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Thursday, December 05, 2013 - 05.00 GMT

A divine time in Sri Lanka


From its food to its colourfully dressed people and stunning landscape, Sri Lanka's hill country is alive with flavor, states The West Australian in a report published recently.

The ancient kingdom of the Kandyans is high on the list of tourist destinations as the city which houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic, a tooth of the Buddha.

But Kandy is also a jumping-off point for spectacular mountain and forest scenery, tea factories and plantations and all the British colonial history that is wrapped up with the early days of the tea industry, the newspaper said.

“Rising above this centre are steeply wooded hills that contain numerous guesthouses and hotels, many offering spectacular views. In fact, accommodation in all price ranges is to be found throughout the hill country, enjoying rural scenery but with easy access to the city itself,” the writer said.

For 2500 rupees we hire a three-wheel tuk-tuk, which zips around everywhere for local journeys, for the day. The driver takes us to a working tea factory, three historic temples in a beautiful, rural setting and the Peradeniya Botanic Gardens, the writer further said.

These are the finest botanic gardens in the country, spread over 60ha with avenues of palms, a spice garden, orchids and thousands of specimens once viewed only by the Kandyan royal family.

For those interested in the hill country's colonial past, there is the landmark Queen's Hotel, which is well located and reeks of history. There is also the British cemetery behind the National Museum.

But the real legacy of Sri Lanka's commercial history and the tea trade lies beyond Kandy in the cool of the mountain ranges.

The road south from Kandy climbs to Nuwara Eliya (1889m), a town with much colonial architecture where the plantation pioneers would come to relax and play sport.

The town can be a stepping stone to Ella and the Horton Plains and Udawalawe national parks. Allow several days to explore the hill country as there is much to see and the twisting roads and heavy traffic make for slow travelling.

If you are fit, you can hike the Knuckles Range, where a guide is compulsory. Equally challenging is Adam's Peak (2243m), where Adam is said to have first set foot on the Earth, otherwise knows as Sri Pada. It is a seven-hour climb from Ratnapura.

To the north are the ancient cities of Dambulla, Sigiriya (another climb) and Polonnaruwa, with histories stretching back 1000 years.

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Last modified: December 05, 2013.

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