Its traditional name meaning ‘Lanka the blessed’ in Sinhalese, once you arrive in Sri Lanka, you’ll see exactly why this island has been attracting visitors for centuries.
Historically once known as Ceylon (when it was under British colonial rule—including its renowned tea plantations and estates), the island has been inhabited as far back as 125,000 years ago.
In 2009, a thirty-year civil war ended, with the Sri Lankan army prevailing over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The present-day capital of Colombo, due to its geographical position on a natural harbour, was well-known to traders over 2,000 years ago.
Arabs settled in the area around the 8th century AD as the port helped their business, allowing them to control the trade between the Sinhalese kingdoms and the rest of the world. In the 14th century, the famous traveller, Ibn Batuta, visited the island, referring to it in his notes as “Kalanpu.”
Due to its position as a port, Colombo was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British during their attempts at ruling Sri Lanka.
Today, Colombo is a bustling modern city and the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Because of the city’s history as a Portuguese, Dutch and British outpost, as well as its native Sinhalese roots, the city has many stylistic and cultural influences.
The city is highly multicultural, with a mix of Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Moors, Tamils, Malay, Chinese, Indian and Burgher ethnic groups as well as a large number of European ex-pats.
Historical architecture from the many eras of Colombo’s past fills the city, such as the neoclassical style of the National Museum, the Colonial Galle Face Hotel, the Doric Wolvendaal Church, the Colombo Fort—shaped by all three invaders, and various Buddhist dagobas or stupas.
Juxtaposed with the historical buildings are the markings of modern infrastructures, such as the World Trade Centre, the Bank of Ceylon Tower and the innovatively designed National Performing Arts Theatre.
Keeping its Portuguese name, Beira Lake is in the central business district of Colombo and is home to storks, pelicans, lizards and various fish.
The lake was heavily used during the Colonial era of both the Portuguese and English to transport goods in the city. Resting next to the lake sits the Gangaramaya Temple, one of the most important Buddhist temples in Colombo.
For both Buddhists and tourists alike, the lake is somewhat of an iconic area in the city, which makes for a perfect photo opportunity as the many impressive surrounding buildings reflect in the water.
Galle dates back to 150 AD, when the city existed as the main port on the island of Sri Lanka, trading with ancient Greeks, Arabs and Chinese.
The port remained the biggest area for trade during the 16th century when the Portuguese arrived.
Fortifications began during the Portuguese era and were continued by the Dutch in the 18th century when the city reached the height of its development.
The Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the largest fortress in Asia built by European invaders.
Galle is very picturesque; its dramatic history and beautiful surroundings continue to capture the imaginations of the many artists, writers, designers and photographers who inhabit the fort area of the city.