Colombo, Sri Lanka
Scarred by decades of civil war, Sri Lanka and its commercial capital, Colombo, are relatively new to modern-day tourism. But Colombo has been a crucial trading post for more than 2,000 years. The city rose to prominence as Sri Lanka's most important port town in the 16th century with the arrival of Portuguese fleets. After a period under Dutch rule, Ceylon—as Sri Lanka was then called—became part of the British Empire in 1802. Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, but the country experienced intense unrest from 1983 until 2009, when Sri Lanka's civil war finally came to an end.
Hambantota, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s southeastern corner is a quiet, laid-back, rural region of sleepy villages, farms and golden-sand beaches fringed by coconut palms and fronting the Indian Ocean's cerulean waters. Beyond Hambantota's new world-class port, colorful fishing boats cluster in its small harbor; their bounty can be seen in the daily fish market.
Much of this part of Sri Lanka was off-limits during the country's civil war; then, it was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami. Fortunately the region has mostly recovered and is now open to tourists, who are discovering its natural beauty and a Sri Lankan way of life that is fast disappearing.