There are nine provinces in Sri Lanka, the Western, Central, Southern, Uva, Sabaragamuwa, North Western, North Central, Northern and Eastern Provinces.
The Western Province
An extent of 3,593 km², this is where the Commercial hub Colombo and the legislative Capital of Sri Jayawardenepura are located. Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara are the three administrative districts of the Western Province.
The cities of Colombo, Dehiwela, Nugegoda, Maharagama, Homagama, Avissawella and Moratuwa are important cities within the Colombo district.
A few of the many highlighted attractions in the Western Province:
Close to the Bandaranaike International airport is the town of Negombo, and the second largest city in the province after Colombo. It is a popular beach resort and the Negombo Lagoon is a large estuarine lagoon. It is fed by a number of small rivers and a canal. It is linked to the sea by a narrow channel to the north, near Negombo city.
St. Lucia's Cathedral (A replica of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican) with commencement of its construction somewhere in 1779, is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo in Kotahena, (Colombo 13) Sri Lanka.
The Galle Face Green
is a popular promenade which stretches for a half kilometer along the coast in the heart of the financial and business district of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Ideal to watch the sun go down and indulge in a bite or two from the many way-side vendors selling a multitude of gastronomical delights. With many of Colombo’s leading hotels in the immediate background including the famous Galle Face Hotel founded in 1864 where history and tradition can be an experience worth the while.
The Dutch Hospital Square in Colombo a historical location, now revamped with an excellent selection of culinary and entertaining shopping delightfully aestheticized for a great evening well spent.
National Museum of Colombo, which is the largest museum in Sri Lanka showcasing many artifacts from eras gone by, while the
Viharamahadevi Park is just adjoining the National Museum in Sri Lanka. It is the oldest and largest park in Colombo and is a beautiful location to visit and while away some time. Nestled close to the park is the
Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre a beautiful portrayal of the National Lotus Flower in architectural splendor.
The Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple one of the most important temples in Colombo, with a mix of modern architecture and cultural soul.
Fancy a game of Golf?
The Royal Colombo Golf Club located in the capital city of Colombo at the Ridgeway Links also known as the Anderson Golf Course is the oldest in Sri Lanka and was established in 1880.
Dehiwela and Mount Lavinia lie immediately south of Colombo. Dehiwela is where Sri Lanka’s
National Zoological Gardens founded in 1936 and one of Asia’s largest is located. Its sprawling expanse is host to a variety of animals and birds.
Mount Lavinia another popular beach resort just 54 km from the Bandaranaike International Airport, is famous for its enjoyable beaches and home to the famous
Mount Lavinia Hotel with a history spanning over 200 years from the Colonial Governor General whose residence it was. Now a fashionable venue with an excellent view, a tasteful experience to be had.
Delve into aviation history at
The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) museum and that of its predecessor, The Royal Ceylon Air Force is at the SLAF base in Ratmalana (the town just south after Mount Lavinia) and is maintained by the Sri Lanka Air Force.
More towards the south is the Kalutara district and other popular cities in the district are Panadura, Beruwala, Aluthgama, Horana and Matugama. Kalutara is a resort town located just 45 km south of Colombo. Once famous for spice-trading, there are many fortifications dating back to the times of the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods to be visited. Here, the 3-story-high
Kalutara Vihara Buddhist temple built in the 1960’s, also importantly known to be the only hollow Dagoba in the world is a satisfying spiritual experience.
Some other attractions in the Western Province include;
The R. Premadasa Cricket Stadium, Sri Ponnambalam Vanesar Kovil Hindu Temple, St. Anthony’s Church Kochikade, the Dutch Reformed Church Wolvendaal Colombo and the charmingly located Seema Malaka Temple on the Beira Lake. Further inland, the Parliament buildings Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte and close by, the Diyata Uyana Battaramulle (Wetland Park) and the Talangama wetland. If you’re in Mount Lavinia, the St. Thomas’ College Chapel of the Transfiguration built in 1923 is an enthralling sight with the artist David Paynter’s rendering of the Transfiguration. If you’re in the mood for some exciting outdoor R & R, the Rafter’s retreat in Kitulgala (just 87 km from Colombo) is an ideal location to visit.
Key educational institutions include the University of Colombo, the University of Kelaniya, the University of Sri Jayawardenepura and the University of Moratuwa. The Open University of Sri Lanka (Nawala), National Institute of Business Management, General Sir John Kotalawela Defense Acedemy (Ratmalana), Sri Lanka Law College, Colombo International Nautical and Engineering College (Malabe), Royal College, Nalanda College, St. Joseph’s College, St. Peter’s College, Ladies’ College, Bishop’s College, and many more.
The Central Province
Located in the central hills of Sri Lanka, the central province is rich in bio-diversity, culture, history and religion. It is nestled in the central Hills, covering Kandy, Matale and the fondly referred to “Little England” Nuwara Eliya (City of Light). It covers 5,575 km² going up to an altitude of 6,128 feet above sea level. It includes the mountain ranges of Adam’s Peak on the south, and Dolosbage and Galagdera in the west.
The ancient, rich history and culture of the sacred hill-capital city of Kandy is a definite stop-over. It is at 1,526 feet above sea level and the last capital of the ancient kingdom, home to the Dalada Maligawa, (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) and the Royal Palace reconstructed in the 18th century. It is adjacent to the beautiful Kandy Lake and surrounded by magnificent surrounding mountain ranges of Knuckles and Hantana.
Nuwara Eliya showcases the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka, Pidurutalagala. The climate is much cooler here with temperatures as low as 3°C from December to February with a possibility of frost during the night. The Horton Plains National Park is a lovely wide-open grassy woodland with protected fauna and flora where the famous ‘Worlds-End’ can be visited.
Everything wakes up in Nuwara Eliya during the April season which is also the Sinhala and Hindu New Year Holiday time, abundant with lusciously beautiful flowers and a rich growth of fresh vegetables. Everything from motor-sports to Horse racing, flower shows, Golf Tournaments, boat shows on the Lake Gregory and loads of other fun-events happen, giving the town a truly festive-setting.
The Matale district has major tanks that were built in ancient times and is also famous for its charmingly green, misty, Laggala and Knuckles mountain peaks and ranges rich in bio-diversity. It also boasts the “Mini-World’s-End” in Pitawala, a worthy and thrilling visit-experience.
The famous Sigiriya, Dambulla Cave Temple and other historic religious places of worship beautified with the Knuckles Mountain and Wasgamuwa National Park is an absolute and thrilling experience.
The Southern Province
Galle, Matara and Hambantota make up the Southern Province, home to the Yala, Lunugamvehera and Bundala National Parks. Ancient cities of Tissamaharama, Kirinda and Galle are found here. The Galle Fort and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve are both World-Heritage-Sites declared by UNESCO.
Delightfully ‘grinning’ dolphins, amazing humpback and blue whales breeze past fascinatingly while one is at whale / dolphin watching excursions off the Southern, Eastern or the West coast of Sri Lanka providing the visitor with a ‘whale’ of a view. The ideal locations for whale watching would be Dondra Point (accessible from Galle, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa).
The UVA Province
The Badulla and Moneragala Districts are found here with Badulla being the Capital City. Famous water falls such as the Dunhinda, Diyaluma, Rawana and Bambarakanda Falls, including the beautiful National wild life parks of Yala and Gal Oya can be visited here.
The aincient Muthiyangana temple in Badulla, the Bogoda Wooden Bridge and temple and the ancient Rawana Buddhist Temple are also found here, ideally visited by those visiting the Rawana Cave and Rawana Waterfall in Ella.
The Haputale-Beragala gap is an exhilarating view to take in, where one can see the Southern and Sabaragamuwa provinces on a clear day, from its elevation of 1,431 meters (4,695 ft.) above sea-level. Haputale also is home to attractions such as Lipton’s Seat, Adisham Bungalow, and Thangamale Sancturary beautifully enveloped in misty mountain atmospheres especially during the rainy season.
The famous city of Bandarawela just 28 km. south of Badulla and 200 km from Colombo, has a mild climatic condition throughout the year.
Welimada another popular town in the Badulla District is known for its Potato and other up-country vegetables. The Divurumwela Old Temple, Sthripura Caves and Bomburu Ella are popular, strikingly beautiful places to visit.
Monaragala (rock of peacock landing), another district in the Uva Province is the largest district in Sri Lanka. Here can be seen Savannah-like-rolling plains with wildlife such as elephant, peacock, fox, buffalo, deer and elk. These beautifully lush rolling green hills with many originating clear natural water springs have rubber and cocoa plantations and plush flora. Anteater, wild boar, barking deer, mouse deer, hare, porcupine, python and monkey are commonly found in these jungles. An experienced tracker can take you through seasoned paths in these hills which are just five miles radius from the Moneragala town.
Kataragama, another famous town about 228 km from Colombo is a popular pilgrimage destination among Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and indigenous Veddhas of Sri Lanka. The Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devale, a shrine dedicated to Skanda-Mutrukkan, also known as Kataragama Devio is found here. The town is surrounded by Jungles and is home to the ancient Kiri Vehera Buddhist Stupa. Kataragama was the seat of many Sinhalese Kings in ancient history.
The Sabaragamuwa Province
In the South-Central part of the island having Ratnapura and Kegalle as its administrative districts. Named after its former indigenous inhabitants, the ‘Sabara’ being an indic term for hunter-gatherer-tribes. Known for its gem industry in the Ratnapura district and also for the Sinharaja Rain-Forest Reserve, the Udawalawa National Park, Kitulgala and Adam’s Peak are famous tourist attractions. Also found are the Bopath Ella Water Fall in Kuruwita, the Katugas Ella another popular waterfall at Mahawalawatta and the Kirindi Ella the seventh highest waterfall in Sri Lanka.
Kegalle is situated between the central highlands and western southern plains. Here, rubber cultivation is widely found along with minor export crops such as coffee, cocoa, pepper, clove and nutmeg. Sri Lanka’s best graphite mine is found here, in the town of Bogala.
The North Western Province
Comprised of two administrative districts Kurunegala and Puttalam, ideally known for its coconut cultivation with a tropical climate. There are many archaeological sites and is the seat of four medieval kingdoms of Sri Lanka between the mid 12th and mid 14th centuries. There are beautifully sculptured citadels in Panduwasnuwara, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa and Kurenegala built by the Sri Lankan Kings.
The sparkling blue surf of the Indian Ocean with rich tropical lagoons and sun-drenched golden beaches are abundant from Waikkal at the southern end, to the Dutch Bay in the Puttalam District.
The more famous resorts in the province are Marawila, Talawila, Waikkal and Kalpitiya which is famous for Dolphin and Whale watching.
The North Central Province
This is the largest province in Sri Lanka known for its centuries-old irrigated agriculture, ancient Sinhalese Kingdoms and places of Buddhist worship such as the Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweliseya. Anuradhapura being the provincial capital, about 205 km from Colombo is one of the most sacred cities in Sri Lanka and one of the eight world Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.
Large lakes were constructed by ancient rulers to irrigate paddy lands and also to aid water supply to the city of Anuradhapura. The Nuwara Wewa and Tissa Wewa are the best known lakes in the city.
Some interesting places to visit would be the Sri Maha Bodhiya, Ruwanweliseya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Abhayagiri Dagoba, Jetavanaramaya, Mirisaveti Stupa and Lankarama.
Another famous city in the province is Polonnaruwa, being the second most ancient of the Sri Lankan Kingdoms, first declared a capital city by King Vijayabahu I. Here, irrigation systems far superior to those of Anuradhapura were constructed which even today supply water to paddy fields during the dry season. Polonnaruwa is also a UNESCO declared world heritage site.
Polonnaruwa is a repository of ancient city ruins, frescoes and amazingly enormous statues of the reclining Buddha. The ruins of the old city are on the shores of the Parakrama Samudraya tank, (a massive lake built in 1200), is a magnificent sight. The Gal Viharaya or ‘Cave of the Spirits of Knowledge’ is another must-see in Polonnaruwa.
Four pieces of sculpture were commissioned by King Parakramabahu; the Seated Buddha in deep meditation seated on a throne decorated with lions and thunderbolts. The second is inside a cave, recording details of King Prakramabahu’s initiatives to unite the Buddhist order.
Another magnificent structure is the twenty-three-foot sculpture expressing the serenity of the Buddha and the imposing 46-foot-long statue of the reclining Buddha.
The city of Polonnaruwa is still today, a classic example of the best planned archaeological relic sites in the country, a testimony to the discipline, intelligence and the greatness of the Kingdom’s first rulers.
With its green environment, amazing ancient constructions, other places of interest in Polonnaruwa are: Lankatilaka Temple, Thuparamaya, Sandakada Pahana, Gal Viharaya, Medirigiriya Vatadage, Pothgul Vehera, Nissanka Latha Mandapaya, the Statue of Pulasthi, the palace of King Parakramabahu and much more.
The Northern Province
Situated in the north of the island, surrounded by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay to the west, the Palk Strait to the north west, the Bay of Bengal to the north and east and the Eastern, North Central and North Western Provinces to the south.
It has five administrative districts which are Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu, Vavuniya, and Mannar with Jaffna being the provincial capital.
Prior to the civil war, it was Sri Lanka’s second most populated city, after Colombo. Since the end of the civil war in 2009, there is a rejuvenation in the province with civil, government and private-sector reconstruction taking place.
Much of the Jaffna peninsula is made of limestone and features a tropical rainforest climate, is a flat land-mass with Palmyrah groves in unpopulated lands.
The Eastern Province
Known for its golden beaches and natural harbor in Trincomalee, the Eastern Province has three administrative districts, the Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts.
Surrounded by the Northern Province in the North, The Bay of Bengal in the East, the Southern Province in the south and the Uva, Central and North Central provinces in the west, its coast is dominated by lagoons, the largest of which is the Batticaloa Lagoon, and others are the Kokkilai lagoon, Upaar Lagoon and the Ullackalie Lagoon.
Trincomalee is about 113 miles south of Jaffna, famous for its natural deep-water harbor which is the fifth largest natural harbor in the world. The famous ancient Koneswaram Temple built on Swamy Rock, historically referred to as Kona-ma-Malai, a cliff on the peninsula that drops 400 feet directly to the sea, provides a magnificent view of the Bay of Trincomalee harbor while some of the most picturesque and scenic beaches (including the famous marble beach) of Trincomalee are great for surfing, scuba diving, fishing and whale watching. The city is also home to the largest Dutch fort in Sri Lanka and also houses naval and Air Force Bases.
The seven hot springs of Kanniya on the road to Trincomalee where the water is warm with each well bearing a different temperature. The districts of Batticaloa and Ampara which also have 55 ancient Buddhist shrines and archaeological sites.