Colombo, Sri Lanka
Formerly known as Ceylon, the island nation of Sri Lanka delights all who visit with its diverse cultures and colourful traditions. Located off the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka resembles a luxuriant Eden with some of the most exotic vegetation this part of the world has to offer. Rubber, coffee, pepper, tea, spices and coconut plantations cover the slopes of hills and mountains, while giant umbrella trees offer shade. One could easily think of Sri Lanka as a tropical island offshoot of India, except that the majority of the people are Buddhist, not Hindu.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to recognise Colombo's potential as a trading port, but it was the Dutch who built a fort here and ruled for 150 years until the British conquest in 1795. In 1948, the island was granted full independence and in the 1970s, changed its name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka.
Colombo, Sri Lanka's political, economic and cultural centre with around one million inhabitants is the island's largest city and major port. Visiting Colombo provides some insight into what makes Sri Lanka tick. Its history goes back many centuries and relics of Portuguese, Dutch and English settlements blend with Indian influences for a unique cultural mix. The centre, known as "Fort", can easily be explored on foot.
Going Ashore in Colombo
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Queen Elizabeth pier. It is about a 15-minute drive to the town centre. Taxis are generally available at the pier. Be sure to agree on the fare before leaving the port. Due to a strong taxi union, the operation of shuttle buses is not permitted.
Handloom-woven fabrics in original designs, tea, spices, woodcarvings, pottery and gemstones may be of interest. The local currency is the rupee.
There is a good selection of restaurants in Colombo, some of them offering genuine Sri Lankan dishes. For international cuisine, you may wish to try one of the upscale hotels. Local staples include rice, vegetable curries and fresh seafood.
Located about six miles (9.5 km) from the centre of Colombo, this zoo is one of the most attractive in Asia. Thirty-seven acres (15 hectare) of undulating grounds are beautifully laid out with shrubs, flowering trees, plants, orchids, lakes and fountains. More than 2,000 animals include sloth, leopard, civets and other small cats, lizards, crocodiles and snakes. The zoo is also home to lions, tigers, jaguars, black panthers and many other exotic species. A troupe of trained elephants can be observed every afternoon.
For those guests interested in touring at your leisure, we are pleased to offer both half-day and full-day private arrangements by private car or van. You may book this in advance at www.silversea.com or it may be purchased on board, subject to availability. Other private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board.