The other day someone asked in a travel advice group on Facebook: "What to do in Colombo?" The overwhelming majority of people told this person: "Nothing! Get out as quickly as you can."
I used to share this opinion. While I immediately fell in love with Sri Lanka overall, the nights I had to spend in Colombo were business related and luckily few and far between. I always felt a bit bad about my feelings towards Colombo though– I thought I should like the capital of a country I love so much and not treat it like an ugly stepsister. With that thought in mind, I was keen to change my attitude during my recent trip when Ayu in the Wild offered to introduce me to their Colombo city tours.
As the city will be your gateway to Sri Lanka you may as well check out what it has to offer, even if you just add one extra night to do a bit of Colombo sightseeing. I decided to make it a few nights so I could sample one of the best hotels in Colombo and get a taste of local life.
The latter came in form of the most charming Airbnb, reason enough to come back to the city more often and quickly becoming my favorite Colombo accommodation. That says something because I am usually not a fan of Airbnb. However, this one was an uber-charming cottage in a residential area with the neighborhood dogs hanging out and the possibility of pizza delivery and wine (don't order the small pizza – it is not big enough!!). Aptly named the Writer's Cottage I wrote, enjoyed their amazing breakfast delivery, and finally felt at home for a couple of days.
Colombo City Tours with Ayu in the Wild
The beauty of the Ayu in the Wild Colombo city tours is that they are curated to your liking. If you are traveling with kids, are more interested in art, want to go shopping or or or ... you have the chance to tailor the tour to your liking. That and of course you will have guides who really know their stuff and will offer you a unique glimpse into authentic local life.
For me, that meant lots of food with a dash of history. I love nothing more than strolling through markets, eat snacks on the roadside with my fingers, and revel in new sights and sounds. Colombo to my utter surprise is perfect for that and with its fascinating history makes for an enticing mix of cultures. One of my favorite places to visit in Colombo was the part of town where you can see warehouses, colorful trucks, and wholesale businesses (you will need a good stomach for that, dried fish by the bucket is not for the faint-hearted!) – here you get a real glimpse behind the scenes and definitely something your average tour will not show you.
When you are looking for things to do in Colombo don't forget to stroll along the Galle Face Green, an urban park right by the ocean. It comes with a sporty past of horse racing, golf, and of course this being Sri Lanka after all, cricket. Today it is perfect for a stroll, fly a kite, and get more snacks!
For my last night, I had to leave my lovely refugee but was fortunate enough to move to the beautiful Uga Residence, one of the best hotels in Colombo. While some of the interior was a bit old fashioned and dusty, it is still a stunning boutique hotel, offering a perfect old-world getaway.
I didn't do much but enjoy a swim in their gorgeous pool and somehow managed to eat even more food (have you noticed that I can eat a lot?!). Their restaurant Rare at Residence is worth walking out with a food baby.
My verdict about Colombo after I left the next day? While the city and I may have been off to a slow start, I think I shall be back. Sometimes all it takes to warm up to a city is a local to show it off and show you where to get the best cassava chips!
Ayu in the Wild can organize customized Colombo day tours or create an entire Sri Lanka itinerary for you. They kindly invited me to try a Colombo city tour and provided accommodation for me at the Writer's Cottage and at Uga Residence – thank you!