13 Top Places to Visit in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, the island country, sparks several pictures in our minds. The tea plantations, elephants, green mountainscape, picturesque coastlines are just a few examples. This destination attracts families, solo travelers, and honeymooners, regardless of their geographical boundaries.

Being a budget destination, you really would not have to think twice before you pack your bags and get going. But before you hit the payment option and book that Sri Lanka tour package, make sure you are visiting the listed destinations!

Don't be put off by finding Sri Lanka. With tourism that is just beginning to sprout, there is much unusual to experience. With lush green mountains, gleaming beaches, temples, and ancient cities, you will find everything your heart and soul yearn for. And get ready to fall in love with Asian culture and people, because you will fall in love. Sri Lanka will always have a special place in your heart.

Because Sri Lanka is an island, the entire coastline is studded with beautiful white and gold sand beaches. The south is where you will find most of the accommodation for tourists and is considered the surf region of Sri Lanka. Beaches along the west and east coast are just as nice, if not more expansive, with much less tourism which makes for a great peaceful vacation.

Top Places to Visit in Sri Lanka photos

1. Colombo

There are fair chances you will begin and end your trip from this point, as Colombo serves as an international gateway for traveling Sri Lanka. Plus, you have lots of entertainment and sightseeing option that will keep you asking for more.

If you are browsing through Colombo tour packages, it is suggested that the itinerary consists of attractions such as National Museum of Colombo, Beira Lake, National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka and Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. Going south of the island is Talpe Beach and on that beach you can see turtles.

Stunning views of Sri Lanka, 1,340 km You will be surprised to know about the long coastline and the cheapest railway network why this place is still not included in most of the itineraries. Colombo, the city's capital, is filled with historic Portuguese buildings, contemporary restaurants, galleries, and museums.

Ladies, get ready to go crazy in the markets. In the capital city of Colombo, you have to visit Barefoot to buy one of the colorful hand-sewn cotton products, from household items to clothing. Also, take a look at Odel, Laksala to buy souvenirs and walk through the Old Dutch Hospital to find tons of nice shops, cafes and meet other travelers.

There are also museums and other things to see and do in the city that may help you connect with Sri Lankan culture. Colombo is located on the coast, and in the center of the city, a vast green space and beach area separates an area known as Fort from the Indian Ocean. It's the city's public playground, and it's a great spot to go on Friday and Saturday evenings.

2. Anuradhapura

If you want to see further ruins you need to head further north to Anuradhapura which is around 70km from Sigiriya. Anuradhapura is a city full of huge stupas and ruins and you need a minimum of one day to see it. The ruins of Anuradhapura is more than 2000 years old and is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world.

Sri Sarananda Maha Pirivena houses a giant Buddha and a place inhabited by many young monks. A few meters away is Sandahiru Seya. Mirisawetiya Stupa is the only dagoba or stupa that can be visited for free.

Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba was built in the second century BC and is 55 meters high. It stands out for being surrounded by a wall with hundreds of elephant figures and has several Buddha images. Mihintale, 14 km from Anaradhapura, is a mountain that tells the legend that it was sanctified by the Buddha, which is why it is one of the 16 sacred places in Sri Lanka.

People climb about 2000 steps to a large rock, Aradhana Gala, at the top of this hill. The Kantaka Chetiya dagoba was the meeting place between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa, meeting that inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Located on the northwest coast of Sri Lanka, Kalpitiya is one of the most beautiful and undiscovered areas of the country. A peninsula that separates Lake Puttalam from the Indian Ocean, where there is a marine sanctuary with a great diversity of animals that live between corals and mangroves where we can find exotic beaches of golden sand.

Kalpitiya is known for being a destination frequented by lovers of kite-surfing and its beautiful beaches with an old Dutch fort. There's no better way to rewire your brain and soul than to quite literally unplug yourself - not just from your daily life and devices, but also your surroundings. Hop over to this island nation for a true recharge.

Relax on private beach villas, explore heritage and old Dutch architecture, enjoy the unique Sri Lankan cuisine, and even do some good by volunteering at turtle conservation centres!

3. Kalutara

If you long for heat and light, then we have something for the food and fun filled, adventurous. Kalutara in Sri Lanka is colorful and authentic, close to water sports and dreamy sunsets. Kalutara is suitable for those who want yoga, surf or go on a jungle tour, combined with the relaxing beach life. Become part of the town's well-known and tranquil atmosphere, visit the iconic Buddhist temple or spend the morning with the local fishermen.

4. Tangalle

You can go down the Ella-Wellawaya road back to the low country in just under 30 km but now you have to somehow or other hit golden beaches of southern Sri Lanka. This will be quite a long trip. The Sri Lanka down south has many beaches. You can try Tangalle (150 km), Dickwella (170 km) or the nicer Mirissa (180 km) or Weligama 185 km). If you don't want to go far you can always stop over at Hambanthota though the beach is not ideal for swimming.

Sri Lankan waves are attracting more and more snowboarders, so why not try a surf lesson? Nilwella and its sandy bottoms are an ideal spot for beginners, while Unakaruwa will delight the most experienced.

Tangalle is an invitation to pure relaxation. If, despite everything, you need to move, try surfing, discover hidden temples, go out to meet whales, explore the national parks that house elephants and leopards. Visit a local market, in Tangalle or Dickwella where you can find stalls pressed against each other, merchants squatting on their mat, and an extraordinary profusion of fruits.

You can buy mangoes of twenty-one species, papayas, guava, lychees, coconut and dwarf bananas. You have to step over the squares of bright red peppers, slalom between the woven baskets, in the scents of cinnamon and vanilla. You can visit the Mulkirigala temple, 30 minutes from Tangalle, nicknamed the little Sigiriya.

There is a Buddhist temple on the mountainside whose rise is punctuated by three levels where you can visit a room filled with many statues of Buddhas and various offerings.

Scattered in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and other parts of the island, the remarkable architectural ruins left by the ancient kingdoms of Sri Lanka are an unmistakable sign of the influence and power that these kingdoms once exercised over the country. The driving distance between Ella to Ussangoda National Park is 125 km.

5. Nuwara Eliya

Drive through the tea estates, waterfalls and breathtaking landscapes to Nuwara Eliya. This is a 2 hour journey from Kandy. Make sure to stop at the Mackwoods Labookellie tea center on the way to take in a cuppa. You can have lunch at one of the many restaurants in Nuwara Eliya.

Known for its scenic rail ride and tea plantations, Nuwara Eliya is yet another paradise in Sri Lanka. This hill station will further please you with Colonial structures and golf course. The landscape looks too dreamy to be true! Your visit to Sri Lanka stays incomplete without a rail ride taking you through waterfalls, hills and rich plantations. The journey begins from Kandy, which you will find featured in most of Sri Lanka tour packages.

Located about three kilometers east of the city of Talawakele, we find the St. Clairs Falls. Known as the little Niagara of Sri Lanka, it is only 80 meters high, but it has a width of over 50 meters, becoming the widest waterfall and one of the main waterfalls in the country.

Although it is not a spectacular waterfall in itself, its two unique pockets of water and the surrounding environment full of vegetation and tea plantations make this waterfall one of the most interesting. Like all the waterfalls in the country, the best time to visit Sri Lanka to appreciate these natural phenomena is during the rainy months.

Its almost 100 meters high allows the water to fall strongly on the base of the Devon Falls, making it one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sri Lanka. Tea and coffee plantations surround this waterfall, giving it even its name. Finally the Ramboda Falls, located in the Pussellawa area can be visited after a short journey from Nuwara Eliya.

It is quite difficult to get to the base of the waterfall so one of the best snapshots can be taken from a viewpoint located directly opposite. Splashed by the glow of green pink-purple ferns and lush rhododendrons, Baker's Falls is a popular waterfall in Sri Lanka. It is one of the widest waterfalls in the country that forms many streams. It can be accessed through an easy short walk from the Horton Plains National Park.

In the past the park was known as Maya Eliya Thenna. In the park there are the mountains Kirigalpotha and Thotupola (second and third highest of the island) and the famous World's End. The two closest towns to access the park are Pattipola and Ohiya.

Head to Rambukkana and visit the dolmen. Visit the Kadodara temple. Kadadora Vihara also known as Kadadora Sri Priyabimbaramaya Vihara was a Buddhist temple, located in Kadadora. The temple was abandoned and covered by water with the construction of the Kotmale dam in 1979. The ruins of Vihara can still be seen when the water level of the Kotmale reservoir is low.

There are quite a few side trips from Nuwara Eliya like Hakgala gardens, Galway national park, tea estate/factory.

6. Matale

Matale is about 45 kms from Dambulla. Stop at Aluvihara Temple, one of the main attractions of Matale. It is a series of caves excavated in the rock, like those of Dambulla. Arrive at Sri Muthumariamman Temple. One of the pleasant surprises is Sembuwatta Lake and the road to get there. They are 22 kilometers on a narrow road and in sections without asphalt. Along the way see tea and rice fields in addition to small waterfalls.

Sembuwatta Lake is an artificial lake created from natural spring water. We skirt the lake and cross through tea fields. There is a pool next to the lake.

7. Dambulla

From pinnawala move on to Dambulla and visit the Cave temple. It is considered one of the best preserved cave temples with beautiful murals. In Dambulla visit the temple caves. Upon entering the enclosure, the first thing you find is the Golden Temple and a museum, which is free. In the first cave, the Devaraja Viharaya or the Temple of the King of the Gods, there is a reclining Buddha statue measuring 15 meters.

The second cave, the Maharaja Viharaya or the Temple of the King of the Gods is the largest one. The statues of the gods found here correspond to Saman, Upulvan, Maithree and Natha. In the third cave, Maha Alut Viharaya, there is a statue of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha of Kandy. The fourth cave, Pachima Viharaya, is the smallest and in it there is a Buddha statue with the hand raised in dhyanamudra.

The fifth cave is the Devana Alut Viharaya or Second New Temple, the most recent, more representations of the Buddha. You can spend the night in Dambulla/Kandalama/Sigiriya.

8. Minneriya National Park

Hire an excursion to Kaudulla to go see elephants or the Minneriya National Park but Kaudulla is where more elephants would be seen. It would be a tiring climb so the afternoon session can be used to visit the Minneriya national park around 20km from Sigiriya. A jeep safari will take you near a lake where you can see 200 to 700 elephants in one place!

9. Polonnaruwa

Alternatively you can visit the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa where there are many ruins. This place would be the second best place to see ruins after Anuradhapura.

Polonnaruwa is about 40 kms from Habarana, which was the second capital of the kingdom after Anuradhapura. Start with the royal palace, seat of the Sinhala royalty. Although the building is deteriorated, its thick walls can give an idea of ​​how majestic it was. Hadatage is another of the best buildings in front of Vatadage. It was raised in just 60 days to guard the sacred relic.

Thuparama is known as the Mansion of the Buddha image with a beautiful vault. Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is a unique structure in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka. Gal Pota or stone book, is a huge stone with an extensive inscription commissioned by Nissanka Malla that resembles a book. Sathmahal Prasada Dagoba has a pyramid shape, with seven levels with Thai influences.

Rankot Vihara is the largest dagoba here and the fourth largest in the country. It is 55 meters high and 185 meters in circumference. Lankatilaka is one of the most impressive structures in Polonnaruwa. In the 12th century this was one of the most splendid Buddhist shrines in Asia and was built by Parakramabahu I. A few meters away Lankatilaka is Kiri Vihara, the second largest dagoba in the city and the only one that had not been restored.

Gal Vihara are 4 large Buddhist granite statues. The largest is a reclining Buddha of 14 meters. The first statue is a Buddha sitting in a deep meditation, on a throne decorated with lions and rays. Get to Pasikuda to see a fishing port. You can spend the 2nd night at Sigiriya/Kandalama/Dambulla/Polonnaruwa.

10. Batticaloa

Arugam Bay is a sea shore, where you feel great for quite a long time and would prefer not to leave. Arugam is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. You will like the weather in Arugam Bay. Arugam Bay is a dynamic city known for its shoreline. Stroll along the sea shores or unwind with a nearby yoga class. In Lahugalla National Park you can see elephants brushing on the shores of the tank.

11. Kumana National Park

As you go to Kumana, you might be fortunate to see panthers resting on a stone, or a sloth bear touching on the fallen red berries of a tree. There are a bunch of amazing sea shores like in Okanda, where you can visit a temple (at present the resting place for transit to Kataragama), the Peanut Farm and the sea shore at Whiskey Point. Additionally visit Mudu Maha Vihara, one of the many interesting sanctuaries in the zone.

12. Udawalawe National Park

This huge animal park is located in the country's southern region, approximately an hour's drive from Hambantota. Because the park is on the boundary of the country's rainy and dry zones, the landscape and surroundings are diverse. Elephants, crocodiles, water buffalo, and other animals may be seen in the park, which has a huge population. In fact, it's one of the finest locations on the planet to view wild elephants.

Leopards may be found there as well, although they might be difficult to track or detect. Monkeys, as well as a variety of deer and small animals, may be found. It's also a fantastic spot for bird viewing.

13. Hikkaduwa Beach

This beach is just 90 minutes from Colombo and is perfect for water activities like as surfing, bodyboarding, snorkeling, and scuba diving. All of the necessary equipment may be rented at one of the beachside kiosks. It's one of the finest surfing spots in the nation, with the best waves from November to March.

Because the beach is so vast, it never seems overcrowded. If you wish to stay overnight, there are a number of beachside kiosks offering a variety of excellent local street cuisine, as well as a number of modest hotels and guesthouses.

14. Trincomalee

Trincomalee also known as Gokanna is located east of Sri Lanka. Located in one of the best natural harbors in the world, Trinco (as the locals call it) stretches on both sides of a narrow peninsula between the Indian Ocean and an inland port. While most travelers come here to enjoy the golden sands of the beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli, there is also a lot of history in this place.

In addition, it has many national parks (Leopards are seen in Yala) and Arugam Bay is ideal for surfing.Follow the sounds of Kandasamy Kovil, the revered and historic temple located on top of a rocky hill, at dawn. Konesar Road fish market is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the flavors of Tamil cuisine where crab and freshly caught squid become the center of attention, along with countless fruits and vegetables like pumpkins and mangoes.

The curries and sambars (stew made of vegetables, tamarind, lentils and spices) and kottu (local dish consisting of a roti and vegetables with chicken or cheese, all chopped) are the stars of the culinary scene. Dutch Bay, in the center of the city, offers a picturesque walk along the coasts lined with fishing boats.

The migratory blue whales arrive at this place in March and April, and are regularly seen next to the dolphins. Swami Rock is an ideal place to observe them. The white sands and coral gardens of Pigeon Island, just north of Trinco, offer an idyllic place to hike, snorkel and observe turtles.

Surely, besides these destinations, other places that deserve mentioning are Bentota, Hikkaduwa, and Sigiriya. Hope this short yet informative blog comes out to be a helpful resource for you. If it is! Don’t forget to bookmark this page, so it comes handy.
Kalyan Panja