By Anuja De Silva
After emerging from a long drawn out civil war, Sri Lanka is ready to rebuild its image as a premier vacation destination for families in South Asia.
What makes it truly special – and easy – for families is that it offers a wealth of diverse cultural and natural attractions – world-class beaches, rainforests, tea estates and ancient cities, all in a country about the size of West Virginia.
Whether you are in transit from an exotic adventure or visiting family or friends, it is worth exploring Colombo, the country’s capital. It’s a good place to start, or end, your trip as it’s about an hour from the airport.
Here is a round up of our favourite spots in Colombo with our toddler.
- Independence Memorial Hall commemorates Sri Lankan independence from the British in 1948. The open stone pavilion is based on Celebration Hall where Sri Lankan royalty held audiences prior to British occupation in the early 1900s. The large stone lions that stand guard around the hall intrigued our 2-year-old, and the surrounding park is also one of the best places in the city to let kids run free.
- Dutch Hospital is an open-air structure built during the Dutch Colonial period (roughly the late 1600s). It’s recently found new life as an outdoor dining and shopping pavilion. Our toddler ran around the courtyard exploring and checking out the other kids while we got to sit and enjoy a variety of very good food. Offerings include a tap house, European and other Asian food as well as Sri Lankan options. Head there for dinner and enjoy the refreshing evening breeze.
- Galle Face Green is a promenade that stretches for about a quarter mile along the coast in the city’s business district. The lawn is scraggly but there is a stroller-friendly walkway. Our toddler loved to look at all the sidewalk vendors selling cheap food and toys. The wind catcher we got for 50 cents entertained him for many hours. This is also the spot where we caught a spectacular sunset.
- Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Colombo for its architectural significance. Designed by the most famous architect in Sri Lanka Geoffrey Bawa, and unlike other temples in Sri Lanka, Gangaramaya Temple shows a strong influence to East Asian Mahayana practices. The temple constitutes two buildings with one located in the middle of the serene Beira Lake. If you are limited on time, I recommend at least taking a quick trip across the foot bridge and experiencing the calming atmosphere, and admiring a beautiful view of the city from the middle of the lake. The other is the main temple building located a few blocks away where you can see more statues and perhaps catch sight of the temple’s elephant.
- Viharamahadevi Park is the most well-known public park in Colombo. Built during the British rule and formerly known as Victoria Park, it is located opposite the colonial style Town Hall (Colombo’s City Hall). The entrance to the park features a large Buddha statue and there are a series of water fountains and beautifully landscaped walkways. Evening hours are the best to visit with kids as the park is a well-known meeting spot for college students during the afternoon. There is also a kids play area with slides and a mini train.
More about the Author
Anuja De Silva loves to inspire families to have new adventures through travel. Born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, she has been based in the US for over a decade since arriving here for college. She lives in Hudson Valley, New York with her husband and toddler son and works full time in technology development. She contributes as Cosmopolitan TravelingMom for the TravelingMom writer network. Follow Anuja @AnujaDeSilva and at: www.travelingmom.com/author/anuja/
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