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Mount Lavinia in Sri Lanka

As Sri Lanka's largest city, Colombo is still considered the capital, although it actually lost this status in the 1980s. Approximately 12km from here and on the road to Galle, you can find the popular beach resort called Mount Lavinia. It is one of Sri Lanka's most popular beach resorts, having beautiful white sandy beaches and the very calm waters of the Indian Ocean in its favour.

Mount Lavinia is also home to one of Sri Lanka's most famous hotels, the Mount Lavinia Hotel. This originally started life as The Governor's House and was built in 1805 by Sir Thomas Maitland. The Mount Lavinia Hotel was converted in 1895 and is by far the most popular hotel in the resort.

If you are looking for water sports, then head to the beach. It does get particularly crowded on Sundays as it offers such water sports as surfing and beach volleyball. Sometimes live bands play and DJs spin decks for your entertainment, making for a lovely, very lively, fun, party atmosphere.

The Dehiwala Zoo is a wonderful place to visit whilst holidaying in Mount Lavinia. Its opening hours are 8.00am to 6.00pm and it is home to a huge variety of Sri Lankan and other international wildlife and bird-life. There is a fantastic entertaining elephant show every day at 5.15pm where they perform various tricks of agility for the crowds. If you start to feel a little peckish, visit the restaurant within the zoo that serves snacks and main meals. This is a fabulous day out for children and adults alike.

Along the beachfront you will find most of Mount Lavinia's best places to eat. There are some exceptional places to visit. One of the newest additions is the 'Mughal Emporar', serving North Indian fare. Food is reasonably priced, high quality and not to be missed; it is right on the beachfront in a big red and yellow tent so you are unlikely to miss it. Just south of the famous Mount Lavinia Hotel, further down the beach, is 'Bu Ba'. This is another recommended seafood restaurant, with candlelit tables actually situated on the beach. In the day you can lunch away from the heat and under the cover of palm trees - a picturesque and idyllic setting! Another open-air restaurant on the beach is the 'Golden Mile', offering Western style seafood such as a seafood platter.

As Mount Lavinia is very close to Colombo, about 20 minutes by taxi, it is well worth taking the time to visit the area. Colombo is a bustling metropolis, with old and new buildings standing side by side. There is a locally famous picnic spot worth looking around which is called Galle Face Green. This consists of a promenade along the sea, stretching for about one and half kilometres. It was originally established by the British in 1859, used for horse racing and it is now the largest open area within Colombo.

The Fort area is where most commercial shops can be found, alongside some of the Sri Lankan banks, offices, immigration offices and restaurants. Best explored on foot!

Right next to the Fort is the Pettah area, which features the bazaar style shops of Colombo. Here you will find an Aladdin's cave of goodies and some amazing bargains if you are willing to haggle with the traders. You can find jewellery, such as watches, handbags and footwear - to name but a few. There are a myriad of streets crisscrossing each other and each street often has its own little trading area; for example, Prince Street is locally famous for glassware, whereas Malwatte Avenue sells English fare.

The National Museum is also here in Colombo and is definitely well worth a visit. It was originally the first public museum of its kind to be opened in Sri Lanka and is home now to the national treasures and artefacts of the country. There is plenty to see here, including a children's section especially for the younger visitors and a Puppetry. On the first floor there is a library with over 500,000 books on display.

Directly next to the National Museum is the Viharamahadevi Park, which is very pretty, with its beautiful flowering trees and truly gorgeous fountains. This is Colombo's largest park.

There are several religious buildings of interest to visit in Colombo. There is the Wolvendaal Church which is Colombo's oldest church of Dutch origin, it has an amazing tiled floor which is made from tombstones taken from one of the Dutch churches at the Fort. In total, there are 10 Hindu temples you may want to visit.

And last, but certainly not least, if you get the opportunity 'Slave Island' is worth a visit. Today it is home to many shops and offices, but originally it was where the slaves of Colombo slept at night.