To awaken your travel bug, here are 10 incredible trips that are sure to expand your horizons in 2015. Smithsonian Journeys brings the same sense of wonder to their enrichment travel programs that the Smithsonian Institution has been bringing to their museum visitors for more than 160 years. Smithsonian Journeys tours feature world-class subject matter experts, behind-the-scenes insights into the world's most treasured locations, off-the-beaten-path excursions and authentic experiences with local communities. We offer more than 150 itineraries to all seven continents, ranging from unique cruises to small group specialty tours. Explore the fortresses of Sri Lanka, stroll the pristine beaches of Costa Rica, cruise through the Amazon, or feel an adrenaline high in Australia and New Zealand. Make 2015 a year of travel!
Explore Sri Lanka's Ancient Fortresses
A great reason to go: This peaceful island, formerly known as Ceylon, is a mix of awe-inspiring landscapes and enlightening cultural traditions. With over 2000 years of culture and history, and over eight World Heritage sites on an island roughly the size of West Virginia, Sri Lanka is an archaeology lover's dream. You won't know which ancient site to visit first.
World Heritage gem: The ancient city of Sigiriya, situated in the heart of Sri Lanka, offers wonders for history and art lovers alike. Admirers have been visiting the site of Lion Mountain as far back as the 6th century, but the mountain fort became especially famous when a usurper king, Kassapa I (477-95), captured the site from Buddhist monks in 477 AD and established his short rule from this high vantage point. With five gates leading into the lion shaped palace at the top of the fortress, it is thought that the Lion Gate (with paws) was reserved as an entrance for royalty. Sigiriya became a World Heritage site in 1982 and is one of the most visited sites of Sri Lanka.
Fun fact: Sri Lanka’s location and ports were strategically important to those European traders traveling to India and China. Today, thanks to its long history as a trading hub, Sinhalese and Tamil cultural traditions are fused with Dutch and British customs. A good example of a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish is Lamprais: rice boiled in stock with a special curry, accompanied by frikkadels (meatballs), all of which is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked.
When to go: With the monsoon season lasting from roughly December to March, visiting from May to August is recommended.
Travel with Smithsonian Journeys: Take a summer break to Sri Lanka in June 2015 to explore this island paradise as you tour Colombo, Habarana and Galle, and take a train from Nuwara Eliya to Yala National Park. Get the most out of your experience as you're accompanied by Smithsonian Journeys Expert Wolfgang Dittus, a biologist who has been actively involved in several Smithsonian study and conservation projects focused on Sri Lanka’s flora, fauna and culture.