Colombo, Sri Lanka
This helter-skelter city on Sri Lanka's west coast mixes the lovable madness of urban India with bygone bits of the British Raj — it’s a place where all of your senses (but especially taste, sight, and smell) will be tested. Although the lush tea fields of Kandy and the south coast beaches beckon, Colombo offers an urban take on Sri Lanka's rich cultural milieu.
What We Love
Barefoot Craft Store: A Colombo landmark since 1964. Browse, buy, or just hang out at this combination café, bookstore, fashion boutique, and craft workshop on Galle Road.
Galle Face Green: This popular promenade along the seashore beside the grand dame Galle Face Hotel offers seafood stalls, incredible sunsets, and the city's best people watching.
Best Known For
Fort Neighborhood: Created by the Portuguese, improved by the Dutch, and perfected by the British, this waterfront neighborhood overflows with exquisite colonial architecture.
Temples: Introduced to the island 2,300 years ago, Buddhism thrives in both the countryside and the capital at places like the Gangaramaya Temple and the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara.
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Who It's Best For
Time Travelers: Places like the faded-but-still-elegant Fort, the crowded Pettah Market, and the Galle Face Hotel hark back to an era when this island was called Ceylon rather than Sri Lanka.
Urban Groupies: With its soothing temples and chaotic street markets, colonial architecture and bustling waterfront, Colombo personifies the exotic, tropical city.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Colombo Is Often Chaotic: Expect noise, dirt, and loads of people just about everywhere you venture.
Beware the Street Food: Even if you're a veteran of street stalls in Singapore or Bangkok, it pays to be more cautious eating along the roadside in Colombo.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.