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Port Review: Colombo, Sri Lanka

By:
Joanna Hall
 

Colombo is located on Kelani River in the west of Sri Lanka and off the southern tip of India, and it’s growing in popularity as a port of call on world and repositioning cruises.

The Facts 

Location: On the west coast of Sri Lanka, in the Laccadive Sea and Indian Ocean.

Language: Sinhala, Tamil and English are widely spoken in major towns and cities and tourist areas.

Currency: Sri Lankan rupee.

Docking/Anchoring: Ships dock at the Queen Elizabeth Pier, which is about a 15-minute drive to the centre of town.

Transport: Most ships should offer a shuttle service to the town centre, and there are usually plenty of taxis and trishaws available, however, be sure to agree the fare before going it alone. A touring option is hiring a taxi for the day, to get you to key sights.

Overview

Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is an island famous for exotic vegetation and a mountainous terrain dotted with coffee, tea, pepper, coconut and spice plantations. Colombo is the country’s capital, as well as its business and cultural hub, and its major port, with a history dating back many centuries. The port of Colombo was founded by the Portuguese in 1505, and since then many relics of Portuguese, Dutch and English settlements stand cheek-by-jowl with its Indian heritage. Although the centre of the city, known as the “fort”, is easy to explore on foot, if you want to cover more ground and navigate the city’s famous traffic, touring is the way to go here. 

Don’t Miss 

The Fort was built by the Portuguese and is the city’s commercial centre with hotels, shops, cafes and some sights to see including the nineteenth-century Century Clock Tower, the President’s House and Gardens where the British Governors lived, and which is now home to the Sri Lankan President.

Pettiah is the colourful bazaar district, with narrow cobbled streets, streets specialising in specific products, and plenty to see and enjoy even if you are not buying.

Slave Island is located south of the Fort, and is where the port’s early slaves slept. Today it is home to hotels, shops, several government buildings and some lovely temples.

Cinnamon Gardens is an area which used to be covered in plantations and is now home to elegant tree-lined streets and some lovely mansions which are home to the country’s elite.

The National Museum of Colombo has some lovely collections including the throne and crown of the countries seventeenth-century kings, and other exhibits which tell the story of the country.

Viharamahadevi Park is located next to the National Museum, with flowering trees and fountains, and is the place to enjoy the great outdoors. 

Mt. Lavinia is an option if it’s hot and you don’t feel like touring too many sights or taking on too many tourists. It is Colombo’s main beach, albeit 12 kilometres away from town, and is also home of the famous Mt. Lavinia Hotel which dates back to 1805 and was build by Sir Thomas Maitland.

Best Photo Op

If you love people, colour and things, it’s hard to beat Pettiah bazaar district, or the elephants at the Dehiwala Zoo.

Shopping

There are some trader stalls alongside the pier selling souvenirs such as wood carvings, jewellery and clothing, however, one of the best shopping opportunities is at the Pettah Bazaar district. It’s packed with shops and stalls selling everything from food to gemstones, and has some quaint temples to visit as a distraction.

Food and Drink

Two of the popular local delicacies include cashews, which were brought to the island by the Portuguese and are a major export item, and tea. There are many tea shops in Colombo, selling tea leaves and all manner of other paraphernalia, with one of the most famous being the Dilmah Tea Shop, which as several outlets. If you venture down to Galle Road, you can try a wide range of Indian sweets from the stalls and small shops. 

Pick of the Excursions

If you fancy going further afield and a tour to Galle is offered, it’s worth considering. Around 110 kilometres away from Colombo, it is famous for many things including an impressive fort built by the Dutch in 1663, and is an amazing collection of structures and cultures dating back centuries.

If you’re travelling with children, consider a trip out to the Dehiwala Zoo, which is about 10 kilometres out of town, and regarded as one of the nicest facilities in Asia. Besides gardens packed with flowering trees and orchids, it has lakes and is home to over 2,000 animals including lizards, crocodiles and bigs cats including leopards, lions and tigers. The evening elephant show, held every day, draws many people including tourists. 

The full day touring option is usually to Kandy, a garden city famous for colourful dance culture and architecture. Tours often feature a stop at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which is home to some 90 animals. 

 

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  1. Posted by on 24th Jun 2019 Verified Customer

    Best Way To Cruise 5 Star Review

    We stopped here on a cruise - part world segment - a couple of years ago. Loved Sri Lanka it's very different from India not as full on but very hot!

  2. Posted by on 24th Jun 2019 Verified Customer

    Might Go 4 Star Review

    My daughter's partner is from here and we might organise a family holiday next year. Never been into India or Sri Lanka but I guess that has to change!

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