Our journey through Sri Lanka was coming to an end and it was time to head back towards the airport. I read many travel guides for the island which advised against visiting Colombo, a lot of people said it’s just not worth spending the time there but we were flying out late at night so wanted to be closer to the airport on the last day and it didn’t feel right to completely ignore the capital, so we had a full day to explore and I would definitely say it’s well worth keeping a day aside to see everything it has to offer!
Colombo isn’t technically the capital of Sri Lanka, that’s Kotte which is slightly East of Colombo inland however Colombo is the largest city and is recognised as the commercial capital. It’s worth noting as well that the airport isn’t in Colombo, it’s actually in Negombo which is North of Colombo but it took us about 40 minutes to drive there by taxi.
The Jami Ul Alfar is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo and is a big attraction due to its candy cane style red and white stripes. We started our day by getting a tuk tuk straight up here to take in the beauty. The best thing about the mosque is the juxtaposition of its placement, the mosque is set within the Pettah region which is a heavily bustling market area. It’s full of locals going about their business with noone taking any notice of this outstandingly impressive building tucked amongst it all.
Wandering around Pettah can be quite sensory overwhelming and I think that’s why a lot of people decide against the City but appreciating it for what it is, it’s actually a fascinating place. There’s an abundance of fruit and snack stalls and a lot of fabrics and crafting goods, other than that it is a lot of knock off stuff, it’s not necessarily the best place to head to to pick up any souvenirs but the bustle is such a contrast to the chilled out South.
Some more beautiful buildings throughout the streets, we stumbled upon this Hindu temple. I think there’s a few of these around because I’ve seen photos of bigger and taller Hindu temples than this one we saw. Looking closely, this is absolutely breathtaking! You can head inside for a small fee but we opted not to as you had to leave your bags outside.
There are stores upon stores of embroidery, lace and ribbons like this which is so beautiful. Assumably it’s for making sari’s the intricacy in these pieces is amazing, worth picking some up for the craft box!
On the horizon you will be able to spot the Lotus Tower, only opened in 2019, this tower is the tallest self supported building in Sri Lanka and in the whole of South Asia. The Lotus Tower does have a functionality and is a transmutation hub made to try and improve the carbon footprint but it is also a tourist attraction with restaurants, hotel rooms and conference rooms inside. The lotus flower is very symbolic to Sri Lanka.
During our day exploring Colombo, I split the City into three areas to focus on. We started in Pettah as above with the amazing markets and the busy streets, we then headed back to the Cinnamon Gardens area which was near by our hotel which is a modern and affluent area of the city. Later we strolled to the coastal location of Galle Face.
Around this area, it’s shockingly different to the Pettah side of the City. Down here it’s much quieter, very clean and spacious. There’s a lot of embassies around here as well so large guarded buildings in abundance. We headed down to the Independence Square to take in the tranquility of the surrounding gardens before freshening up for lunch.
The independence Square was built in celebration of the independence of Sri Lanka from British rule and was built in 1948. You’ll find a statue here of Don Stephen Senanayake who is known as the Father of the Nation, he was the first Prime Minister of independant Sri Lanka.
Our final stop before the end of our day was towards the coastline and exploring the Galle Face area. Only a 20 minute walk from our hotel was Barefoot which I’d spotted online and we headed in for some late lunch. This place is beautiful, a large shop full of crafts, gifts and books and tucked through is a cool courtyard offering this cafe for a relaxed afternoon. We both went with the falafel salad and numerous drinks to keep us hydrated!
We headed to Colombo the night before so I wanted somewhere well located, comfortable and affordable as we booked for the night we left so we could head back late and freshen up before the 1am flight! You’d think that would be hard to find but I found Srilax as I was following its downstairs cafe on Instagram and it was absolutely perfect. A beautiful double bedroom with air con, we were so comfortable here and would highly recommend.
The cafe downstairs, Cafe Kumbuk, was our first destination for breakfast and we shared a veggie breakfast and French toast – so good! For staying in the rooms you get a 10% discount on breakfast and there’s also a lovely gift shop with some local crafts.
Overall, I really loved Colombo and I’m definitely glad we made time for it. You could spend more time there if you wanted but we managed to make the most of a full day. It’s a good place to start or end your trip as it’s close to the airport. It’s a photographers dream around the Pettah area, there’s a cool vibe at Galle Face of an evening and there’s malls and shopping to be done if you want something more commercial.