Glance at a map of Sri Lanka and you’ll notice that some of its towns, monuments and attractions are a little bit tricky to say out loud. Because the following ten fall into the ‘bit of a mouthful’ category, we thought we’d show you how to perfect your pronunciation.
Loads of people have heard of it, few know how to pronounce it. “That place beginning with ‘P’” is what we often hear from travellers, but ‘Polonnaruwa’ is actually fairly straightforward to say out loud: ‘Poh-luhn-uh-roo-wuh.’ Told you.
About 100 km north-west of Polonnaruwa, which you can now pronounce expertly, is Anuradhapura, another ancient city on Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. Its name is a case of ‘say what you see’. Altogether now: ‘Ah-noo-ruh-duh-poo-ruh.’
Completing the Cultural Triangle is arguably Sri Lanka’s most iconic sight: Sigiriya. With not one, not two, but three ‘i’s, it can be a bit daunting to pronounce. But when it’s broken down like this, it’s not so tricky: ‘Si-gih-ree-yah.’
7. Bandaranaike International Airport
Sri Lanka’s main international airport is named after S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, who served as the country’s prime minister between 1952 and 1956. His surname is actually easier to say than it looks. Here goes: ‘Bahn-drah-nee-kee.’
Locals and travellers tend to shorten it to ‘Tissa’, but there’s something rewarding about saying the wildlife-dominated town’s full name out loud. Ready? Set? Go: ‘Tissa-mar-hah-ray-mah.’
5. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte
There’s no getting around the fact that Sri Lanka’s official capital, which is located in Colombo District, is a bit of a mouthful to say. But when you get used to it, it almost rolls off the tongue. Try it for yourself: ‘Sree-j-eye-a-ward-enna-poora-cot.’
Mihintale, a few kilometres east of Anuradhapura, is where, according to legend, Buddhism began in Sri Lanka. Pronounced ‘Mi-hin-tal-ay’, it was here that King Devanampiyatissa was converted by Mahinda, a celebrated Buddhist monk.
Also known as Mount Pedro, its less-of-a-mouthful moniker, Pidurutalagala is Sri Lanka’s tallest mountain. Located not far from Nuwara Eliya, the 2,524-metre-high peak is pronounced ‘Pid-uh-roota-lah-gar-la.’
2. Udawalawe National Park
It is, according to Lonely Planet, “the one national park in Sri Lanka not to miss”. And we wholeheartedly agree, which is why we’ve included it this Wild Sri Lanka itinerary. How to say Udawalawe? Like this: ‘Ooh-dah-wal-ah-wuh.’
‘Mah-tail’ or ‘mah-tarl-ee’? Well, neither – the town, which is known for its rather nice spice plantations, is actually pronounced ‘Mah-tha-lee’. Most travellers will stop here on the journey between Kandy and Dambulla.