10 Incredible Things to do in Sri Lanka
Lying off the southern tip of India, the small island nation of Sri Lanka has been attracting visitors for many years with its welcoming smiles, natural beauty, and diverse culture. There are so many things to see and do in Sri Lanka and no matter your traveling style or interests, you will love Sri Lanka!
Here's a list of 10 things we personally think shouldn't be missed when visiting beautiful Sri Lanka.
1. Go on a safari
Sri Lanka, every wildlife and nature lover’s dream! There is no doubt that Sri Lanka is the best destination for big game safaris outside of Africa, and definitely an experience that can’t afford to be missed when visiting this beautiful island nation.
Stretching from the North to the South, you will find an abundance of National Parks all offering unique safari experiences. Be lucky enough to see Sri Lankan Elephants, Leopards, Sloth Bears, Water Buffalo, Wild Boar and many more fascinating animals and birdlife out in the wild.
Some of the best Safari spots include Yala National Park, Kaudulla National Park, Gal Oya National Park, and Udawale National Park.
Wherever you choose to do your safari, you won't be disappointed!
For some Sri Lankan wildlife trip ideas and information visit the Travel Kosh Sri Lanka App. (Link To App/Download)
2. Climb Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock is truly an icon of Sri Lanka. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and locally known as the Eighth Wonder Of The World, climbing Sigiriya Rock is an experience that you shouldn't miss while in Sri Lanka.
Enter between the paws of a giant lion and scale the 1200 steps to the summit of an ancient king’s palace and fortress. Marvel in the architectural ingenuity and stories from the past while taking in the breathtaking panoramic views.
The climb will take approximately three hours up and down to complete. The best time to do the climb if possible is definitely early morning. Both the crowds and heat are less at this time.
3. Explore the Cultural Triangle and the ancient sites of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla
Take a journey back in time as you explore the well-preserved ruins and Buddhist sites of the ancient sacred cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla. Known as the Cultural Triangle, these cities hold great cultural and historical importance in Sri Lanka. Learn the stories of their past and the significance the various places in these cities have in shaping the Sri Lanka that you see today.
Visit important historical sites such as Mihintale mountain peak, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, the first recorded human planted tree which was grown from the tree under which Buddha is believed to have gained his enlightenment, Gal Vihara, Sri Lanka’s famous rock monastery which is well known for its large rock carvings depicting Buddha, and the famous Rock Cave Temple of Dambulla for an unforgettable experience.
4. Go Whale watching
Sri Lanka offers some of the best whale and dolphin watching opportunities in the world! Get the experience of a lifetime sharing the waters with the biggest animals on earth, the Blue Whale. Or even be witness to a pod of up to 1500 Spinner Dolphins as they play, jump and show off right next to your boat!
Visit during the season for the best viewing opportunity; mid-October-March off the West coast of Kalpitiya for the best dolphin watching experience, November-April for whale watching off the South coast of Mirissa, and June-August off the East coast of Trincomalee.
There are many species of whales and dolphins off the shores of Sri Lanka ready for you to discover them! You can find a more detailed guide to dolphin and whale watching in Sri Lanka here. (link to whale watching blog)
5. Kandy to Ella Train
All the tourists are raving about this experience and social media is full of updates from this route. Yes, it is the scenic train ride through the hill towns from Kandy to Ella. This is one of the most popular train rides in the country because of its undeniable scenic beauty.
On the Sri Lankan train service you will have the option of 1st class reserved only, 2nd class reserved or unreserved, or 3rd class reserved or unreserved. For a true Sri Lankan train experience we suggest not taking 1st class in this instance. Windows and doors are kept locked in 1st class, which you don’t want with the beautiful scenery and fresh air.
This ride is inexpensive and truly an experience you will never forget. Ride through the beautiful rolling green hills of endless tea plantations, lush green woods, and misty mountains. Feel the fresh, cool air hitting your lungs as you take in this picture-perfect scenery that will leave you breathless.
6. Nuwara Eliya tea plantations
Nuwara Eliya should definitely be on your destination list for Sri Lanka! Its cool and invigorating climate, charming old colonial-style town, and breathtaking views make Nuwara Eliya the perfect location to stay for a relaxing night or two.
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest tea exporters with a thriving tea industry in the central highlands of the country that began around 1867. This rich history of tea production and the significance it holds in Sri Lanka today, make exploring the tea plantations and factories of Nuwara Eliya a must when visiting Sri Lanka.
Apart from the tea plantations, Nuwara Eliya has a lot on offer including some of the country's most beautiful waterfalls, arguably some of the best views in the country, and great hiking and trekking opportunities in the region.
7. The Last Kingdom: Kandy
The city of Kandy is a sacred Buddhist site and an important part of Sri Lanka's history. This UNESCO World Heritage city, also known as the city of Senkadagalapura was the last ancient capital of the Sinhala kings before the British occupation. This city holds a rich history and is a major Buddhist pilgrimage as it is home to the Temple of the Tooth, which is where the tooth of Gautama Buddha himself remains preserved.
Kandy has a rich history of art with unique architecture, dance forms, and music which reflect both a past and present that is one of proud tradition. There is so much to uncover in Kandy from Buddhist trails and exquisite gardens and landscaping to uncovering the Kandian culture that will have you falling in love with this beautiful city in no time.
8. Nine Arch Bridge in Ella
One of the most Instagrammed places in Sri Lanka is Ella's Nine Arch Bridge! This beautiful railway bridge is nestled away in the hills of dense green jungle and tea plantations, making it perfectly picturesque.
This popular destination is best to visit along with the timing of the passing trains in order to get the perfect photo opportunity. You can find the train timings online but keep in mind that often the trains don’t run exactly to schedule.
There are several ways to reach the bridge from Ella, our favourite and most recommended is by a small hike along a path through the jungle. Turn left at the parking spots after the Art Cafe Umbrella onto the small jungle path. This is a beautiful hike that will take you no more than 15 minutes and also offers unique views of the bridge.
9. Sunrise at Adam's Peak
The 2243m mountain, Adam's Peak, also known as Sri Prada located in the Central Highland region of Sri Lanka is a popular trek and pilgrimage for tourists and locals alike. This mountain holds great religious significance for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. Adam's Peak is home to the sacred footprint which Buddhists believe to belong to Buddha, Hindus believe to belong to Lord Shiva, and Muslims and Christians believe it to be the footprint from Adam's first step after being exiled from the Garden of Eden.
If you're up for the challenge, this is an unmissable trek while in Sri Lanka. Depending on fitness level, crowds, and the trail, it can take anywhere from approximately two to four hours to reach the summit. Begin your trek in the middle of the night and reach the summit for the most incredible sunrise.
10. Snorkel and Scuba dive the coast of Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan coastline is a haven for beach and ocean lovers! The island of Sri Lanka is dotted with some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches that are world-class and offer great experiences for everyone. If getting in amongst the action of the ocean is your style, Sri Lanka is going to be a treat for you! Just off the coast of Sri Lanka, all around the country are beautiful reefs and shipwrecks waiting to be explored in unforgettable snorkeling and scuba diving experiences. Bar reef off of Kalpititya on the west coast, Hikkaduwa on the south coast, and Pigeon island off the east coast are some of the best spots for snorkeling in Sri Lanka. An amazing experience that won't disappoint.
With this and so much more on offer, Sri Lanka should definitely be your next travel destination!