This guide is for explorers who relish the thought of catching the little details that make up a city, from the colourful street art in an alleyway to the sweet scent of fresh fruits and flowers from the morning marketplace. Travellers who carry cameras to capture candid smiles from cheeky children and enjoy striking up conversations with locals do not see the need to rush the experience.
If you find yourself taking in the sights and sounds on foot instead of rushing to the next must-visit attraction, follow the destination-savvy experts from OZO hotels on a recommended self-guided walk around two lively cities in Sri Lanka.
Bogambara Lake, Kandy
If you love green landscapes and tranquil cities, look no further than the historical capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy. Surrounded by tea plantations and rainforests, one of the most popular walking trails in this UNESCO World Heritage Site runs through the city and around Bogambara Lake, also known as Kandy Lake.
Royal Palace Park is perfect for a leisurely stroll through gardens on shaded pathways. It sits atop a small hill where visitors can overlook the mountainous city and its manmade lake. Conveniently located in the heart of Kandy, the park is only a 15-minute walk away from OZO Kandy and five minutes from Kandy City Centre, where visitors can leisurely browse book stores and boutiques, as well as enjoy a snack at one of many eateries and chic cafes.
Down the road from there is the famous Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple, which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic believed to have come from Lord Buddha. This complex of temples and museums is usually open until 20:00 every day, except during special religious events such as the Kandy Esala Perahera festival. During normal periods, guests can easily spend over an hour exploring the different buildings and learning about their architecture and history.
Wrap up the day with an energetic Kandyan Dance and Drum performance, a colourful display of music, theatrics and acrobatics! Shows start at 17:00 daily and are easily accessible from the trail around Kandy Lake. The performance at Kandy Lake Club also has a sensational fire show afterwards. And, all proceeds from the show at Mahanuwara YMBA are donated to the Red Cross, making both of these lesser-known venues great to visit.
Be sure to enjoy a wholesome breakfast with great lake views from OZO Kandy Sri Lanka before starting your walk
To help travellers explore beyond the city centre, OZO Kandy Sri Lanka is now offering the “Explore Kandy” package starting at 123 USD++ per night. In addition to early check-in/late check-out, complimentary room upgrade and energising breakfast buffet spread, guests can enjoy a full-day Kandy excursion. From local shops to famous attractions, stops include the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and a visit to the Tea Factory. Available for stays through 27 February 2019.
Book your adventure at www.ozohotels.com/kandy-srilanka
Town Hall Highlights, Colombo
A melting pot of rich heritage and cultures, Colombo remains a lively city on the western coast worth spending at least a couple of days exploring. In between the colonial buildings and historical sites scattered about and the more recent high-rises and shopping malls, this city is full of walking trails to stimulate the senses. Unlike Kandy’s naturally flowing walking trail around the lake, Colombo challenges travellers to get creative and pave their own paths. Grab a tuk-tuk from OZO Colombo and ride into town for a walking route that is sure to bring out the adventurer in you.
Step back in time with a visit to Independence Memorial Hall, the grand national monument commemorating Sri Lanka’s independence from British rule. Covering close to a thousand square metres, its design is based on the ancient audience hall of the Kingdom of Kandy and houses the Independence Memorial Museum. Offering a shopping break amongst the cultural sites is the neighbouring Arcade Independence Square. Once a government building, it has been converted into a stylish mall with dining options.
Continuing toward Viharamahadevi Park on foot means passing one of the city’s most important spots: the cricket grounds. Cricket is referred to as the official sport of Sri Lanka, making Colombo Cricket Club Ground a great place to see how locals engage in recreational fun. If this spot is not for you, the path down Independence Avenue will eventually lead you to Colombo National Museum, as well as both the old and new Town Hall buildings.
From the ancient art pieces dating back over ten centuries to colonial paraphernalia, Colombo National Museum takes you on a journey through the ages, as does the Old Town Hall building. Standing quietly in the city centre, the abandoned building is mysterious, and a great example of Dutch gothic-style architecture. Entry is technically free, but it is recommended to tip the caretakers who guide you through the 18th-century structure to an unusual room featuring life-sized figures of past municipal members. Of course, with the old there comes the new; the current Town Hall, one of Colombo’s visual landmarks, is loosely based on the famous Capitol Building in Washington D.C. ⎼ you cannot miss it!
The last stop on the OZO Colombo walking trail is Gangaramaya Temple, a religious complex made up of impressive architecture and carvings, a religious training centre and gorgeous night-time illuminations during the National Vesak Festival. Key attractions include the Borobudur Replica made up of numerous Buddha statues, and the Seema Malakaya, a structure located in the middle of Beira Lake which famously incorporates Southeast Asian influences into its design. From here, it is only a 20-minute ride back to OZO Colombo.
Simple and modern, find your sanctuary in OZO Colombo Sri Lanka.
After a long day of exploring Colombo on foot, it makes sense to return to your hotel for some much-needed rest and relaxation. From a warm power shower that soothes sore muscles to the perfect bed with soft pillows to lay down your head, you cannot go wrong with the simplicity and serenity of OZO Colombo Sri Lanka’s guest rooms. Get more out of your holiday with gorgeous sea views and a complimentary room upgrade when you book a Sleep or Dream room via www.ozohotels.com/colombo-srilanka. Available for stays until 31 December 2018.
When to Visit
With any walking tour, it is important to avoid scorching heat and the wet rainy season. Kandy’s monsoon seasons range from May to November, with rainfall cooling the tropic heat, so bring an umbrella. Similarly, Colombo experiences monsoon season from April to October, but enjoys gentler weather from December to March. If you want to avoid high season, mid-July to September is another period that can offer nice weather for long walks.
It is also worth noting that the religious nation of Sri Lanka offers visitors a glimpse of colourful celebrations at various times of year, bringing together heritage and fun to the community. In either July or August of each year, “Kandy Esala Perahera”, or the Festival of the Tooth, is celebrated with music, parades, elegant costumes and decorated elephants. Another religious celebration is “Vesak”, a Buddhist festival famously held at Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo for a week or so. The streets and buildings are lined up with decorations and lights, making the city shine brightly at night. Both celebrations are dependent on the Full Moon Poya Days, so keep that in mind before booking your next holiday.
For more information on cool attractions and other things to do around OZO hotels, check out the OZO Destination Guides at www.ozohotels.com/destination-guides