Colombo is a colorful multi-ethnic city of contrasts that is rapidly becoming a must-see destination for visitors from around the globe.

According to US broadcaster CNN, Sri Lanka’s cultural and commercial capital is the world’s fastest developing tourist city, with growth of 21% in 2015, while another six of the top ten are also in Asia.

A rich mix of land and water, Colombo city boasts a network of canals connected to the encircling Kelani river, which joins the sea just north of the city and which for centuries formed a vital commercial and defensive waterway.

It is from here that the historic Hamilton Canal, which recently benefited from a multi-million dollar facelift, runs north through a wetland nature reserve 35km to Negombo, a popular beach resort.

Authentic shopping

And for an authentic Colombo shopping experience, head south to Pettah, a vibrant and colorful district of small shops and road-side stalls selling everything from food to clothes to the latest sophisticated electronic equipment.

This could not be a greater contrast to the gentrification of the historic Fort area and adjoining Galle Face Green, a delightful ribbon of open space beside the Indian Ocean coast, and an increasingly popular destination for residents and tourists alike.

Other popular highlights of Colombo tour packages include the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture, Viharamahadevi Park, next to the National Museum of Colombo, and the the 65-hectare Beira Lake, a most distinctive of Colombo landmark that regularly hosts regattas, cultural events and theatrical entertainments.

For more than 2,000 years, Colombo’s natural harbor made it a magnet for Indian, Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab and Chinese spice traders who later made their homes in our paradise island and added so much to our rich cultural endowment.