Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka and it is the most popular city as well. The name of the city (Colombo) was first given by the Portuguese in 1505. The name was derived from the standard Sinhalese name ‘Kolon thota’ or ‘Kola-amba-thota,’ which means port on the river Kelani or harbor with leafy mango trees respectively. The city is located on the west coast of the island and it is close to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, which happens to be the legislative capital of Sri Lanka.

Colombo is a busy city with a cosmopolitan culture. It is the rendezvous point for beaches in the southern region of Sri Lanka. The city boasts a long line of history as a port city that serve the east-west trade routes and at that time the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British Empire ruled the entire area. In addition to this, the city of Colombo is regarded as the financial center of the island and every year, millions of tourists come to this city for spending a vacation. All in all, Colombo is a vibrant city that offers a blend of cultural heritage (colonial buildings with ancient bits and pieces) with modern life surroundings.

Pristine golden beaches, magnificent temples, and colonial era architecture adorn the vibrant city of Colombo. It is one of the most important cultural centers of Sri Lanka. Being situated strategically on the western coast, this port city has been a location of interest for many empires, colonizers, and traders. Every empire that ruled this land left their legacy behind, making the city a blend of culture with a rich heritage. Being the former capital of Sri Lanka, the biggest city and financial center as well as a port city with a natural harbor, Colombo has a myriad of functions: administrative, trade, financial, cultural and tourism. Colombo is a bustling metropolis with a mixed population, each group adding to the vibrancy of the city. It is a mix of the old and the new, with its colonial-era buildings contrasting the modern skyscrapers. Colombo is a great city to visit. The list of things to do in the city is endless. Discover the colonial past with a visit to the museum, explore the many historical era temples and churches, go shopping at the Odel or just stroll around the beach and soak in the sun.


Language of Colombo

Sinhala and Tamil are the two official languages of Colombo. Sinhala is more widely spoken. English is also spoken by a sizeable number of people, especially the expatriate communities and the tourists. Many local people also speak English language.


History of Colombo

The history of Colombo can be divided into Pre-colonial, Colonial and Post-colonial eras. During the Pre-colonial era, for over 2000 years, because of its strategic location, Colombo has been the point of interest for many traders: the Arabs, the ancestors of the modern Indians, the Chinese, the Persians, the Romans, and the Greeks. Many came here to establish trade as it lies in the path of the East to West Trade route. The descendants of these traders can be seen in the population of Colombo today. Then came, the Colonial era from 1505-1948, which consists of the Portuguese era [1505-1638], the Dutch Era [1638-1796] and the British Era [1796-1948]. The British made Colombo their administrative capital, and it continued to serve as the capital even after the country gained independence from British rule. However, in 1980 Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte became the new capital of the country. Even though Colombo lost the title of a capital city, it is still the largest city and the commercial hub of Sri Lanka.


Colombo Weather

Under the Koppen climate classification, Colombo has a tropical monsoon climate. The city has a pleasant temperate climate throughout the year. Monsoon season is predominant throughout the year. May to August and October to January are the monsoon seasons. On an average, the temperature is always high, remaining between 22 degrees C and 30 degrees C. January is the driest and hottest month, May is the wettest and September is the coolest month. The city gets an average rainfall of about 2400 millimeters a year.


Electricity in Sri Lanka

For Sri Lanka there are two associated plug types, types D and G. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

Type D: Plug type D is the plug, which has three round pins in a triangular pattern, and plug, mainly used in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and some African countries. This socket only works with plug D.

Type G: Plug type G is the plug, which has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. This type is of British origin. This socket only works with plug G.


Things to see in Colombo


  • National Museum of Colombo: A few decades back, Sri Lanka has been modernized, but the entire civilization of this country has lasted here for millennia. Among these ancient civilizations, the most prominent is the National Museum of Colombo. This museum illustrates a diversified collection of ancient civilization, as you will observe the ancient ruins of Sri Lankan history, artworks, and the remnants from the Anuradhapura Kingdom (dating back to the fourth century B.C.).


  • Independence Memorial Hall: In 1948, Sri Lanka got its independence from Britain and this is the place where this historic moment took place. Moreover, the huge stone-made building is enclosed by a serene garden. In front of the hall, there is a statue of Sri Lanka’s first ever president (The Father of the Nation). Additionally, this iconic hall is used for various religious events alongside yearly national day celebration. The hall is peaceful and crowd-less brings a sense of calmness to the visitors.


  • Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple: Sri Lanka has a long and illustrious history, which includes several transitions. But the only constant thing during these transitions is the practice of Buddhism. Now, the city of Colombo represents the Buddhism in the best possible manner with the iconic Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. This temple is home to the holy Bodhi tree with loads of Buddha images of different sizes. This is why this temple is a must see attractions for the tourists.


  • Beira Lake: The Beira Lake is one of the classic tourist attractions in the city of Colombo. It is colossal and when you exited from the Gangaramaya Temple, you will be tempted to take a rest alongside the shores of this wonder lake. Around the lake, various modernizations and storefronts have taken place, but it still manages to remain peaceful. This is why tourists love to take a respite from the busy and hectic schedule in the Beira Lake.


Things to do in Colombo


  • Spot the magnificent whales: Sri Lanka is renowned for many beautiful spectacles and whales are one such spectacle that compels the tourists to say – Wow! When you are on a boat in the Sri Lankan waters, you can easily spot the magnificent sperm and blue whales. These whales will glide past your boat gracefully and watching these whales is a thing of beauty and unravels to any attraction. You can spot them in Dondra Point, which is close to Galle, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa.


  • Go for a fascinating train voyage: A charming train ride with the Sri Lanka’s timeless colonial trains would take you to the Golden Age of Travel. This railway line was created to transfer spices and tea from the hazy mountains to Colombo’s port. Besides, this is a historic railway line that goes through rugs of progressing tea plantations, hidden waterfalls, spice gardens, and ever-smiling rail-side merchants. The locals would embrace you gracefully making your trip more pleasant.


  • Get lost while soaking in the beaches: Colombo is home to various beaches, which can rival the exotic beaches of Europe and the Caribbean’s. All of these beaches are encircled by coconut palm fringed shorelines with turquoise waters and white dusty sands. Getting lost in these beaches would offer a fitting end to your trip in Colombo.


Reaching by Air

Being a tourism hub, Colombo city is connected with many international destinations by air. Colombo’s international airport, Bandaranaike International Airport, serves the city. The airport has flights connecting various cities with Colombo like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kathmandu, Kuwait, Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Paris, London, Tokyo etc. The major airlines operating these routes are SriLankan Airlines, Himalaya Airlines, Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Emirates, Air India Express etc. 

Nearest Airport: The nearest airport to Colombo is the Bandaranaike International Airport, 35 Km north of the city. 

Safety Suggestion: There are no weather-related safety issues affecting the flights landing at Bandaranaike International Airport.


By Bus

Colombo has an extensive and well-connected network of public buses that link the city to other parts of the country. Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) manages the government-run buses. There is a fleet of buses run by private agencies as well. The bus terminal at Bastian Mawatha in Pettah is where all the long distance buses arrive and depart. 

Journey Suggestion: Road traffic congestion is severe in Colombo. Travellers will not encounter traffic snarl while on the highway, but as one approaches the city, one can get caught in traffic jams.


By Train

Being the most important city of the country, Colombo is well connected to other towns and cities. A well-planned railway network connects the city with other places like Matara, Badulla, Kankesanturai and Talaimannar. Trains are the most cost effective means to travel in the country, hence they are very crowded. The train journey from Colombo to Kandy deserves a special mention as the route passes through some of the most beautiful locale of the country. Being a port city, Colombo can also be reached by ship. If you have the time and finances to do so, opt for a cruise to Colombo from port cities like Cochin. There is also an international ferry service between Colombo and Tuticorin in India.


Concluding Remarks

Finally, it can be said that Colombo is a special city that is diversified enough to afford elegant eateries, museums, temples, galleries, serene atmosphere and, wildlife in one basket. When you will be exploring this city, every time, you will be surprised by the uniqueness and authenticity of Colombo. All in all, Colombo is the perfect city to start or finish point of Sri Lankan adventures.