Sri Lanka has everything to offer worldwide travellers; from luxurious golden beaches, to tropical forests, to bustling cultural cities. We’ve listed below some of the popular sites and tours that past IVHQ volunteers have experienced while on the IVHQ Sri Lanka program.
In and Around Kandy
The IVHQ Sri Lanka program is based in and around Kandy, Sri Lanka’s spiritual hub. This diverse city is home to countless temples, museums, galleries, gardens and shopping centres. Below is a list of a few spots that are worth a visit. The Wild Elephant Conservation project is based in the Wasgamuwa National Park and the Rural Community Development is based in Hanguranketha and Dambulla.
New Ranweli Spice Garden
Sri Lanka is world famous for its rare spices and herbs. For many Sri Lankan cooking buffs, using spices is a kind of expression of the island with all its wonderful surprises. Entrance to the New Ranweli Spice Garden is free, and a free tuk tuk ride to and from Kandy can be pre-arranged. Explore the grounds, learn about all the spices and herbs, and do your best to guess which is which.
The Royal Botanical Garden
Arguably the best garden in Sri Lanka, the Royal Botanical Garden’s history stretches back to the country’s ancient kings. These lush gardens attract over 1.4 million visitors every year, and are home to more than 80 species of both birds and butterflies. These beautiful and peaceful grounds are well worth a visit; take a stroll around the various paths, then treat yourself at the garden café. This is a great volunteer activity for a sunny afternoon in Kandy.
The Temple of the Tooth
The Temple of the Tooth is a Buddhist Temple in Kandy, housing the sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha. Not merely religious, this ancient relic also plays a role in local politics, as it is historically believed that whoever holds the tooth also holds the governance of Sri Lanka. Each day the relic is worshiped by monks, rituals are performed around the relic three times daily, and once a week it is bathed in holy waters believed to contain healing powers. The tooth itself is not open to be viewed by the public, but the casket which holds it is generally displayed twice a day. Be sure to set aside several hours if you want to factor in a tour around the complex, which also contains the Royal Palace of Kandy. This expansive complex provides an insight into Sri Lanka’s religious and political history, and is a must see for volunteers in Kandy.
Our local team in Sri Lanka can help you arrange any trips you wish to do in Sri Lanka, with some special packages available for volunteers, including Trekking Week (a week of hiking some of Sri Lanka’s most famous treks and mountains), Beach Week (a week of activities on Sri Lanka’s coast) and Body and Mind Week (a week of yoga and Ayurvedic massage at a retreat in Sri Lanka). All these tours can be enquired about directly with our program staff after registering on the IVHQ Sri Lanka program. Below are some alternative ideas for travel and tours around the wider Sri Lankan region.
On a long volunteer weekend, take a two hour trip from Kandy to Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial and financial capital. There are many sights to see and activities to do in Colombo, including the city’s many museums and galleries; try the National Museum of Colombo, or the Sapumal Foundation for a taster of the Sri Lanka’s cultural and artistic history. Take a casual stroll along the Galle Face Green promenade, which stretches for half a kilometer along the coast, and rejuvenate yourself with a coffee or juice from one of the promenade’s many vendors. After this, you should be ready to tackle some afternoon shopping; try the Barefoot handicraft store, which has a wide range of high quality handmade souvenirs, bags, toys, clothes and fabrics.
Take a coastal train or bus ride south of Colombo to the city of Galle, known for its mix of Portuguese and Dutch colonial architecture. Take a wander around Galle Fort, a world heritage site, for not only a historical tour but also for some up-market shopping. For a more spiritual visit, take a short trip 20 kilometres up the coast to Seenigama, to visit the temple there. Here you have the option of making a donation and saying a prayer for good luck. Or alternatively, take a slightly longer trip towards the north of Galle and be rewarded with the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. This UNESCO World Heritage site boasts 88 square kilometres of rainforest, home to several deer species, mongoose, monkeys, birds, snakes, lizards, and even the elusive leopard, just to scratch the surface!
If you have a long weekend or a week to travel after volunteering, take a short flight from Colombo to Tiruchirapalli (Trichy for short) for around $150USD, and take in the sites of this South Indian district. This area boasts countless temples and religious institutions. If you can afford it, take the trip a couple of hours north to visit the Avudayarkoil temple, also known as Thirperundurai. You won’t be disappointed by this magnificent structure; however there are plenty of sights around central Tiruchirapalli to keep volunteers occupied. Take a wander around the markets; Trichy is known for its cigars, jewelry, and carvings.