Sri Lanka seems to be one of those countries that everyone’s been thinking about this year! It’s one of those special countries that has an immersive culture, some pretty epic teachings and enough spiced hoppers to enjoy, day after day!
Over the course of this year, we’ve been fortunate to be able to visit Sri Lanka twice and recently came back from the most incredible trip.
It’s one of those countries where words will never do it justice alone…the sites, smells, atmosphere and even copious amounts of sand that creep into your pants make this one of my favourite places to visit.
Take a look at 17 of the very best reasons why you should be thinking of Sri Lanka for your next getaway.
1.) Visit the top of Sigiriya (Lion Rock Fortress)
Sigiriya is one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic historic landmarks and one that’s incredible to visit. Walk or ramble to the top of Lion Rock Fortress… just make sure you’re prepared for the 1,200-step climb in the humid day temperatures. To avoid large crowds and the midday sun head here first thing in the morning or later afternoon, take lots of water and dip yourself in a high sunblock.
The view from the top is incredible and one of the most magical sites in all of Sri Lanka!
2.) Discover the Temple of the Tooth
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, or Sri Dalada Maligawa (as it’s known locally) is situated in the Kingdom of Kandy, a few hours inland from the stunning beaches of Sri Lanka.
The temple of the Tooth is an incredibly beautiful and important Buddhist temple and was the very last capital city of the Sri Lankan Kings. Make sure to visit the Temple of the Tooth during a visit to Kandy.
3.) Go inside the impressive Dambulla cave temple
This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the country’s most beautiful and preserved cave temples in all of Asia. These caves have been home to Sri Lankan Buddhist monks (in the past) and still are a sacred and special place today. Make sure to see the Golden Buddha Statue, The Cave of the Divine King and Monastic areas that are still in function today.
This very special place is perfect if you’re looking to experience some of the country’s incredible culture and religious artefacts.
Just make sure to cover your shoulders and legs. We bought some light cotton trousers from one of the local tailors (Well I did, Yaya got a sarong – either works just fine).
4.) Spot elephants and leopards at Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest national parks that is home to elephants, Sri Lankan leopards (though you’re more like to see them at Yala National Park), water buffalo and, if you’re lucky, you might even spot the endangered Sri Lankan sloth bear too.
Hire a tour guide and 4×4 from the front of the park and enjoy a morning spotting these majestic animals. The last entry is around 4:30 – 5:00 pm each day.
5.) Experience Polonnaruwa Vatadage
Dating as far back as the 11th century, the ancient Kingdom of Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the beautiful ruins here are truly stunning sights to see – in particular so is Polonnaruwa Vatadage. Be sure to explore the whole site, discover the Stupas and find the beautiful Buddha statues that have been hand-carved from solid rock!
You might even spot a few monitor lizards or even Indian star tortoises lurking around.
6.) See the ancient Royal Baths at Polonnaruwa
While you’re in Polonnaruwa, make some time to see some of the gorgeous, historic bathing pools that were built for the Sri Lankan royalty after leaving the Kingdom of Anuradhapura.
These impressive ‘pools’ were built as bathing tanks… Nowadays, you can’t swim in them but that certainly won’t stop you from enjoying their beauty and the amazing craftsmanship that went into building it.
7.) See one of the largest Stupas in the world – Ruwanwelisaya
Located within the ancient city of Anuradhapura, Ruwanwelisaya is the world’s largest stupa that is over 2,100 years old! This incredible sight has to be to be believed.
You can visit at any time during the day but it’s even more special during religious ceremonies take place here. During these ceremonies, thousands of people from near and far come to give thanks and worship at this ancient and incredible site.
8.) Explore the UNESCO World Heritage city of Anuradhapura
While seeing places like Jetawavaramaya and Ruwanwelisaya, you should take time to discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site which is the ancient city of Anuradhapura.
What makes this city so special is that it’s the oldest continually lived-in city in the whole world. Still, to this day, Anuradhapura is considered a sacred and important city for Buddhists. Make sure to visit for a whole day to fully explore this incredible place.
9.) See the history of Galle & Stilt fishing
Nestled on the south-west coast of Sri Lanka, Galle is one of the country’s most southern cities. A visit here is a perfect way to see the Dutch, Portuguese, British and of course, Sri Lankan architectures that dominate the town….oh and don’t forget to visit the fort and the lighthouse that stands pride of place.
About 20 minutes from the centre of Galle, you might spot some stilt fishermen along the beaches too. This age-old art isn’t practised commercially as it used to be but it’s still great to see how it’s done. Tips are usually requested, so take a little spare change.
Read our full post on seeing the traditional stilt fisherman, right here
10.) Enjoy the beaches of Bentota
Bentota is one of Sri Lanka’s coastal towns in the south,. Located 90 minutes south of Colombo, one of Bentota’s biggest draws is its spectacular beaches which are less choppy than the surfing beaches in the west. Make sure to see the famous and historic railway lines too… just watch out for trains!
11.) See the temples in Beruwala
The town also has one of the largest populations of Sri Lankan Moors, who speak the Tamil Language, which you might hear during your visit.
12.) Sail through the Madu Ganga River
Okay, not technically a river but a huge water basin, the area is made up of tens of islands that are just gorgeous to explore. Rent a boat and the expertise of a driver to discover the many hidden nooks that are within these waters.
During your tour, you might be lucky enough to spot the Kothduwa Temple (previously home to the sacred relic of the tooth of the Buddha) and one of the many small cinnamon farms dotted around the area.
Madu Ganga is also one of the best-preserved mangrove ecosystems in all of the country, making this a pretty unique place to experience.
13.) Experience Kandy
After exploring Sigiriya and the Temple of the Tooth… make sure to take a little extra time to see the rest of Kandy. Located in the central province of Sri Lanka Kandy was the last capital city of the kings.
Don’t forget to visit a tea plantation whilst you’re here too. It’s a great place to pick and even create your blend.
14.) Climb up Pidurangala Rock
Not as many people know about Pidurangala Rock… well, compared to its famous sibling, Sigiriya anyway.
This massive rock formation (which you can see when you’re at Sigiriya) can be climbed and enjoyed as long as you have a good pair of shoes and a hiker spirit (those two things are important as it’s not as conventionally straightforward to climb as Sigiriya, which has stairs, is)! 🙂
A particular reason why this is worth visiting is the spectacular view you get of the UNESCO World Heritage Sigiriya (Lion Rock) and the stunning landscape around it (*a view you obviously can’t get when you’re in the actual site of Sigiriya itself).
It truly is one of the best viewpoints in the country… see more in our post, right here.
15.) Safari in Minneriya National Park
A relatively new national park, Minneriya is another government-protected zone where you can spot some of Sri Lanka’s most famous residents… the Asian Elephant!
Take a tour of the beautiful National Park and enjoy the area of outstanding natural beauty.
16.) Relax at the gorgeous beaches
There’s a whole heap of amazing things to do and see whilst you’re in Sri Lanka but some days, you just might just want to relax.
Taking time to enjoy one of the incredible beaches is a must for any visit to the island. Relax, unwind and enjoy the lush Sri Lankan shores.
17.) Gorge on Hoppers
Sri Lankan hoppers are a treat that everyone has to try (at least once). Made from rice flour, coconut milk, egg and spices… they are the perfect way to start off your day.
Ask for extra spice for a little kick! They’re too delicious to turn down.