BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SRI LANKA
Awesome 40 Sri Lanka Places to Visit
Sri Lanka is a biodiversity hotspot as well as being one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world. Its location, weather and geography have made it one of the most popular tourist destinations, which offers a little bit of everything. With the flourishing wildlife, golden beaches, mesmerizing ancient ruins and colourful cultural activities, Sri Lankan places to visit are countless, with some of them making its way to our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
We have made this list considering many factors such as ease of access, seasonal availability, situated area, background, etc. Among the many Sri Lankan places to visit, we have chosen 40 locations situated all over the island as the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Considering the small size of the island, Sri Lanka has a little bit of everything to satisfy anyone. Among all these Sri Lankan places to visit we have listed down, there are adventures for the adventurer, wildlife exploration for the nature enthusiast, seeing ancient ruins for the history nut as well as relaxation on the beach for the healing soul. To make your Sri Lankan vacation a wholesome one, we bring you 40 best places to visit in Sri Lanka. We hope that this guide to the best Sri Lankan places to visit will be able to make your trip to Sri Lanka a memorable one.
1. Tea Trails Plantations in Hatton
Today, around 10% of all the tea in the world comes from this small country of Sri Lanka and we figured that these famous Sri Lankan tea estates will be one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Hatton is the most famous area in Sri Lanka for tea plantations along with a cold and pleasant climate. The area is covered with neatly-pruned tea plantations stretching as far as the eye can see, with tea factories located here and there. There are many colonial bungalows options in the area for stays, so it will truly be a remarkable experience among the misty hills.
Passikudah is a beautiful coastal village in Sri Lanka, located on the eastern coast of the island, and has always been one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka from a long time ago. The bay of Passikudah is very scenic and because it is protected by a natural reef in the ocean, provides one of the safest and calmest beaches on the island. The waters are very shallow and clear, making it perfect for kid-friendly water activities. The area is famous for water activities such as swimming, diving and snorkeling because of the safe conditions it offer. (Read More)
One of the other greatest beaches in Sri Lanka lies in the eastern coastal area of Trincomalee and it is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. It also has a great historical and religious background with ruins of an ancient Portuguese port, as well as many Hindu Kovils. Trincomalee is considered to be one of the best natural habours in the world and it also offers the famous Nilaveli beach for sea bathing, swimming and other water activities. Beaches of the eastern coast of Sri Lanka are quieter when comparing to the southern beaches, making them perfect for relaxation as well as one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
4. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Situated in the cultural capital of the island, Kandy, Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic or ‘Dalada Maligawa’ is the resting place of the tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Before housing the sacred Tooth Relic, the temple was the palace of the last Sri Lankan king and it is considered to be the most sacred place in the country for all the Buddhists. Kandy is a very easily-accessible city and as the cultural capital of the island, there is no other place to witness the culture of Sri Lanka, making it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Mirissa is a coastal town located in south Sri Lanka and it is one of the most-visited beaches on the island. The most unique exhibit of Mirissa, which makes the area stand out from all the other beaches in the country is that the ocean off the Mirissa beach is the most likely location in South Asia to watch whales and dolphins. While the main beach at Mirissa is the world-famous location for whale, dolphin watching and surfing, there are other sandy stretches with beautiful lagoons and calming waters in Mirissa making it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
6. Sri Pada / Adam's Peak
In our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka we have put together, religious locations of the country are taking some major places. Adam’s Peak or ‘Sri Pada’ is considered to be one of the most religious locations in the country for all its Buddhists because it is said to hold the footprint of Lord Buddha. It is a towering mountain of 2,243 meters, and it is also considered to be one of the most challenging hikes in the country. The mountain is covered in a lush forest rich with wildlife, so it is not recommended to climb the mountain during the offseason.
Sri Lanka is a country with a rich history running back for thousands of years and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka for those who love to explore the ancient civilizations of the country. Rising to fame after the decline of Anuradhapura, the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa depicts the influence of the South Indian Hindu Culture on Sri Lanka during the 11th and 12th centuries. The many building structures and reservoirs show the extreme technical knowledge of the ancient Sinhalese as well as their devotion to religion, culture and heritage.
8. Unawatuna Beach
Among one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, another southern beach has made its mark. Unawatuna beach is listed as one of the best beaches in the world by the Discovery Channel and is known for its tranquil and calm waters, protected by a long reef. Because of this nature, Unawatuna offers one of the safest waters for all kinds of water activities such as swimming, diving and snorkeling. Unawatuna is a coastal city that bustles with activity because of its booming tourism, so exploring the city and its many restaurants also makes it worth your while when visiting Sri Lanka.
9. Kandy War Cemetery
It may be surprising how a cemetery has made its way to be one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, but the Kandy War Cemetery, situated in the vicinity of the palace of the last Sri Lankan king, is beautifully maintained, honouring the lives of hundreds of soldiers who lost their lives during the World War II. It is very easy to get to from the Kandy main road and is the perfect memorial to honor the lost lives within its quiet, tranquil environment by walking through silently. It is owned and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Jaffna is the northern-most city of the tear-shaped island of Sri Lanka and it is very colourful, religious and culturally diverse. Only recently opened to traveling, Jaffna is still one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, although it is suffered a great deal during the long-lasted civil war on the island. The beaches of Jaffna are still very isolated and less-visited but remain vast, silent and beautiful. There is the Jaffna fort, off-shore islands and many colourful Hindu Kovils to visit when you are in Jaffna, as well as experiencing the unique and different cultural attributes when comparing to the southern counterparts of Sri Lanka.
11. Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Another historically valued location that has made it into our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka, is the rock fortress of Sigiriya, located in the Sigiriya village near Dambulla. It is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and is also considered the 8th Wonder in the World. The massive bible-shaped rock is nearly 200 meters high and it is surrounded by highly elaborate and imaginative parks, reservoirs and water-retaining structures. The ruins of the palace located at the top of the world are world famous and it also features a few of the oldest pictorial arts on the island.
12. Dambulla Cave Temple
The second location from Dambulla which has found its way onto our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka is the world-famous Dambulla Cave Temple. It is also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla and holds the largest number of Lord Buddha statues that lie in a cave, with the cave ceiling is covered with colourful paintings, which date back to nearly 2000 years. It is the largest and the most well-preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka and is a World Heritage Site. There are more than 40 rock caves in the vicinity, with most of them said to be the parts of the temple in ancient times.
13. Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya, located in the hill country of Sri Lanka is also known as ‘Little England’ due to its climate, activities and colonial buildings that are adorning the town. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island and is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka as well. Nuwara Eliya bustle with activities in springtime (April) and a lot of people from all around the world come visiting. Things to do in Nuwara Eliya are endless, including boat rides in the Gregory lake, visiting the Botanical Garden, horse riding, sightseeing and any more.
14. Ella Sri Lanka
Ella is a small town located amongst the green hills of the country and it is a world-famous tourist location because of the activities and locations it offers. It is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka and it is framed by the towering Ella rock, which is a famous hiking destination in the entire country and it overlooks the spectacle of the wondrous Ella Gap, being able to surpass all other locations in the country with its sheer scenic beauty. Visiting the Ravana waterfall and the memorable walks along the beautiful railways are must-do activities in Ella.
15. Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay, located on the eastern coast of the island has been identified as one of the 10 best surfing spots in the world and it has obviously made it into our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka. The best surfing season of Arugam Bay runs from June until August, and during this high season, the area is packed with surfers from all over the world. There are many shops where you can rent out a surfboard to catch some waves, and Arugam Bay also offers many more activities such as hiking the Elephant rock and boat rides in the lagoon, while also catching a glimpse of a wild elephant or two.
16. Sinharaja Rain Forest
Sinharaja Rain Forest, Sri Lanka’s biggest rain forest, which has spread between the villages of Rakwana, Deniyaya and Matugama, is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. It is a UNESCO world heritage (Nature) site and it contains a large variety of plants and animals as well as rivers with crystal clear waters, spreading over nearly 9800 hectares. The colourful flora and fauna of the rain forest are world-famous and it offers several trekking paths that run through the forest for the wildlife enthusiast to witness the astonishing biodiversity of this small tropical paradise.
The bustling city of Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and it makes its way into our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka effortlessly. Colombo is the highest populated city in Sri Lanka and it has many attractions such as shopping malls, restaurants, cafes, historical buildings and museums. There are several beautiful colonial buildings you can find in the Pettah area where you can explore as well as the crowded streets of the Pettah market. Gangaramaya Temple and the adjoining Beira Lake is the perfect location to observe the colours of Buddhism and the Old Dutch Hospital consists of several cafes and restaurants where you can grab a drink.
18. Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the second-largest national park in the country and has many entrances and offers so many safari options such as early morning safaris and evening safaris. It consists of many ecosystems, especially dry evergreen forests, and has the highest population of leopards in the world. Spotting a leopard or watching a herd of wild elephants crosses the road are very common sights when going on a safari through the Yala National Park as well spotting many birds such as eagles and migratory water birds. This high concentration of flora and fauna makes Yala National Park one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
19. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is situated in the Sabaragamuwa province and is 13 kilometers away from the Kegalle town. It is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, with so many wild elephants being nursed and looked after into health. Seeing the wild elephants crossing the road and going to the nearby river for bathing is one of the most spectacular and famous sights on the island. The elephants bathing in the river is truly a sight for sore eyes and there are platforms built here so that visitors are able to watch and photograph them at a good angle.
20. Galle Fort
Galle is the most famous southern coastal town and is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka because it is an area that features beaches, jungles, historical buildings and shopping areas as well. The most famous landmark of Galle is the ruins of the old Dutch Fort, which runs alongside the sea, with a small lighthouse on one end. The cobblestone-paved streets of the town are packed with boutique shops and small cafes, with many of them being colonial houses, providing perfect relaxation for the wanderer. Rumassala rainforest sanctuary is also located nearby to get an experience in the Sri Lankan wildlife as well.
21. Vedda Village
The village of Dambana, the village of the indigenous people of Sri Lanka, also known as ‘Vedda village’ is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. It is situated around 300 kilometers away from Colombo in the district of Badulla. Vedda people still maintain their own language, culture and traditions in their small jungle village. You can immerse yourself in the Vedda lifestyle, which is extremely rural and ancient, while at the same time guarding their traditions fiercely. Experiencing their lifestyle and customs will be one of the best things you do on your journey to Sri Lanka.
22. Kosgoda Sea Turtle Hatchery
Kosgoda is a small coastal village situated on the southwestern coast of the island, in the Galle district and a lot of sea turtle conservation projects have taken place in the area and the Kosgoda sea turtle hatchery is one of the pioneers of the project. Kosgoda beach, with more plant life and less human activity, has made the perfect breeding site for sea turtles. The fishermen collect the eggs at night and the hatchery pays them for the eggs. The hatchery takes care of the eggs and releases the baby turtles into the sea once they hatch safely. Because of the sea turtle viewings, it has become one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
23. Dondra Head Lighthouse
Point Dondra, also known as Dondra Head, is the southernmost point on the island of Sri Lanka and it is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. It houses the tallest lighthouse in Sri Lanka, also one of the tallest in the South Asian region. The lighthouse is located in the village of Dondra, also known as ‘Devi Nuwara’ and it is around 6 kilometers southeast of Matara. Built in 1887, the lighthouse is 49 meters high and has 7 floors and 196 steps to the top. It is one of the four international lighthouses in Sri Lanka, and due to its unique location, it is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
24. World's End
The famous World’s End, one of the major tourist attractions of Sri Lanka, is located within the Horton Plains National Park and is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. It is a sheer 4000 feet drop from a cliff, and on clear days, you can see all the way to the Indian ocean from the drop. The drive up to the Horton Plains, which is only 32 kilometers away from Nuwara Eliya in a small village called Ohiya, is extremely scenic as Horton Plains is a cloud forest with large grasslands and it is extremely rich in biodiversity as well.
25. Ulpotha Village
Ulpotha is a small agricultural village located in the district of Kurunegala, and it is a village where you can experience the tranquility of the Sri Lankan nature, relaxation, mental peace as well as the world-famous hospitality of Sri Lankans. It has made it into our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka due to the best Yoga and Ayurvedic retreats the whole world has to offer. A lot of people from all around the world to experience world-class yoga and Ayurvedic retreats close to nature, while unwinding, relaxing and experiencing soul healing, surrounded by the beautiful Sri Lankan atmosphere.
Tissamaharama is a town located in the south of Sri Lanka, in the Hambantota district. It makes it onto our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka, because of the scenic beauty and the many activities it offers. The area is adorned with a lot of lakes and dagobas, the most popular of them being the Tissa Lake, Yodha Lake and Tissamaharama Dagoba. There are many accommodation options scattered around these lakes, offering splendid views of the lakes. The town is pretty close to the Yala National Park, and there are many safari services that function in the area.
27. Knuckles Mountain Range
Knuckles mountain range is a biodiversity hotspot on the island and it is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. The mountain range consists of several high peaks, some of which are among the highest mountains in Sri Lanka and is extremely unique because all the climatic zones in the country can be experienced when going through the mountain range. At lower levels, it consists of shrubs and bushes but as it goes higher, there are several cloud forest areas that are rich in flora and fauna. It is situated in the district of Matale, and a lot of hikes and treks to the mountain can be arranged once you are in the area.
28. Bentota Beach
Bentota is a coastal town situated around 60 kilometers south of Colombo and it is an undergoing tourist development area in Sri Lanka. Its long, sandy beach and the ocean are the best from October to April, because of the calm sea which is perfect for water sports. It is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka due to many beachside accommodation options providing fantastic views of the sea, as well as being known as the water sports capital of the island. There are other inland activities to take part in as well, including boat rides in the river and visiting the Brief Garden by Geoffrey Bawa.
Negombo is a town located on the west coast of Sri Lanka and it is the closest major town to the international airport. It is a quaint old fishing town, also known as ‘Little Rome’ due to its Catholic community and the many churches and shrines. The town is adorned with canals, creeks, Portuguese and Dutch ramparts and forts. It still contains its old-world charm with the colourful buildings and activities, making it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Accommodation options in Negombo are famous due to the Negombo lagoon they have clustered around and the nightlife bustle in the area during the tourist season.
Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka, dating back to the 5th century B.C., and the epitome of civilization in Sri Lanka, with the kingdom dotted with many reservoirs and having the highest concentration of Buddhist Stupa (Dagoba). It is located in the North Central province and is the capital of the province and is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka due to its remarkable historical value and the astonishing ruins of the ancient civilization. Anuradhapura houses the largest dagoba in Sri Lanka and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
31. Udawalawe National Park
Among the many national parks in Sri Lanka, Udawalawe National Park has the highest concentration of wild elephants in the country, making it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. It is located on the boundary of the Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces, and it is home to one of the largest reservoirs on the island. It is the third most visited national park in the country, being home to a rich variety of flora and fauna. The park contains marshes, grasslands as well as dry forest areas and safari services into the park function in all the surrounding areas.
32. Casinos in Colombo
Colombo is the commercial capital on the island and things to do are endless in the big city. From among many things to do, the casinos in Colombo have earned a place in our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka due to their colourful activities and games. There are four major casinos in Colombo and high security and privacy are given to all the clients. They are decorated with much sophistication and offers a variety of games that can occupy you for hours. In some of these casinos, you should look forward to the complimentary drinks, snacks and buffet, since they are top-notch and definitely worth what you spend.
33. Colombo National Museum
Among the many places the capital city of Colombo has to offer, the Colombo National Museum always comes in the top few. It is a magnificent old building, situated at the heart of Colombo and it is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. You can see many exhibits, arts, carvings and statuary that belong to the Sri Lankan past and heritage, with the main exhibit among them being the throne and the crown of the last Sri Lankan king. It also houses a very interesting collection of antique demon masks, which bear a great significance to the Sri Lankan culture, and the past you discover here will be truly astonishing and unique.
34. Big Buddha Statue
Located just 2 kilometers away from the cultural capital of the island, Kandy, the big buddha statue is a magnificent 26.83 meters tall statue of Lord Buddha, which sits on top of a hill known as Bahirawakanda, overlooking the Kandy town. This entirely white, beautiful statue was built in 1972 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area, making it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka as well. The located hill, which offers panoramic views of the city below, is associated with so many exciting local folklores, which you can explore on your visit.
35. Gangaramaya Temple
Gangaramaya Temple, a Buddhist temple located at the heart of the bustling capital city of Colombo, adjoins the Beira Lake and is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. It is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, housing a mixture of modern architecture as well as the ancient cultural background of the country. The architecture of the temple is a mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese origins, making it so colourful and one of the most visited places in the capital city. You can observe a lot of Buddhist religious activities taking place here during your visit.
36. Ceylon Tea Museum
Sri Lanka has been famous for its excellent tea from the colonial period and the history of the Sri Lankan tea leaves are preserved in the Ceylon Tea Museum, which is located in the old Hantana tea factory, which is only 3 kilometers away from the Kandy town. The museum consists of four floors, and they contain many pieces of machinery, old items and historical records related to Ceylon tea. They all tell the story of the Sri Lankan tea leaves, which are much sought after in the entire world. The area is surrounded by panoramic views and beautiful mountains, making it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
37. Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanical Garden of Sri Lanka is situated 5.5 kilometers south of Kandy, in Peradeniya, and it consists of 4000 plant species, especially known for its collection of many varieties of orchids. The garden is spread over 147 acres, where you can hire go-carts for traveling inside the garden, and it also holds an extremely high historical value. You can buy many souvenirs at the entrance to take home with you and you will be charged a small fee at the entrance to visit the garden, and it remains one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka for many years.
38. Bambarakanda Falls
Bambarakanda waterfall, also known as Bambarakele Falls, is the highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and the 299th highest waterfall in the world. It is situated in the small village of Kalupahana, located in the Badulla district, and it falls along a cliff for 263 meters. The waterfall is only 5 kilometers away from the Colombo-Badulla main road, and the trail to get there is very scenic and beautiful. The waterfall is formed from Kuda Oya, a branch of one of the largest rivers in Sri Lanka. Bambarakanda Falls is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka due to its beauty and significance.
39. Sembuwatta Lake
Sembuwatta Lake is a man-made lake that contains natural spring water and it is situated only a few kilometers away from Kandy, at Elkaduwa in Matale district and this visit has taken a spot on our list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka. The lake is adjacent to a forest reserve named Campbell’s forest reserve, as well as next to a small tea estate. Alongside the lake, there is a natural swimming pool and the entire area is surrounded by so many beautiful sceneries and misty mountains, making it a perfect place for a picnic or to capture a few stunning photographs as well as taking boat rides in the lake.
40. Udawattekele Sanctuary
Udawattakele forest reserve is one of the many rain forests situated on the island and it is only a few miles away from Kandy city. It was used as a pleasure garden by the last Kings of Sri Lanka and is located on a hill ridge just near the Temple of the Tooth. The forest can be magnificently seen from the city and is very rich in flora and fauna, especially when it comes to birds. The reserve is a bird watcher’s paradise, with many small mammals as well as beautiful trees adding to its charm. The forest is only a 15-20 minutes away from Kandy city, and is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
We hope that from among the countless Sri Lankan places to visit, this list of 40 best places to visit in Sri Lanka is able to help you plan your Sri Lankan vacation itinerary complete and better.
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