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'Tamil women head into the tea plantation six days a week to pick the prized two leafs and a bud, which are deposited in the bags that hang off the back of their headdresses. Sri Lanka is one of the only tea industries that still hand-picks its tea.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'Little stands like this one are everywhere, from small villages to main thoroughfares between larger cities. This one sat on a path between two small Tamil villages near Castlereagh Reservoir, near the Tea Trails. It's great place to get snacks, drinks, and basic supplies.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'The World Heritage-listed Dambulla Rock Caves is a must-see in Sri Lanka. After a steep ascent from the parking lot, you come to a white fortress built into the rock face. The façade frames five caves that have over 150 Buddha images inside; statues, sculptures, and paintings dominate every available surface. You also get commanding views of the ancient fortress of Sigiriya.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'One of the many oddball signs I encountered, this one at the base of Sigiriya. This ancient rock fortress, which sits atop a massive plateau jutting out of the surrounding landscape like an overgrown thumb, is part of Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle. Luckily, loud noises did not bring out the hornets.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'The ascent up Sigiriya traces ancient stone steps, a series of switchbacks, and this narrow staircase, installed by UNESCO in '83. The 3.9-arce surface of this fortress plateau once housed a massive palace, including irrigation pools and concubines' quarters. It also affords some of the best views in Sri Lanka'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'A surly, betel leaf-chewing Buddhist monk let me into the Lankatilake Temple, which sits on the outskirts of Kandy, well beyond the tourist track. The collision of the modern and ancient (Christmas lights draped over hundred-year-old relics) made for a visually stunning paradox, and after a donation the monk started smiling.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'Welcome to hell—at least a '70s-era gaudy interpretation. The Buddhist Wewurukannala Temple, near the town of Dondra, has a series of life-sized sculptures (think Disney meets Tom Savini) that illustrate in gloriously gory detail what can happen if you stray from the path.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'The Lighthouse Hotel in Galle was designed by Geoffrey Bawa—Sri Lanka's most famous architect. Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Bawa merges the natural and the man-made, as evidenced by the way the pool and the Indian Ocean share the same horizon line. This portion of the hotel had been devastated by the tsunami, but was soon repaired.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'The tuk-tuk—named for the sound its engines make—is the primary mode of inner-city transport. The three-wheel bikes zip in and out of traffic with near-claustrophobic efficiency—it can make for an invigorating ride. It's also the best way to dodge Colombo's smothering humidity.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'This 98-foot-tall Buddha sculpture, framed in the traditional Dharmachakkra pose, sits the base of Dambulla. While striking, the really breathtaking attractions await at the top of the breath-sapping mountain climb to the summit cave temples.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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'Minneriya National Park, a 22,000-acre semi-arid region dominated by the ancient Minneriya Tank, is one of the best places in Sri Lanka for elephant safaris. During the June-to-September dry season, they come out of the surrounding brush at dusk to feed and bath.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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