From alluring palm-fringed beaches to the lush forested hills, tranquil tea plantations to delectable delicacies prepared by the humblest people on the planet, Sri Lanka is your next conquerable destination to break free from the clutches of mundane and refresh your mind, body and soul! Boasting far more attractions than we can list: from white water rafting, elephant sanctuaries and jungle safaris, to sun-drenched beaches, and mouthwatering cuisine, this tear-drop shaped paradise is quickly climbing its way up every globetrotter’s bucket list. To make sure you have the time of your life in this paradise, we’ve master-crafted a listing of 10 best things to do in Sri Lanka:
1. Dare to Climb the Adam’s Peak!
If you fancy being on top of the world, then climb up the Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka’s most iconic, conical and sacred mountain that rises impressively to a whopping height of 7,359 feet. This solitary mountain offers an enthralling 360-degree view of the mist covered mountain peaks and the far way oceans that look like silver streaks spreading out to eternity.
Ascending this picturesque landmark typically starts at night; trek up 6000 crumbling stone steps to reach the mist covered peak in time to witness a truly mesmerising sunrise when the sky is set ablaze. Watch the holy mountain awaken to the beating of drums, tolling of temple bells, and blowing of conch-shells; embrace yourself! This is a once-in-a-life-time moment.
What’s more? Expect to encounter an exciting mix of folks: tourists, pilgrims, spiritual souls and chanting devotees looking for inner peace. In fact, the mountain’s star attraction is Sacred Footprint, the enigmatical footprint-shaped depression that measures 1.8-metres-long. Uniquely, Christianity believes the footprint belongs to Adam, while Buddhists affirm that it lays testimony to Buddha’s last steps before attaining Nirvana.
All in all, Adam’s peak is undoubtedly the holiest place bringing many religions on a single journey, isn’t it?
Pro Tip: It is strongly recommended to visit the peak during the pilgrimage season commencing on poya day in December and running late until May.
2. Jump off the beaten path in the never-ending blues
Skip the crowds of Caribbean, the pricey European Riviera and fending each other off for a spot in the sun; Sri Lanka packs quite a punch for the beach bums and the water babies looking for deep sea surprises on their quest for adventure.
From kite surfing on Negombo beach to white water rafting on the Kelani River, surfing the gnarly waves of Mirissa to kayaking the Mahaweli River, this exotic isle is a postcard-perfect destination for the thrill seekers to relish free-styling water sports! No matter which time of the year you go, the wind is guaranteed, and you can enjoy as much space as you want.
What’s more? For those seeking little more adrenaline rush, there’s beachy haven of Kalpitiya famous for its spectacular coral reefs, tropical fishes and over 200 wrecks that make it a stunning site to plunge into the deep blue waters on a diving or snorkelling excursion. So, put your wetsuits on and get ready to savour the experience of a lifetime.
3. Hot Air Balloon Ride
Wondered what would it be like to be a cloud (Up, up and away)? Unveil the thrill of a wingless flight with an exciting hot air balloon ride starting from Kandalama, Dambulla in the Pearl of the Ocean.
With the wind caressing your hair and the rolling land of Lanka at your feet, soak up the wondrous aerial views on a splendid summer morning when the day breaks with the awakening of the villagers waving at you.
Just imagine drifting and floating effortlessly over the vast stretch of jungle and crystal clear waterways, with only the roar of the burner for your company! Isn’t it a serene, serendipitous way to travel?
After an adrenaline-charged flight over the jungle, you pilot will raise a toast with the glass of champagne, while you’ll be embraced on landing by friendly villagers who are happy to meet and greet you!
P.S. The spectacular view is worth the courage you muster to overcome your cold feet before the flight. Remember those majestic mountains that once intimidated you on the ground? Seeing them at par gives you the feeling of being invincible. Veni, vidi, vici.
4. Venture out on Sri Lanka’s Spectacular Tea Country
If your blood type is TEA, you should definitely sip your way through Hill Country – the fairytale-like region nestled in Sri Lanka’s southern heartlands filled with lush rolling hills, mist-shrouded mountains, spectacular cascades, and emerald-coloured tea plantations!
Given that Sri Lanka is the fourth-largest producer of tea in the world, there are a plethora of tea estates to walk around – many of which offer personalised tours and specialised tea tastings. In fact, you can learn more about the manufacturing process of tea at UVA Helpewatte Tea factory that provides you with the golden opportunity to witness the manufacturing process of your favourite beverage, leaving you informed and fascinated throughout.
What’s the best part, you ask? The tour comes to a halt after the tea tasting session at the factory’s Sky Cafe, an absolute pleasure to a Teaholic. On the way back you can purchase factory-fresh teas and supplies to prepare a cup of refreshing tea on your own and reminisce the unforgettable visit.
Don’t miss: Often regarded as ‘Little England’, Nuwara Eliya is the island’s most important tea hub at an altitude of 6000+ feet. It is famous for its pretty English-style bungalows, temperate climate, and a rather splendid Ceylon tea!
5. Seek Inner Peace at the Temple of Tooth Relic
Renowned as the pristine sanctum where the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha has been safeguarded for centuries, the Temple of Tooth Relic is one of the most peaceful shrines in the country.
The golden-roofed temple boasts marvellously carved wooden interiors that adorn the gold casket that houses the only relic of Lord Buddha – the upper left canine tooth.
Besides banking on the chance to catch a glimpse of the sacred tooth relic and to lay testimony to the soothing aura of this place, visitors also come across the intriguing sights of locals practising the Buddhist way of meditation and reciting mantras in the surrounding areas. For both Buddhists as well as tourists, coming here to seek a peace of mind and rediscover themselves is among the most enriching things to do in Sri Lanka.
Pro Tip: Temples are considered highly sacred in Sri Lanka; it’s important to show utmost respect to religious shrines by taking your shoes off at the entrance. In fact, it’s a traditional practice to remove shoes outside the house as well.
Want to stay around the area? Check out our villas in Kandy!
6. Meet the Big Blue Whales of Mirissa
Come home to Sri Lanka’s eye-popping wonder: The army of giant whales and dolphins!
Spot a pod of majestic blue whales as they sprint across the sea and glide past your boat gracefully in the lush blue waters of Mirissa. Located close to Galle, the famous town of Mirissa is regarded as one of the best places in the world to spot the largest mammal.
Almost as gigantic as jumbo jets, sightseeing this mighty creation of nature is an adrenaline-fueled thrill that is beyond comparison and makes for a whale of a tale.
But it’s not just the blues that command your attention; you’ll also see orcas, sperm, fin, bryde’s and humpbacks! What’s more? Keep your eyes glued for the ocean’s great acrobats- the spinner and spotted dolphins sprinting joyfully in close proximity to your boat!
The best time to go for a guided whale watching tour in Mirissa is from November to April, whereas the peak viewing is in December when the ocean is calmer, and you have the highest probability of sighting whales and dolphins just meters away from your boat.
Pro Tip: As you’d expect, there’s a wagonload of tour companies operating in the waters of Mirissa! Make sure you select a boat approved from ’Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society’ and driven by an experienced skipper.
7. Hop aboard the Slow Train from Kandy to Ella
Time travel to the Golden Age of Sri Lanka with a beautiful train journey from Kandy to the picturesque, cloud-kissed town of Ella! Dating back to late 80’s when the island was under British colonial rule; this historic railway line takes you through carpets of lush green tea plantations, the most breathtaking views of soaring mountain ranges, hidden waterfalls, and finally weaves in and out of the glorious mountain tunnels as it slopes downhill to reach Ella!
What’s more? Exchange pleasantries and exchange smiles with the charming locals and rail-side vendors as you unveil Sri Lanka’s historic past from the tracks of timeless colonial locomotives. With such a rejuvenating experience on offer, the joyride from Kandy to Ella is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.
Pro Tip: Since the train system in Sri Lanka is more about the journey, it’s impossible to get from one place to another quickly. So, factor in an entire day to travel the shortest of distances.
8. Hang-out with Adorable Baby Elephants at Pinnawala
Come face to face (or nose to trunk) with the cheerful Sri Lankan elephants at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage! Established for the welfare and protection of the Jumbo’s in Sri Lanka, this nursery breeding program houses the largest herd of captive elephants in the world and makes for a larger than life adventure.
Watch these adorable creatures bathe in the river next to the orphanage where they engross in all sorts of mischiefs, pulling one another by their tails, and try to escape their caretakers in amusing ways.
What’s more? Bottle feed the babies, help them savour the lunch and prepare to get wet during bath time. A trip to this orphanage will surely bid you the happiest memories for a lifetime.
Pro Tip: Provided you are gentle and courteous, it is perfectly fine to touch these placid creatures and share a memorable time with them.
9. Climb and Admire the Beauty of the Sigiriya Rock
Perhaps Sri Lanka’s most histrionic sight (often considered the Eighth Wonder of the World), Sigiriya rock always manages to bewitch travellers with breath-taking panoramic views of the hills and forests, and an extensive network of landscaped water gardens.
Standing at a whopping height of 660-feet, this UNESCO-listed ancient fortress was home to King Kasyapa who built the gateway 1600 years ago to boast top-of-the-line security like a giant lion!
While climbing those narrow metal staircases in the scorching sun might seem like a task in itself, once you reach the top, you’ll realise your efforts were totally worth it! With awe-inspiring 360 degree views from a birds-eye angle, visiting the Sigiriya rock fortress should be on every avid traveller’s Sri Lanka itinerary.
Honourable Mentions: Only 30 minutes away lays the equally magnificent UNESCO-listed Dambulla Cave Temples. Here you’ll find five sacred shrine-like caves showcasing 157 Buddha statues and murals. What’s more? There’s also a spring that showers sacred water into the caves from the eastern end!
10. Indulge in Sri Lanka’s Tantalizing food and flavours
No trip to the magical isle of Lanka is complete without savouring some of its best cuisines and dishes. Take the exotic flavours imported from the Middle East, mix a dash of East Asian flavours and dress it with South Indian seasoning, and get ready for a dish packed with exotic spices and flavours only found in Sri Lanka.
From the delectable street food Kottu Roti to the scrumptious sip of Lankan spirit, Arrack served with coconut sambol to lump rice wrapped in banana leaves, Sri Lanka promises to take your palate to places it has never been before!
The island offers a range of exquisite dishes for the vegetarians including Dhal curry, Parippu, Wambatu Moju and much more. But with the sea close by, the emphasis is on seafood that will have you licking your fingers off for sure! Jaffna Crab Curry, for instance, is regarded the best in the world, especially when relished at the source where cooks take their time to grind the coconut, imparting a toasty and rich texture to the paste.
Related: Best Restaurants in Sri Lanka
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