05 hand-picked vacation destinations that are worth a visit in Gujarat


  1. The north west desert ( rann of Kutch )

The white sands portrayed in the tourism of ‘Khushbu Gujarat Ki’ are well within travel reach. This place is an ideal for winter travel as daytimes are less hot while night are really entrancing.

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White Rann of Kuch

Special attraction: there is a place in the Banni Grasslands which is adjoining the Rann of Kutch where according to locals one can see floating lights move around the air. Locals call the phenomenon ‘cheer batti’ or ghost lights which can be seen 2 to 10 feet off ground. Scientists believe the lights are scientific photo emission by oxidation of Phosphine and Disphosphane gases however local legends can be fun to hear over a full moon for adrenaline seeking travelers.

  1. Gir Forest and Girnar
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Cubs been fed my Lioness at Gir Lion National Park, Sasan Gir 

This region between Junagadh and Amreli district are known for its diverse wildlife. It is home to the Asiatic Lion and the Girnar Mountain. This place can be of great adventure for people who find solace in the wild.

Special attraction: the place is the world’s second home to Lions outside Africa. One can also get a chance to mingle with the local ‘siddi’ population whose ancestry can be traced back to African tribes. The mountain Girnar is also a host to ‘Naga Babas’ or naked saints and witnessing them is considered a good omen. It is also a known fact that the formation of this mountain is older than the Himalayan Range.

  1. The deep forests of Dang
Saputara Picnic

Saputara, only Hill Station of Gujarat in Dang Forest Region

Popular among travelers as Saptuara forest; this place is a good winter retreat. The place has a lot to offer for tourists ranging from treks and hiking to a whole unexplored wildlife.

Special attractions: there are a lots of hotels that offer stay in three houses which can be of interest. There might also be a few waterfalls to visit in this area. Taking a good day’s hike in the forests can be of great adventure.

  1. Dwarka & Somnath
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Somnath Temple overlooking Somnath Beach 

These places are of high religious importance. Each of them has a unique spiritual experience to offer.

Special attraction: dwarka is home to ‘bet dwarka’ which is like the lost city of Atlantis and is submerged in water. Somnath is one of the ‘Jyotirlings’ which lord Shiva himself has established which makes it a very significant destination for religious and spiritual people alike. Somnath also has a beach.

  1. Diu & Daman
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Diu 

Contrary to popular befief, Diu & Daman are far away from each other. However both of them offer a good winter gateway with coastal climate and beaches.

Special Attraction: it wouldn’t be wrong to mention it is one of special attractions for anyone wanting to unwind a bit. Daman is soon to be host to onshore gaming complexes (casinos) and it has recently been host to Sunburn Music Festival. Diu is known for its Diu Fort and the Naida Caves.

When the travel bug bites all these places can be on the list for the various special attractions they have to offer. Tourists not wanting to travel far off lands can find proximity in all of these places. After all; all of them have ‘Khushboo Gujarat ni’ in common.

Song of the Wilde – The Bandipur Tiger Reserve


SONG OF THE WILD

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We sat down for a romantic dinner at a candlelit table for two, on the periphery of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in south India and the air resonated with mystery and menace. We heard an owl hoot, the electrifying alarm call of a deer ripped across the jungle and then the low growl of a tiger resonated in the depths. It was a chilling moment, but laden with ineffable beauty.

The king of the jungle was probably on the prowl in the forest beyond The Serai Bandipur, a plush jungle resort in Karnataka, around 226 km from Bangalore. As we sipped a drink and pondered on the surreal nature of our tryst, we exulted that the Royal Bengal Tiger was roaring back, having been written off by doomsday prophets as being on the brink of extinction.

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A handsome total of 2226 tigers have clawed back into the big cat census of 2014 as opposed to 1706 in 2010, and the southern Indian state of Karnataka has the highest number in the country. Indeed, Karnataka was the first state in India to set up a commando force to fight poachers and, today, the Bandipur Tiger Reserve supports the highest density of tigers in the country.

The low roars had died down soon after in that star-span-gled night as we savoured a gourmet repast laid out for us at The Serai, where luxury in the wild is the byword. Not surprisingly, the 990 sq km Bandipur Tiger reserve is no stranger to the luxury, these forests, though the 18th and 19 centuries, like to pulverise a tiger or two over an idle weekend.

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Built artfully across 19 acres (and enclosed by solar fencing), the resort has 17 acres of private wilderness around it. As we turned in for the night in our capacious suite, we could imagine the majestic cat scoping the jungle for a meal; transfixing a terrified fawn in his tawny eyed gaze; sizing up on a muscled Sambar and could almost hear the nervous titters of Langurs, high up in a gnarled old tree…

Nestling in the foothills of the Nilgiris, Bandipur that day was awash in shades of green where dawn crept in on silent feet, painting the vast lushness in pastel shades. Langurs swung from tree to tree to welcome the new dawn, birds trilled and the Giant Malabar Squirrel scampered up the sturdy trunk of a tree. The rare while bellied black woodpecker peeked out of a hole in a tree like an inquisitive old aunt; the greater racket-tailed drongo called, displaying his ability to mimic the calls of a number of birds while a crested serpent eagle sat prey. Spotted deer pranced as our jeep purred past and handsome stags locked velvety antlers in a display of brawn.

As the sun rose in the sky, it glanced off the axle-wood trees and glided the forest, turning it into a wonderland. Knotted old growth trees leant towards stands of dead bamboo as though to breathe life into their old, lifeless comrades; red pathways sliced the dense forest and suddenly, a herd of elephants – aunts, matriarch and baby, chomping their way through the jungle. As jeep stopped in quiet homage of the huge beasts, another group suddenly emerged from the other side, backlit by the climbing sun. Low sounds emanated from the herd as they communicated with their brethren on the other side of the divide.

Then a couple of them lumbered across the safari trail, even as our driver reversed the jeep to let them pass unhindered. But one gentle giant hesitated for a heart-stopping moment as though considering mock charge and then plodded away, having decided that we were not invaders. The most stirring moment was yet to happen: the herd trumpeted as they crashed through the jungle, sending shock waves through a silent landscape.

There were no encores after that, but it was a cameo of the world in all its raw innocence. And as drove back to the Serai, a graceful leopard draped in a tree just outside the property, a gorgeous beauty that combined raw menace and grace.

Later, we savoured breakfast at the resort, revelling in the scenic beauty of South African style lodge, which cleverly combines rustic chic with luxury. We spent the rest of the day under the thatched umbrella set up on the terrace of our residence suite, gazing at the Nilgiris blueing in the distance and heaving ourselves up only to go on a nature walk with the resident naturalist in the private wilderness of property. This is a not-to-be-missed activity for the formidable Kuttappan’s air of a fearsome bandit, complete with a rakish bandana and scarred face, is deceptive.

To embark on a nature walk with him is to experience the smaller pleasures of the jungle: points out the pug marks of a visiting tiger who might have loitered past at night; presents a non-venomous wolf snake to you as a mark of respect and affection; and lifts up from the forest floor a pair of deer antlers, velvety in the dying sun, with the tender care that one would accord a newborn baby!

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Kuttappan is a legend in these parts, a tribal who taught himself to read and write, despite a childhood spent in the forest eating birds and robbing wild dog kills for his family, which they would roast on a crackling fire and eat.

Later, as our vehicle trundled through the forest, we were resigned to the fact that we might not see the striped feline. But to out amazement, he made a guest appearance. He sat in a clearing in the distance, gazing back at us with disdain. We eyed each other for a while before he seemed to tire of our pesky presence. He rose and strode off into the thicket, his swishing tail waving goodbye.

Courtesy by K.T.

SPOTTING THE POTTED


More elusive than the tiger, leopards are one of the toughest big cats to spot. But if you are passionate about these enigmatic creatures, here are a few places in India to visit.

RAJASTHAN:-

Far from the madding crowd of tourists and safari canters, this is an uncharted leopard terrain, unknown even to the locals. A few dry, parched zones of Rajasthan have become thriving spots for leopard sightings. The journey starts from Taalvraksh (while coming from Delhi), which is just 20 km from Sariska Tiger Sanctuary in Rajasthan. The place has become a safe haven for leopards, which have migrated here from Sariska, thanks to territorial tiffs with the tigers. A small area of dense forest covering, with little water available, has made the place a good leopard habitat.

Next, you can visit Siana in Jalore district, a small hamlet bordering the great Thar Desert. The village of Siana is featured in David Attenborough’s epic The life of Mammals. The rocky desert hills of Siana are still home to a number of leopards other than chinkaras, Indian striped hyenas, desert fox, civet cat and jungle cats. The place offers a farm stay with homegrown food, safaris and a tour of the village where you can see carpenters engaged in making wooden handicrafts, leather embroidery and potters wheels.

Last but not the least, on the list is a place called Bera near Jawai Bandh, one of western Rajasthan’s largest reservoirs, which is abuzz with flamingos, geese, cranes and other migratory birds. Equidistant from Udaipur and Jodhpur ( 4 -5 hours by road), it is an hour’s drive away from the Jain temple at Ranakpur. Unlike Taalvraksh, Bera is not home to a few nomadic leopards, the place is full of the cat, camouflaged under big rocks. The location boasts of quite a few comfortable camps, some in luxury category with private viewing decks! Most of them offer specialized safaris with experienced guides, who will help you track down the stealthy beast and other wildlife, like sloth bears, wolves and hyenas.

Best time to visit:- winter, since the cat strolls out and basks freely under the winder sun.

KARNATAKA

The iconic image of a leopard resting on a silent tea branch that we often see in magazines was perhaps shot in the lush backwaters of the river Kabini in southern India. Snaking its way through the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the Kabini forms a spectacular backdrop to abundant wildlife, especially leopards. The Kabini forest Reserve in Karnataka is rather unique since all three predators – Tigers, leopards and Dholes (Indian wild dogs) coexist here. The leopards spend a large part of the day on trees and come down mostly for hunting. They are so well-camouflaged that even the most trained eye misses them from a distance. The Kabini Forest Reserve is also partially the largest refuge of the endangered Asiatic elephant. On a boat safari of the reserve, one can spot them by the waterfront along with other animals like gaur (Indian bison), spotted deer and wild boar.

Best Time to Visit: Between October and May.

BORDER OF MP, MAHARASHTRA

The fabled forest immortalized in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Mowgli Land in Pench, makes for intriguing jungle safaris. Located on the southern boundary of Madhya Pradesh, bordering Maharashtra, Pench National Park is known for a variety of wildlife and more famously for the Royal Bengal Tiger. However, leopard sightings in this park are stated to be among the best in India. Though known to operate mostly in the peripheral areas of the park, leopards are also seen in the deep forest area. So don’t always keep your vision fixed at ground level, keep a watch on treetops for unsuspecting leopards taking a nap. Birding enthusiasts must pack appropriate binoculars and amateurs should carry birding books since the forest boasts of around 200 different species of birds, including barbets, wagtails and blue kingfishers.

Best time to visit: November to June

MADHYAPRADESH

There is one more place in central India that brags of a high leopard density – Satpura Tiger Reserve. Most travelers, who’ve been here to seek tigers, have come back jubilant over chance leopard sightings, the possibility of which is terrific, both inside the park and in the buffer zone, which is accessible on night drives. This relatively new, little-known scenic reserve also has the distinction of being one of the few national parks offering walking and kayaking safaris! Other than offering abundant wildlife, its forest clad hills, steep gorges and creeks makes for a picturesque outing.

Best time to visit:- November to June

JAMMU AND KASHMIR

A trek to the higher regions of Ladakh has become synonymous with searching for the elusive snow leopard. Leopards are hard to spot and snow leopards top that list. These reticent creatures love their cold habitat and come into sight only during their mating months, when they are on the move. Various organizations have vowed to protect this endangered animal and have started treks in the area, led by a Ladakhi snow leopard expert who tracks the snow leopards movements with the help of local villagers. In support of community-based ecotourism, these organizations make travelers stay with the local herders in the warmth of their traditional Ladakhi homes with comfy beds and gratifying meals.

Best time to visit: February and March, the snow leopards mating season.

AROUND THE WORLD

Asiatic leopard sightseeing’s can be fantastic in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. Boasting of one of the world’s densest leopard populations, Yala is also inhabited by herds of elephants, sloth bears and crocodiles.

Finding the elusive leopard can seem like a tall order, but not in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. Stay in one of the many gorgeous luxury camps and lodges with excellent guides at your service.

The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in Botswana is a place full of predators, roughly 200 cheetahs, 450 lions and 150 leopards dominate the sand dune-ridden landscape!

Family Holidays – Kids Please


Five destinations guaranteed to put a smile on children’s faces…

1)      Orlando, Florida

orlandoThere are many reasons Orlando remains a top destination for families: the sun usually shines, there are hotels to suit all tastes, but above all, it’s home to two of the best theme parks in the world. Walt Disney World, Florida, is where you will find the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and the Hollywood Studios, plus the brilliant water parks at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Trust us, even if you don’t consider yourself a Disney fan, resistance to the charms of the House of Mouse is futile – one ride on the superb Soarin’, Splash Mountain or The Tower of Terror and we guarantee you will be hooked and singing it’s a Small World for ever more.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure (www.universalorlando.com), meanwhile, is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – a mind-blowing recreation of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, complete with rides, talking portraits and shops selling wands. Universal also has roller coasters such as The Incredible Hulk and a whole section dedicated to Dr. Seuss, which will appear to younger children and those who remember The Cat in the Hat books first time around. Just over an hour’s drive away is Daytona, with its glorious sandy beach, ideal for surfing, and the Nascar racetrack, where you can take a spin inside a real stock car. A holiday in Orlando is exhilarating, but exhausting and requires lots of advance planning.

2)      Rome, Italy

romeKids fans of Horrible Histories? Then take them to Rome, where at the Colosseum, one of the best preserved Roman Amphitheatres in the world, they can run around and imagine what life must have been like for the gladiators and animals that fought here nearly 2000 years ago. You can even enrol them at Gladiator school for the afternoon while you go off to explore the designer shops along the Via Condotti. They will marvel at the apparent traffic chaos by the impressive Vittorio Emanuele II monument where you can see foolhardy tourists riding Segways (our advice is not to try this); at the Trevi Fountain they can throw a short walk to the magnificent Pantheon, built in AD126. Rome is, of course, also a fantiastic place to introduce your children to the wonders of authentic Italian gastronomy where you opt for a pizza in Piazza Navona, pasta in Trastevere or gelati (ice cream) on the banks of the Tiber River, Rome offers a feast for all the senses.

 

 

 

 

3)      Sydney, Australia

australiaAs the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge discovered on their recent trip to Sydney, this Australian city has heaps to offer – and while Prince George is perhaps a little too young to enjoy it right now, for children aged two and up, it is an absolute paradise of wildlife, history and, of course, all those fantastic beaches, including Bondi, which has a children’s pool and playground. At the excellent Featherdale Wildlife Park (www.featherdale.com.au) they (and you) can cuddle up to Koalas, hand-feed kangaroos, see dingoes or check out the crocs and snakes. No child will be able to resist the Tyrannosayrs exhibition at the Australian Museum (www.australianmuseum.net.au), a homage to the most feared of all the dinosaurs. Much-loved Luna Park has lots of rides and a giant Ferris Wheel, while children aged 10 and up (and their brave parents) will jump at the chance to climb the Harbour Bridge (www.bridgeclim.com). Sydney is a very easy city to get around and children will also enjoy a ferry ride over to Manly Bay, particularly if it is a bit choppy. If you have a few days to spare, combine a trip to Sydney with a visit to Uluru (Ayers Rock) or Queensland for the Great Barrier Reef and you will have a holiday to remember.

4)      Kerala, India

keralaIf you want to introduce your children to the fabulousness of India, vibrant, colourful Kerala, with its breathtaking landscapes, glorious beaches, distinct cuisine and amazing wildlife, is the perfect place to do it. Once firmly on the hippie tourist trail, it has evolved to become the hottest destination in India and it is easy to explore. Your children will see wild elephants and jungles, and magnificent natural wonders including the beautiful Athirapally Falls and the Chalakudy River; banana, rubber and tapioca crops; and at Periyar National Park they can look for real-life animals straight out of The Jungle Book, including, if they are very lucky, tigers. (Our advice is not to make any promises, just in case the big cats are feeling a little shy when you visit.)

5)      Stockholm, Sweden

stockholmStockholm is known for being cool city for adults. But it’s also officially one of the most child-friendly cities in the world, with a whole island, Djurgarden, dedicated to families. At Skansen open-air museum you will find traditional Swedish homes, experience life in the 19th century, and at its open-air zoo you can see native wildlife including adorable Swedish brown bears. For fans of Vikings and Disney’s Frozen there is the Vasa, a museum housing the only preserved 17th-century ship in world. There is lots of creative play to be held at Junibacken, dedicated to children’s character Pipi Longstocking and Emil. You may even persuade your kids to visit the brilliant Abba Museum (www.abbathemuseum.com), which has lots of interactive exhibits. Visit Stockholm in the summer, when it’s the midnight sun and there is a non-stop calendar of festivals to experience. Your children will enjoy the novelty of nights that never get dark as well as medieval performances, hot-air balloon races and fireworks against the bright sky. And you will also love exploring Nordiska Kompaniet, or NK, quite simply one of the most stylish luxury department stores in the world.

Courtesy by G.N.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE


India’s forests, wetlands, deserts, mountains, rivers and rainforests host a diversity of bird and wildlife that is one of the richest in the world. We give you practical tips and suggestions about where to sight…

Asiatic Lion: The only place in the world where you are likely to spot the wild, uncaged, endangered Asiatic lion, is ironically, at the former hunting ground for the king of the jungle – the Gir National Park in Gujarat, which has a population of about 400 Asiatic lions. Since, as a rule, lions are known not to attack once they have had a good meal, if you are lucky, you might chance upon a pride of lions in post-prandial hushful response.

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Bengal-Tiger-4Bengal Tiger: The ultimate lone ranger, the Bengal Tiger survives by itself, often hunts in the dead of the night, is mighty sneaky and pretty spry and the sound of its roar can be heard three kilometres away. Though critically endangered, you are most likely to spot the Bengal Tiger at national parks like Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Kanha and also at the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

 

 

 

leopardLeopard: The leopard is superjock – an excellent swimmer, a superb climber and armed with plenty of stealth, muscles and power, it makes for a formidable predator in the wild. The best places to spot the leopard are the Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka and the tiny hamlet of Bera in Rajasthan. You can also try your luck at the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka or at Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand.

 

 

 

desert foxDesert Fox: The best place to spot the desert fox, also known as the white-footed fox, is in the massive parchedness of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan or in the salt marshes of the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Ran of Kutch in Gujarat. While in the sanctuary, you might as well appreciate the Indian Wild Ass, that exists only here and in the high plateus of Tibet.

 

 

 

hyenaHyena: May be it’s the singular sound they make or maybe it’s the fact they are scavengers, but hyenas have, for centuries now, endured general contempt and obloquy. They don’t quite deserve it though, for they are usually smart, surprisingly monogamous and generally step out of their dens only when it’s dark. Head to the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat for a sure-shot sighting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

indian_wolf_jpg_69460Indian wolf: The wild dog-like Indian wolf can look misleadingly demesticable. But know that even though it is smallest of the wolf subspecies, the Indian wolf is ferocious and known to prey on human when natural prey is not available. They usually move in packs of six or eight and hunt by ambush. To check them out, head to the Blackbuck National Park in Velavadar, Gujarat or to the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Nannaj, Maharasthra.

 

 

 

golden langurGolden Langur: There are only two places in the world where you can see the lush beauty of golden langur: India and Bhutan. An herbivore, the golden langur lives on fruits, nuts, seeds and leaves. Today, the golden langur is endangered and very few individuals survive in the wild. Head to Manas National Park in Assam and try to look upward on high trees to see if you can catch a glimpse of this gorgeous primate.

 

 

 

 

ridlet turtleOlive Ridley Sea Turtles: These turtles make their way to the sea after hatching at the Rushikulua, Devi and Gahirmatha in Odisha from the largest breeding ground for these turtles in India. The synchronised nesting (anywhere between 100000-500000 annually) and march of these turtles towards the seas makes for a spectacular site that is not one to be missed.

The City of Lavasa


Nestled a midst the majestic Sahyadri mountains, along the contours of the sprawling Warasgaon Lake, is the planned hill city of Lavasa. Built on the principles of New Urban-ism, its a city where people can live work, learn and play in harmony with nature.

Where in Lavasa, make sure you

  • Start the day with a walk along the serene Nature Trails
  • Explore picturesque locules cruising along the city via the Trackless Train
  • Take a photograph from the numerious Viewing Galleries present
  • Jet Ski across the lake at Lake shore Water sports taking in the beauty of the valley
  • play a veriety of games like Electric Dart Machines, Photo Games & Bowling at the Neospark Games Arcade
  • Discover the city in an eco-friendly way through Robin – A self-balancing joyride ( available at Neospark )
  • Go camping at Xthrill Adventure Academy
  • Unwind at the spa at Dasvino Town & Country Club
  • Spend a peaceful evening strolling at the lakeside promenade

For inquiries / bookings :-

Weddings | MICE | Educational Tours | Summer Special Packages ( April 1st – June 30th ) | Mesmerizing Monsoon Packages ( July 1st – September 30th ) | Festive Fiesta Packages ( October 1st – December 31st )

Email us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit http://www.adler-tours.com 

3Day / 2Nights and Leisure fun in Macau


Day 01 :-

After arriving in Hong Kong international Airport, take a direct ferry to Macau and check into the hotel. Freshen up and set out to explore the city.macau

Begin with A-Ma temple, which is dedicated to the worship of Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. Head over to the Rusins of St. Paul’s, where only the church’s front facede and grand stone stairs remain, and Senado Square. Next, stop at Macau Fisherman’s Wharf to smaple Macau’s world –class cuisine or good Indian Food.

Catch The house of Dancing Water, a breathtaking water-based show at the City of Dreams, and the Performance Lake featuring a cornucopia of water, light and fire elements in the open area in front of Wtnn Macau. Families can dine and shop at The Venetian Macao, while adults can try their luck at the casinos.

Day 02:-

Start the day on a high note with a visit to the 228m Macau Tower, the worlds 10th highest free standing tower. Here, adrenaline junkies can climb 100m up the mast’s vertical ladder to the summit, free fall from a 223m platform – deemed the worlds highest bungee jump – or take a thrilling walk around the main outer rim of the tower sans hand rails ( safety is guaranteed via an overhead rail system ). And whilst the adventure seekers are having fun, the women can go for a relaxing spa session.

In the afternoon, visits to the Macau Museum, Wine Museum and Grand Prix Museum are highly recommended. Come evening, visit MGM Macau, which boasts European – inspired facades, a dramatic skylight dome, myriad terraces invoking an old-world Portugal feel, and a light and some show each evening.

Day 03:-

Depart for Hong Kong.

For Packages write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit us at http://www.adler-tours.com

Colombo, Sri Lanka ( Things not to miss out for !! )


For Packages write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit us athttp://www.adler-tours.com

Getting There

Colombo, situated one hour’s drive south of the Bandaranaike International Airport, is the largest metropolis on the island, stretching about 12 km along the coast from its southern beach suburb of Mount Lavinia to the Fort and inland to Kelaniya.  The city’s main roadway, Galle Road, is the main road south to the city of Galle and beyond.  This makes Colombo a convenient resting point at the start or the end of your holiday.  The best way to reach the town from the airport remains a private taxi. Useful drive times include:  Colombo to Bentota (2 hours); Colombo to Galle (3.5 hours); Colombo to Kandy (3.5 hours); Colombo to Dambulla (4 hours).

Historical Background

Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and lies alongside the present administrative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte. Colombo’s port was influential as early as the 5th century when ships from Rome, Arabia, and China traded with Sinhalese kings for food supplies, spices and jewels. Colombo’s destiny changed over the centuries as many nations fought for dominance over the island’s valuable treasures including Arab settlers in the 8th century, followed by the Portuguese, the Dutch and, finally, the British who captured Colombo in 1796. This era of western domination ended peacefully with independence in 1948, followed by a separatist war fought by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) that lasted over two and a half decades, the affects of which were felt through out the country. Terrorism was eradicated from the Sri Lanka in May 2009 and peace continues to rain on the island once more. Through out it all, the city of Colombo has remained stable and comparatively safe and today’s two million population in the city represents a mix of cultures. Sinhalese, Moors, Tamils, Burghers (Dutch descendents), Chinese, and Malay populations all contribute towards the colourful fabric of Colombo society.

Sights

The city of Colombo is a blend of the old and the new.  Seventeenth century buildings – some restored as hotels, shops, and government offices – stand side-by-side with the rest of Colombo’s modern skyline and rudimentary small shops. Several ancient Buddhist temples, Hindu Kovils, churches, and mosques are found in the heart of the city as well as in the suburbs.  Museums, art galleries, golf courses and gyms, spas and salons, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, all add to Colombo’s appeal.

Accommodation

Colombo offers a wide range of accommodation options from the five-star city hotels expected in an Asian capital to a clutch of interesting boutique hotels. There are mid-range city hotels, too, although the great value of the top-end hotels makes it hard for them to compete. There is a shortage of quality guesthouse accommodation in the centre of town. On the outskirts of the centre a couple of villas make a welcome change from standard hotels. The best city hotel is arguably Cinnamon Grand, reinvigorated by the John Keells Group. Their selection of restaurants is unrivalled. Trans Asia and the Hilton trail only marginally behind. Ceylon Continental, a friendly if more limited five-star on the seafront, offers outstanding value. The Galle Face Hotel, which now has a boutique-wing called The Regency, is the favourite for those wanting some colonial charm and a seaside location. Consider Colombo City Hotel as a simple, modern budget choice. If you are after a beach, though, Mount Lavinia Hotel is the only option. The boutique selection includes the stylish Tintagel, opened in 2008, Park Street Hotel run by the acclaimed Taru Villas Group and the eclectic CASA Colombo. For those looking for a villa ambience on the edge of town, choose form Havelock Place Bungalow, Villa Talangama and Java Moon. Mount Lavinia also offers two appealing houses: Mount Lavinia House and Mount Lodge.

Food & Drink

Food is a highlight of Colombo, much more so than you might imagine. You won’t go hungry here with its wide selection of small restaurants serving local hawker-style favourites like meat patties, fish buns, egg rolls, string hoppers, lamprais, kothu roti and biryani. All the local restaurants are extremely cheap. There is also a wide variety of fast food outlets, including McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC. Colombo is the best place in the island for Indian cuisine and the following are recommended: Agra, Mango Tree and Navaratna. For those looking for fusion or European-style food, there are some very special treats. For the quality of its food, especially its meats, Chesa Suisse, a Swiss restaurant, is outstanding. The most popular dining-out experience is at the Paradise Road Gallery Cafe, the restaurant with the most seductive ambience in the island. The owner of the Gallery Cafe, Shan Fernando, has also now opened Tintagel, a private hotel and restaurant that offers a more refined menu. For a more informal open-air dining experience, the Barefoot Cafe, managed by colourful celebrity chef Kollu, is popular and often has live jazz. The best seafood restaurant in the town is Lagoon at the Cinnamon Grand. The best Thai restaurant is the Royal Thai at Trans Asia. There is a huge selection of Chinese restaurants but we recommend two: No. 168 off the Galle Road, which is an authentic no-frills restaurant popular with the local Chinese community, and the Emperors Wok at the Hilton. If you are searching for authentic Sri Lankan food then choose from the Palmyrah Restaurant at Renuka Hotel, the Peninsula in Rajaigiriya suburbs, Hilton’s Curry Leaf and the iconic Green Cabin Restaurant on Galle Road. Colombo by night can be fun with a scattering of pubs and nighclubs that come alive especially on Friday and Saturday nights and features live bands or DJ music.  H20, D’s, and Zetter are more popular with the younger lot.  Bistro Latino, Rhythm & Blues, The Library at Trans Asia and Sugar located on top of H2O appeal to a more mature crowd.  Characterful pubs include the Breeze Bar and Cheers Pub at Cinnamon Grand, Cricket Club Café,  and Inn on the Green nearby Galle Face in Colombo.

Shopping

From buzzing bazaars to stylish boutique outlets, Colombo is increasingly becoming a popular shopping destination within Asia. Odels is Sri Lanka’s most famous shop, a growing department store in the centre of town.  Western-label clothes are sold at a fraction of overseas prices. Other attractions include homewear stores like Paradise Road, Suriya and Gandhara. Saffron Villas is popular for antique furniture. Barefoot is famous for its handspun and vibrantly-coloured fabrics. There are several good quality jewellers. If you want to get a feel for the trading heart of the city, spend a hectic morning wandering the narrow streets of Pettah Bazaar where you will find anything from steel pots to the latest mobile phones. If you accept anybody’s offer to act as a guide, ensure you know the financial basis upon which this has been offered!

Events

Colombo’s streets come alive in January for the annual `Duruthu Perahara’ organised by the Kelaniya Temple and again in February for the `Navam Perehara’ organised by the Gangaramaya Temple.  These processions display traditional folklore, music and the rhythmic dance forms.  Dancers, drummers and flag bearers represent the different provinces. Chieftains in traditional attire and scores of elephants dressed in glittering cloaks are all a part of these colourful pageants.  Vel, a Hindu festival that pays homage to Lord Murakan, takes place in July or August where an ornately decorated Vel chariot, drawn by a pair of snow-white bulls carrying the statue of Lord Murukan, parades the streets of Colombo.  The chariot moves slowly while the drums throb, the bells tinkle, the Tanjore band plays and a “Bajan” gathering singing divine songs follow the chariot.  The arts, sadly, remain largely inactive. The most popular event in Colombo’s art calendar is the Kala Pola (art fair) held in February which sees the shady sidewalks along Green Path filled with the creative works of local artists. Activities

Colonial architecture of Fort & Pettah

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Colombo’s three-mile long rampart, cordoning off the area covered by today’s Fort and Pettah, was originally built in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese and then further developed by the Dutch and the British. Today, it is the commercial hub of the country, consisting of government offices, banks, five-star hotels and the country’s largest wholesale bazaar, which sells a huge range of items. In the Fort many of the old colonial buildings still stand alongside a slowly modernizing skyline.

Geoffrey Bawa Architecture

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The late Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most influential architect, was responsible for linking the ancient architecture of this island with that of the modern world. Sri Lanka’s Parliament, which Bawa was commissioned to design, was created in the centre of a vast man-made lake. The building incorporates traditional Sri Lankan and South Indian architectural features with a series of pavilions with copper roofs. We also recommend a visit to the Paradise Road Gallery Café, formerly the studio of Geoffrey Bawa. His imprint still remains strong here with courtyards, ponds, walkways and open pavilions – spaces that inspired a creative genius.

Art Galleries

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Permanent collections & temporary art exhibits of Sri Lankan artists are held regularly at the National Art Gallery, Sapumal Foundation, the Lionel Wendt, Barefoot Art Gallery and Paradise Road Gallery Café.

Music & theatre

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Classical to contemporary forms of music in Sinhala, Tamil and English by local as well as foreign artists is available on CD at various music outlets in Colombo including ODEL, Barefoot, and Torana at Majestic City. Live performances featuring local jazz, pop, and folkrock artists take place at Rhythm & Blues, Barefoot or on a Sunday at the SSC club in Colombo 7. English theatre is limited, but there are occasional local productions that are interesting and usually take place at the Bishop’s College and British School auditoriums or the Lionel Wendt.

The National Museum

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Colombo’s National Museum, established in 1877, is housed in an impressive colonial building in the heart of the city surrounded by extensive gardens. The museum comprises several galleries dedicated to Sri Lanka’s history and cultural heritage, literature, coins, rock sculptures from the ancient cities, period furniture, artistic theatre traditions, as well as a museum of Natural History. The National Museum is closed on Fridays.

Dutch Period Museum in Pettah

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The Dutch Period Museum is housed in the old Dutch House, built by Count August Carl Van Ranzow in the latter part of the 17th century. The museum provides an insight into the Dutch period in Sri Lanka and houses artifacts including furniture, ceramics, coins and photographs. The museum is closed on Fridays.

Kelaniya Temple

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The ancient Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, situated six miles from Colombo, stands alongside the Kelani River. According to the Mahavamsa, Lord Buddha stopped at this ancient temple during a visit to Sri Lanka in 523 BC where he was invited to preach at the invitation of the king. The Buddha sat and preached on a gem-studded throne on which the Buddha sat and preached. This temple is also famous for its image of the reclining Buddha and paintings, which depict important events in the life of the Buddha and history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Bellanwilla Temple

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Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya, located close to Mount Lavinia, has a long and hallowed history. The great sanctity attached to this temple is due to its sacred Bo Tree, which according to ancient texts is one of the thirty two saplings that sprang from the sacred Bo tree at Anuradhapura, planted in the 3rd century B.C. This ancient Buddhist temple houses elaborate statues of Buddha and frescoes depicting his life.

Hindu Kovils

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The city of Colombo has several Hindu Kovils with colourful and ornate statues and shrines dedicated to different gods and deities. A visit to a kovil, especially during the time of a pooja (ritual offering devotion to the gods), is a special experience with the clanging of bells, chanting of prayers and intoxicating smell of oil lamps and incense. The New and old Kathiresan Kovils dedicated to God Skanda, the god of war and victory, are located in Pettah. The oldest kovil in Colombo is the Sri Kailawasanthan Swami Devasthanam.

Churches built during Colonial period

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St. Peter’s Church near the Grand Oriental Hotel in Fort was previously a Dutch Governor’s banquet Hall until first used as a church in 1804. St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk built in 1842 is located on Galle Road next to Cinnamon Grand. Wolvendaal Church (Colombo’s oldest Dutch Church) is in Fort.

Royal Colombo Golf Club

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Royal Colombo, built in 1879, is a welcome escape from the hectic city centre. Located in Borella, a short distance from central Colombo, the course is a green oasis accompanied by a clubhouse of colonial charm. Listen to your attentive caddie to avoid the numerous water hazards. Despite being in the centre of Colombo, the course maintains its tranquillity, although the occasional commuter train running along the 6th fairway can prove hazardous.

Cycling Colombo to Negombo

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If you are looking for a challenge, jump on a mountain bike and take the coastal route to Negombo. Leaving early in the morning from near Colombo docks, the route quickly takes you away from the busy roads and into the communities of the Colombo suburbs. It is a fascinating transition from the commercial hub of Colombo, exploring some of the cities poorer communities before cycling through the fishing villages of this untouristy coastline. A three-hour ride brings you to Negombo, a vibrant fishing port and holiday centre. Lunch well in Negombo before retracing your steps – or hiring a minivan from Red Dot to collect you.

Rock climbing & caving

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Hideaway, a small boutique villa in Wathuregama, offers abseiling and caving in the surrounding natural caves and rock faces. State of the art safety equipment including helmets, headlight torches, abseiling equipment and experienced guides are provided by the hotel. This activity is only for guests of Hideaway and prior notice is required.

Spa

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The Angsana City Club and Spa of the Cinnamon Grand is a luxurious facility providing a range of Ayurvedic and aromatherapy massages and treatments, a fully-equipped gym and roof terrace swimming pool. Crown Saloon, also centrally located, provides Aromatherapy spa treatments as well as beauty and salon facilities. The Water’s Edge Golf & Country Club’s Aryana Spa overlooks the magnificent vistas across the golfing green. This spa features a menu of Balinese, Thai and Ayurvedic relaxing and rejuvenating treatments. The Sanctuary Spa, opened in 2002, in the heart of Colombo city, is a day spa where clients can spend the entire day or just pop in at lunchtime. Red Dot clients get a small discount.

Ayurveda

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The Siddhalepa Ayurveda Centre offers holistic wellbeing based on the ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda through their centres located in Dehiwala and Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo 7. The history of Siddhalepa on this island dates back to 200 years with generations of the owning Hettigoda family playing a vital role in promoting the philosophy of Ayurveda in the country.

Yoga

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Regular Yoga sessions are offered in some of the gyms in Colombo including the Hilton Residencies Sports Center, Global Fitness Gym in Colombo 5 and the Lifestyles Gym in Colombo 7.

Meditation

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Several Buddhist centres in Colombo conduct guided meditation sessions and Buddhist discussions. These include Vishva Niketan International Peace Centre, Sarvodaya, the International Vipassana Meditation center down Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo 7, Vajiraramaya temple in Bambalapitiya and the International Buddhist Research & Information center (IBRIC) located at the Naradha Centre in Colombo 7. Books, DVDs and recorded audio tapes on Buddhist teachings are also available in some of these Centres.

Colombo area wetlands

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The Diyawanna Oya and Talangama wetlands located in the Kotte suburbs offer opportunities for bird watching. These areas are a combination of tanks, canals and paddy fields which have recently been declared as protected natural areas and are supported by the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka. Further south, in the suburbs of Piliyandala, is the Bolgoda Lake, Sri Lankan largest natural fresh water basin. Many species of birds, butterflies, monitor lizards and monkeys can be spotted in this area.

Gampaha’s ancient rock temples and wilderness

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The ancient Maligathanne temple and the Pillikuttuwa temples dating back to over 2,000 years are situated in the suburbs in Gampaha about 45 minutes from the main city centre. The Pillikuttuwa temple and its surrounding wilderness covers an area of around 200 acres and consists of a natural forest reserve and several caves. The Maligathanne temple is perched on a two tiered rock that is considered the highest point in the Colombo district with panoramic views. King Valagamba built the rock temple to safeguard the sacred tooth relic which is now enshrined in Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth. Situated over an area of about 65 acres, Maligathanne has 20 caves to explore.

Sri Lanka’s traditional dance

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Traditional dance in Sri Lanka is associated with rituals and ceremonies intended to expel sickness and misfortune as well as evoke blessings during auspicious occasions. There are several dance forms including Kandyan (up country), Sabaragamuwa (central province), Ruhunu (low country). Each of these differs in dress, rhythm of the drums, dance movements, and folk songs. Sri Lanka’s Tourism ministry organises dance performances each Friday at 5:30 pm at the Hotel School Auditorium, 78 Galle Road, Colombo 3. This auditorium is situated right opposite the Cinnamon Grand hotel and nearby several other hotels in the Galle Fort area.

Colombo city walks

Take a stroll through the city of Colombo and experience this vibrant and yet laid back capital city with its mix of ethnic communities living; centuries old colonial period architecture to contemporary Bawa architecture; and road side eateries and restaurants serving a variety of local foods and beverage. Personalised Colombo city walks are now on offer and will take up to three to four hours. The walks are conducted in the evening-time when it’s less humid. The rate includes entry permits, hosting fee, food and beverages while on walk as well as a complimentary beer/wine at the end of the walk. Group of up to six guests are accommodated on this personalized experience. For those preferring to omit the walk and do only a drive through Colombo, there is also a `Colombo City night-drive’ on offer.

We do have packages for Sri Lanka, write us onadler-tours@hotmail.com or visit our sitehttp://www.adler-tours.com

West Coast, Sri Lanka ( What to do and What not to Miss !! )


For Packages write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit us at http://www.adler-tours.com

Snapshot

Sri Lanka’s west coast covers the coastal belt just south of Colombo all the way down to Hikkaduwa. From that point on, Red Dot prefers to refer to the Galle coast, which is increasingly influenced by the famous old fortress town. The west coast is more frequented by holidaymakers due to its closer proximity to the island’s capital and the main airport, and offers tropical beaches and mangrove-lined lagoons The sandy beaches are the main attraction in the string of small towns such as Kalutara, Beruwela, Bentota, Ambalangoda, Ahungalla and Hikkaduwa, but they also share a vibrant cultural heritage including folklore, music and dance as well as architectural influences from the Dutch period. Many temples, kovils, churches and mosques are situated along the coast. Cottage industries such as basket-weaving, mask-carving and antique restoration provide for interesting shopping.

Don’t Miss:-
• Great sunbathing at excellent-value tropical hotels
• Water skiing in Bentota
• Dancing the night away in Hikkaduwa
• Surfing and deep sea fishing
• Stroll through Bevis Bawa’s Brief gardens
• Kosgoda’s marine turtles
• Traditional mask dancing in Ambalangoda
• Elephant Foot Drummers of Hikkaduwa
• Boat ride down mangrove-filled rivers
• Ancient temples & churches.

Getting There:-

Little more than an hour south of central Colombo, as you cross the Kalu Ganga Bridge, Sri Lanka’s West Coast really begins. From this point on all the way to Galle, the tiny main coastal road, known as the Galle Road, hugs the picturesque coast line and runs parallel to the rickety old railway which limps all the way to Matara. The trains stop at all the main town including Kalutara, Aluthgama, Hikkdaduwa and Galle, but the hill-country line is far more recommended. From Panadura, just before the west coast begins, you can most easily also head to Ratnapura, Sinharajah and the Southern Highlands.

Useful drive times include:

Colombo to Bentota (2 hours); Airport to Bentota (3 hours); Bentota to Hikkaduwa (45 minutes); Bentota to Galle (1.5 hours); Kandy to Kalutara (4 hours); Nuwara Eliya to Galle (6 hours); Uda Walawe to Galle (3.5 hours).

Historical Background

The west coast’s traditional beach hotels first began to spring up in the 1960s, and have become a significant factor in the island’s economy. But about 1,000 years earlier another influence first arrived on Sri Lanka’s shores – the ubiquitous coconut tree which has countless uses as well as adorning thousands of holiday pictures. Kalutara, named after the Kalu Ganga (Black River) that winds through this town, was an important spice trading centre during Colonial times. First the Portuguese in the 17th century followed by the Dutch were enticed by the cinnamon estates in the area and built a network of canals that were used to transport these spices. During the 19th century, the British converted these spice estates into Rubber plantations which remain to date. A canoe ride along the old Dutch Canals will take you past rural villages and old houses that are reminiscent of the colonial period.

Sights

Wadduwa & Kalutara, the first beach settlements along the west coast coming from Colombo, have a reputation for fine mangosteens – a luscious small purple colour fruit found in abundance along wayside stalls in July/August. Explore Kalutara’s colonial past with a visit to the Richmond Castle, an old spice-plantation mansion which can be reached by canoe down the old Dutch canals. Take a cycling trip inland through spice, fruit and rubber plantations. These are available for serious mountain bikers as well as families just wanting a leisurely afternoon ride. The beaches widen at Beruwela, which has a golden strip of mile-long beach, largely favoured by mid-range beach hotels of traditional style. For an unusual outing here, consider the Brief Gardens – a 25-acre estate which was the lifelong work of the celebrated landscape artist Bevis Bawa. A day excursion to the central rainforests of Sinharaja is also possible.

Bentota is blessed by the lazy waters of the Bentota River, ideal for watersports and boat trips. Bentota’s broad sandy beach with gently-shelving sands offer safe swimming making it one of the most appealing Sri Lankan destinations for a traditional and relaxing family holiday. Continue your journey further south to Ambalangoda where the mask carvers and puppet makers predominate. The turtle hatchery at Kosgoda plays a vital protective role for the turtles that lay their eggs on the beach annually, and is well worth a visit. The characterful town of Hikkaduwa attracts the backpackers, independent travellers, and generally a younger crowd. Its range of budget accommodation, scattering of simple but decent restaurants, beach bars, and beachside nightclubs gives it something of the mood of a resort in Goa or Bali.

Accommodation

The choice is widespread and value for money largely excellent, but be wary of some special offers that you may see in the package-hotel sector, especially outside peak times. Special offers can either be a bargain or a hint that a hotel is faltering. Check our profiles, decide on your priorities and ask us for advice. We generally recommend the beaches of Bentota (especially the southern end), Induruwa, Kosgoda, Balapitiya and Ahungalle. Wadduwa and Kalutara have several appealing properties for those wanting to be closer to Colombo and the airport. Beruwala, in our view, have been scarred by the 1970’s development of large scale “package resort” hotels, although the Eden Hotel is a sound choice and can offer some splendid special offers.

There are several Geoffrey Bawa designed hotels along the west coast, including Heritance Ahungalla, Lighthouse Hotel in Galle, Blue Waters in Wadduwa, Bentota Beach Hotel and Lunuganga – Bawa’s country retreat and tranquil landscaped gardens – which is open to guests for just four months of the year from December to April. Families travelling with children might like Max Wadiya or Sri Villas in Induruwa; Amaya Reef – a mid-range hotel in Hikkaduwa; or several hotels close to Bentota’s watersports, such as the 5-star Taj Exotica, Bentota Beach Hotel or the simpler Serendib. Among the best budget options are Garden Beach Hotel and Cinnamon Gardens. For those seeking the benefits of Ayurvedic healing and wellness, we recommend the Siddhalepa Ayurveda Holiday Resort in Wadduwa. Lotus Villa in Ahungalla and Paradise Island Health Resort in Bentota takes in guests only for Ayurvedic treatments.

Food & Drink

Hikkaduwa offers most independent dining options, primarily simple beach restaurants, the best of which can offer excellent food – especially fish and curries — at great prices. For good rice and curries try Homegrown. Harbour, Refresh, and Spaghetti & Co also serve international cuisine. For something more casual right on the beach, try Top Secret. The jumbo prawns here are fabulous. The happening night clubs in Hikkaduwa include Vibrations generally on a Friday night and Mambo on Saturdays.

Shopping

Cottage industries such as basket weaving, mask carving, and small shops selling Dutch antiques – furniture, lamps and ornaments, makes for interesting wayside shopping along the west coast especially in Hikkdaduwa and Bentota. The Sri Lankan Handicraft Centre in Bentota also sells traditional crafts. Hikkaduwa is best for bargains in beach, surfing and diving gear.

Events

Elephant Foot Drummers from Hikkaduwa: This family group blends Sri Lanka’s traditional drum beats with a fusion of modern music. Elephant Foot performs at various night clubs in Hikkaduwa. The Elephant Foot Drum Shop located on Galle Road in Hikkaduwa sells traditional local drums as well as their music CDs. Odel and Barefoot bookshop in Colombo also carries their CDs.

Activities

Bawa architecture

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The west coast is home to many architectural marvels designed by the late Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka most influential architect who was responsible for linking the ancient architecture of this island with that of the modern world. Bawa also had a passion for the island’s varying natural landscapes, which he used as the focal points around which he created. The end result was a cherished architectural style that erased boundaries between the `outside’ and `inside’ of living and working spaces. Heritance Ahungalla, Lighthouse Hotel in Galle and Blue Waters in Wadduwa, designed by Bawa in the 1990s are good examples of his architectural style. Neptune and Bentota Beach Hotel are some of his earlier creations. To gain a better understanding of Bawa’s lifestyle and architecture, we recommend a visit to Lunuganga, Bawa’s country retreat and tranquil gardens, a lifelong project that he continued to develop for almost 50 years.

Richmond Castle, Kalutara

Built in the 19th century for a wealthy regional governor, Don Arthur de Silva, Richmond Castle was designed by a British architect in a blend of Indian and British architecture styles. The mansion is set in extensive landscaped gardens and has now been converted to a Montessori school for underprivileged children. Richmond Castle is located about two km inland near Palathota on the Tudugala road.

Lunuganga

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Set on the edge of Lake Dedduwa, Lunuganga is a Renaissance-inspired tropical garden and plantation house, which was the former country residence of Geoffrey Bawa. Lunuganga offers guests a rare opportunity to step inside the private life of the man dubbed “the father of Asian architecture.” The Lunuganga gardens have numerous plants, pavilions, and statues. Its exquisite bedrooms and suites are offered to guest for just four months of the year from December to April. For the rest of the year it is handed back to the Bawa Trust and is used as an artist’s retreat.

Brief Gardens

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Brief Gardens, 10 kms inland from Bentota beach, is the rural retreat of Bevis Bawa, the older brother of architect Geoffrey Bawa. These extensive gardens are both beautiful and steeped in history. Well worth a visit.
Traditional masks in Ambalangoda

The traditional masks are very much a part of Sri Lanka’s culture and folklore. Kolam masks are used for dramatic purposes to enact traditional folktales and history; Thovil masks are used for exorcism rituals especially to eradicate disease. Each mask has a specific purpose. Mask crafting is an intricate skill that is passed down in generations.

Traditional Ruhunu dance

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Traditional dance forms in Sri Lanka date back to the 4th century B.C. and are associated with rituals and ceremonies performed to expel sickness and misfortune and to evoke blessings. Several classical dance forms evolved in different regions. Presently, three main dance forms are performed: Kandyan (upcountry – Kandyan), Sabaragamuwa (central province), and Ruhunu (low country – southern). Each of these styles differs in dress, rhythm of the drums, dance movements, and songs, which are based on folklore relevant to the particular region. Masked dancers depicting numerous forms of birds, reptiles and demons dance to the rhythms of drums. Chanting, miming and dialogue may enact traditional folklore.

Traditional dance performances

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Bandu Wijesuria’s Dance School located in Ambalangoda next door to the Ariyapala Mask Meuseum arranges for traditional Kandyan and southern dance performances.

Ariyapala Mask Museum

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This museum in Ambalangoda exhibits traditional Kolam and Thovil masks some of which are rare and date back centuries.

 

 

Gangatilaka Vihara in Kalutara

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Located just past the bridge in Kalutara, this Buddhist temple built in the 1960s is easily accessed as it is situated just by the roadside. The gigantic white Dagoba is believed to contain sacred relics of the Buddha. Murals depict the life story of Buddha.

 

Galapatha Temple in Aluthgama

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This ancient temple houses temple paintings, sculptures, and an impressive reclining Buddha statue. The temple lies about five kms from Beruwela.

 

Galagoda Temple

Situated in Karandeniya, about five km inland in Ambalangoda. Houses a 50m-long reclining Buddha considered to be the longest in Sri Lanka.

Water sports in Bentota

 

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Take a short boat trip offshore to dive over the coral reefs, grab a snorkel and mask to paddle your way through tropical fish, or take advantage of the lively breezes on the west coast from December to March to windsurf. If speed is more your thing then there are jetski and waterski companies on the lagoon.

 

Canoe trip on the Kalu Ganga

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The Kalu Ganga begins its journey to the sea on the western slopes of Adams Peak, Sri Lanka’s holy mountain. The divine waters flow slowly west, its banks lined with jungle, rubber plantations and communities using the river in their daily lives. Exploring the backwaters by canoe – a haven for birdlife, with both Black and Cinnamon Bitterns often seen scrambling for cover as you paddle through the mangroves — is magical.

Deep sea fishing

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Sri Lanka’s seas hold a relative abundance of game fish. Species of Marlin, Sail Fish, Wahoo, Spanish mackerel, Giant Trevallie, Benito, Queen Fish (the world record is held in Sri Lanka), Barracuda, Grouper, Cobia and Tuna make this tropical paradise superb deep sea fishing territory. Deep sea angling is the most popular form of recreational and sport fishing in Sri Lanka. There are a wide variety of locations off the west coast resorts.

 

Surfing in Hikkaduwa

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The best surfing spots in Hikkaduwa are in Wewala. Narigama is good for body surfing. Surf boards, gear, and even clothing can be sourced from Hikkaduwa.

 

Siddhalepa Health Resort

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The Siddhalepa Health Resort has an Ayurveda tradition that dates back 200 years. Daily Yoga and weekly Meditation classes are held as a complement to the preventive and curative Ayurveda treatments on offer.

 

Paradise Island Health Resort

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Situated on a the spit between the river and the sea in the west coast town of Bentota, Paradise Island is a peaceful setting where the ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda is practiced to create holistic wellness. Medicinal herbs are sourced from near by villages and the oils, medicines, tonics and pastes are all prepared in-house for each guest based on individual requirements. Complementary activities such as Yoga, meditation, and acupuncture are also conducted on a regular basis. The Paradise Island Health Resort is strictly for Ayurveda clients only.

Spa Pavillions at Blue Waters

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Blue Water is conveniently situated close to Colombo on the West coast. Its main theme is the ambitious use of water, which gives the hotel its name. The Spa Pavilions at Blue Waters takes a holistic approach to physical and spiritual well being.

 

Meetiyagoda’s Moonstones

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The semi-precious gemstone known as `moonstone’ which has a milky bluish glow similar to that of the moon, is found only in the village of Meetiyagoda. It is said that the moonstone enhances the good fortune of the wearer and is also the birth stone for the month of June. Moonstones are especially popular with younger people as it is mainly set into silver jewellery. Located inland from Ambalangoda, the tiny Meetiyagoda moonstone mine is spread over roughly an acre. The stones are still mined using traditional methods with the mine shaft going down as deep as 50 feet. Cutting and polishing of the gemstone can be observed here. Jewellery is also available for purchase.

The Coconut Palm

Considered to be a life nurturing tree, the coconut palm is often presented as a precious gift. Every part of this precious tree is used in daily life. The leaves (gokkala) are woven into decorations at weddings or other ceremonies; the golden king coconut fruit (thambili) is known to have medicinal value; the coconut milk and oil is a basic ingredient in the local rice and curries; the coconut shell is turned into ornate cooking utensils including serving spoons; the outer husk of the coconut is soaked and processed into coir out of which hand spun rope, doormats and brushes are produced; and finally the bark of the tree is used to build outrigger canoes and fishing boats, and is also used in construction of houses and furniture.

Personal Yoga instruction

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A growing number of guesthouses, hotels and retreats offer Yoga. However, some of our clients prefer private tuition and Red Dot is happy to organize this subject to availability of teachers. The easiest area to do this is around Galle but private yoga teachers can also be employed in Bentota and Tangalle. Red Dot does not charge for this service and you would need to pay your Yoga teacher direct.

Dodanduwa’s island bird life

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Situated off Hikkaduwa, this serene island hermitage, rich in birdlife, can be visited only with prior permission.

 

Marine Turtle Conservation in Kosgoda

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Globally, all seven species of marine turtles are endangered. Of these seven, five come ashore to nest in Sri Lanka. The process of marine turtles nesting, hatchlings being born, and swimming back to sea is fascinating to observe. The Kosgoda Conservation Project is an ideal way to learn and observe this endangered species. Garden Beach Hotel, on the edge of Turtle Beach, offers responsible night-time expeditions to its guests if turtles are laying.

Sinharaja

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Moist and muggy, murky and mysterious – an experience of Sinharaja is like nothing else in Sri Lanka. Trekking through the last surviving stretch of virgin rainforest on the island, be ready to pour with sweat as you walk though a bewildering land of exotic colours and wonderful sounds. The forest teems with life whether it be gushing waterfalls, gurgling streams, ants marching, leaves rustling, leeches waiting (you’ve been warned!), crickets creaking or butterflies fluttering.

 

We do have packages for Sri Lanka, write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit our site http://www.adler-tours.com

HAPPY GLAMPERS


happy glampers.docxThere is no need to rough it to enjoy the Middle East’s great outdoors any more – the global phenomenon of glamping (glamorous camping) has finally hit our shores, says Kerry Baggott.

  1. Dibba’s Adventure House with Absolute Adventure

Glamping is all about balancing the thrill of the great outdoors with some home comforts and at Dibba’s Adventure House, rather than sleeping under the stars, you and 13 others will be sleeping in bunk beds in a traditional stone house on the beach in Dibba, Oman. The mattresses might not be overly thick, but this is more than made up for with air conditioning, clean sheets and pillows, three bathrooms with hot showers, and a semi-equipped kitchen. The house is set in a large courtyard with the beach on one side and the Hajar mountains on the other (you may also find it a comforting thought to learn that it’s also a stone’s throw from the Golden Tulip Hotel).

A massive table sits in the centre of the yard, so it’s fabulous for hosting large groups who can also spread out to chill in the barasti hut on stilts, or lounge on the cushions in the majlis. There’s even a small freshwater pool — fairly old, but perfect for cooling off.

kayakingA BBQ grill is provided, and although dinner can be cooked for you, why not head down to the local harbour — about a five-minute drive from the house — when the fishermen bring in their catch? See them unload huge kingfish or snapper, make your choice and then go watch it be gutted and cleaned. Dinner doesn’t come fresher than this. Wood can be delivered to order, allowing you all to pull up a chair around the campfire and roast your marshmallows until the early hours before retiring to your bunk.

But for those who want more adventure, you’ve come to the right place. The name says it all. This is Dibba’s centre for all things adventurous — climbing, kayaking, diving, mountain biking and canyoning. The Adventure House is run by a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts, and there is a whole load of guided activities for you to try, from a two-hour pootle around town on a bike, to a half-day mountain trek.

  1. Musandam with Dolphin Khasab Tours

musandam tourThis is far more than just a camping trip — this is an exhilarating adventure that sees you cruise the fjords of Oman’s Musandam Peninsula taking in overwhelmingly dramatic scenery, snorkelling, chasing dolphins and spending the night under canvas on a remote beach.

Dolphin Khasab Tours collects you from Khasab harbour, the main harbour within this small bite-sized Omani enclave, where you’ll board a traditional wooden dhow to spend the day exploring what is dubbed the ‘Norway of the Middle East’. Although there is no evidence of glaciers having gouged these fjords within a landscape that is grey, barren and austere, the sheer mountainous cliffs plummeting into the sea, the jagged, sun-bleached rocks and the deserted coves are just as mesmerising as any Norwegian picture postcard.

And, as if the scenery were not enough, you’ll be accompanied by schools of playful dolphins ducking and diving as you ply through the water — loads of them.

The cruise will take you passed the historic Telegraph Island (the former British communication base in the region) and the isolated villages of Nadafi, Qanaha,  Maqlab and Sham — villages frozen in time in an area that

seems unaware that the century has even turned. At 4pm you’ll be transferred from the dhow into a speedboat and taken to one of the many small sandy beaches where you’ll spend the night.

snorkeling-1Muslin tents (they look flimsy but they are perfect for keeping cool and they are taller than normal camping tents, meaning you can stand up in them), sleeping bags, chairs, tables, electricity, firewood, a portable loo and even a fresh water bag for bathing are all set up for you.

If you’re lucky, no other party will join you on ‘your’ beach – there are lots of sandy coves to choose from, so most parties cruise along the coast until they find their own private spot. If you prefer, you can even choose to stay on the dhow for the night. Plus, you can either bring your own food to cook on the barbecue or Dolphin Khasab Tours can rustle this up for you. In fact, they’re happy to tailor-make the tour to your liking. You’ll be returned to Khasab harbour the following morning by 10 am.

  1. Liwa Desert with Abu Dhabi Adventure Tours 

Liwa desert safariVenture where few have gone before — into the Empty Quarter, or Rub’ Al Khali as it is locally known — the world’s largest uninterrupted desert. Flowing through Oman, Saudi Arabia, the Yemen and the UAE, this ocean of sand was first explored by the famous Etonian explorer Wilfred Thesiger with a caravan of camels and group of Bedouin back in 1945.

Still today, venturing too far into the Liwa Desert is not something to be done on a whim, but it can be if you put yourselves in the hands of Abu Dhabi Adventure Tours.

So, don your khakis and discover for yourself some of the tallest sand dunes in the world and the bizarre rock formations of Saddle Rock, the Ancient Fossil Rocks and Camel Rocks. With rolling waves of sand stretching all around you, you’ll discover that this desolate place is teeming with life and, as the sun traverses the sky casting its myriad of golden colours on the dunes, you’ll agree that this place is as breathtakingly beautiful as it is hauntingly hostile.

camal ridingThe highly experienced drivers at the helm of their Toyota Land Cruisers make small work of the dunes, seeing you roller—coaster and surf the waves. This is a private tour for a minimum of four people per car, so experiences can be tailored to each group — if you want dune bashing or sand boarding that can be on the cards, but if you prefer a more leisurely sail across the sand that’s OK too.

Camp is set up with all the gear provided — including a barbecue chicken dinner and shisha. Tents are provided of course, but many people choose just to sleep outside beside the campfire. It’s then over to the night sky to provide the evening entertainment as a velvety blanket of stars light up Liwa.

The next morning you’ll watch a magical sun rise before heading back to the capital for noon.

  1. Dreamland Aqua Park, Umm Al Quwain

dreamland waterparkFor those who can’t get enough of waterparks, this is literally a dream land. Most of us know the UAE’s oldest and most family-favourite waterpark, but we may not be aware that guests can also camp on—site, in either air- conditioned wooden chalets or in tents.

All the gear is provided, from your BBQ to airbed mattresses, pillows arid sleeping bags. This is camping on a full-board basis — breakfast, lunch and BBQ dinner are included. In fact, you and your party will be given a cooler box heaving with a very generous helping of shish taouk that you can cook yourself whenever you wish after the park closes at 6 pm.

  1. Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve with Arabian Adventures

Camping with camels, oryx and gazelles is possible within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, about 45km southeast of the city centre. With the reserve only accessible to authorised tour operators, Arabian Adventures has its own, permanent camp within the area for its Arabian Dreams Overnight Safari guests (separate from the Bedouin camp that entertains day trippers with belly dancers and henna painters).

arabian adventureAs expected from this desert giant of a tour operator, everything is well thought out. In fact, this camp has only recently been completely refurbished and opened in December. The emphasis is on luxury: the eight permanent tents sleep two people and come with a queen-sized bed with linen and towels. In fact, all you’ll need to remember to take is your toothbrush — which you can use in the bathrooms that come with all mod cons. You’ll even be collected from your door in the late afternoon arriving in the desert in time for an exhilarating dune drive and to be able to appreciate the sunset.

A lavish dinner is provided of barbecued meats and sweet treats and in the morning you’ll enjoy a full American breakfast – after you’ve watch the magical sunrise, of course. Even better, you can be back in Dubai by mid-morning — but not before you’ve been taken on a gentle safari of the reserve to learn about the flora and fauna.

Courtesy by K.T.

 

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