From one land to the other - Colombo Travel Guide
Updated: Jun 22
The excitement started about two months back when I booked my flight tickets to Sri Lanka. And from then on until I arrived in Colombo, my first stop, the excitement took a rollercoaster ride and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What to expect?
Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka and is the main entry port for visitors coming to the island nation. However, before I came to the city, I didn’t know what to expect and I have to say that the city took me by surprise with its well planned, wide and clean roads.
I had about two days in the city and decided to explore it and I’m glad that I took two days out of my 14-day trip to explore the city and it was worth it.
The locals are kind, warm-hearted, friendly and helpful. You ask anyone for anything, they are all in to help you no matter what. Good food at all corners with picturesque buildings for the shutterbug in you, this city, though doesn’t have much to offer will take you by surprise.
What to explore?
Galle Face Beach
Having woken up early to catch the flight I didn’t feel like doing anything big apart from going to the beach and unwinding from the day’s travel. And the Galle Face Beach came to my rescue that evening.
This 5-hectare ocean-side park - initially laid out by the Dutch to enable their cannons a strategic line of fire against the Portuguese was then later laid out in 1859 by then Governor Sir Henry George Ward of Colombo. If you take a stroll along its side, you can still see the canons in its position.
As the sun went down, I rested my tiring feet and marked the perfect beginning to my trip around the island.
I’m a strong believer that if you want to see and experience a city, it's by walking. And the Pettah Market in Colombo is one such place which is an amalgamation of culture, heritage, hustle and bustle. Located in the heart of the city, this local market has everything to offer and let me tell you, it's a crazy adventure ride through the busy streets of the market.
Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque a.k.a the Red Mosque
Anyone exploring the Pettah Market can’t miss this magnificent mosque. Constructed in 1909, this distinctive red and white candy-striped building was commissioned by the local Indian Muslim Community based in Pettah to fulfil their daily prayers and Jummah on the Fridays. This mosque has a hybrid style of architecture which draws elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian architecture and combines with the Gothic revival and Neo-classical styles.
This mosque is open to tourists and people of other religion for free of cost throughout the day and is closed during their prayers.
If you’re in the Pettah area, this mosque is a must-visit.
Sri Lanka is a Buddhist majority country. With more than 70% of the country’s population practising Buddhism, it’s the official religion of this island. And what’s the better way to learn about the religion than by visiting the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo.
Located on the Beira Lake in Colombo, this temple is an epitome of the Buddhist religion in the city with a mix of modern architecture and cultural essence. Completed in the 19th century, this temple not only serves as a place of worship but also as a centre of learning and has been a home for scholars of the Buddhist religion.
The Dutch Hospital Complex
This building complex was initially built as a hospital by the Dutch to treat their officers and other staff serving under the Dutch East India Company. However, post-independence, this complex housed the Colombo Apothecaries and the Colombo Fort Police Station from the early 1980s to 1990s until the LTTE attack in 1996.
Though having suffered heavy damage, this hospital complex now houses several well-known shopping and dining outlets in the city, preserving the historic architecture post the attack.
The famous ‘Ministry of Crab’ is located at this complex and even if you’re not looking forward to shopping or dining at this complex, this is a building complex is a must-visit considering that it’s believed to have existed since 1681 - a complex that’s rich in culture, heritage and history.
How to commute?
If you like walking, explore the city on foot. It’s the best way to explore a city since you’ll be left with an opportunity is to see the unseen and hear the unheard.
If you want to opt for other modes of transport, you can choose to take an Uber or ride in a tuk-tuk. I had great fun exploring the city both on foot and in tuk-tuk. And the stories that you hear on the go are crazy and mind-blowing, and the hospitality of the locals are beyond words can explain.
Where to stay?
Colombo is the largest city in the island nation by population and houses expensive hotels and residential complexes. However, travelling on a budget, I prefer staying at hostels over hotels. And having chosen to stay at Bunkyard Hostels was an experience in itself. Friendly host, spacious rooms, comfortable beds and a clean washroom is all I look forward to in a hostel, and Bunkyard had all of this to offer.
With a great atmosphere and amazing people around you, you never feel lonely or afraid in an unfamiliar city or a country. Choosing hostels over hotels have always helped me meet great people and make friends on the go, which I cherish. The exciting part is that you’re never alone, asking your hostel mates if they want to hop on with you for a day out and you might have the greatest of times of your life.
At Bunkyard Hostels, my hosts were amazing and helpful and I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my trip around the island country.
More travel blogs from Sri Lanka coming up here in the following weeks. Stay tuned!