Colombo Tourism, Srilanka 2020 (50 Tours & Activities)

Think of Sri Lanka and what springs to mind? Beaches and Buddha, temples and tree clad hills. Heady metropolitan sophistication? Not so much, right? But after 5 years of the civil war between government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil eelam, Colombo has transformed itself. From a shabby sprawl, to be skirted enroute the beaches of south, Colombo has become a confident Cosmopolitan. Largest city and former capital of Sri Lanka, originally Kalantotta(“Kelani ferry”) was corrupted to Kolumbu by Arab traders and was changed to Colombo by Portuguese. Colombo is a burgeoning must see tourist place in Sri Lanka today. It is no longer that boring city that you simply had to get away with it when on your way to the Southern Beach but is rather a worthy holiday destination in its own very right that demands a definite visit when in the country.

City’s major sections are the old area of narrow streets and colorful market stalls; modern commercial and government area and a wealthy residential and recreational area. Along with the shady paths, the legacies of the colonial Colombo’s garden roots are indeed unmarred with its garden roots. While Pettah brims with boisterous commerce and shopping hubs, Fort restores its historic colonial architecture. Even the congested Galle Rd is getting swanky with its gleaming hotels, resorts and stays. On the other hand, the seafront gains massively from the new roads which are stimulating hotel construction. The urbane side of Colombo supports further more stylish galleries, eateries and museums. Marvels are plentiful in the old quarters where one can avail succulent local food and tiny convivial cafes or characterful shops..

Adding to this charm, the tourist places in Colombo include some of the historic Buddhist temples, monuments and places that showcase the socio-cultural richness of the place. Being famous for its Nightlife, Colombo has numerous trendy bars, pubs and lounges. Hotels are well-equipped with modern amenities, therefore making them well-placed in the hospitality sector. There are all kinds of restaurants here, serving scrumptious Sri Lankan meals that have gained global popularity with their blend of fiery spices, rich flavours and unique textures. With everything it has to offer, this city is indeed an interesting start or even end to your Sri Lankan ventures and adventures

Recommendations for Colombo

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Frequently Asked Questions About Colombo

  1. Travel Advice

    • You’ll need a visa to travel to Colombo. You can easily get a short stay visa online.

    • Usually the tourist visits to Sri Lanka is hassle free however, you need to be aware of the risks of assault, road accidents, drowning, spiked drinks, credit frauds and dangerous tides here.

    • Sri Lanka is a mosquito prone area. So, carry a strong repellant.

    • Weather here can be vastly affected by the monsoon rains and cyclones. Check with a local advice before making a visit.

    • Do not hire a guide who is not from a trusted or authentic agency.

    • Never trust any stranger who gets friendly with you in just a short while.

    • Don’t eat food off the street vendors.

    • Carry with you a copy of your licenses and passport.  

    • Don’t let anyone in the city misguide you. Acquire sufficient information before heading to a new place.

    • Dress appropriately.

    • Nudity is strictly prohibited here.

    • Do not film or do videography without the legal permissions.

    • In case the banner or sign says, ‘No Photography’ obey it.

    • Avoid traveling alone in the night hours.

    • Sri Lanka does have an underlying threat from terrorism so ensure that you do not visit during the times of civil unrest.

    • Take a comprehensive travel and medical insurance before traveling.

  2. Drinking Laws

    The legal age for drinking in Colombo is 21 years.


  3. Our Recommendations: What you can’t afford to miss?

    National Museum

    National Museum was established in the year 1877 by Sir William Henry. It is an important tourist place in Colombo that houses within it the insignia of Sri Lanka. Being the largest museum in the country, it showcases some intriguing pieces of literature and art which will take you back to the history of this port city.  

    Dehiwala Zoological Garden

    Want to feel closer to the nature? Head to the Dehiwala Zoological Garden which is spread over a vast area of 30 acres and has a myriad of mammals, reptiles, fishes and birds who live in harmony with nature. This is an important place to see in Colombo.

    Viharamahadev Park

    One of the oldest heritage park in Colombo is the Viharamahadev Park which was initially known as the Victoria park. This blooming park was developed when Sri Lanka was a British colony. This park has several different varieties of trees that look enchanting and alluring during the spring season when they are in full bloom. When sightseeing at this place, do click a lot of pictures as the surroundings are simply majestic.

    Cinnamon Gardens

    When you are touring Sri Lanka, you simply cannot miss out on the Cinnamon Gardens. It used to be the home of the cinnamon trees that were spread across the vast area of land. At present, it houses buildings as the Prime Minister’s Office, National Museum, Independence Hall and the Town Hall of Colombo.

    Galle Face Green Promenade

    There is approximately a half a km stretch in Colombo that runs across the Galle road and the scenic Indian Ocean. This stretch is known as the Galle Face Green Promenade. It is not just an important sightseeing spot but is also a favored picnic spot for locals and tourists alike. Don’t miss out on the savoring available here during the evenings.

  4. What will you like there?

    Play a good round of golf at The Royal Colombo Golf Club
    Golfing is one of the key things to do in Colombo. The Royal Colombo Golf Club has been in existence since 129 years. Ever since then, its immaculately manicured greens have lured a major chunk of golf players. 

    A city tour 
    Board the exciting open deck double decker of the Colombo City Tour to witness the hidden treasures of Colombo. This city tour more or less covers all the important places to see in Colombo. 

    Relish on Seafood at Mt Lavinia Beach
    Mt Lavina is definitely one of the most easy going and lax suburbs of Colombo. It is filled with numerous seafood restaurants lined on the Golden Beach. The beach is named after Lovina who was the Bohemian dancing girl who had a secret affair with the governor of Sri Lanka. There is nothing better than staying at a resort or hotel near this beach.  

    Shoppiiinnggg
    The best kept secrets of Sri Lanka are revealed by the multiple shopping opportunities available in Colombo. From steep department stores to the high end designer malls, you can get anything you want right from the handbags to shoes, clothing, home furnishings, handicrafts and a lot more. 

    Indulge in a Massage at One Of Colombo’s Spas
    What’s a visit to Colombo without indulging in a premium massage? INCOMPLETE! Yes, that’s what it is! Here in Colombo you can find expert masseurs working in serene surroundings giving you massage right from Shiatsu to Swedish. 

    Take in Some Art 
    The National Museum of Colombo houses some terrific examples of sculptures, sketches and paintings that belong to the 4th Century BC. Some creative painters also exhibit their art in local galleries of Colombo. 

    Visit a Temple 
    One of the most revered temple of Colombo is Gangarama Vihara. It is adorned with beautiful stone carvings, wonderful Brass work and phenomenal instances from the Buddhist art. It is also a learning place and houses a museum that is complete with a residential hall. 

    Get Wet and Wild at Leisure World
    Leisure world is the first amusement and water park of Sri Lanka. You can try out a range of water sports here. It assures thrilling rides for both kids and adults.  

    Sample the Nightlife
    Colombo has a buzzing nightlife scene. There are casinos, chill out bars and cool clubs that will keep you interested all the while.  

    Eat Some Kothu Rotti
    Kothu Rotti is the quintessential snack of Sri Lanka. It consists of sliced up bits of rotti that are served in combination with your choice of egg, chicken, onions, tomatoes, green chilies and beef. Simply Unmissable! 

    Go For a Ride in a Trishaw
    You know what’s the backbone of transportation in Sri Lanka? The motorized three wheeled chariots! You definitely must take a ride in Trishaw to move around the city.  


  5. Recommended reads for destination (govt. websites, travel forum articles)?

  6. When is the best time to visit Colombo?

    Colombo can be visited at any time of the year except during heavy monsoons, that last between June and September.

    Monthly breakup of Colombo’s climatic conditions, so that you can plan your trip accordingly :

    January to March : Mostly sunny and highly frequented by visitors. Duruthu Perahera Festival held in Jan attracts many tourists.

    April to October : With April comes Monsoon. June to September are the wettest months. Being the slightly off season, it is less crowded and you can get great deals on hotels and flights at this time.

    November to December : November is the a good time to visit since Diwali Celebrations are being held.

  7. How to reach Colombo?

    By air : Bandaranaike International airport is the only international airport in Sri Lanka. Located in Katunayake, it’s an hour’s drive from Colombo.

    By Train : Colombo has good rail network which connects it to other important places of interest including Matara, Badulla, Kankesanturai and Talaimannar. Though crowded, it is the cheapest way to travel in Sri Lanka.

    By Bus : Buses connect Colombo with Airport as well other places of interest in Sri Lanka.

    Tourists also have an option of coming here by a cruise ship or ferry that are frequent from southern states of India.

  8. Do I need a visa for Colombo? How does one get a Colombo visa?

    Yes, you need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. You can get a short stay visa online at Electronic Travel Authority (ETA).

    Tourist visas are are issued for a maximum of 30 days. Though you can get a visa on arrival, it’s better you get one before you travel. Overstaying your visa will attract fine and possible detention and deportation.

  9. What is the currency of Colombo and where can I get my money exchanged?

    Currency of Colombo is Sri Lankan Rupee.

    You can exchange your money in Exchange Bureaus and ATMs. You can exchange money inside a bank, but their rates are high and it's worse than drawing money from ATMs. Visa and MasterCards are widely accepted. There is a possibility to exchange money in hotels but the rates are really very high.

    REMEMBER - It's forbidden to import Sri Lankan currency into your country, therefore don’t forget to exchange your money back before leaving the country. Foreign banks don’t exchange Sri Lankan currency.

  10. Which are the major tourist attractions in Colombo?

    Colombo is full of many popular tourist attractions some of which are :

    • National Museum
    • Dehiwala Zoo
    • St Anthony’s Church
    • Attidiya Bird Sanctuary
    • Mt Lavinia
    • Traditional Puppet art Museum
    • Old Dutch Hospital
    • Old City Hall
    • Beira Lake
    • Gangaramaya temple
    • Independence Memorial Hall
    • Viharamahadevi Park
    • Galle Face Green
    • Old Galle Buck Lighthouse
    • Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
  11. What are the things to do in Colombo?

    Here‘s a list of the various things you must do in Colombo :

    • A city tour
    • Since Colombo is known for its majestic temples and irreplaceable historic sites, you can visit those.
    • Play a good round of golf at The Royal Colombo Golf Club.
    • Relish Seafood at Mt Lavinia Beach
    • Get wet and wild at Leisure World (the first amusement and water park in Sri Lanka)
    • Sample the Nightlife : Colombo’s buzzing nightlife, casinos, chill out bars and cool clubs will make your visit worth.
    • Eat Some Kothu Rotti (the quintessential snack of Sri Lanka)
    • Tea and herb tasting tour
    • Gain underwater diving education
    • Shopping
    • Indulge in a massage at one of Colombo’s Spas : A visit to Colombo would be incomplete without a premium massage from expert masseurs working in serene surroundings, giving you massages right from Shiatsu to Swedish.
    • Take in some art : The National Museum of Colombo houses some terrific examples of sculptures, sketches and paintings.
  12. What is the local food of Colombo? Which are the best places to taste this food?

    Colombo’s reputation as a food destination is well deserved. Authentic cuisine consists of generous serving of steamed rice, warm servings of three or four types of curries and crisp poppadoms or dry fish, with traditional island sweetmeats rounding it all.

    Here are some of the dishes you should try at respective places :

    • String hoppers at Galle Road : Along Galle Road are numerous restaurants serving this local cuisine retreat - string hoppers, an important part of Sri Lankan breakfast. It is one of the most popular dishes in the country. The pancake-like bites, prepared from steamed rice noodles moulded into flat spirals, are served with coconut sambol, dhal and other sauces.
    • Samosa at Pettah Train Station : Around this central station, are numerous vendors and food stalls selling short eats and other dishes. Though vegetable samosas are a staple of Sri Lankan cuisine and are practically available all over the city, they are particularly popular here.
    • Kottu Roti at Hotel de New Pilawoos : Apparently, everyone’s favorite Sri Lankan dish, represents novelty and balance of flavours. Made from Godhamba roti, vegetables, eggs and meat if desired, along with creamy textures and diverse seasoning, leaves you wanting for more. Numerous places serve it but the most popular among them is Hotel de New Pilawoos.
    • Seafood specialities at Mount Lavinia : Colombo being the paradise for seafood lovers offers many seaside restaurants, serving everything from king prawns, butterfish, snapper, lobsters to squid.
    • Dal Curry at Upali’s : Even though this Sri Lankan-style Dal curry bears strong resemblance to its Indian counterpart, many are convinced it's better. Accompanied by roti or rice it's best served at Upali’s.
    • Pani Pol around Galle Road : This sweet coconut pancake stuffed with coconut and sugar is one of the most popular meal in the country. Available everywhere from restaurants to vendors, some of the best pani pols are found in Dehiwala and Wellawatte area around Galle Road.
  13. What is the best public transport to commute around Colombo?

    The preferred mode of transport would be a private car or taxi but for those who want public transport, buses, trains and three wheelers called tuk-tuks are available.

    Here’s a comparative study, so that you can choose as per your convenience :

    • Buses : Colombo has an excellent network of intra-city buses. Being the cheapest mode of transport, they are overcrowded and take very long to take you to various attractions. Mostly non-ac, having severely restricted luggage space with people standing in the aisle. However, Super Luxury Coach(charging thrice the normal fare) are ac buses designed for long distance and have provision for luggage.
    • Trains : They aren’t just superior to buses in comfort and luggage options but are easily available and drive relatively frequently.

    The Colombo-Kandy-Nuwara-Eliya-Badulla line contains the most scenic stretches of the country. All this makes Trains the best public transport to commute around Colombo.

    • Auto-Rickshaws : Auto-Rickshaws or Tuk-Tuks are most commonly used mode of transport in Colombo. They are easily available at most junctions and are fairly inexpensive.
  14. Do I need to have any vaccinations before the trip to Colombo?

    Yes, some vaccines may be required. These include routine vaccines like Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis vaccine, Varicella(chickenpox) vaccine, Polio vaccine and your yearly flu shot.

    Apart from these, travellers should get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid because there is a risk of these diseases in Sri Lanka.

  15. What is the local language in Colombo and which are the most commonly used greetings?

    Sinhalese and tamil are the official languages. Some of the common greetings are :

     

    English                            Sinhalese                                          Tamil
          

    Hello!                                  

    Hello!                                                 

    Vankkam!

    Thank you!

    Stuh-tee!

    Nanri

    Good morning/night

    Ayubowen / subha ratriyak

    Kalai vanakkam / iniya iravu

    How much is it?

    Ehekka keeyada?

    Itu evvalavu?

    How far is….?

    Eya Kotaram dura?

    Atu evvalavu turam?

     

  16. Which are the best shopping places in Colombo and what are they famous for?

    A list of some of the best places for shopping in Colombo are :

    • Odel : The quintessential lifestyle store is like a Sri-Lankan-style mini mall, where you can buy fashionable and relatively good-quality garments, along with books, shoes, beachwear, imported candy and other tempting things.

    Location - Alexandra Place, Colombo 7

    • Paradise Road : It sells stunning minimalist homeware and souvenir. Prices are upscale but reasonable. There’s a small cafe on the premises.

    Location - Two outlets, one at 2 Alfred House Road, Colombo 3 and other at 213 Dharmapala Mawtha, Colombo 7.

    • Barefoot : They have eclectic selection of elegant tablecloths, napkins, placemats and other garments. Prices aren’t less but its the best shop for high quality souvenirs. It has a lovely courtyard with charming cafes and restaurants.

    Location - 706 Galle Road, Colombo 3.

    • House of Fashion : Here you’ll get good quality inexpensive garments in abundance, since it is the best wholesale retail store in Colombo.

    Location - 101, D.S. Senanayake Mawatha, Colombo 8.

    • Spa Ceylon : This Luxury Ayurveda Spa has their own line exemplary massage and personal care supplies. For these ‘luxury’ items you’ll obviously have to dish out some cash but it'll be worth it.

    Location - outlets at Colombo Airport, Crescat Boulevard, Ward Place, Galle Fort and Kandy City Center.

  17. Here are the best tips Thrillophilia has to offer for your trip to Colombo

    • Beware of the risks of assault, road accidents, drowning, spiked drinks, credit frauds and dangerous tides here.
    • Sri Lanka is a mosquito prone area. So, carry a strong repellant.
    • Weather here can be vastly affected by the monsoon rains and cyclones. Check with a local advice before making a visit.
    • Do not hire a guide who is not from a trusted or authentic agency.
    • Never trust any stranger who gets friendly with you in just a short while.
    • Don’t eat food off the street vendors.
    • Carry with you a copy of your licenses and passport.
    • Don’t let anyone in the city misguide you. Acquire sufficient information before heading to a new place.
    • Dress appropriately. Nudity is strictly prohibited here.
    • Do not film or do videography without the legal permissions.
    • In case the banner or sign says, ‘No Photography’ obey it.
    • Avoid traveling alone in the night hours.
    • Sri Lanka does have an underlying threat from terrorism so ensure that you do not visit during the times of civil unrest.
    • Take a comprehensive travel and medical insurance before traveling.
  18. Which are the famous museums in Colombo?

    Colombo has several Museums holding significant artifacts, providing a glimpse in the country’s history. Some of them are :

    • Colombo National Museum : The main museum in the country exhibiting a plethora of artefacts representing Sri Lanka’s rich history.

    Location - Colombo7

    • Dutch Period Museum : Within a 300 year old governor’s manor, this is a two storey house oozing centuries old Dutch architechture that remains untouched by time.

    Location - Colombo 1

    • Independence Memorial Museum : Established with the objective of honouring national heros who were instrumental in gaining independence, it has rows and rows of statues of those who lead the movement.

    Location - Colombo 7

    • National Museum of Natural History : Its the only museum in Sri lanka that showcases the natural heritage and diversity of life offered by the island. Species that are endemic to Sri Lanka are displayed through the vast collection of specimens.

    Location - Colombo 7

    • Ape Gama : It’s an outstanding recreation of life in a Sri Lankan village.

    Location - Jana Kala Kendraya in Battaramulla

  19. Which are the best destinations for adventure activities in Colombo?

    There aren’t many destinations within Colombo where you may enjoy various adventure activities but you may take various getaways from here to nearby places, that won’t dissapoint you thrillseekers.

    Here’s a list of adventures activities along with the places you may try those :

    • Trek to Adam’s Peak
    • Trek through misty mountains in Haputale
    • Dive Course with stay at Colombo
    • Blue whale watching tour in Bentota and Koggala
    • Kottawa and Aboretum Walking Tour in Galle
    • Scuba Diving at Hikkaduwa
    • Mountain biking tour at Akuressa
    • White Water Rafting at Kithulgala
    • Lagoon canoeing tour in Unawatuna
  20. Which are the most famous amusement parks in Colombo?

    Amusement parks in Colombo are :

    • Liesure World
    • Excel World Entertainment Park
    • Bere lake (Bere Wewa)
  21. Which are the famous beaches in Colombo?

    Famous beaches are :

    • Mount Lavinia : Mount Lavinia is definitely one of the most easy going and lax suburbs of Colombo. It is named after Lovina, the Bohemian dancing girl who had an affair a Sri lankan governor.
    • Wellawatte Beach :
    • Wadiya Beach
    • Bentota : Around 65 km from Colombo, here you can visit Kasgoda Turtle Hatchery.
    • Hikkaduwa : Situated 100 km south of Colombo, is best for party lovers as there are many clubs and bars nearby. You must try Snorkelling here.
    • Unawatuna : Not far from Galle, it offers an oppurtunity to connect beach holidays with cultural sightseeing.
  22. Which are the famous destinations for camping in Colombo?

    There aren’t many destinations for camping within Colombo but you can camp at nearby places like:

    • Sinharja Rainforest : It’s an important eco tourism centre with a status of being a World Heritage site. One of the most popular trekking spots, it lets you enjoy luscious greenery without the fear of wild animals, making it suitable for camping.

    Location - 182-197 km from Colombo

    • Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks : Having abundant jungles and wetlands, its famous for safaris but you can camp here.

    Location - around 190 km from Colombo

  23. Which are the famous places for enjoying Nightlife in Colombo?

    Casinos in Sri Lanka are what you should experience after Goa and before Vegas.

    Famous ones are :

    • Bally’s Casino : Best among all others.

    Location - 34 DR Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo

    • Rythm and Blues Nightclub : One of the most popular places to visit in Colombo, its a pretty welcome party place.

    Timings - 6PM - 2:30AM and 6PM - 5AM

    Location - 19/1, Daisy Villa Avenue, Colombo 4.

    • Loft Lounge Bar : A lofty bar with chic ambience, is the place you can relax and rejuvenate amidst the quirky and arty interiors.

    Timings - 8PM - 3AM

    Location - Colombo Courtyard, Alfred House Ave, Colombo 3

    • ZAZA Bar : It creates an illusion of being outdoor while enjoying the comfort of indoors. The bling of strobing neon lights adds appealing hues.

    Timings - 8AM - 12AM

    Location - Casa Colombo, 231, Galle Rd, Colombo 4

    • Sky Lounge : The coolest addition to Colombo’s happening nighlife, it’s one of the hippest Colombian Nightclub, that complements awesom parties with creative food and beverages.

    Timings - 5:30PM - 3AM

    Location - The Kingsbury, 48, Janadhipathi, Mawatha, Colombo 1

     

    • Barefoot Garden Cafe : This late night cafe is set in an enchanting garden and is a must visit.

    Timings - 10AM - 11PM

    Location - 704 Galle Rd, Colombo

    • Molly’s Pub : An Irish bar named after “Sweet Molly Malone” song, serves special Irish delicasies has cozy ambience ang holds live performances.

    Timings - 10AM - 12AM

    Location - 46/38, Nawam Mawatha, Slave Island, Colombo

  24. Which are the best temples to visit in Colombo?

    • Gangaramaya temple : Most iconic Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, its ceilings and walls contain miniature paintings dipicting life of Buddha.

    Location - right on Jinaratana Road in the heart of Colombo

    Timings - 5:30AM - 10PM

    Price - LRK200 per adult

    • Isipathanaramaya Buddhist Temple : Recently built, has good collection of Buddha’s statues.

    Location - Isipathanara Rd, Colombo

    • Seema Malaka : The temple is mainly used for meditation, rather than worship.

    Location - 11/5, Captain’s garden Kovil Street, Colombo 1