Top Things to do in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an Island that has much to offer being a year-round holiday destination. No matter whether you’re a culture lover or a beach lover Sri Lanka is one of the best destinations where one can do so many exciting activities in a very short tour. Wildlife safaris, nature, tea plantations, exploring historic cities and ancient ruins, diving and even surfing and can all be incorporated into a trip in this paradise Island. Travelling to Sri Lanka is an adventure in itself. So here are the top 6 attractions and excursions you absolutely must do while in the country.
Head down to the Glorious beaches
Sri Lanka is well known for its golden sandy beaches. From east to west the beaches vary from long golden ones to the perfect wind and waves. If you are to visit Sri Lanka between December to April, south (Hikkaduwa, Galle, Waligama..etc..) and west coast (Negombo, Kalpitiya, Bentota) will be the perfect beach locations. For the east coast beaches (Passikudha, Arugam Bay, Trincomalee..etc..) the best time to visit is between April and September.
If you’re looking for a well relaxed tropical experience for the whole family, Beruwala and Bentota will be the ideal beaches. This very long sand beach is without any doubt one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka. It is also known to be a tourist spot for many exciting excursions such as, Boat safaris and Turtle Hatchery. Sri Lanka is an ultimate destination for honeymooners with endless privileges for a perfect honeymoon vacation. For the newly weds, a tour along the southern coastal line with overnight stays can be accommodated with the most luxurious beach resorts for a romantic getaway.
Sri Lankan beaches are most popular among surfers and divers. What makes Sri Lanka great for a surf holiday is that it appeals to beginner surfers for easy accessibility to the island’s waves catering to all experience levels. The main locations for surfing are the southwest, south and east coasts. The most famous areas are Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa in the southwest, Weligama, Mirissa in the south and Arugam Bay in the east. You can also enjoy, Jet Ski riding, boogie boarding in Bentota, kite surfing in Kalpitiya all year around in many locations around the island. If not for any water sports simply enjoy the tropical breeze under the swaying coconut trees and simply lie at leisure on the soft, golden sand.
Sri Lanka is best known to be a bio – diversity hot spot. This is one of the many reasons as to why tourists visit Sri Lanka. From flora to fauna, a lot of species are only endemic to Sri Lanka. From tourists to even the locals, come to nature reserves and forests to get a glimpse of rare creatures for maybe once in their whole lifetime. Yellow-eared Bulbu, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Purple-faced Leaf Monkey are some of the endemic species from many more that you could only observe in Sri Lanka. This wildlife kingdom is most popular for the Sri Lankan leopard which are generally larger in size than their relatives elsewhere. When we talk about the wildlife of the island, it is the jumbos that come to mind at once. Elephants have over thousands of years been living in Sri Lanka where they have been revered for centuries. Sri Lanka cares for the world’s largest herd of orphaned elephants. So, if you have planned a trip to Sri Lanka, you will without a doubt take home fond memories of these gigantic yet gentle mammals. There are so many Thrilling Wildlife Safari’s that you could select for the entire family. Safaris can be arranged from any hotels or tour agents or you can simply hire one of the many safari jeeps to take a wild ride into a park to see many amazing beasts that roam in these national parks.
A wide range of National Parks, nature reserves and safari lodges and camps have been established throughout Sri Lanka, covering vast areas of bio-diverse grounds, all the way from Willpattu National Park in the north of the country, down to Yala National Park in the south with many others in between. Here is glimpse of some of the famous National parks in this beautiful Island.
Yala National Park, well known to have the highest leopard densities in the world. This national park is the 2nd largest National Park in the island, situated some 300 km away from Colombo. It was at first established in the early 1890’s as a game sanctuary. The park is located in the dry-zone region where the drought season is very long .The parkland makes up most of the reserve but also includes lakes, beaches, jungle, rivers and scrubland. This variety in habitats provides an excellent range in wildlife. The largest concentration of Leopards can be seen in this region and about 32 species of mammals, 125 species of birds and many reptiles and lagoon fauna species have been recorded in the park. The Yala National Park is famous among visitors as the best place to view large mammals within one territory.
Udawalawe National Park was established during 1972.It generally has a very humid but warm climate. It is home to even plants such as Satin trees, Ebony , etc. However the main attraction is the elephants of which this reserve is very famous for. The endangered Sambar deer and leopards along with a lot of mammals can be seen while on Safari. Along with elephants, you’ll see monkeys, deer, crocodiles, flying squirrels, buffalo, and Sloth bear are some of the other creatures that will catch your eye. The park also contains around 180 different types of birds and if you’re a keen bird-watcher. Birdwatching is done here to see the Sri Lankan spurfowl an endemic species along with a lot of other birds. November and December are the best months to visit.
Wilpattu National Park is located along the north-west coast 26km from Puttalam, famous for its unique lakes called Villus. It is also one of the largest and oldest national parks of the country. The major attractions in the park are the endemic sloth bears, leopards, barking deers and elephants. This is yet another bird-watching paradise where endemic birds are most common such as the jungle fowl (the national bird of Sri Lanka). Mammals are not the only attractions here, reptiles, amphibians and insects such as butterflies, the Great Egg Fly and Common Rose just a few from many species. Crocodiles and a wide range of snakes also makes Wilpattu National Park their home.
Explore the 8th World wonder. (Sigiriya Rock Fortress)
Sigiriya is the premier site and the most important place of the Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka. This ancient rock fortress located in the Matale district of Sri Lanka is truly a marvelous sight. The rock was built between 477 – 495 CE by King Kashyapa, with beautifully laid out water gardens of which the engineering still amazes modern builders, well-preserved Frescoes Paintings and giant paw of the lion that visitors go through to enter the palace are some of the most remarkable features in this site. All the natural cave shelters and rock overhangs throughout the rock were inhabited in prehistoric times. The main entrance is located in the northern side of the rock. One of the most striking features of Sigiriya is its Mirror wall. In the old days it was polished so thoroughly that the king could see his reflection in it. The Mirror wall is painted with inscriptions and poems written by the visitors of Sigiriya. These ancient inscriptions are dated from the 8th century. These inscriptions are proving that Sigiriya was a tourist destination more than a thousand years ago. The gardens of Sigiriya are among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. Sigiriya has water gardens, cave and boulder gardens, and also terraced gardens. They are located in the western part of the rock and are with a complex water system, which consists of canals, locks, lakes, dams, bridges, fountains, as well as surface and underground water pumps. The palace and fortress complex is recognized as one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning. Considering the uniqueness of Sigiriya UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1982. Sigiriya is an unmatched combination of urban planning, water engineering, agriculture and arts.
Temple of the Tooth Relic
Kandy city is in the Central Province and surrounded by tropical tea plantations, Kandy is the center of Buddhist faith on the island. The city was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings, and today is a World Heritage Site. Most travelers include a visit to Kandy on their itinerary, and it’s easy to reach by train, or a 3-4 hour car journey from Colombo.
Temple of the Tooth Relic is most definitely a religious site to visit if you’re in the hill country. In this largely Buddhist island, the Temple is considered the most sacred of all religious sites and thousands of pilgrims visit every day. The tooth relic became a symbol of status indicating the right to ascend the throne, and later kings in the kingdoms of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambadeniya built temples for the relic close to the royal residences.
The entire temple complex, from peaked tiled roofs to white walls with large airy windows, is built using classical Kandyan architecture. The main shrine has two floors. There are various chambers in the floors including the one where the tooth relic is kept known as ‘handun kunama’. The first thing you see as you approach the entrance gates which lie over the moat is the large carved entrance arch with its elephants on either side. The ground before the entrance has a carved ‘welcome mat’, also known as a ‘moon stone’. In addition to the main shrine there are other attractions such as the Royal Palace that now is an archeological museum, the Audience Chamber which now doubles as a chamber for ceremonies, and various other structures.
Another remarkable experience of the temple is the Kandy Esela Perehara and is one of the most famous Buddhist festivals in the world. A grand procession of elephants, dancers and drummers that takes place in July and August each year. The Esala Perahera is a part of the Sri Lankan tradition and is seen by many tourists and locals. The first ritual ‘Kap Situweema’ (planting of a sanctified young Jackfruit Tree) will be held to commence the rituals that start off Perahera. The ritual is performed according to an auspicious time decided by astrologers. Followed by this ritual will be a series of pageants such as, Kumbal Perahera (Kumbal Procession), Randoli Perahera (Randoli Procession), Maha Randoli Perahera (Grand Randoli Procession). This glorious event is not to be missed if you’re on holiday in this beautiful Island.
Tea country trails
Visit the hill country of Sri Lanka where tea plantations are spread along acres of land across the rolling hills of Sri Lanka’s central region. These scenic views of the mountain tops and cascading waterfalls will definitely make you click a few images while bringing peace and serenity to your soul. Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Kandy, Bandarawela are some of the most beautiful locations in the central hills. While you’re in the hills make sure to go on an exclusive tea factory tour where you will be able to see the manufacturing process of world renowned Ceylon tea. You can also observe and photograph tea pluckers clothed in vibrant cloths dotting the mountainsides as they pluck leaves. Hill country tour in Sri Lanka is a perfect holiday tour to sooth your body and soul in a dreamy atmosphere yet enjoying the nature at its best with a touch of little adventure. Here are some of the things one must do while their at the hills.
Train Ride from Kandy to Ella. (“Some journeys are more exciting than the destination itself”)
The Kandy to Ella train ride in Sri Lanka is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world. The train trip from Kandy to Ella is not only taken by tourists but by locals themselves. The lush green hills are purely breathtaking. The train takes you high into the mountains, through dense forest & vibrant green tea fields, over bridges, through tunnels, local villages and beside smiling faces. If you want to break up the trip halfway consider you could stop in the beautiful town of Nuwara Eliya also known as “Little England”. The journey from Kandy to Ella takes approximately 7 hours and whilst that may sound long, it is 100% worth it.
A hike in Adams Peak
Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, is a 2,234m-High Mountain which is sacred to all four main religious groups in Sri Lanka. Climbing the mountain is a challenging pilgrimage, Travelers join devotees between December and April to attempt the ascent. The climb is best started at about 2am – after a 3.5 hour hike, you will reach the summit and witness one of the most glorious sunrises in Asia. For many, this is a moving highlight of their stay in Sri Lanka and it is certainly one of the most awe-inspiring things to do in the island.
Lipton’s Seat is the one of the most spectacular viewpoints in Sri Lanka, it offers a stunning and majestic panorama of rolling lush green tea fields framed by dramatic mountains and it is said that you can see all the way out to seven of Sri Lanka’s provinces. It is a beautiful place to spend relaxing morning. Visitors can walk or drive up to Lipton’s Seat. The trek is for approximately 7km through picturesque tea estates dotted with tea pickers. You will be rewarded not only with an astonishing view, but also with locals selling refreshing drinks and delicious snacks at the top. Its recommended visiting Lipton’s Seat in the early mornings, before the mist rolls in and obscures the view on the horizon.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains is a home to leopards, sambur, deer, bear, monkeys and a rich array of birds, including some endemic species. The most dramatic feature of the national park is `World’s End’, where the plateau comes to an abrupt halt and drops nearly 1000m straight down.
The best way to explore the park is preferably in early mornings on foot, though the plains can also be explored by jeep. The highlight for walkers is the trek to World’s End and Baker’s Falls. Horton Plains is well-recognized for its rich biodiversity. About 5% of the species of flora found here are endemic to Sri Lanka. All of the highland endemics are found in Horton Plains. A birdwatcher must visit Horton Plains to complete the list of endemics in Sri Lanka. Some of the highlights here include Sri Lanka Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka White-eye, Spot-winged Thrush, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, and Sri Lanka Jungle-fowl and many more.
Mini Adamsn peak, Ravana Waterfalls and Nine Arche Bridge are some of the best attractions in Ella. The climb to Mini Adam’s Peak is relatively easy, the views from the top of is sensational. From the top, there is a spectacular panorama featuring Ella Rock, rolling tea fields and the Ella gap. The Nine Arch Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in Sri Lanka, and is a stunning example of the incredible engineering power behind the island’s railway system. Nine Arch Bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture. Ravana falls has a height of 82 feet falling from an oval concave rock. It takes the form of a drooping areca flower during the peak season of its water flower. Located in the Ravana Ella Wildlife Sanctuary in Ella, this waterfall is the source of many legends and secrets.
Whale and Dolphin watching
Sri Lanka is a treasure trove of surprises. One such treasure that enchants travelers who visit Sri Lanka is the whale and dolphin watching expedition. From November to April tourists can spot playful dolphins as they put on a whimsical show as they swim gracefully through the Indian Ocean. Known to be one of the largest and oldest sea creatures the blue whales and the humpback whales will majestically swim pass you as you stare in wonder. There is a 95% chance of spotting Sperm Whales as their migration path from Africa to Australia is just off Dondra Point. The BBC documentary titled “Ocean Giants” featuring the mesmerizing world of Whales and Dolphins, on their habits and why they grow so large were filmed around Sri Lanka. According to them 30 Blue Whales were sighted in a single day! There are 80 species of whales that have been identified in all oceans, while 26 of them have been recorded up to date in and around the seas of Sri Lanka. Some of them include the Blue Whale, Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Killer Whale and Sperm Whales are some of the whales that can be spotted in Sri Lanka. Usually, the boats leave the shores early morning, in order to arrive in time for the morning
feeding sessions of the Whales. As the boats have to travel further into the sea, in order to reach the deep sea that can accommodate Whales, a round trip can last up to 5-6 hours. Travelers can explore the different options of going whale and dolphin watching from different points off the Island. Here are some of the best locations to get sight of these beautiful mammals.
Trincomalee, the most popular east coast seaside hamlet in Sri Lanka famous for its powdery sandy beach and blue shallow waters. During the months from July to September calm seas provide the best opportunities to go to deep waters to see Dolphins and Blue Whales by sailing to their resident colonies. Blue whales in particular can regularly be seen around six to eight nautical miles east of Trincomalee (about 30min by boat), Dolphins (mainly Spinner) are also regularly seen.
Kalpitiya is one of the best spots for dolphin watching in Sri Lanka. Dolphin sightings usually take place in the months of November to April. Here you can witness massive pods of dolphins, even thousands at once, in their natural habitat. The seas off Kalpitiya became famous relatively recently in 2005 when large pods of Spinner dolphins were spotted. These dolphins were mainly found in an area that ran north-south parallel to the Kalpitiya in-shore off the reef, which is commonly known as the ‘Dolphin Line’. Since then, Kalpitiya has become one of the top destinations for dolphin watching in Sri Lanka. It is mostly 4 to 5 hours away from Colombo. You can also spot sperm whales along the North-Western coast in Kalpitiya. The excursions start early in the morning and go on for a good four hours into the day.
The Dondra Point, off which the whale and dolphin viewing expeditions are mainly arranged, is the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka. It is easily accessible from main cities like Galle, Mirissa and Hikkaduwa among which Mirissa is the closest. The whale watching season in Mirissa runs from November through to April, with the best chance of sightings from December to March. You will have a chance of spotting Blue Whales which are the largest creatures on earth, measuring up to 30 metres in length, Fin Whales and even Sperm whales in these waters along with a variety of dolphins. Come experience these rare occurrences in the world in our Paradise Island.