For decades Sri Lanka was in the news more for a civil war than anything else. The island nation seemed like the last place anyone would want to go for a beach holiday. Even in 2009, when that war was finally over, fewer than 500,000 people visited. But last year more than 1.5 million people flocked to Sri Lanka—an astonishing rise in such a short period of time—and this year it seems to be on every must-visit list.
That sudden turnaround might leave you wondering what other travelers know that you don’t. We tapped Miguel Cunat, our Trusted Travel Expert for Sri Lanka, for intel—and he gave us three reasons why now is the moment to go:
• It’s the new Bali. Sri Lanka has gorgeous beaches, magnificent archaeological ruins (many of which are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites), and a rich culture that celebrates both Buddhist and Hindu traditions with numerous festivals. Tea plantations dot the interior’s hill country, and the island’s national parks are full of leopards, elephants, and incredible bird life.
• The infrastructure has improved, so travel is easier. Those acquaintances of yours who went to Sri Lanka five years ago had to put up with a lot of headaches in return for being travel pioneers. Says Miguel, “With peace and the prospect of growth, important investments have taken place; we have better roads, fewer power outages, more hotel rooms, more options for dining in the main cities, and more flights within the country.”
• More development is coming, so now is the time to see the island in its natural beauty. Miguel tells us that Sri Lanka’s government is very welcoming of foreign investment. He’s already starting to see “cookie-cutter hotel development,” and he expects that five years from now, a bit of Sri Lanka’s authenticity will be lost to the inevitable forces of globalization, replaced by Singapore-style shopping malls, Chinese and Italian restaurants on Colombo’s streets, and karaoke bars amid the tea shops.
With so many travelers adding Sri Lanka to their wish lists, you’d be wise to start planning your own trip before the hordes descend and transform the island. Even with the increase in tourism, it can be difficult to find high-caliber private guides and on-the-ground services. As with Cuba, when tourism explodes fast, it takes a while for supply to catch up, so there is a shortage of savvy travel fixers and hotel staffers who really comprehend and can deliver what sophisticated travelers want. One way to ensure your trip is filled with first-rate services and experiences is to book through a Sri Lanka specialist, We recommend Miguel. He’s so plugged in he knows how to avoid the crowds at top sites like Yala National Park and the Sigiriya rock fortress—and, of course, he knows the most well-connected private guides. Check out his Sri Lanka Insider’s Guide for more details on the local experts he can introduce you to, the best (and worst) times of year to visit, and much more.
Read Miguel’s Insider’s Guide to Sri Lanka, and reach out to him to get the best possible trip.