Sri Lanka's former capital (the modern capital is next-door Sri Jayawardenpura Kotte) has one of the most perfect settings in Asia. Stretching for 14 kilometres along the island's western shore, it has a sheltered harbour that attracted Indian Ocean traders long before the Portuguese arrived in 1505. Even in modern Colombo, a busy city of over 600,000 people, with hectic traffic and soaring residential and office towers, there are still patches of the charming "Garden City of the East", with its abundant foliage and gentle sea breezes.
There are lakes, canals, tree-lined boulevards, open-air markets, temples and colonial buildings. Many of the latter can be found in two of the oldest districts, Fort and The Pettah (the old market district), next to the harbour, where all the colonial powers - Portuguese, Dutch and British - have left their mark. The National Museum collections include Polonnaruwa bronzes, demon dance masks, puppets, a Children's Museum and a library containing over 4,000 palm leaf manuscripts, or ola, Sri Lanka's oldest written records. In Pettah, the Dutch Period Museum in the 17th-century governor's house is full of domestic details and fine period furniture. To the south is the tiny, delightful Buddhist temple, Gangaramaya, near Beira Lake.
Contemporary Colombo is full of great shops - for upmarket shopping and excellent restaurants try Kollupitiya and Bambalipitiya, near the elegant residential area of Cinnamon Gardens - or York Street in Fort. There is a thriving art scene and the Sapumal Foundation Gallery at Barnes Place sells Sri Lankan paintings dating back to 1920 (open mornings only and closed on Mondays & Tuesdays).
Features in the following itineraries
- Ampersand's Signature Sri Lanka Tour
- Ampersand's Unusual Escorted Journey to Sri Lanka
- Ancient Kingdoms of Ceylon
- Classic Island Tour of Sri Lanka
- Geoffrey Bawa... An Architectural Tour of Sri Lanka
- Golfing in Sri Lanka
- Grand Colonial Tour of Asia
- Natural Wildlife Wonders of Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka's Ancient History & Wildlife Wonders
- The Most Spectacular Festival in Sri Lanka - Esala Perahera
- The Perfect Summer Honeymoon in Sri Lanka
- Leslie Siben, India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Susan Ford, India