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The out-of-favour tourist island that is seeing a boom in bookings

Simon Calder’s Travel

Recent years have shaken Sri Lanka, the teardrop-shaped island just south of India. Terrorism, political instability and a financial crisis have tested the Indian Ocean nation to its limits. But at long last, it looks like change is on the horizon.

Interest in the destination is rapidly returning, with tour operators reporting a boom in bookings. Sustainable adventure specialists Intrepid saw 130 per cent customer growth from 2022 to 2023, and this year plans to run 350 trips to meet the increasing demand.

A recent softening on advisories from the UK Foreign Office has also given the green light for holidays, whether the layers of history – from Victorian-era colonial clubs to centuries-old Buddhist temples – pique your interest or if you’re getting away to indulge in beaches, curries and colourful ceremonies.

Here are a few of the top picks for travellers of all tastes.

A cultural odyssey

Sigiriya was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

For a country of its size, Sri Lanka has an impressive number of Unesco World Heritage sites. Visit five key locations as part of a Highlights of Sri Lanka tour, ideal for first timers eager to experience everything on offer.

Climb ancient staircases hewn into a 600ft rock to reach the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, credited as a work of engineering brilliance thanks to its irrigation system, take a train ride through the waterfalls and tea plantations of the Hill Country and catch the sunrise at Lipton’s Seat (named after tea planter Thomas Lipton) on top of the Poonagala Hill near the Dambetenna tea factory in Haputale.

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City tours in cosmopolitan capital Colombo and coastal hub Galle give a good overview of modern day Sri Lanka, while a trip to in Udawalawe National Park provides an opportunity to spot Asian elephants.

An eight-night trip costs from £2,095pp, including B&B accommodation and flights;

Hiking ancient paths

Horton Plains National Park spreads over 3,000 hectares (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Launched last year, the Pekoe Trail winds through tea plantations and hillside communities on paths used by local communities for decades. The 300km route can be broken down into 22 sections, averaging around 12km each, giving options for day hikes or multi-day expeditions.

Begin in central city Kandy, famous for the Temple of the…

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