Pheonix of the Indian Ocean: Sri Lanka

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Australian tour guide and Sri Lanka travel expert Nina Gage shares her top tips for the emerging “must-see” destination.

After decades of civil war, peace and prosperity has finally come to Sri Lanka. Now featured regularly in the pages of glossy travel magazines and in lists of top countries to visit, the ‘Teardrop Island’ that I have grown to love over the years finds itself in the happy position of having a growing economy and buoyant new tourist industry.

For the traveller, treasures abound. Not yet overrun by visitors and the inevitable trappings of the trade that many of us have grown tired of in Bali and Thailand, Sri Lanka offers authentic experiences and the possibility of discovery. For the traveller seeking luxury and indulgence between visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites (there are eight!), stunning resorts will gladly cater. And for the more adventurous, discovering the newly-opened north country with its traditional Tamil art and creative culture will make for wonderful memories to share at home.
Without further ado, I’d like to share with Go55s readers some of my favourite and little-known activities to immerse myself in when I’m travelling through Sri Lanka.

If you’d like to experience the best of this fabulous country, join me for one of my three small-group tours for active seniors in March, August or October 2017. Phone me on 0419 213 327, email on and visit my website

Nina’s seven surprising things you’ll love about Sri Lanka:


1) The Kandy Esala Perahera Festival

The most spectacular of Sri Lanka’s festivals and one of the most colourful religious pageants in Asia, this annual festival features a procession of musicians, dancers and magnificent, adorned elephants through the ancient mountain-top capital of Kandy every August.


2) Learning the tricks of Sri Lankan cooking

If fragrant spices and sublime curries get your mouth watering, there is nothing more enjoyable than joining a master cook in their own kitchen as they share the secrets of Sri Lankan cuisine. I love taking visitors to the home of a friend of mine in a Sri Lankan village for a lesson and, of course, lunch!


3) The Raj in Ceylon

Perhaps it’s the opulence, perhaps it’s the elegance, or perhaps it’s the expertly-mixed gin and tonics, but there is something exquisite about staying in the historical colonial hotels inhabited by the British Raj during the 19th century. Soak up the timeless comfort of hotels like Mount Lavinia in Colombo, Tamarind Hill in Galle and Heritance Tea Factory in Kandapola.


4) Jaffna

On the northern tip of Sri Lanka lies the intriguing Tamil capital of Jaffna. Here we find an opportunity to explore a city closed to visitors for the past 30 years, now safe and comfortable. Non-touristy and unimposing, Jaffna is a tremendously rewarding place to discover traditional northern Sri Lankan art and culture, and provides the perfect base for visits to surrounding idyllic islands and beaches.


5) Fairtrade

I love to see the village women working on their reinvigorated crafts of dyeing, looming, batik work and silk-screening. I like to treat myself and my guests to a visit to special workshops that support their artisans in gaining independence and pick up a few of the gorgeous products to take home.


6) The East Coast

Lovers of seafaring history will adore immersing themselves in the stories of Trincomolee’s deep-water harbour, which once attracted explorers such as Marco Polo and Ptolomy, and in more recent times, the British Fleet during the Second World War.


7) A train journey through tea estates into the cool Central Highlands

What better introduction to the world-famous Ceylon tea estates than a rambling train journey into the Central Highlands? As we gain altitude we feel the climate cooling rapidly, as the familiar fragrance fills the air and colourfully-clad tea pickers go about their work.

For more information on Nina’s Pathways tours, visit





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