As a destination, Colombo is versatile, a business hub, and cultural haven through the day and a foodie’s delight, an outdoorsy paradise, and party capital by the evening.
By Sulakshna Wadhwa
The last couple of years have made Sri Lanka a preferred destination for Indian and global tourists. An island nation in South Asia, Sri Lanka often tops bucket lists for its tropical weather, peaceful beaches, wildlife spotting and everything one would typically expect from an ideal vacation without loosening their purse strings too much. However, Colombo, the largest city and capital of Sri Lanka doesn’t often make it to most itineraries.
In fact, the sprawling city full of skyscrapers, expansive roads, malls, restaurants-cafes, tuk-tuks, and oceanfront is a must-visit for business and leisure travellers because Colombo is rich not just in its infrastructure but experiences too.
We put together some first-hand information about spending 24 hours in Colombo, enlisting things to do in Sri Lanka’s largest city.
Getting to Colombo from India – Quick Flights
While planning international trips and getting to the destination is not always a cakewalk, getting to Colombo is! The free visa on arrival process for Indian tourists flying to Sri Lanka makes it possible for one to plan a relatively last-minute yet hassle-free trip. Flying from Mumbai to Colombo is easier than ever. Starting 25th November, Vistara has commenced daily (except Wednesdays) flights from Mumbai to Colombo. The Vistara connectivity to Colombo will soon be commencing through direct flights via Delhi as well. The airlines is the first carrier to offer the choice of Premium Economy Class for travel between India and Sri Lanka, in addition to Economy and Business Class.
The Premium Economy cabin onboard is noteworthy for travellers as it enables passengers to enjoy a lot more for little more! A private cabin located at the front of the aircraft; it allows one to have a comfortable journey with extra legroom, and pillow backrest. Some highlights for business travellers on the go are the priority luggage handling and check-in services helping them save time from long waiting and queues respectively.
The dining experience in premium economy is a defining factor for every traveller when sparing those extra bucks for this mid-level upgrade. Instead of two choices, the Premium Economy cabin passengers have access to a special menu with more delicious meal options, freshly brewed Starbucks coffee, some alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The in-flight entertainment Vistara World can be accessed on one’s device such as a phone, laptop or an iPad. It is a multimedia streaming platform with access to curated Indian and Global content worth 70 hours.
The airline has gained momentum for its consumer-driven approach such as the Vistara woman flyer programme. Every time a woman is flying solo, the airline ensures that she is allocated a desired seat from the window or aisle. Additionally, the carrier is also known to be India’s fastest rewarding frequent flyer programme.
Things to do in Colombo
As a destination, Colombo is versatile, a business hub, and cultural haven through the day and a foodie’s delight, an outdoorsy paradise, and party capital by the evening. The best way to explore the city is through walking tours or tuk-tuk rides. A visit to Gangaramaya Temple is the perfect way to kickstart your trip with cultural immersion. A Buddhist temple, it is known for its blend of Sri Lankan, Chinese, Thai architecture. The main temple (Vihara) is home to gigantic colourful statues of Lord Buddha, beautifully done ceiling, and walls depicting the teachings of Lord Buddha. Many devotees can also be spotted at the Holy Bodhi tree also known as the tree of enlightenment.
Flags and fabric pieces tied to the tree symbolise prayers of the devotees. At the end of the courtyard, one can spot Buddha statues in a row. A pause at the temple museum to take a look at the world’s tiniest Buddha is recommended, see through the microscope and one will discover extraordinary detail. A part of the Gangaramaya Temple is Seema Malaka located in the middle of the placid Beira lake. Overlooking the busy city, it is primarily used for meditation and rest.
An enriching morning needs to be followed up with an interesting lunch, and one can indulge in an experiential meal in the company of nature at the Barefoot Garden Café. An open courtyard seating under trees with quirky posters, bright and colourful interiors, the café is ideal for a laid-back afternoon for healthy eats.
The Sri Lankan evening bliss can be best enjoyed at Galle Face Green, a stretch of lawn overlooking the ocean with street food stalls at the promenade. Some of the popular street food items include Kottu, local crab, Isso Vadei (Red lentil cakes topped with Shrimp.) The bench seats at the promenade are accommodated for an uninterrupted view of the sunset.
A definite must-visit for lively evenings is Park Street Mews, a quaint lane where warehouses have been converted to restaurants, cafes and bars. The walls are embellished with quirky graffiti and the lane is lit with ferry lights.
Getting around Colombo
The local tuk-tuks are easily available and function as per the meter, additionally cab bookings apps like Uber and PickMe are user-friendly for tourists to go around.
(The author is a Mumbai-based travel writer. Views expressed are personal.)