Sri Lanka's colonial legacy is a fascinating and captivating aspect of its rich history. The arrival of the Portuguese, Dutch, and British settlers in the 16th century left a lasting mark on the island, particularly along its tropical coastal belt. The cities of Colombo, Galle, Negombo, and Jaffna were the primary hubs of colonial activity. However, the British settlers found the chilly climate of the central hills ideal for cultivating tea and coffee plantations, leading to the extension of colonial activity in towns such as Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. Today, these old colonial towns represent a unique blend of their colonial heritage and modern-day progress.
- Colombo - Sri Lanka's largest city and bustling multicultural hub - boasts an array of colonial buildings, boulevards, gardens, museums, public parks, and colonial-style restaurants. The city's busy harbor played a significant role in the East-West trading route and still remains sprawling today. Some of Colombo's top colonial hotspots include the Old Colombo Dutch Hospital, the oldest building in the Fort area of the city, and the Wolvendaal Church built by the Dutch East India Company in 1749. Take a stroll through Cinnamon Gardens to visit the old parliament building and soak up the sophisticated colonial atmosphere at the ocean-front Galle Face Hotel, the oldest hotel in town. Whether you're staying overnight, enjoying an afternoon Ceylon tea, or indulging in a high-end dinner with a nice glass of wine from the 1864 wine cellar, Colombo is an incredible place to explore.
- Old Galle, a fortress town on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, is distinguished for its exquisite colonial architecture and picture-perfect sites. Built by Portuguese and Dutch settlers during the 17th century, this meticulously preserved historical, archaeological, and architectural heritage monument is a unique travel experience in South Asia. Art galleries such as The Galle Fort Art Gallery and Exotic Roots, as well as aesthetically restored hotels like The Bartizan, dot the enchanting cobblestoned streets of Old Colonial Galle town. Explore ancient mosques and churches, museums, and grand mansions that have withstood the tests of time. Indulge in an array of heavenly cuisines at the jaunty cafes, restaurants, and artisan ice cream parlors located around the little Dutch Fort, such as Poonie's Kitchen, Pedlar's Inn, Fortaleza, and The Heritage Cafe And Bistro. The town is also home to a number of trendy boutiques owned by local and foreign chefs, artists, writers, photographers, and designers, making it the perfect place to explore divine cuisines, clothing, local gems, jewelry, handicrafts, art, books, postcards, gifts, and more!
- Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a spectacular place to soak in the ambience of Ceylon's colonial era, with colonial buildings and bungalows nestled amid the misty highlands and lush tea plantations. The city's focal point is the Temple of the Tooth, a beautiful structure dating back to the 16th century and one of the most sacred sites in the Buddhist faith. Each August, the city streets come alive with the 10-day event of the Kandy Esala Perahera, one of the most well-known Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. The Queen's Hotel is a reminder of Kandy's colonial past, and colonial edifices can also be seen in the outskirts of the city.
The town of Kandy is also an excellent base for exploring the surrounding hill country, which is dotted with tea plantations and scenic waterfalls. The most famous tea plantation in the area is the Ceylon Tea Museum, which is housed in a restored tea factory and offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of tea production in Sri Lanka.
- Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is another popular hill station in Sri Lanka that was once a favored retreat for British colonizers. Nicknamed the "Little England" of Sri Lanka, the town boasts a number of colonial-era bungalows, mansions, and hotels that have been preserved and converted into guesthouses and boutique hotels.
One of the must-visit colonial landmarks in Nuwara Eliya is the Grand Hotel, which was originally built in the late 19th century as the residence of the British Governor of Sri Lanka. Today, the hotel has been converted into a luxury hotel that still retains many of its original features and charm.
Other colonial-era attractions in Nuwara Eliya include the Nuwara Eliya Golf Course, which was founded in the late 19th century and is one of the oldest golf courses in Asia, and the Galway's Land National Park, which was once the site of a colonial-era botanical garden.
Located just a short drive from Colombo, Negombo is a coastal town that was also a hub of colonial activity in Sri Lanka. The town was once an important trading center for spices and other goods, and many of its colonial-era buildings have been preserved and repurposed as guesthouses, restaurants, and shops.
One of the most famous colonial landmarks in Negombo is the Dutch Canal, which was built by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century as a way to transport goods between Colombo and the town. Today, the canal is a popular tourist attraction and visitors can take a leisurely boat ride along its length.
Other colonial-era attractions in Negombo include the St. Mary's Church, which was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and is one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka, and the Old Dutch Fort, which was built by the Dutch in the 17th century and is now a bustling marketplace.
In conclusion, Sri Lanka's colonial heritage is an important part of the country's cultural identity and is celebrated in many of its historic towns and cities. Whether you're exploring the bustling streets of Colombo, the enchanting cobblestoned streets of Old Galle, or the misty highlands of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, you're sure to be transported back in time to the days of Sri Lanka's colonial past.