If you work hard, you should definitely play hard! And this is something that Sri Lankan’s in general are particularly fond of doing. We look forward to those weekends, holidays and evenings out, and there are fewer places in the world that are rapidly expanding its entertainment options, as much as Sri Lanka. These entertainment options vary from dining out in the city to spending your spare moments in complete sanctuary amongst the hills or the beaches; all of which are easily accessible, and ready to welcome you.
This page acts as a guide to the widely varied entertainment options that are available in Sri Lanka and directs you on how to get further information.
Catering to the foodies of all ages and different preferences, Colombo is buzzing with more dining options than one can keep count of. Every week you will come across a new restaurant representing delicacy’s from just about any corner of the world and the kinds of outfits that ranges from high end restaurants to street side joints, and anything in between… Not to forget are the old and very much established restaurants at the core of the hearts of Sri Lankans, just the thought of which is enough to tantalise any patrons taste buds!
Sri Lanka is also now regularly seen as host to many Michelin Star chefs who make special appearances. And if you have slightly more time to spare, thanks to the new highway, Negambo which hosts both classy and hip restaurants is only half an hour away from Colombo. Galle Fort with its newly restored Old Dutch Hospital dining precinct and many more much loved establishments is only an hour away.
Colombo Nightlife has seen a facelift over the past few years, and now showcases a fierce diversity. In addition to the traditional clubbing options, there are numerous bars and pubs that serve good food and alcohol and tries to provide their own unique ambience. A lot of these bars make use of the warm weather and the adjoining sea and offer you roof top/open air entertainment under the setting sun and starry skies. Live music has also become an increasingly popular trend with the party goers of Colombo and as a result many bars feature live bands with some bars having fully dedicated themselves to showcasing the best and the upcoming talent of the music industry.
Having become a global tourist hotspot and an entertainment highlight in the world map, Sri Lanka now attracts international artists on a regular basis ranging from Avicci to Yanni. The local drum and dance festivals attract attention from around the globe. And there is a revival of shows that feature the top artists of the Sri Lanka music industry. In your spare time, you can not only enjoy, but learn the art of playing music through groups like Drum House that give free local drumming lessons at The Good Market.
The Sri Lanka English theatre industry has grown in size and variety over the past decade. The theatre groups showcase regular productions that keep theatre goers entertained throughout the year. You will be able to witness grand scale productions such as ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by The Workshop players (First country in South Asia to stage an amateur production of it), comic relief such as ‘Pusswedilla’ by Stage Light and Magic and ‘Must be looking for a bride, no?’ by Indu Dharmasena, experimental theatre by Mind Adventures and immersive theatre productions done by Ruhani Perera amongst others. If you are a lover of theatre, you can take one step further and join one of these theatre companies and experience the world of drama first hand. International actors also grace the local theatre scenes such as the annual dinner theatre done by the cast of The Faulty Towers. The local language theatre industry is also booming, with the likes of Elphinstone getting a face lift, and Lionel Wendt and Punchi Theatre showcasing an increased number of local language productions.
When going around Colombo and the suburbs, you will come across many recreational parks that are aesthetically designed with walking areas, children’s play areas and picnic areas. These parks are open from pre-dawn to late night, to suit your schedules.
If you are in the mood for a good bargain, experimenting with local items and being socially conscious at the same time, you can head towards Ape Gama, The Good Market, The Plant Market and The Floating Market that happens weekly. To truly immerse yourself with the local culture, you can also pay visits to the numerous small pola’s (fruit and vegetable markets) that are present in most towns.
Colombo is a child friendly city. There are many parks that children can play at, special cycling tracks for safe cycling, a zoo, various kinds of museums, game arcades, city hotels that offer pool facilities together with lunch, and companies, restaurants and shops that host regular kid’s events. Colombo also see’s child idols such as Barney and Dora the Explorer visiting for performances. Playing in the sun and the sand is very simple, with the ample beaches found along the coastline.
A recently started, but fast becoming popular entertainment segment in Colombo is experiential tours and activities where gurus of that industry will guide you through programmes that entertain, educate and relax. Pub crawls are also becoming popular and is now a regular feature in the Colombo entertainment list.
A legend in the cricketing world, you will find plenty of opportunities to play cricket in Colombo; whether it’s a park to play cricket on a Sunday afternoon or competitive club level cricket. At least two international level cricket series are played annually in Sri Lanka and all bars/pubs/grounds will screen the big games played abroad.
Rugby, Foot Ball, Basket Ball, Tennis, Squash, Badminton and Golf are amongst some of the other most popular games in the country and it is very easy to catch a good tournament at the grounds/courts or watch international games on large screen.
There are plenty of Sports Clubs that you can join, most which have stood the test of time and are passionate icons of the Colombo sporting spirit.
Well-equipped gyms can be found both in and around the city, so that you can choose a gym that is most convenient to you. A lot of the gyms come with sauna and steam rooms to relax after a heavy workout.
Got a day to spare?
If you have a day to spare, there are many more entertainment options within Colombo or only a short drive away. The southern part of the Island is accessible by a one and half hour drive, opening you to all its golden sandy beaches. You can take the half hour drive to Negambo and spend the day at one of the many hotels that offer pool and beach access together with lunch. There are various day hikes that you can do, such as the Bible Rock and Thalangama Wetlands. Various groups organize cycling day trips both in and out of Colombo. Head towards Bolgoda Lake and indulge in Yachting, go to Pelawatte for Go Carting, Bentota for Jet Skiing and other water sports, Kitulgala for White Water Rafting, Bentota or Negambo for Paramotoring, and Hanwella or Kegalle for Paintball, amongst many other options.
If you have a couple of days or more explore the country side and the other regions of Sri Lanka, which will both awe you with its beauty and humble you with its magnificence. A few of the options are to go camping and hiking in the Knuckles or Horton Plains, Indulge in the waterfalls, tea estates, tea factories and breath taking sceneries of Haputale and Nuwara Eliya, dive in the Trincomalee reef or the many wreck diving sites around the island, Whale and Dolphin watching in Mirissa and Kalpitiya, rainforest excursions in Sinharaja, go back in time to the ancient kingdoms of Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, and Sigiriya, Surf in Arugam Bay – one of the best surfing spots of the world, encounter Leopards in Yala and wild Elephants in Minneriya, interact with the local indigenous inhabitants (Veddas) in Dambana, volunteer at the Turtle hatcheries of the south, go bird watching in Kumana, or explore gem mines in Ratnapura.
* Photo credits: lakdsun.org
How to get around
Over the past few years, the transportation industry of Sri Lanka has seen some dramatic changes and you now have multiple options to access all parts of the island with ease. If you are travelling by your vehicle you will find that all around the country roads have been rebuilt and highways introduced. Cabs and budget cabs (mini cabs) are abundant in Colombo, and even the Tuk Tuks (Three wheel vehicles) are now metered to ensure fare charges. Buses and Trains connect all 4 corners of the island with privately run luxury buses and train carriages giving you a more luxurious bus/train travel experience to some destinations. There are domestic flights covering the whole island with 10 domestic air ports and sea plane operations.
How to get more information
The SLT Rainbow Pages Tourist Directory available from any leading supermarket/SLT outlet island wide is a comprehensive guide to the island and the activities that can be experienced throughout Sri Lanka.
The below sites will guide you further on the entertainment options in Sri Lanka
- www.yamu.lk is your one stop site for all restaurants, bars, pubs and other entertainment listings and reviews in and around Colombo
- www.cultura.lk will give you details of the events that are happening around you
- www.trekurious.com is a company that operates a wide variety of experiential tours both in and out of Colombo
- www.littleadventuressrilanka.com is a company specialising in organising adventure, wildlife, hiking, heritage and 4×4 driving experiences in Sri Lanka
- www.lakdasun.lk will give you comprehensive information on various trails and attractions such as bird watching, camping, caving, landscapes, natural baths, jeep safaris, waterfalls and other lesser known attractions
- www.ceylonbirdclub.org is a must checkout for all bird lovers and gives information about the birds of Sri Lanka, where you can see them and how you can get in touch with other bird lovers
- www.cycle.lk will provide you information about various cycling groups and cycling events
- www.exporail.lk for train schedules and ticket purchases on privately run trains
- www.skyclubsrilanka.com for Paramotoring experiences
A lot of buzz has been happening in the Sri Lanka entertainment industry during the past decade especially during the past 5 years, as evidenced by the above. There is an almost infinite amount of attractions and activities available to suit any taste, an island that is buzzing with life. It is hence one of the most recommended tourism destinations, achieving top statuses such as the World Travel Awards 2014 nominations for Asia’s leading destination and Asia’s leading beach destination, the Lonely Planet recommendation as the best country to travel to in 2013 and the National Geographic recommendation as one of the 6 countries to travel to in 2012; and all of it can be easily experienced when you live and Work in Sri Lanka.