After more than twenty-five years of civil war, Sri Lanka is enjoying a period of peace and economic growth, the latter fueled in part by the growing flow of tourists attracted by the country’s breathtaking natural landscapes and ancient temples. But even if the conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the government forces ended in 2009, it is only recently that Sri Lanka has truly begun the process of healing; this is nowhere more evident than in the optimism of the young and in the rebuilding process of the previously war-torn regions in the north and east. Samanth Subramanian spent 10 months in the country in 2011 and 2012, researching a book about the conflict. Now the writer has returned to Sri Lanka and wrote a piece about the experience for Travel and Leisure, accompanied by beautiful photographs taken by Frédéric Lagrange.
Traveling from the capital Colombo and up to the birthplace of the Tigers’ movement in northern Jaffna, the journey takes the duo through stunning places where nature and tradition blend with the warmth of human stories. Images show sacred places, including the springs at Keerimalai, which the Hindus believe to have healing properties, the temples of Kandaswamy Hindu, Maviddapuram, and the ancient Buddhist temple at Thiriyaya, which, according to legend, is the oldest temple of its kind in the world. Natural wonders paint an enchanting picture of pristine landscapes. A swim in the crystalline water at Casuarina Beach. A snorkeling trip on the eastern coast, where dolphins and whales greet tourists. The traces of war still remain in some places, symbolized by fences separating areas and marking them as high-security. Yet throughout the country, hope finds its way and prevails, mainly through the enthusiasm of people who make the most of the opportunities provided by the country’s new chapter.
On the last leg of the journey, the travelers reach the Gal Oya National Park. At the Gal Oya Lodge eco-resort, rustic cabins nestled in the forest connect guests to nature and provide the perfect getaway for tourists who wish to see the park’s main attraction, the wild elephants and leopards. Photographs show the beauty of the land, its traditions and rich history, from the sacred temples and the green lush forests covering the mountains, to the villagers bathing in the Mahaweli River, or the image of the Vedda tribesman, who leads tours through the jungle, into the heart of the mountains. In Sri Lanka, one can experience the beauty of unspoiled nature in a magical place that has learned how to let go of the past while celebrating its history. Photography by Frédéric Lagrange.