Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Travel: Sri Lanka will have you coming back for more

The huge sitting Buddha statue at the Kande Viharaya Temple 
in the ­village of Aluthgama
The huge sitting Buddha statue at the Kande Viharaya Temple in the ­village of Aluthgama

“We feel like smile millionaires when we’re here,” said two holidaymakers I bumped into strolling on one of my many Sri Lankan beach stops.

They said their feeling summed up the warm, welcoming and hospitable reactions from locals to visitors.

By the time we’d finished our holiday I, too, felt like a “smile millionaire”.

My fascination with Sri Lanka stems from schoolboy days and, after my initial trip five years ago, this island – a quarter of the size of the UK – captured my imagination.

Now I’m regarded by locals as a “repeater”, a visitor making regular visits to enjoy this island.

My last visit straddled the festive season, allowing a welcome escape to 35°C warmth and clear-blue skies of a country that offers myriad visitor attractions and 1,600 kilometres of beaches.

With tragic terrorist bombings in early 2019 having an understandable impact on its tourism industry as well as the achingly sad human costs, the island is now working to rebuild its visitor appeal. I was more than happy to come back to the island to show solidarity and explore more of its attractions.

One such highlight is the famous landmark of Sigiriya, a huge, ancient rock that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

© Shutterstock
Lion Rock in Sigiriya

It’s a slow climb up 1,202 steps, many fairly steep, in sweltering heat to discover what’s left of a once-lavish palace – complete with swimming pool – built on the rock for a forward-thinking 5th Century king.

The architectural splendour and stunning views from the top are worth every bead of sweat!

We stay for three nights in beautiful Habarana, a once-isolated village in the centre of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. Our base is the Cinnamon Lodge Hotel, an eco-focused complex.

A team of nature experts are on hand to offer a great selection of activities from yoga to birdwatching and answer any questions about their 48-acre site.

Our elephant safari guide enhances the experience, identifying best vantage points to get a glimpse – often very close-up – of the area’s elephants. Sights and sounds from that afternoon will live with me for a very long time.

As well as offering great activity options the hotel kitchen team lay on mouth-watering Sri Lankan cuisine.

From Habarana we drive almost five hours to the island’s cosmopolitan capital, Colombo. Major investment has seen a number of new hotels, shopping malls and luxury apartment tower blocks change the skyline.

Another Cinnamon hotel – the Lakeside – is our base, delivering excellent cuisine, ideal for walking to the city’s historic Fort area and with views to the brand-new Lotus Tower. At 356m, it is the second-tallest building in South Asia.

Several beautiful parks are dotted around the city, creating peaceful havens for walking or sitting in the shade.

Independence Square and an adjacent former colonial hospital, now beautifully restored, are must-visits.

A 30-minute tuk-tuk drive takes you to the beautiful Mount Lavinia Beach.

We perch ourselves there in front of a beachside café which, as well as serving us drinks and a lovely lunch, offered fresh towels, sunbeds and parasol all for just £12.

The final part of our visit is a trip to the south-east corner with the beautiful Bentota and Moragalla beaches.

We stay in the village of Aluthgama – 90 minutes from Colombo – in a 24-room boutique hotel a few minutes’ walk from the Kande Viharaya Buddhist temple. With its giant sitting Buddha at almost 50m high, it’s regarded as one of the biggest in the world.

The hotel team there complete the hat-trick of fine food establishments with fruits galore and a specially prepared Sri Lankan curry which was not only a taste sensation but, at £7 per head, a price sensation.

That’s Sri Lanka visit number five under my belt. Will I return? You bet…

P.S. When in Colombo we used the Uber app to summon tuk-tuks for city jaunts. Not only does it avoid destination confusion it removes any potential rip-off risk on the price. Worked a treat every time!


Qatar Airlines flights from Edinburgh to Colombo (via Doha) from around £500. Prices at Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana and Cinnamon Lakeside in Colombo from £60 per night. In Aluthgama, Bougain Villa double/twin rooms from £50 per night.