History, wildlife, architecture in one place?

WE ARE LOOKING FOR AN ASIAN DESTINATION THAT CAN OFFER US HISTORY, INTERESTING ARCHITECTURE AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE ANIMALS IN THE WILD. WE NEED TO TRAVEL IN DECEMBER OR JANUARY AND THE ONLY ISSUE IS AVOIDING MONSOON WEATHER. ANY IDEAS?

M. CARTON, NEWTOWN

Sri Lanka might be just what you're looking for. There are tangible remnants of a history that stretch back over thousands of years and as one of the leading centres for Buddhism, with roots dating back more than 2000 years, the island has an invigorating treasury of temples and traditions. The colonial era left it strewn with forts, hotels and public buildings and wildlife is abundant. Within an hour of leaving Colombo I had seen a python, Indian rollers, langurs, parrots and a thalagoya, the enormous water monitor that occasionally causes terror by leaping from trees and landing on roofs, or even hapless pedestrians. Every temple has its troop of cavorting monkeys and in the rice fields, each ploughing farmer is accompanied by a white cloud of egrets, pecking at the treasures dredged up by the plough. Deep in the south of the country, Yala National Park has elephant, water buffalo, sloth bear, several primate and reptile species and one of the world's highest concentrations of leopard.

Nearby Bundala National Park is a wetland sanctuary with freshwater crocs, flamingos, painted storks, wild elephant, mongoose, water monitors, pelicans, monkeys and peacocks. Sri Lanka has several monsoonal periods and one of them falls between October and January. However this is the north-east monsoon, which leaves the centre of the island and the west and south coasts relatively unaffected, and this is where most of the popular historic and religious sites, beaches, cities and wildlife parks are located. Anytime between December to mid-April is a good time to visit Sri Lanka, and this is when most visitors arrive.

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