Blessed land of the gods, Sri Lanka, the former Ceylon, is an endless playground. The land of Buddha has sublime beaches, abundant waterfalls, an antediluvian equatorial forest, sumptuous landscapes, historical monuments, an ideal climate... However, the island has had to weather many storms since its independence, entre clashes between its different ethnic groups, the terrible tsunami wave that caused irreparable damage, up to the attacks that struck Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa last April. If it is necessary to be careful and the site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs classifies the country as "reinforced vigilance", it is always possible to go to this mythical piece of land to discover its (many) treasures
A capital with two faces
Colombo, the first contact with Sri Lanka, is a rather disconcerting city. On the seaside, however, it offers no view of the ocean and one is almost disappointed not to find long beaches of fine sand. And that's good, because we could miss his soul. Like any self-respecting capital, it is, at first sight, in no way representative of the rest of the country. Only here does an ultramodern architecture unfold in its heart, the Fort, between tapered business centres and five-star contemporary design. The former Clock Tower, a former diverted lighthouse, and the Grand Oriental Hotel, a stigma of the European presence, still functional, are further enhanced.
And there, very close by, lies the popular district of Pettah, the Hindu enclave of cité ; between its tumultuous market and the joyful animation of its streets, it is difficult to grasp this striking contrast with the layout in the square of the Fort
Further on, it is the colonial style that dominates, with British buildings recognizable at first glance and entire blocks dedicated to Victorian architecture. The Colombo railway station is one of the most remarkable remains.
A seven-sided triangle
Now to Kandy, the vital centre of the last Sinhalese kingdom and located in the heart of the Highlands. It must be said that the ancient city has nothing to do with the western metropolis. Here, the city is on a human scale. It can be walked and the agitation is more slow. A tourist site par excellence, a holy city, a religious capital, it is the one that people come to see from all over the world, the one that tourists are looking for, a camera already in use. Its temple contains a relic of Buddha's tooth, a treasure whose value extends far beyond the island's borders.
We are also flocking for its summer Perahera, probably the most popular in the country. The show is grandiose grâce with dozens of elephants marching by.
Now it is time to move on to Anuradhapura, another holy city, also protected by UNESCO. Built more than 25 siècles ago, it was the first city in the country during 1 400 ans and is home to the most sacred dagobas on the island. These gigantic domes attract pilgrims from all over the world. All the seven sites listed on the World Heritage List are in constant evolution pas : Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla make their stones speak for themselves, witnesses to the island's thousand-year history. Galle, on the south coast, bears the outdated imprint of a glorious colonial past. Finally, the rainforest of Sinharaja, the island's forest reserve, is the seventh jewel of the Sri Lankan tiara.
A unique nature
For amateur birdwatchers, passage through Sinharaja, a primitive site declared a biosphere reserve. This rain forest has vibrant colours and superb fauna and flora. So, to your jumelles !
Nearby, budding athletes will feel a little bit of Adam's Peak, this sacred mountain. The giant footprint that its summit sketches is considered as Adam's footprint for some, Buddha's footprint for others. 2 238 mètres to climb to watch the sunrise, a physical performance worth the chandelle !
In a different genre, we will not fail to explore the hills covered with tea plantations around Nuwara Eliya, hand carved by thousands of Tamil fingers. A panorama that you can't get enough of.
Going further east, it is the Knuckles that will attract attention. This mountain range, difficult to access, is one of the most confidential natural sites on the island. Here, we are at the end of the world, without traffic jams or tourists. Take advantage of this escapade to meet the primitive society of the Veddas in Dambana. Quite physically close to the aborigines, they are the first inhabitants of the island
For a more faunal immersion in Sri Lankan nature, you will not hesitate to dive in its national parks, especially Yala, which has the singularity of having the highest proportion of leopards in the world. We will not miss the elephants, kings of the country. Finally, nature lovers will not be able to resist the possibility of witnessing, at night, the laying of water turtles all along the coast
For sports enthusiasts, the choice is vaste : rafting in the rapids of Kitulgala, surfing in Arugam Bay (east coast) or Hikkaduwa (west coast) depending on the season, diving all along the coast, golf in Nuwara Eliya, one of the best greens in Asia, etc. Hikers will be spoilt for choice between climbing the mountains in the heart of the country, visiting the Horton Plains or the rain forest. Bird lovers too, who will have a great time with the abundant fauna in the area. Between reserves and national parks, dozens of endemic species and other rarities are easily observed and the guides are there to help you find them. Get ready to take on the yeux !
Finally, between two excursions, how can you not be tempted by the gentle call of Sri Lankan medicine, ayurvéda ? Between flower baths, relaxing massages and plant treatments, this practice is most pleasant
After so many emotions, you have to eat. The dishes could be summed up as one, which is available in an infinite number of possibilities, curry. It consists of a plate of white rice with coconut milk, papadam and various sauces : chutney, fish, vegetables, chilli, etc. Coconut milk is there to soothe the heat of the chilli pepper, sometimes red, sometimes green. But make no mistake about it, this cuisine with its simplistic appearance is truly gastronomic. The products are fresh, often caught or picked the same day, and the arrangement of spices and herbs always respects the rules of Ayurveda - encore lui ! - to provide you with a perfectly balanced dish.
It's time to go home now, if you find the courage to get back on the plane. Because Sri Lanka is bewitching and tends to leave an indelible mark on you. An impression of peace and harmony that will not leave you soon..
When? When? Outside monsoon periods - the small one from November to January in the east of the country and the large one from May to June in the centre and ouest - Sri Lanka enjoys a warm and sunny climate all year round.
Getting there. SriLankan Airlines, an impeccable carrier, is the only company to offer a direct flight from Paris to Colombo. Count approximately 11 hours of flight.
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