A visit to Colombo is a fascinating experience, and the city is the perfect location to start or end your holiday in Sri Lanka. Colombo has gradually grown from humble beginnings as a tiny 5th century trading post for gems to become Sri Lanka’s largest city and its most important port. The island’s commercial capital is a hectic mix of old and new, colonial architecture sitting next to modern glass and tree-lined residential suburbs bordered by shacks. Nifty 3-wheelers and the occasional bullock cart vie with noisy buses and 4-wheel drives for supremacy on the streets. There is a lot to see and explore during your stay in Colombo. To the north of the city is Fort, a business area with shops and offices and touches of residual colonial charm. The fort which gave the district its name has long since gone, though the Lighthouse Clock Tower in North Chatham Street and the 18th century ‘Queen’s House’, now the president’s official residence, still exist. To the south is Galle Face Green, a sea-front expanse of green lawn beside an esplanade which is used to host race meetings and sports events and is a popular gathering place, especially for kite-flying or a sunset stroll. At its south end stands the colonial Galle Face Hotel, the oldest hotel in Colombo which was built in 1864. Further south is Cinnamon Gardens, the city’s most fashionable neighbourhood with tree-lined streets and colonial mansions. A small national art gallery borders the pleasant Viharamahadevi Park. The National Museum, on Albert Crescent, has a collection ranging from religious bronzes to posessions of the last Kandyan kings. All around the city, Buddhist temples, Hindu Kovils, mosques and churches give a glimpse into the spiritual vibrancy of Sri Lankan life, especially during religious festivals. Gangaramaya Buddhist temple, in particular, is fascinating for any visitor, as well as the Hindu Temple at Sea Street which is lined with goldsmith's shops, the Dutch Church at Wolfendal, dating back to 1749 and the historic Davatagaha Mosque. Colombo also offers some excellent shopping opportunities: the lively Pettah Bazaar competes with shopping malls and fashion stores and you can buy anything from gems to cricket bats. Stores such as Barefoot, Paradise Road, Gandhara and Odel have a designer-chic range of home ware, fabrics, arts & crafts and clothes.There are a range of luxury hotels in Colombo, including the oldest hotel east of Suez, modern boutique hotels and homely guest houses.
Climate: Colombo has an average temperature of 27C, often reaching above 30C during the day, slightly cooler in the evenings and during the monsoon season (May to August). It is hot and sticky, less so on the seafront with the sea breezes.Festivals and EventsFebruary: Navam Perahera - a 3-day pageant ending on Poya day(full moon), with dance troupes and decorated elephants, at Gangaramaya temple and along neighbouring streets.There are plenty of options for things to do in the city: Fashion, jewellery, art, trendy homeware and Sri Lankan arts and crafts; Golf at Royal Colombo golf course; National Museum; Variety of restaurants; Afternoon tea or cocktails on the Ocean terrace of the Galle Face Hotel; Walking along the seafront at Galle Face Green; Pettah Bazaar; Buddhist temples (Gangaramaya, Bellanwilla); Colourful Hindu Kovils (Sri Subramaniam and Kailawasanthan Swamidevasthanam, the oldest); Dutch period museum. Near Colombo – Kelaniya Raja Maha Temple; Nightclubs and musical entertainment e.g. jazz, Asian pop bands, calypso, (mainly in the hotels).
Driving Distances: Colombo to Colombo International airport: 1 hour Colombo to Bentota: 2 hours, Colombo to Galle: 2 hours, Colombo to Kandy: 3.5 hours, Colombo to Dambulla: 4 hours.
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Find out more about Sri Lanka
CapitalSri Jayawardenapura-Kotte, with Colombo the commercial capital AirportBandaranaike International Airport is 1 hour from downtown Colombo CurrencySri Lankan Rupee (£1 = 208 Sri Lankan Rupees) Size268 miles long and 139 miles wide Population21 million Average temperatureThe climate varies dramatically between coast and interior year-round, and between the south-west and north-east according to time of year. Average coastal temperatures in areas we feature is 30 degrees whereas the temperature is much cooler in the hills, with hot water bottles needed (and provided) at most hotels. Rainy season in the south-west is September to October, and April to May in the north-east.
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