Top things to do in Colombo, Habarana and Kandy

Planning a trip to Colombo, Habarana or Kandy? Our local expert and trip planner for Sri Lanka, Durga, explains what to do in each destination
Sri Lankan greetings.
Sri Lankan greetings. Photo: Durga, local expert for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan greetings. Photo: Durga, local expert for Sri Lanka

Those searching for private, tailor-made holidays need look no further than dazzling Sri Lanka. As a local expert, I know a thing or two about travelling here. Below, I share a few valuable things that only locals know. If you're heading off on a tailor-made trip to Colombo, Habarana or Kandy, these insights won't disappoint

What to do in Colombo

The vibrant metropolis of Colombo awaits to be explored this morning. Hop in your ride, the famous tuk-tuk (a three-wheeler) from the hotel and start your journey maneuvering through the narrow streets of the city. The commercial capital of Sri Lanka depicts a fine amalgamation of hues from the island's cultures and traditions. The chic city has more to offer than mere shopping and entertainment. For a true traveller who seeks to experience the essence and the authenticity of the local life, the nooks and crannies of Colombo are a must. Hover through the bustling habitat of the city to less-touristic sites.

To understand local spices and flavours while gratifying your taste buds, stop over at the locally known 'Davalagiriya' restaurant. There will be an assortment to choose from; we recommend you try out the 'Ala Bonda,' a food item originated in India that's a delicious mash potato ball served with coconut chutney or coriander chutney. Try out a 'Nylon spice tea' (locally known as 'Yaara They') to balance out the flavour of the Bonda. 

Meanwhile, if you're on a tight schedule, leisurely spend a few hours in the city and be amazed by the many cultural and historical wonders located within locales such as Pettah and Cinnamon Gardens. The bustling market streets of Pettah also make for an interesting place of visit.

The Unforgettable Sri Lanka itinerary I've created for Insight Guides includes a stay in Colombo where you can experience all of the above and more; review the trip details now

Colombo with its tuk-tuks. Photo: ShutterstockColombo with its vibrant tuk-tuks. Photo: Shutterstock

What to do in Habarana

A leafy village located in the backwoods of the dry zone, Habarana is the heart of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Its location provides visitors the convenience of reaching all the historically significant sites with ease as well as some of the major wildlife sanctuaries in the country. Its landscapes of emerald greenery are dotted with the simple homes of villagers, reflecting the true beauty of Sri Lankan hamlets.

Break away from the traditional village walks and let this tour bring out the rhythm in you! You will be taken to meet a local dancing guru from the village school in Habarana. The traditional folklore dancing carries great significance to the Sri Lankan 'Sinhala' culture. The origin of folklore dancing goes way back in time to the indigenous people of Sri Lanka. As documented in historical records, the indigenous forefathers were quite fond of music and dancing too. It’s a combination of graceful to vigorous body movements swaying in complex rhythms of the thumping drum beat.

The village has even more to offer if you can spare some time, mingling and getting to know the villagers. All in all, this lovely village is a perfect dwelling for those of you who desire some quiet time in tranquil settings.

Durga's Perfectly Sri Lanka holiday, which tours the country's cultural triangle, can be adapted to include a stop in Habarana; review the full itinerary online now.

Sri Lankan traditional dance. Photo: Durga, local expert for Sri Lanka.Sri Lankan traditional dance. Photo: Durga, local expert for Sri Lanka

What to do in Kandy

Most often referred to as the hill capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy offers a diverse variety of experiences ranging from history, culture and simple scenic beauty coupled with a touch of urbanity.

The city’s colonial architecture has been preserved well even in the backdrop of rapid urbanization. Close to the city’s center is the prime landmark - Sri Dalada Maligawa, which houses the sacred tooth relic of Buddha. Apart from the ancient monuments of the Kandyan era, the delightful jumble of antique shops and the bustling market in the city also make up for interesting places to visit.

Experience the touch and feel of the Beraya (the drums) and learn to play a beat or two from a senior player who has a wealth of practice and experience with the historic instrument. The rather elaborative traditional costume and accessories are sure to mesmerize. Ancient sources reveal that drums were used for special occasions from the time of birth until death. Later used for communication, pleasure and rituals, these traditional drums have become an integral part of Buddhist temples, processions, and culture in Sri Lanka, especially in Kandy.

Later meet a villager (a local lady) who will take you through an interactive cooking session of the scrumptious local dish called 'Pittu.' This is mixed rice flour and coconut scrape fed into a metal cylinder, steamed and taken for consumption. The preparation for this itself could be considered sort of an art, which actually highlights the attention to detail by these villagers. Top it up with some hot gravy, boiled coconut milk and 'Lunu Miris,' and you’re good to gobble up!

Experience all this and more on your holiday to Sri Lanka: review Durga's suggested Sri Lanka Family Adventure itinerary now, or submit a trip request to create your holiday from scratch. 

Sri Lankan dinner. Photo: Durga, local expert for Sri Lanka.Sri Lankan dinner. Photo: Durga, local expert for Sri Lanka

Family Sri Lanka 

"We have returned to Sri Lanka many times in the last 20 years, as a couple and now with our children," says Alyson Long of World Travel Family. "The real beauty of Sri Lanka is in it's wonderful people, but be sure to visit at least one of the Ancient cities. Anuradhapura and its 2000-year-old Bo tree is our current favourite." Also on Long's list are the beaches of Mirissa and the stunning temples of Jaffna.

Intrigued? Learn more about Sri Lanka:

Plan your trip: When to go to Sri Lanka

What to do on your trip: 11 essential Sri Lanka experiences

Sri Lanka's top 5 food experiences

Sri Lanka shopping guide: What to buy in Sri Lanka and where

Top 5 beaches in Sri Lanka

Where to stay on your holiday: 7 best boutique hotels in Sri Lanka

Choose an alternative destination: 20 best places to visit in 2016