With its palm-fringed beaches, lush jungles, enthralling ancient history and rich Buddhist culture, Sri Lanka is an absolute gem - a jewel-shaped island in the Indian Ocean blessed with tropical weather, friendly locals and exotic wildlife.
The bustling port of Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka. It offers a vibrant introduction to urban life in Sri Lanka and is a fun, if slightly chaotic city to explore for a few days before heading to one of Sri Lanka’s many fascinating tourist destinations.
Beyond Sri Lanka’s stunning coastline, the island’s interior is covered with lush rainforest, majestic mountains and emerald green tea plantations.
Getting to Colombo from Australia is a straightforward affair. Non-stop flights operate daily between Melbourne and Colombo, with a flight time of less than 11 hours. While connecting in Melbourne is the quickest and easiest option for most Aussies, you can also fly to Colombo via Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.
If you are looking for a direct route from Australia to Colombo, you're in luck - as long as you're in Melbourne, or are happy to make a quick stop over in Melbourne before jetting straight out to tropical paradise. If you'd prefer to stopover in another Asian country instead, these airlines can get you to where you want to go:
Fly nonstop between Australia and Colombo
From Melbourne, Sri Lankan airlines operates one daily non-stop flight between Melbourne and Colombo
Connect to Colombo from Australia with a stopover on the following airlines:-
Although Sri Lanka is a relatively small island, it has two distinct monsoon seasons which affect different parts of the country at different times. It might sound confusing at first, but this actually makes Sri Lanka a year-round destination. When to go just depends on where in the country you plan to spend the most time.
Overall, the peak season is usually considered to be between December and March. This is when the driest, sunniest and coolest (“cool” is a relative term in this humid tropical nation of course) weather graces Sri Lanka’s West, South and Hill Country.
The west coast is the most developed and frequently visited part of Sri Lanka. It includes Colombo and some of the island’s most popular beach resorts including Negombo, the idyllic Kalpitiya Peninsula and the regions of Kalutara, Beruwalaand and Bentota, home to many European-style hotels and upscale beachfront resorts.
The quieter south includes the Dutch colonial town of Galle, Yala National Park and some of Sri Lanka’s most picturesque beaches, such as Unawatuna, Weligama, Mirissa and Tangalla. The Hill Country is where you’ll find sprawling tea estates, elegant five-star villas and beautiful natural scenery, with great hikes, dense forest, rushing river rapids and magnificent waterfalls. The south and west are wettest during the Yala monsoon, between May and August.
When it’s raining on the west coast, the east is dry and sunny. Sri Lanka’s east has a much more local feel and a coastline made up of uncrowded beaches and tiny fishing villages. The colourful town of Trincomalee is the capital of the east, with a mix of crumbling colonial mansions and rainbow-hued Hindu temples. The north of Sri Lanka receives relatively few visitors, although more people are discovering the scenic train journey between Colombo and Jaffna, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community. The Maha monsoon between October and January brings heavy rain to this region.
As a general rule, the best and cheapest time to visit Sri Lanka is during the shoulder seasons of April and September.
Colombo Airport, known as Bandaranaike Airport, isn’t actually located in Colombo, but about 35km north of the city. The drive to Colombo takes roughly an hour, depending on the time of your arrival and traffic conditions. If you are heading straight to the beach resorts of Negombo (31km north of Colombo), your journey from the airport will of course be much quicker - about 20 minutes.
Most hotels and resorts offer transfer services to and from the airport. If you haven’t booked a transfer, you can find taxi desks with fixed prices in the arrivals lobby. There are also taxis waiting outside the terminal, but you’ll have to negotiate your own deal. This can be cheaper if you’re good at bargaining - if not, you might be taken for a ride, so to speak!
Uber is also available in the Colombo area, including at the airport. After booking, look for your Uber driver in the arrivals forecourt.
The cheapest option are the public buses which pick up passengers on the opposite side of the road from the terminal.
Colombo’s international airport is small, so it’s easy to get around, but facilities are limited. Within the airport you will find:
If you’re stopping over in Sri Lanka for just a couple of nights, your best bet is to stick to the Colombo-Negombo area close to the airport. Travel on Sri Lankan roads can be slow, especially in built-up areas and in its mountainous interior.
Colombo is a jam-packed city which can be a little overwhelming at first (although still far less hectic than many other Asian capitals!) Many visitors love the endless parade of sights, sounds and flavours that the city has to offer. Despite the noise, crowds and traffic, Colombo is a laidback, friendly seaside city with an appealingly buzzy atmosphere.
Wander around old neighbourhoods like Fort and Petta and lose yourself in streets full of history and beautiful colonial architecture. Visit the grand National Museum and marvel at the thousands of Buddha statues in Gangaramaya Temple. Hunt for souvenirs, clothes and exotic jewellery in one of Colombo’s many markets or air conditioned shopping malls and eat delicious curries at dirt cheap roadside stalls and upscale restaurants.
If your stopover absolutely must involve the beach, plan a stay in Negombo. This crowded strip of sand isn’t exactly Sri Lanka’s best, but it has a wide array of accommodation options, from luxury resorts to humble homestays.
Being the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo is where you can find regional food from all over Sri Lanka, often in one compact street. Sri Lankan food is vibrant with chilli, herbs and loads of spices, richly flavoured and totally unique, with a mix of South Indian, Chinese, British and Dutch influences.
Truly the best place to get acquainted with the local cuisine is at one of Colombo’s hundreds of roadside street food stalls. As long as the food is being cooked hot and fresh in front of you, it should be safe to eat and mouth-wateringly delicious. You’re probably already familiar with samosas, but you absolutely must try hoppers. This favourite breakfast dish consists of a bowl-shaped flour or egg pancake. Toppings such as sambal, chilli sauce, chutney and fresh herbs are either used as filling or served on the side.
A ‘cafe’ can mean a cheap sit-down restaurant or a hipster coffee shop in Colombo. For the absolute best budget-priced curry, almost every local will point you to Upali’s for their mind-blowing mutton curries.
If you’re not on a budget, savour Sri Lanka’s legendary lagoon crab at the Ministry of Crab in Colombo’s atmospheric Old Dutch Hospital. Their crustacean offerings range from petite half kilo critters to monstrous 2kg plus Crabzillas!