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7 must-see places in Sri Lanka

Abundant wildlife, ancient civilisations, beaches and tea plantations, it's all here, and more...

Nathan

Nathan

Sri Lanka Specialist
Published on

07 Dec 2018

Read time

7 minutes

Galle Lighthouse

For such a small island, Sri Lanka has a huge amount of incredible destinations to explore, making a holiday here one of the best decisions you'll ever make! With pristine beaches, remote rain forests, ancient civilisations, emerald tea plantations, Dutch forts, a myriad of temples and a range of National Parks, you'd be forgiven for not knowing where to start. Luckily we're here to help. Below are some of our favourite places to visit in Sri Lanka:

Nine Arches Bridge Ella
Nine Arches Bridge in Ella

The Hill Country - Tea and Trains

A popular place to visit in Sri Lanka is the beautiful Hill Country, with its stunning mountains and lush tea plantations. The cooler climate and breath-taking scenery, along with the colonial style of architecture will remind you of ye olde England. British rule has had a lasting influence on this area (and the rest of Sri Lanka) and is still felt across the region today. An example of this is the country's fantastic railway system, which is still the main form of transportation throughout this part of Sri Lanka, due to a lack of well constructed roads. Some of the most scenic train journeys in the world can be enjoyed here in the Sri Lankan hills.

The area is dotted with lovely boutique hotels, many of which are former plantation houses that have been converted. Alternatively, you can stay in historical clubs and hotels that also date back to the colonial era. The Hill Country offers some excellent walking opportunities, such as up Holy Adam's peak where you can watch an amazing sunrise in the company of pilgrims.

Tea Picker In Sri Lanka
Visit one of the Hill Country's tea plantations.
A Train In Sri Lanka
Travel to the Hill Country by train

Kandy - the Centre of Culture

Also located in the Hill Country, Kandy deserves a mention all of its own. Once the capital of Sri Lanka's ancient kings, Kandy is now the country's most important cultural and religious centre. There are plenty of things to see and do in Kandy. You can look around Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, which date back to the 14th century and contain 4,000 species of plant. Or walk around the lake, otherwise known as the sea of milk or explore the historical streets. The most famous sight however is the Sri Dalada Maligawa, or 'Temple of the Tooth', a group of museums and temples in the centre of Kandy that claims to be in possession of an unusual holy relic - one of the Buddha's teeth! If you want to experience more of Kandy's culture, you can watch a Kandyan dance show, where dancers and musicians in colourful costumes perform energetic displays, telling traditional stories.

Kandy Cultural Dance Show By Ankur P Creative Commons
Watch a dance show in Kandy

Cultural Triangle

The Cultural Triangle is made up of Ancient Buddhist civilisations, that were only discovered fairly recently. Before that, they were lost in the jungle, only known about by local villagers for centuries. The area is full of huge statues, temples, palaces and UNESCO sites, just waiting to be explored. Take in the old capitals of Polonnaruwa, either by foot or by bike. Explore the fantastic cave temple at Dambulla or climb huge rocks like Sigiriya, which is unofficially known as the eighth wonder of the world. These are just a few of the activities that you can embark on in this fantastic location.

Sigiriya
Sigiriya - the unofficial 8th wonder of the world
Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla cave temple is definitely worth a visit

Beaches of South Sri Lanka

Southern Sri Lanka's beaches are definitely not a destination that should be missed. There are plenty of bays and lagoons along the coast line to explore and exciting water sports to take part in, or alternatively you can go whale watching. There are five different species of whale that inhabit the waters around Sri Lanka, including sperm whales and blue whales (two species of Sri Lanka's Big Five). Depending on the time of year that you visit, you may be lucky enough to witness baby turtles hatching,

Sri Lanka Beach
Relax on one of Sri Lankas beaches
Blue Whale Sri Lanka
Embark on a whale watching experience

Galle

Originally an old trading port, Galle used to be a trader in spice. Located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka and surrounded by the walls of an old fort, the streets are now lined with boutique shops and stylish cafes along with ancient churches and mosques. There are various attractions such as Galle Fort and the old lighthouse to explore. With its lively and vibrant night life, you will be able to have an enjoyable night out, and an abundance of stunning hotels means that there is no shortage of places to stay in this city.

A Street In Galle
Explore the streets of Galle

National Parks

National Parks are highlight of any trip to Sri Lanka.

  • Yala - The most popular National Park in Sri Lanka, Yala is an extremely good place to see leopards and sloth bears (Another two of Sri Lanka's Big Five.).
  • Wilpattal - Wilpattal provides an even greater chance of seeing leopards with the added benefit of it being less visited, meaning less crowds.
  • Gal Oya - A remote area in the east of Sri Lanka, Gal Oya gives guests the option of exploring the National Park by boat, jeep or on a guided walking trip, led by Veddhas tribe.
  • Minneriya - Minneriya is an excellent place to see Sri Lankan elephants (a sub-species of the Asian elephant and a member of the country's Big Five). The National Park has it's own reservoir when the elephants can be witnessed coming for a drink.
  • Udawalewe - Udawalewe National Park is also a good place to see elephants, along with other species such as water buffalo, monkeys and samba deer.
  • Sinharaja - Sir Lanka's last remaining area of viable tropical rainforest, Sinharaja National Park is home to a wide range of the country's species and offers guests an exciting, tropical rain forest experience.
Baby Elephants In Sri Lanka
Witness baby elephants at play
Leopard Relaxing On A Tree At Yala
Embark on a safari in search of leopards
Sloth Bear
Get a glimpse of the rare Sloth Bear

Northern Sri Lanka

If you visit Northern Sri Lanka, you won't see many other tourists. This is due to the fact that the area has just recovered from a long war, which also caused the region to be mostly off limits to travellers. However, this does not mean that it is not a good place to go. In fact, Northern Sri Lanka is rapidly emerging as a top place to visit and should definitely not be missed out of a holiday.

Tamil India has a strong influence on the culture of Northern Sri Lanka, and there will be opportunity for a lot of interaction with the warm and friendly locals. In terms of days out, Delft Island with it's herds of wild horses is a good place to experience while Pigeon Island offers the opportunity to swim with sharks and sea turtles. We recommend staying in the Fox Jaffna Hotel.

Jaffna 1 Of 1
Jaffna, Northern Sri Lanka

Find out about our range of Sri Lankan holidays here.

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