As is the case with many sprawling metropolises in the region, Colombo today is a sum of its many contrasting parts: historic religious sites against modern skyscrapers, a spread of ethnicities living side by side and extensive green spaces surrounded by the fumes of heavy traffic. History and modernity live side by side in Sri Lanka’s capital city on the ocean shore.
The first-time visitor may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people, traffic and activity that fill the streets of Colombo, but with time, the city’s charms begin to win over newcomers to the city. There’s plenty to see, but many visitors choose to start with the stunning temples found throughout Colombo. Of these, the colorful Gangaramaya Temple is a favorite among visitors for its incredible Buddhist statues and museum. Colombo’s past is on full display at sites like The National Museum of Colombo, the Natural History Museum and the Dutch Period Museum, while contemporary and Sri Lankan art greet visitors to the National Art Gallery.
A metropolis Colombo surely is, but there are ample opportunities to escape the urban in favour of a more natural retreat. The wildlife that takes up residence at Viharamahadevi Park adds a lively element to a stroll through this lushly landscaped green space, while the Talangama Wetland just outside the city proper offers lakeside relaxation amongst butterflies and greenery.
After recharging, visitors can head to Galle Face Green, an oceanfront promenade that attracts many for some of the best sunset views in the city.
When to fly to Colombo
Two monsoon seasons deter travellers from visiting Colombo from May through August and October through December. In general, the best time to visit Colombo is between January and March, when rainfall is at its lowest and temperatures climb toward their highest. Travellers seeking a trip filled with festivals may want to consider braving the monsoon season and travelling in May for the celebration of Buddha’s birth, which sees Colombo covered in lanterns, lights and other decorations. Cheap flights to Colombo can be found outside of the peak travel months of January, February and March.
Getting around Colombo
Colombo’s streets are filled with three-wheel vehicles known as tuk-tuks, and these motorized for-hire vehicles can be a convenient way to get around the city. Tourists should opt for metered tuk-tuks rather than trying to negotiate a rate with the driver or better yet, seek out a special tourist-friendly fleet of tuk-tuks operated by the Sri Lanka Tourist Development Authority. Taxis are also available, as are public buses and a train system.