Sri Lanka: Colombo 48 Hours
Colombo has been known to traders for almost 2,000 years due to its position along the sea trade routes running East to West as the principal port of the Indian Ocean.
Upon your arrival in Colombo, check in at your boutique hotel, which is located in the city’s most elite neighborhood. Initially constructed in 1930, and the former residence of three of Sri Lanka’s political leaders, the hotel offers individually-designed suites with high ceilings, comfortable beds, and timber floors.
This morning, you will be met by your guide in the hotel lobby for a 30-minute private transfer out of the city to Colombo’s most magnificent temple. Situated four miles east of Fort, it is said that the Buddha preached in this prominent center of worship more than 2,000 years ago. The current structure was built during the 18th and 19th centuries, and contains an impressive reclining Buddha image.
Lunch is served at a café famous not only for its colorful handloom, but also for its frangipani-filled outdoor garden. Serving Italian food with a Sri Lankan twist, here, you’ll enjoy a light lunch, a quick snack, or a cup of tea or coffee.
After lunch, head across the road to one of the most popular shops in Colombo for antiques and home décor. Reproductions are available in addition to local Sri Lankan art, pottery, glass, porcelain, statues, and dolls. Next, stop at a shop which specializes in beautiful, traditional, and unusual weaves from Jaipur in Rajasthan.
Later today, visit one of Asia’s oldest and most famed hotels for high tea or a sunset drink. The hotel takes guests back in time to a world when high tea served by sarong-clad staff was the order of the day, and when G&Ts sipped on the fan-cooled veranda at sundown precluded dinner in the company of good friends. The charismatic doorman is likely one of the world’s longest-serving hotel employees, having worked at the hotel since 1942.
Return to your hotel in time to relax and change before a suggested dinner this evening at an outdoor restaurant, which serves light tapas and fresh Mediterranean cuisine.
Meet your guide this morning for visits to the Fort and Pettah Markets. The Fort area did, indeed, contain a fort during the period of European colonization. Today, the area has been developed with modern buildings, most notably the twin towers of the World Trade Center, as well as several derelict buildings that have been damaged by separatist bombings. The area is mostly vehicle-free, and there are some stretches which feature street vendors, making it a pleasant place through which to stroll. Worth a look is the Clock Tower, which was once a lighthouse, as well as the busy port area, from where the Sambodhi Chaitiya temple is visible.
Pettah Market is Colombo’s busiest market; located in one of the city’s oldest and most ethnically diverse districts, it is a fascinating place in which to browse and pick up souvenirs. Colorful and chaotic, you’ll find everything here from Ayurvedic medicine, jewelry, and food stalls to religious buildings and the fascinating Dutch Period Museum.
For lunch, we suggest savory Sri Lankan pastries, iced coffee, and a slice of chocolate cake or artfully designed marzipan (made with cashews, rather than almonds, in Colombo).
In the afternoon, your guide will take you to visit the National Museum in Viharamahadevi Park. The museum contains a number of impressive collections, displaying everything from demon masks, Sinhalese artwork, and royal regalial, to antique furniture, palm leaf manuscripts, and china.
Just behind this museum is the Natural History Museum. Visit it on your own if you wish.
Return to your hotel on foot through Viharamahadevi Park. Set in Colombo’s upscale area of Cinnamon Gardens, this is Colombo’s largest park, and the perfect retreat from the busy streets of other areas of the city. The best time to visit is in the spring, from March to May, when you can enjoy the park’s stunning flowering trees. Visitors can cross from one end of the park to the other via the Green Path. Later, visit the old Town Hall, which sits at the northeastern edge of the park.
For dinner this evening try the celebrated restaurant on the hotel property, where you’ll have the option of dining outside or indoors. After dinner, stop for a drink at the exclusive bar, a space where a privileged few can lounge in hip style on black leather lounges at bronze tables.
After a leisurely breakfast this morning, visit Galle Road, the busiest street in Colombo. Head out on your own, beginning at the Galle Face Green promenade, which stretches along the coast in the business district of the city. Observe the interesting combination of modern, glitzy buildings mixed with run-down eateries and shops, as you continue along the bustling main road.
This afternoon, return to your hotel whenever you wish. Your driver will meet you in time to transfer to the airport for your departure flight, or to continue on the next part of your Willing Foot journey.
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