"An Indian Ocean Melting Pot" Top 5 Page for this destination Colombo by mafi_moya

Colombo Travel Guide: 507 reviews and 1,412 photos

For the year and a half that I lived in Sri Lanka, Colombo was my home city and I got to know it very well. It took a while but slowly I grew to like it... and eventually maybe even love it!

Most tourists, though, seem to hate it and get out as soon as possible to explore the rest of the fabulous island. And I do kind of see their point: why waste time sweating and breathing in fumes on Galle Road when you can see the beautiful hill country or laze about on golden beaches? But, rather than condemning the city as soon as you arrive, like many large capital cities it grows on you if you have the time and patience to let it. It's also a fascinating blend of cultures from all over the globe.

A sprawling city of 2 million people, it was founded on the banks of the Kelani river and spread along the coast looking out onto the Indian Ocean. And any capital city where you can sit on a beach and watch the incredible blood-red Indian Ocean sunset can't be all that bad!!

Best thing about the city is its fascinating blend of cultures and religions - there are mosques, churches, temples, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and more. The city's history as a port and the country's unique location brought ships and goods from all over the world.

The vibrant ethnic mix continues in its colonial heritage - unlike most countries, with one dominant colonial power, Colombo has been run in turn by the Dutch, Portuguese, British, and of course the Sri Lankans themselves. Arab traders have also been coming here for centuries and have added their own influence. This makes for a unique blend of Europe and Asia that shines through in the architecture, food, place names, street names, even the names and lifestyles of the people.

Ok, it's not the most exciting city in the world but with the peace process still intact Colombo is becoming a lot livelier and there is a growing sense of vibrancy and optimism on the busy streets. It's also much safer than most people would have you believe. True in places it's dirty, chaotic and crowded, but compared to most South Asian cities it's almost serene and the beaches and parks are very attractive. Besides, there are beautiful stretches of coast so close and Sri Lanka is so small that nearly everywhere is within easy reach.

Another unique aspect of Colombo is its layout. The city is dominated by the Galle Road, the backbone that runs from Colombo all the way along the coast down to the southern city of Galle. Whereas most cities have an easily defined centre, Colombo has spread for miles along the sea. The closest thing it has to a centre, the area called Fort, became a target for suicide bombers, so unsurprisingly much activity moved elsewhere!

The areas of Colombo are numbered as well as named, which does make it easier for tourists. Although I prefer using the names rather than numbers as Colombo has some of the most deliciously exotic sounding suburbs of any city in the world! So Fort is Colombo 1, Slave Island is Colombo 2, Kolupittiya is Colombo 3, and so on. These areas all have their own unique personalities, from the colourful and crowded markets of Pettah to the leafy upper class Cinammon Gardens, the shopping district of Bambalapittiya and residential areas such as Borella.

As I lived here I've got rather a lot to say about the place! So please bear with me - this page is definitely nowhere near finished but I'll keep adding to it as often as I can.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Fascinatingly diverse inhabitants and cultures, Indian Ocean setting
  • Cons:Not really the most beautiful city in the world
  • In a nutshell:Stay a while - you might just like it!
  • Last visit to Colombo: Jan 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (38)

Comments (15)

  • docmeyer's Profile Photo
    Oct 23, 2009 at 5:13 AM

    Decided to see how quickly I would be approached by touts and what scam they would try to use on me. About 3 minutes, gem store and elephant festival, how original! I had a trifecta last week, school for the blind, elephant festival and gem store!

  • Sep 23, 2008 at 1:37 PM

    that was exactly wat happned 2 me.a decent middle aged guy cme over me & showed his talent saying he is child disabled skul teacher & tried 2 get money frm me. wen i denied he just got rage so finally i had 2 give him money.he won 2 i loose.

  • Apr 13, 2008 at 6:49 AM

    we're moving to colombo in July & want to sing at r&b. any contacts? great page by the way

  • May 12, 2006 at 1:00 PM

    Brilliant Colombo page -superb!!!

  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo
    Oct 14, 2004 at 3:46 AM

    this is the perfect colombo page! all thei nfo i needed is here. thanks you sooo very much

  • kyoub's Profile Photo
    Sep 27, 2004 at 6:25 AM

    Very interesting tips. You do know the city and if I have any questions I will know who to ask. Great page.

  • srupesh's Profile Photo
    Aug 31, 2004 at 2:56 AM

    I have added some new pages & tips (Sri Lanka) could you kindly give a feed back on them. Thanks

  • BarbaraForza's Profile Photo
    Aug 23, 2004 at 2:24 AM

    ...I still remember with pleasure my staying in Colombo! Have a nice day!

  • ukirsari's Profile Photo
    Aug 23, 2004 at 2:20 AM

    wowwww, you live here!!! want to be there again, stay longer!!!! regards from jakarta ~ @rie ~

  • radz's Profile Photo
    Jul 12, 2004 at 4:25 AM

    Nice page.


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