Bestowed with towering palm trees, amiable elephants and ancient cities, Sri Lanka’s diversity adds to its aesthetic and cultural appeal. From bizarre ancient temples to cosmopolitan cafes and boutiques, from authentic Sri Lankan cuisine to high-end delicacies, from luscious tea plantations to sandy beaches, Sri Lanka retains its unadulterated traditional image despite the constant onslaught of urbanisation.
Sri Lanka’s climate is primarily influenced by two separate monsoons. Thus, there are favourable weather conditions at some part of the island all round the year. However, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is from December to March while the best weather on the east coast is from May to September. The places mentioned below are the best of Sri Lanka and should find a place on your ultimate bucket list.
Important and Exciting Places in Sri Lanka
Preserving the culture and heritage of the Chola and Sinhalese kingdom, Polonnaruwa boasts of several ancient temples and relics. The rulers had built tall buildings, picturesque parks and a large tank of water (25 square km) during their reign here. The elephant carvings on the wall enhance the beauty and aura of the place. The best way to explore these ancient cities is by hiring a bike and travelling as per your convenience and comfort.
Highlights: Audience Hall, Sacred Quadrangle, Pabalu Vehera (dagoba)
A treasure trove of beauty and landscape, Ella offers some stunning pastoral views that will find you gazing in awe and wonder. While you are here, you should definitely climb the Little Adam’s Peak as the route is flanked with tea plantations on both sides. The peak offers a splendid view over the valley where you can get lost and relax with nature. The renowned Nine Arch Bridge is also located in this town and exposes itself after a 30 minute walk through the woods. One of the top things to do in Sri Lanka is taking a train ride from Ella to Kandy that displays some unparalleled views (hills, tea estates, waterfalls and more).
Highlights: Ella Rock, Ravana Fall, Ella Spice Garden
Nestled in the heart of Sri Lanka and surrounded by hills, tea plantations and rainforests, Kandy will definitely add more flavour to your Sri Lanka travel experience. This city will keep you engrossed with its cultural and religious centres. If you are a tea enthusiast, you could visit one of the tea estates and know all about the production of tea and Sri Lanka’s most famous drink. One of the most important places here is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which contains one of Buddha’s teeth. A significant place of worship, this place should definitely find some of your time and attention as it is among the things not to miss in Sri Lanka.
Highlights: Kandy Lake, Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue, Udawatakelle Forest Reserve
A small town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Mirissa is one of the most famous beach destinations in Sri Lanka. Dotted with beautiful coconut trees and sprawled with unique cafes and bars, Mirissa would keep you happy and content at all times. Secret Beach is an isolated beach in Mirissa that is not easily accessible by people and is among the unexplored places to visit in Sri Lanka. The remoteness of its location accentuates the magic here and you can enjoy a splendid view of the sunset while sipping on coconut water and forgetting about the worries of life.
Highlights: Parrot Rock, Whale Watching, Galle Fort
- Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
This Elephant Orphanage was founded in 1975 and provides shelter to baby elephants who are injured or without mothers. It is truly a delight to watch the baby elephants bathe and play with gay abandon. You could plan a day’s stay here and pick a hotel that offers views of the elephants. You can have breakfast with elephants or simply watch them when they set out to the Maha Oya River. It is truly one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka and you must not miss this activity.
Highlights: Pinnawala Open Zoo, Elephant Riding
If you are wondering what to do in Sri Lanka for 5 days, this coastal town is the ideal place to visit and experience the charm and air of this island country. You could enjoy several water activities here such as scuba diving, sailing and snorkelling. However, if adventure and sports do not interest you, you could either relax comfortably at the beach or indulge in the other places here. For instance, the sea turtle hatchery and conservation centre houses five out of seven species of sea turtles in the world. The town also has dense rainforests, medieval temples and ancient forts.
Highlights: Brief Garden, Madu Ganga River Safari, Kande Viharaya
This ancient fortress used to be the royal residence of King Kasyap and his harem. Your visit to Sri Lanka is incomplete without a hike to the top of Sigiriya Rock. Formed from the magma of an extinct volcano, this place is an ideal blend of nature’s play and human mind. The plateau (600 feet high) on top is called the Lion’s Rock as it provides a splendid view of the overlying valleys and rainforests. The entrance was carved out intricately to form a full lion of which only the paws remain today.
Highlights: Mirror Wall, Water and Terrace Gardens
Located on the north-west coast of the island, Nilaveli is one of the lesser known attractions in Sri Lanka. Famous for its soft white sand beaches and laid-back vibe, Nilaveli should be on the top of your itinerary if you are looking for a calm getaway. You could spend time sun bathing or engage in the recreational water sports like snorkelling, wind surfing and diving. While you are exploring the beach life here, you can also savour the local Sri Lankan cuisine. You should definitely try hoppers which is a pancake made from rice and milk.
Highlights: Hot Water Wells, Pigeon Island National Park
Dalawella is one of the most sought-after destinations in Sri Lanka due to its growing popularity among social media platforms, especially Instagram. The rope swing at Dalawella beach is that social media hotspot which provides a surreal experience of the sunset. Whether you are a social media buff or not, you should definitely try this rope swing and bring out the child in you. You can also witness the dedication and skill of the traditional fishermen (stilt fishermen) here who sit on a large stick for long hours.
Whether it is adventure or tranquillity, peace or wild, ancient forts or sandy beaches, medieval temples or modern colourful buildings, Sri Lanka offers a complete package for your vacation. If you need any more information on the aforementioned places or any help with your Sri Lankan itinerary, iTraveller would be delighted to share the knowledge and experience with you.