Sri Lanka: Top 14 best things to do and see

sri lanka things to do and see

WHY GO TO SRI LANKA?

During my two weeks visiting Sri Lanka, I was surprised to meet a large number of French (the majority of travelers who go there seems to you!).

But what attracts all tourists there? Sri Lanka is a country that offers a wide variety of things to do and see in a compact territory, as you will discover in this list. No wonder travelers come back regularly, even though the country was marked by the 2004 tsunami and civil war until 2009.

Be careful however to plan your trip to Sri Lanka and to set your priorities, because even if the costs of transport, food and housing are very cheap, the prices of activities are quite high for those who have a budget backpacker ‘, especially the entrances to archaeological sites like Sigiriya or Polonnaruwa.

WHEN TO GO TO SRI LANKA?

The high season is from January to April. The climate is a little complicated given the topography of the country, but even if you come during the monsoon it does not rain all day long: the showers are strong, but short-lived. Also, there will always be a part of the island that will be sunny during this season.

There are also other things to consider when visiting Sri Lanka, such as holidays, national holidays etc. booking in advance is a must in high season.

Beware if you plan to go to mountainous areas, consider taking a warm clothing because it is usually cool and wet.

Before leaving, remember to book your hotel in Sri Lanka on Booking.com

TOP 14 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN SRI LANKA

1. TRAVEL BY TRAIN

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Taking the train is part of the activities not to be missed in Sri Lanka: it is the preferred means of transport because much more comfortable and safe than a bus ride, and you can admire beautiful landscapes. There are three trips to be made: Colombo to Kandy, Kandy to Badulla via Nuwara Eliya (one of the most beautiful in the world according to the Guide du Routard), and the one that runs along the coast from Colombo to Galle.

2. KANDY AND THE TEMPLE OF THE BUDDHA TOOTH

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Kandy is the second largest city in the country after Colombo. There are many things to see here: the Temple of the Tooth, an important place for Sri Lankan Buddhists as it houses a relic of Buddha. Do not miss a traditional dance show, take a walk around the lake (find the lizards), visit the botanical garden of Peradeniya, and the elephant orphanage (there are two: pinnawala and millenium).

  • Before you go, book your hotel in Kandy on Booking.com

3. SIGIRIYA

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Located in the center of the country, it is certainly the most famous tourist attraction of Sri Lanka: the lion’s fortress of Sigiriya, perched at the top of a huge rock. You can admire beautiful murals (the ‘damsels of Sigiriya’). A place not to miss in Sri Lanka, despite the prohibitive entry price (30 USD).

  • Before you go, book your hotel in Sigiriya on Booking.com

4. POLONNARUWA

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An ancient capital and World Heritage Site by Unesco. You can see ancient royal palaces, huge stupas and temples. This place is also known for its huge Buddha statues. The entrance fee is expensive ($ 25!) But this is another place not to be missed in Sri Lanka.

  • Before you go, book your hotel in Polonnaruwa on Booking.com

5. ANURADHAPURA

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The first capital of Sri Lanka which has been the seat of Sinhalese power for nearly 1000 years and abandoned, it is much older than Polonnaruwa (and less well preserved). Like the latter, the best is to explore it by bike.

  • Before you go, book your Anuradhapura hotel on Booking.com

6. DAMBULLA

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The caves of Dambulla are an important place of Buddhist heritage of Sri Lanka. They house sculptures and statues of Buddha in various positions as well as ancient murals. This site is not very far from Sigiriya.

7. THE BEACHES

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Sri Lanka has very beautiful beaches, especially in the South and East of the country. If you are looking for a quiet place go to Trincomalee, which was very touched by the 2004 tsunami. You can also snorkel at Pigeon Island. To the south, do not miss Unawatuna near the town of Galle. However, be careful with currents that can be very dangerous (find out near the premises before going swimming).

8. VISIT THE TEA PLANTATIONS

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Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world, which was brought from China by the British in 1824. Do not miss Ella, a former colonial village in the heart of the hills and important places of the tea trade. You can also admire the tea plantations and discover how it is marketed in Nuwara Eliya and Haputale (where Thomas Lipton developed the tea business).

9. GALLE

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Another World Heritage site, Galle is a former Dutch colony where you can discover old colonial buildings (fort, villas, churches …).

  • Before you go, book your hotel in Galle on Booking.com

10. ADAM’S PEAK

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Sri Lanka’s highest mountain is also an important pilgrimage site for both Buddhists, Muslims and Christians on the island. You have to get there early to see the sunrise, having climbed 4800 steps to the top. No need to be a seasoned hiker but better to be physically fit.

11. SEE THE DOLPHINS AND WHALES (MIRISSA)

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There are two places in Sri Lanka where whales and other marine animals can be seen: Trincomalee to the east, and especially to Mirissa in the south of the country (near Galle). From there you may have the chance to see the largest animal in the world, the blue whale. You can sometimes see dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and even killer whales.

12. NATIONAL PARKS

things to see in sri lanka

Sri Lanka has many national parks, but if you only have to see one go to Yala National Park. It is home to the largest concentration of leopard in the world. You can also see crocodiles, lizards, birds, hinds …

The other national parks to see are: Minneriya NP (for elephants), Udawalawe NP, Bundala NP and Wilpattu NP (where there are also leopards).

13. HORTON’S PLAINS & WORLD’S END

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A wild and silent moor often hidden in the fog, located at 2000 meters of altitude, and which shelters a great variety of fauna and flora (elephants, deer …). It is 20 km from Nuwara Elliya. Be careful, it can be very cold. In the southern part is World’s End, where the plain has a vertical drop of nearly 700 meters.

14. DIVING AND SURFING

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Not as popular as its famous neighbor (the Maldives), Sri Lanka yet has many diving spots that you can explore (shipwrecks, coral reefs). You can also pass your PADI diving certificate.

For surf lovers, go to Hikkaduwa or Arugam Bay which are well-known spots on the South Coast, for all levels.

BEFORE YOU GO

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