one of the street stalls from around Rs120. Raja Bojun is a good place to try local dishes, with an excellent Sri Lankan buffet costing Rs1,800.