Some people are beach people, some people are mountain people. For the ones who are both, there is no place like the small island country of Sri Lanka, which has such a varied landscape that you can be on sandy beaches on one day, and on hilly highlands the next. For a touch of jungle exploring, Sri Lanka also offers many vibrant rainforests. With an excellent collection of monuments and temples, a visit to Sri Lanka could be a very spiritually enriching experience. Sri Lanka is full of tourist attractions and to help you make the best of your Sri Lanka holidays, we bring to you, the 30 best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
1. Galle Fort
One of the most popular tourist places to visit in Sri Lanka is the historic Galle Fort. The Galle fort was built by Portuguese in the 16th century and then reinforced by the Dutch in the 17th century. Enjoy the spectacular view of the sea from the fort or simply walk along the cobblestoned pathway around the Galle fort area. The fort area is lined with small food joints, cafes, shops selling trinkets and bookstores. The Galle fort also offers one of the most breathtaking views of the setting sun.
2. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Located about 13 kilometres from Kegalle, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a popular tourist spot that offers a unique experience for visitors. Watching baby elephants play their hearts out in shallow water is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka. Built to look after baby elephants that were abandoned by their mothers, the Pinnawala Orphanage can be a perfect picnic spot. Because apart from offering spectacular surroundings full of nature, the orphanage also shows you a thing or two about elephant care.
3. Yala National Park
About 200 kilometres away from Bentota lies the Yala National Park, a popular wildlife sanctuary and one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Hop on a jeep and go for an adventurous safari into the depths of the forest. Make sure you include a trip to Yala National Park in your Sri Lanka holiday packages because you would never want to miss this. You’re likely to spot a few Sri Lankan elephants and leopards on your safari.
Visiting Sri Lanka and not exploring the capital city of Colombo is the ultimate sin. Hop into a tuk-tuk, travel along the streets of Colombo and get down at places that attract your attention. Colombo is the perfect place to try some delicious Sri Lankan street food. Head over to Galle Face Green and relax on the green grass or get spiritual by visiting the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. A bit of Colombo tourism can always be a very satisfying experience.
5. Beira Lake
After a round of sightseeing or shopping, there is nothing like a relaxing boat ride in Beira Lake. Situated right in the centre of Colombo, the lake offers calm and green waters that offer a refreshing experience. Paddle-boats are available for rent and you can take one out into the lake. Paddle away into the waters and float alongside cute swans and ducks that are abundantly found in the lake. Visit Beira Lake for an extremely soothing experience.
6. Arugam Bay
The beaches in Sri Lanka are some of the most beautiful in Asia. One of the most enjoyable experiences can be had in the waters of Arugam Bay, which is tailor-made for adrenaline junkies. Bring out the swim-wear and indulge in some surfing, speed-boating and other water activities. The turquoise blue waters and rows of coconut trees make Arugam Bay one of the prettiest destinations in Sri Lanka.
Also Read: Everything You Need To Know About Sri Lanka
Ella is a small town about 200 kilometres from Colombo that is most famous for the Ella Gap. It is a popular tourist spot that offers breathtaking views of the Sri Lankan mountains and is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. The town of Ella is situated amidst lush green vegetation and tea plantations. Surrounded by hills, the town Ella is perfect for a day or two among the mountains, sipping tea while enjoying the terrific view.
8. Nuwara Eliya
Speaking of hill stations, the one which can rival Ella both in the spectacular views it offers and the overall atmosphere is Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is a hill station developed in the 19th century that still retains its colonial ambience. The lush green and mountainous landscape provides an excellent atmosphere for a deeply soothing and calm vacation. Even the train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is such a scenic route you’ll be looking out the window for most of your journey.
9. Dambulla Cave Temple
For a touch of old history and culture, visit one of the most popular cultural hotspots in Sri Lanka – The Dambulla Cave Temple. The temple complex is one of the largest in Sri Lanka and hosts an amazing array of statues and paintings dating back to the 12th century. The temple contains five rooms and all of them have a beautiful Buddha statue of different sizes within them. Climb up to the top of the temple for a great view.
Your Sri Lanka sightseeing would remain grossly incomplete without a visit to the famous Sigiriya world heritage site. Also called as the ‘mount of remembrance’, Sigiriya is one of the most breathtaking locales in Sri Lanka. In the middle of lush vegetation, a huge rock formation balances the Sigiriya rock fortress. Put a bit of effort in those legs and climb to the top of the Sigiriya rock for a beautiful, 360 degree view of the surroundings.
Jaffna is the capital city of the northern province of Sri Lanka that boasts of some of the best temples in Sri Lanka. The Nallur Kovil temple is the pick of the lot among temples but it is also one of the most crowded. A visit to the Jaffna Fort can be a very pleasant experience for those interested in Sri Lanka’s rich history. But one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka is the Nagadeepa Purana Vihara temple. Accessible by boat, the temple is one of the calmest places to meditate and take in the surreal atmosphere.
12. Commonwealth War Cemetery – Kandy
If you want to have a look at a place that is seldom visited by tourists and is not a typical tourist spot, then make sure you visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Kandy. Be humbled before the martyrs who gave their life for the nation. The cemetery is quite well maintained and a beautiful place to pay your respects and offer prayers to the soldiers.
13. Unawatuna Beach
It is not a secret that beaches in Sri Lanka are some of the best places to relax, frolick around in the sand and take a dip in the water. One of the best beaches in Sri Lanka is the Unawatuna beach that is a popular tourist spot. The beach has soft sand and cool waters that make for a very relaxing afternoon. Lined by choice restaurants and cafes, the beach is an excellent place to hang out, sip cocktails and have a good time.
Of course, the beaches and hill stations in Sri Lanka are worth a visit. But what sets Sri Lanka apart is a taste of ancient ruins and temples that it offers. Visit Polonnaruwa for a dip in Sri Lanka’s rich history and gaze at the hundreds of temples, tombs and statues strewn across the archaeological site. The ruins of Polonnaruwa can be one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
15. Adam’s Peak
Located in central Sri Lanka, the breathtaking Adam’s Peak is a tall, conical mountain that is a UNESCO world heritage site. Surrounded by lush greenery, Adam’s Peak is best known for the ‘sacred footprint’, locally called as Sri Pada, which is a rock formation at the peak that is traditionally found to be the footprint of Buddha. Adam’s peak offers some of the most amazing views in Sri Lanka and it is the best spot to witness a sunrise or a sunset.
In the little fishing village of Mirissa, you can have the time of your life fishing with the locals or simply enjoying the small beach on the shore. Look for whales as you go on a fishing expedition and try your hand at trapping fish like Tuna, Jackfish and the Indian Mackerel. Enjoy a sumptuous meal of traditional Sri Lankan fish cuisine at local eateries. In the evenings, relax on a hammock on the beach as you relish the sounds of crashing waves at one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
17. Temple of Tooth Relic
The Temple of Tooth Relic in Kandy is the place that houses the tooth relic of Buddha. A UNESCO world heritage site, the temple is a popular tourist attraction that houses various historical artefacts. Located in the palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, the temple has great significance since it is believed that whoever holds the tooth relic of Buddha shall hold the governance of the country.
The little known beach getaway of Trincomalee is an excellent place for some quality and quiet time in Sri Lanka. It is a popular tourist spot that offers excellent watersport activities. But the best part of Trincomalee is the opportunity it provides for some scintillating deep sea diving. Contact Sri Lanka Diving Tours (SLDT) to help you peek into exotic marine life in the waters of Trincomalee. Besides diving, you can also indulge in temple sighting and beach hopping in Trincomalee.
To take in some of the most spectacular panoramic views in Sri Lanka, head over to the Kandalama village and indulge in a hot air balloon ride across azure Sri Lankan skies. A hot air balloon ride with your loved one can be one of the most breathtaking experiences to be had in Sri Lanka. For a night of luxury, book a room in Kandalama Heritance, one of the first 5-star hotels in Sri Lanka.
20. Ceylon Tea Trails
If you have luxury in mind then nothing can top Ceylon Tea Trails, a luxury boutique hotel and tea estate in the Hatton region. Located amidst tea plantations and lush greenery, the Ceylon Tea Trails will make sure you’re pampered with world-class service and served delicious Sri Lankan cuisine. The Ceylon Tea Trails consists of four colonial bungalows with their own private butler service. It is truly the gold standard as far as luxury bungalows are concerned.
21. Vedda Village
Solo travellers or backpackers can always skip the regular tourist attractions and look for small villages that offer a rich experience. One such village is Vedda Village where the indigenous Vedda tribe stays. It can be a truly eye-opening experience as you interact with the locals and explore the village. If you can, visit the homes of local people and click photographs.
22. Kosgoda Sea Turtle Hatchery
On the southwestern coast of the Kosgoda Village, you will find the Kosgoda Sea Turtle hatchery, a popular tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. The Turtle Hatchery is quite a rage among family travelers since the whole family can have a nice time here. Kids get to enjoy the amazing baby turtles that are taken care of here. Adults can see and identify a variety of different turtle species. For an all-round good time with family, the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
23. Dondra Head Lighthouse
The colonial era Dondra Head Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Sri Lanka that offers spectacular views from the top. Located about 165 kilometres from Colombo, the Dondra Lighthouse can be an excellent place to stop by for an hour or two. Click photographs from the top or simply enjoy a breathtaking sunset. Surrounded by swaying coconut palms, the Dondra Lighthouse can be a perfect family getaway.
24. Sigiriya Museum
It is also one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, culturally speaking. The museum is quite significant in depicting the history and traditions of Sigiriya and contains many artefacts, old trade routes and relics of Sri Lanka. If you fancy a bit of history, then make sure you visit the Sigiriya Museum.
25. Ulpotha Village
Sri Lanka is quite famous for its enthusiasm in the art of Yoga and Ayurveda. Practicing yoga early morning in the middle of eye-pleasing green surroundings can be an amazingly relaxing experience. Head over to Ulpotha Village and enlist yourself at the Yoga and Ayurveda Retreat to free your mind. If you’re interested in curing your illnesses with Ayurveda, then the Ulpotha Retreat can offer a number of solutions.
For birdwatchers and bird photography enthusiasts, the town of Tissamaharama can be one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Spot different varieties of birds and visit the artificial but still beautiful Tissa Wewa Lake. Tissamaharama also houses some amazing stupas like the Yatala Vehera Stupa and the Tissamaharama Stupa. Also famous is the Tissamaharama Raja Maha Vihara, a historic Buddhist monastery.
The Kollupitiya neighbourhood is one of the major neighborhoods of Colombo in Sri Lanka. It is one of the top commercial areas of Sri Lanka that contains an excellent collection of restaurants and hotels. Visit the Kollupitiya Market to see vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Wander the streets and shop at handicraft stores for trinkets and mementos to take back home.
28. Bentota Beach
It is a coastal town located in the Galle district of the country. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Sri Lanka. The reason for its popularity is the Bentota beach. With crashing waves, soft sand and salty air, the beach can be an excellent place to relax and lie down. You can also indulge in adventurous water sports on the Bentota Beach.
It is a small beach town about 10 kilometres from Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka. It has a decent collection of restaurants and hotels and can be an excellent place for a short stay on your trip. One of the popular attraction is the Negombo Lagoon, which is lined by fishing boats and huts. Other notable places in Negombo include the Guruge Nature Park and St. Mary’s Church
Anuradhapura is a well preserved city in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is quite a popular tourist place because of its ancient ruins that offer a peek into Sri Lanka’s rich history. The city is a UNESCO world heritage site and contains a sprawling archaeological excavation site. It also contains ancient buildings like old stupas, temples and ruins of old pools.
So there we have it, places for you to visit Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka may be a tiny country, but it has a lot of places to offer and lot of places to explore within a region. These are some of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. So make sure you put this guide to good use and more places and explore each and every location on this list. You’re bound to enjoy it.