From picturesque beaches and breathtaking national parks to fascinating monuments and religious sites, experience an unforgettable vacation with our list of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a small, but mesmerizingly beautiful island nation in the Indian Ocean filled with historical sites, glorious beaches, stunning natural beauty and more. For an unparalleled vacation experience, here are the best things to do in Sri Lanka that you cannot miss out on.
Visit the ancient city of Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest cities in Sri Lanka dating back to the 4th century BC. Experience its ancient ruins, shrines and monuments filled with Buddhist temples and intricately carved statues of many Hindu gods. Stroll along Sacred Bo Trees and enjoy touring one of the most revered sites in all of Sri Lanka.
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Along with seeing the classic ruins of Anuradhapura, take a tour of the vast Royal Reservoirs and soak in stunning views from atop Mihintale Hill. Make sure to check out some of the museum sites on site which help explain Sri Lanka’s rich history and culture. Visitors can also spend time visiting the famous Thuparamaya Dagoba, one of the earliest and most sacred Buddhist shrines in all Sri Lanka. For breathtaking sculptures, impressive architecture and a taste of Sri Lankan history be sure to visit the ancient city of Anuradhapura.
Yala National Park is the most visited and second biggest national park in Sri Lanka. It is home to 44 varieties of mammals, 215 bird species and dozens of reptiles. Take a 4×4 safari through the rocky terrain to spot wild elephants, sloth bears, leopards, spotted deer, sambars and wild buffaloes. It’s best to plan your visit for early morning or late afternoon when the animals are actively searching for food. Don’t forget to bring binoculars and your camera so you can capture amazing photos of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat!
Yala National Park is also known for its picturesque landscapes and nature trails, so be sure to explore the area by foot. You’ll find plenty of birds and small mammals along the way, as well as an array of plants and trees. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to visit one of the park’s many stunning waterfalls or take a dip in one of the natural springs. This will provide an even closer look at Yala’s diverse flora and fauna. With its abundance of animals, beautiful landscapes and nature trails, a safari through this national park is truly a unique experience that you won’t want to miss.
Explore the beaches in Hikkaduwa and Mirissa
Known for its white sand beaches, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa offer stunning ocean views and plenty of opportunities for exploration. Whether you decide to go snorkeling or scuba diving, the underwater world awaits you with colorful coral reefs filled with exotic marine life, such as green sea turtles, parrotfish and even dolphins. You can also enjoy a boat ride on glass-bottom boats or explore nearby islands. For those looking to spend some time relaxing on a beach towel, there are many quieter spots that still offer breathtaking views of both coasts.
When it comes to activities near the shore, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa should definitely be at the top of your list. Enjoy a delicious meal of freshly caught seafood or take in the beautiful sunrise as you watch the world around you come alive with vibrant colors each morning. There is certainly something for everyone when it comes spending time on this unique Sri Lankan paradise.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress is an ancient rock fortress and palace located in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya is a spectacular sight to behold, rising out from the semi-arid scrubland surrounding it. Dating back over 1500 years, this structure was once one of the royal residences belonging to King Kashyapa I, who reigned during 477 – 495 AD. This rocky plateau offers a breathtaking climb up over 1,200 steps leading to palaces and terraces built by the king over two thousand years ago. The view from the top is extraordinary and a must-do activity when visiting Sri Lanka.
Climb the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and you are sure to experience an awe-inspiring adventure amidst beautiful scenery. During the climb on your way up, take in some stunning views of the surrounding areas like sweeping hills, revealing a landscape of landscaped gardens and ponds. At the summit, be captivated by ancient ruins including frescoes on a sheer rock face. The view from the top is phenomenal and definitely worth all your efforts.
Visit Sri Lanka’s Tea Plantations
Sri Lanka is renowned for its tea, so a visit to some of the local tea plantations should not be missed. Enjoy a unique experience in one of the oldest hill stations in Sri Lanka – Nuwara Eliya. Nestled in the heart of the tea country of central Sri Lanka, here you’ll be able to learn all about tea farming and production firsthand. With its picturesque views, lush green hills and well-maintained paths it is an ideal place for a leisurely stroll or for simply taking in the beauty.
Sri Lanka is renowned for its tea, with the most famous type being Ceylon tea. Although you may have heard of this before, nothing will prepare you for a real cup of Ceylon tea. Get a hands-on experience and taste some locally produced teas from plantation owners or Tea Houses, where traditional brewing methods are still practiced and passed down through generations. Try unique flavors like Oolong tea, White Orange Pekoe and Black Leaf in addition to classic breakfast blends. This is a fantastic opportunity to get a better understanding of why Sri Lanka produces some of the finest teas around. You can even buy your very own box of authentic Ceylon Tea before returning home.
Visit the breathtaking Waterfalls of Horton Plains
Among some of the most photographed landscapes in Sri Lanka, the waterfalls of Horton Plains offer incredible views and stunning sights. Take a day trip out to the plantation district of Nuwara Eliya, where the Tea Field Express Train passes through the valleys with high-altitude forests and stunning mountain peaks. Marvel at the miracle of nature at World’s End and Baker’s Falls (an 85 foot waterfall that flows over dramatic rock walls) where you’ll see waterfalls cascading down into deep ravines with spectacular views all around.
Aside from the beauty of the waterfalls, guests can take in further splendors of Sri Lanka’s tea plantations. Located on the high plateaus of Nuwara Eliya and surrounded by forest-covered slopes and rolling hillsides, these terraced tea gardens are some of the most beautiful in the world. There is a fantastic network of winding roads through the plantation district that rises and falls with breathtaking views at every turn. Make sure to take a moment to pause and take in all your surroundings, from the blue mountains to sprawling tea estates filled with greenery — you won’t be disappointed.