Colombo, Sri Lanka’s lively capital city, has grown expansively in recent years and is now a thriving metropolis home to a variety of international brands, shopping centres, and restaurants selling cuisine from across the globe, as well as smaller local shops and traditional bazaars. The areas around Colombo also saw a considerable improvement in infrastructure after the end of the civil war, particularly in terms of roads, helping to make Sri Lanka’s capital more accessible and attractive to tourists. Colombo is much more than a convenient first or last stop on your tour – it is an exciting city which offers travellers many fascinating experiences.
Colombo first functioned as the capital of Sri Lanka when the European colonial powers used it as a key trading port for products such as tea, rubber, and spices. Their influence on the city can still be seen in the local architecture, which can be explored during our walking tour of Colombo Fort and the Pettah markets. We offer a range of other city tours, including an alternative walking tour, night cycling and city tours by tuk-tuk.
Quite apart from exploring the international cuisine on offer here and sampling local delicacies found at areas such as Galle Face Green, a large green with a beautiful seafront and small street food stalls, travellers can enjoy our range of exclusive culinary experiences, such as artisanal tea tasting with a tea expert, or a private cooking class at a beautiful home on the outskirts of Colombo.
The Best Things to Do in Bentota
01. Ceylonese Hosted Dinner
Visit your host’s place in bustling Colombo, which sets the ideal ambience for an intimate Sri Lankan dinner. Sit down to feast on an eight-course degustation menu in a lively atmosphere. Enjoy warm-hearted hospitality and listen to fascinating tales about old Ceylon and its culinary heritage as you enjoy nibbles of delicious Sri Lankan dishes.
Inspired by heirloom recipes, each dish is curated using ingredients of impeccable quality. You are given the opportunity to sample various dishes that boast a distinctive identity hailing from different parts of the island. Finally, wrap up your Ceylonese dinner with an authentic Sri Lankan dessert.
02. Colombo’s Culture
Meet at the floating Gangarama Buddhist temple, Seema Malaka on Beira Lake. Travel by tuk-tuk to Sri Ponnambalam Vanesar Kovil, an intricately carved granite Hindu temple, a short walk from St. Anthony’s Shrine, a national Catholic monument where you can hear the story of Anthony of Padua. Follow a chain of flower garland kades (shops) into the cacophony of Pettah life and the smell of Indian short eats sold from local stalls. Pass by the old town hall, an eye-catching neo-gothic building and Kayman’s Gate, a more inconspicuous Dutch bell tower, before finishing your walk outside Jami Ul-Afar Mosque whose exterior resembles a pomegranate.
03. After Dark by Bike
At night, the monuments of Colombo are illuminated and a warm breeze makes exploring the city more comfortable. Wending your way from one part to another by bike means you can cover a large area and evade traffic via carefully orchestrated routes. Begin your journey in Independence Square with a couple of test rounds on your bicycle before cycling to the Race Course, Cinnamon Gardens, Slave Island and Pettah. A great introduction to the city including landmarks such as Gangaramaya and Seema Malakaya Temples, Dutch Hospital and Fort Lighthouse. Complete your city journey with a beer at The Bavarian German pub overlooking the Indian Ocean.
04. Hidden History
Partly cordoned off during the last government’s rule and only revealed to the public again in 2015, your starting point is one of Colombo’s most historic areas near the fort. This is a great tour for those with a keen interest in history, architecture, and photography. Appreciate impressive buildings such as the Central Bank, Old Post Office and the chequered Cargills Building before paying a visit to Pettah. The market here would be intimidating to a new arrival in town but, with your guide who knows these streets inside out, you will be chatting with hawkers, trying “Bombay sweets” and observing market life with confidence.
05. Royal Colombo Golf
An avid golfer, your host has played on the finest courses the UK and South Asia have to offer and has been a member of the sought-after Royal Colombo Golf Club for 12 years. Accompanied by your caddies, walk the course with your host and experience another side of urban life in Sri Lanka on this half-day experience. With two decades of tales to tell about his life as a golfing aficionado and ex-pat on the teardrop isle, there is plenty to keep you occupied. Why not wrap up your time together over refreshments at the clubhouse.
06. Colombo’s History
Begin nearby colourful produce behind the old town hall where your local host will set the scene for your journey ahead. Hear of the colonial powers and Arab traders who visited “the pearl of the Indian Ocean” and put this lesser-known city on the map from the 14th century onward. Much of Colombo’s architecture is an intriguing memento of the past, whether this is a Mosque or old Dutch Bell Tower out of sight along vendor-lined streets or the renovated statement buildings in a recently re-opened part of town. Glimpse the future of Colombo as you arrive at the Dutch Hospital, surrounded by high-rise buildings, new hotels and café culture.