1. Vihara Maha Devi Park – Colombo
Located in the hub of Colombo, Vihara Maha Devi Park is gorgeous, popular and one of the biggest and oldest parks in Colombo. Initially known as the Victoria Park, the renaming to Vihara Maha Devi happened after the mother of King Dutugemunu. A huge Buddha Statue is highlighted at the park and the placement of several water fountains gives a sense of calm and serenity. Recent transformations to the park include an attractive outdoor play area for kids, a walking and cycling track, horse rides, and several snack stalls for people to enjoy a few hours in the open. The park is open every day of the week from 7.00am to 8.00 pm, and anytime is a good time to visit, provided it is not the rainy season.
2. Beddagana Wetland Park
Recently increasing in popularity, the Beddagana Wetland Park is a paradise for nature lovers. Located just outside the main parts of greater Colombo, this area developed into a rich, flourishing ecosystem just by chance! A collection of water from many centuries ago transformed into a sludgy marshland, and as a result of being undisturbed, it became overgrown with mangroves and wetland plants. Many birds and animals began making this their home; the marshland became a haven for local and migratory birds as well as rare insects. Seeds brought in by birds made way for many beautiful plants to grow, which in turn attracted butterfly species to visit. In 1985, the government declared it a wildlife sanctuary and in 2013, it became a wetland park where people enjoy nature and be at ease.
The park is open from 6.30am to 5.30pm all 365 days of the year. There are two trails at the park:
- Lakeside trail: takes you through greenery, the lake and a floating deck with a stunning view of the lake. The butterfly walk and the duck pond are two key zones on this trail.
- Migratory bird trail: gives information of birds in a school and then takes you through scrubby trees, a natural water reservoir and marshland where many bird species can be spotted.
3. Royal Botanical Gardens Kandy
In 2018, The Guardian, UK mentioned the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kandy to be amongst the 10 great botanical gardens of the world. As the oldest form of gardens in Sri Lanka, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy is the most popular of its kind, well known for its collection of rare plants, fruits and trees. Formally established in 1843, more than 4000 species of flora can be seen here, including orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees. Tourists can take a walk around the gardens and also shop for plants that interest them. There are also places to relax and have a good meal if you were to spend many hours within the garden. Guides are also available if you wish to learn more about the medicinal properties of each plant, the growing techniques and the conditions in which they grow well. The park is open from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm everyday and is best explored with comfortable shoes and clothing.
Tip: If you want to purchase plants to be taken abroad, keep the bill with you during your airport journey to show it to customs if needed.
4. Hakgala Botanical Gardens
Established in 1861, this garden was meant to experiment the cultivation of Cinchona and tea in Sri Lanka. Today, it has transformed into a stunning natural landscape with features that offer educational opportunities such as hill country landscape gardening, montane flora and floriculture. A 2200m rock known as the Hakgala rock towers lies like a solitary giant behind the gardens, surrounding the forest reserve. April to August is the peak season to visit the garden to see the best display of temperature sensitive flowers – Roses and Foliage. The monsoons affect the garden with occasional heavy rains in the afternoon and evenings during the months of October to December.
This beautiful garden is located in close proximity to the popular town of Nuwara Eliya, which has the coolest climate in Sri Lanka, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy the fresh breeze and spend more time here. At Hakgala Botanical Gardens, there is a mix of indigenous montane vegetation and subtropical flora from a wide range of countries, as well as about 1000 plant species.
5. Seethawaka Wet Zone Botanic Gardens
Located in a wet zone, Seethawaka covers 79 acres and serves mostly as a research and conservation area for threatened and vulnerable endemic plant species from the Sinharaja Forest region. It was in October 2014 that Seethawaka Park was opened to the public after being transformed into a botanical gardens. It also promotes the improvement of export floriculture, conservation of wet lowland plants and bamboo cultivation. The park is open throughout the year from 8.00am to 5.30pm.
At Seethawaka, unlike other conventional botanical gardens, there is a majority of plant species as opposed to flowers, because the rationale here is to conserve highly threatened wet lowland forest flora for generations to come. A beautiful stream flows through the garden, which helps sustain wet zone plantations. With an ample quantity of Kumbuk foliage throughout the garden, the park maintains a rather cool temperature. The man made lake within the gardens has a natural waterflow from nearby hills and offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a boat ride. Well-paved pathways direct guests to the summit where they can relax and observe the mountainous surroundings. The park is still being developed with recently planted trees which will further beautify the region.
6. Euphoria Spice and Herbal Garden
Something different to the typical idea of a picnic – choose to visit the Euphoria Spice and Herbal Gardens in Matale, Sri Lanka. Here you can take a tour to see how different spices and herbs are growing and how they look in their natural habitat. There is also a restaurant that offers cooking demonstrations as well as the opportunity for guests to take a cookery lesson to learn the art of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. The welcoming staff are also motivated to sell all kinds of spices, portions, creams and lotions to the visitors. The park is open from 8.30am to 4.00pm every day, and is conveniently located along the Kandy Road.