Sri Lanka was plagued by almost three decades of civil war, however that period is decidedly over and Sri Lanka is open for tourism once again. With its lush valleys, tea plantations and temples, Sri Lanka offers both culture and tropical bliss.
The capital is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern life and remnants of the bygone colonial era. Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. However it was only made the capital of the island when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815.
I took the steam train to Kandy nicknamed the "Iron Devil", which has crossed the mountains since 1800s, transporting people and tea between Colombo and the hill stations. Kandy is the laidback centre of the hill country, and was once the capital of a powerful Buddhist kingdom. Kandy is home to Sri Lanka's most sacred Buddhist relic – a tooth of Buddha. Said to have been snatched from the flames of his funeral pyre, the tooth is housed in a golden casket inside the Temple of the Tooth. Every day there are ceremonies at the Temple, where barefoot worshippers carrying lotus blossoms and frangipani file past the casket in reverence. Otherwise Kandy has a peaceful, antiquated vibe that harks back to older days.
Nuwara Eliya is the heart of tea country. At an elevation of nearly 2000m it offers the best of tropical abundance and cool mountain climate. My tuk-tuk driver kept referring to the cold weather as "natural AC". Tea factories are dotted along the way, where you can see the processes and taste the result of making the famous Ceylon tea. All around Nuwara Eliya you will see evidence of the British influence. Houses look like british country cottages, and while Sri Lanka has gained independence - some of the biggest tea plantations are still owned by the British (Rottschild, etc).