If you follow me on Instagram you will know, I spent the last weekend in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sometimes you need to escape the heat and desert for a bit, and what would be more perfect than an island filled with the charm of Southeast Asia. With its crazy cities, beautiful nature, and lovely people it makes for the ideal change in scenery.
Here are some of the things you should consider visiting when in this fantastic city even if you only have 48 hours to do so.
First let’s get into some necessary information. Sri Lanka has a warm climate all year round, but it does have a monsoon period. If you do not like rain, you might want to avoid those couple of months, since it rains at least once every day.
This country is also slowly growing in popularity with backpackers and solo travelers. It might be a bit expensive to get to from Europe and the US, but once you are here everything will be cheap. I have had a meal for less than 3 Euros, and a luxury hostel bed for 10. They have cheap transport in the form of trains, buses, and tuk-tuks, which have meters so you will not have to be afraid to be cheated by most of them.
The people are very friendly helpful. Be a little careful with the food and the hygiene, but you should get used to it quite quickly. If you want to avoid any consequences, you can stick to the more high-end places, which will still not break the bank at around 5 Euros.
If this is not enough information for you, go check out this post by My Travel Affairs, where you will learn some fascinating facts about Sri Lanka.
Sights of Colombo
Colombo being the capital and the biggest city in the country has the most to offer regarding historical sights and museums in one spot. You can visit a temple, a mosque, a night market, and the beach. Here are some of the top sights of the city.
Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple
This temple has the biggest collection of Buddhist artifacts in the country. You will find Buddha statues in different sizes and colors in this temple. You can see some of the important ones displayed throughout the temple. Unfortunately, there are no descriptions in either English or the local language. Therefore it is hard to learn details about the different statues. You will be charged 300 Rupees (1.5 Euros). It is up to you to decide if it is worth it.
The Red Mosque
The Red Mosque is a fascinating one for me, especially now that I live in a UAE. I have seen so many mosques recently. This one is wholly integrated into the surrounding neighborhood. The colors remind me of the mosque/cathedral in Cordoba with the alternating red and white bricks. If you come here around dusk, you can peak in and get a beautiful atmosphere with soft light and winding stairs and corridors. Men are running in and out and around the mosque. Mosques are generally meant for men, so you will not see women around. They are supposed to print at home
I believe you are allowed to visit it; however, I visited during the Holy Month of Ramadan, so the rules were even more strict.
If you walk past the mosque, you will end up in the chaos of Pettah. Shops line the streets, and everything is filled with people. During the day it is somewhat quiet, but it does become very active during the night. You will find anything you want around here. Many stories selling textiles and saris, others with technology and household items. If you need anything, you will find it here. Make sure you bargain for things, since in this country many of the prices are not set.
This promenade was a disappointment for me. Due to monsoon season, everything was flooded, rainy, and almost abandoned. I can imagine this being a lovely spot for a beautiful summer or winter evening, but not much life here during monsoon. If you are a fan of rough waters, you may still enjoy it. If you come here during the evening small beachfront shops for food and other knickknacks.
This historic building was a mental hospital during the occupation period. Today it is a favored spot for restaurant and nightlife. They have small boutiques and fancy restaurants. It hosts one of the most famous crab restaurants in the city, which you should check out if you like seafood. You will also find other exotic restaurants, such as Japanese or Italian. The places are very artsy, so a great place to come to take some pictures.
If you are interested in trying local food and enjoying this even more than you have so far, read about all the curries you need to try here.
Colombo is a great place to start your exploration of the nearby areas of Sri Lanka. You can take a train ride down to Galle (about 2 hours), or into the jungle, or up north to Negombo (1.5 hours). Since I only had half a day, my trip took me to Mount Lavinia.
This is a small sleepy town close to Colombo. It takes about 15 minutes by local train and will set you back 20 Rupees (less than 1 Euro). You will be treated to an exciting train ride with the locals. These trains always ride with the doors and most of the windows open, which can be dangerous, but also an experience. These open doors also make for a great Instagram picture. Make sure to ask someone where to get off, since there will be no announcements.
The small town is adorable. You can walk by the local resort hotel, which has a story told to me by one of the local women. According to her, the hotel is an old palace. The prince who lived there fell in love with his dancer who came to him every evening through a trap door to perform and then left again. Once his feelings were discovered he was forced to move. Very dramatic.
You can also walk along the beach. There are many beach front restaurants, almost like Spanish chiringuitos, along with the coast. You can walk all the way to the next town. Unfortunately, due to the monsoon season, the beach and many of the restaurants were flooded, and the walk was impossible. The atmosphere is still impressive, although much darker than usual.
That is about all you can do in 48 hours. You will get an amazing impression of Colombo and it’s surrounding areas. It also shows you what the rest of Sri Lanka is most likely like and lets you decide if you want to come back and explore more of it.
If you end up going, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below or on social media.