The so-called Teardrop Island of Sri Lanka has more reasons to shed tears than most.
A quarter century of civil war left countless dead and 300,000 displaced, then in 2004 a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean sparked a tsunami which claimed 40,000 Sri Lankan lives and left another two million displaced.
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But the war is over and the rebuilding has begun.
And the nation is fighting, and winning a new battle to bring back tourists in large numbers.
Sri Lanka of course has an ace card. It is staggeringly beautiful.
The New York Times has already named it the number one must-go destination of 2010 and it’s combination of lush, tropical fauna, fascinating history, and breath-taking beaches is very hard to beat. And arguably the best beach, and certainly the most famous, is Unawatuna.
Unawatuna is so pretty it’s almost a cliché.
Seemingly endless soft pink sands are gently lapped by perfect turquoise waters as the occasional sun-bather relaxes in a hammock slung between two palms.
Little bits of it can get busy, but for the most part Unawatuna, a good kilometre from the coast road, has a classic mellow traveller vibe and is populated by the young and the beautiful.
Since the 2004 tsunami the cafes have returned, most low-rise and in keeping with the hippy-ish feel, with the occasional eye-sore which leaves you wondering how planning permission was ever granted. But this aside, it’s easy to understand how Unawatuna repeatedly appears in lists of the world’s best beaches.
The beach bars offer food, usually fish and shellfish with a mountain of rice, at very reasonable prices, usually around $10 for lunch.
The calming peace that only a sun lounger and a airport novel can bring is really the main attraction at Unawatuna but for the easily distracted there is great diving.