Travellers have spoken about the incomparable beauty and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. An island-nation, the country has often been in the midst of conflict and unrest but that hasn’t taken away from the popularity of the umpteen places to visit in Sri Lanka. Depending on interests, travellers can choose among hilly hamlets, cultural centres, busy beach towns and architectural marvels.
The country can get quite crowded during peak season so we do recommend choosing your itinerary carefully lest you miss out on some of the gorgeous places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Places to Visit in Sri Lanka: Natural Retreats
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka, Ella has held the fancy of travellers for decades. A quaint town, Ella promises visitors abundant greenery, verdant tea gardens and a warm welcome. The locals are heartwarming and go out of their way to make travellers feel welcome in their dreamy town.
If quiet, laidback holidays are for you, we definitely recommend keeping aside two to three days for this beauty. Cursory research will make it clear that the city’s most famous attraction is the Nine Arches Railway Bridge. Constructed during the colonial era, the bridge offers breathtaking views of the entire city. But what puts it on the list of the most exciting places to visit in Sri Lanka is the exciting trek down the railway trek to the bridge.
It’s highly recommended that one should head out to discover this beautiful site with the help of a guide. Travellers can also set out to explore the many waterfalls and tea gardens the city is known for. In fact, you can also book guided tea-garden tours to learn more about the process of tea production. For food lovers, the city packs in quite a treat with numerous cosy cafes which serve local delicacies and world cuisines.
If you want to take a break from the busy streets of Colombo, the beautiful city of Mirissa welcomes travellers with open arms. Gradually becoming one of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka for beach lovers, Mirissa is known for whale-watching and surfing. Situated close to 150km from Colombo, it’s perfect for a two day trip from the busy city. Lined with palm trees, the beach town seems to be right out of a postcard and nature lovers will be in for a treat here.
Adventure enthusiasts can try their hand at bodyboarding, snorkelling and surfing while beach bums can spend lazy afternoons on the beach. The cafes and bars here promise a plethora of delights including delicious sea-food. One can spend hours in the cafes enjoying local music and taking in the vibe of the beach town. If you are visiting Mirissa, you must also include Weligama and Unawatuna which are considered to be some of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Places to Visit in Sri Lanka: Architectural Marvels
History and architecture are what Galle offers travellers. A famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is counted among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Among the most popular monuments here, the Galle Fort is a must-visit as is the Dutch Reformed Church, Galle Lighthouse and Galle Clock Tower.
With lots of places to see, travellers can easily spend anywhere between three to four days here. For those interested in museums, we recommend visiting the Maritime Museum which is located within the fort complex. It’s said that the fort houses objects which are more than 800 years old.
If history and art don’t interest you, Galle offers stunning views of the sea. In fact, the city is home to some of the most beautiful hotels in Sri Lanka which promise a luxurious and unforgettable experience for travellers.
Galle is also considered one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka if shopping is on your mind. You can head to local markets in the city for a plethora of local handicrafts, apparel and footwear. We recommend putting your bargaining skills to use here.
One can say that Sigiriya is among the top places to visit in Sri Lanka. Owing to its intriguing history and architectural brilliance, the site is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also known as Lion’s Rock.
Legend has it that the site was chosen by King Kasyapa to serve as his capital and all constructions were done under his rule. It’s also said that Sigiriya served as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. If you are interested in history and the evolution of this site as a cultural landmark, we highly recommend visiting Sigiriya Museum.
On your tour, you must take note of the verdant royal gardens which are considered to be the oldest landscaped gardens in the world as well as the vibrant Mirror Wall. Artists can find their inspiration in the western part of the rock which is covered in frescoes. From over 500 frescoes, only 22 remain and they are definitely worth a visit.
Another site that can offer more information on Sigiriya is the museum which is located at the foot of the rock. With artefacts dating back to the conception of the historical site, one can gather valuable information about this famous historical wonder.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is on the list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka, especially for those who are travelling with family. Children usually have a great time here amidst nature and wildlife. Yala National Park is a great option if you are in the process of introducing little ones to nature.
The park is said to have the highest density of leopards in the world which drastically increases chances of a sighting. The largest national park in Sri Lanka, it’s also known as a paradise for bird watchers and flora enthusiasts. The highlight of the park is the lush greenery on one side and the sandy beach on the other. Imagine walking on sandy shores while admiring the blessings of nature.
The best way to explore the park is by hopping aboard one of the many safaris that operate throughout the day. Of course, the best time for a sighting is generally in the morning around sunrise and in the evening, just before the sun sets. Among other animals that one can expect to see, one must keep an eye out for crocodiles and sloth bears.
Yala National Park which is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka also offers great accommodation options. There are quite a few guesthouses and hotels around Yala National Park which makes it convenient for travellers to spend a night here. We recommend booking your accommodation well in advance since the area tends to get busy.
Adam’s Peak is in the shape of a foot which is considered to be Buddha’s feet. Counted among the most gorgeous places to visit in Sri Lanka, it is situated at a height of more than 7,350 feet.
Considered to be one of the most-visited places to see in Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak should be a part of all Sri Lanka tours. It’s interesting to note that people from different cultures consider the peak important for various reasons. While the Buddhists believe that it is Lord Buddha’s feet, the Hindus believe that the feet marks belong to Lord Shiva. On the other hand, Muslims and Christians believe they belong to Adam and St. Thomas respectively.
Visited by people of all faiths, the mountain is also counted among the most beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka owing to its breathtaking views. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, it’s a treat for adventure enthusiasts for numerous trekking options. There are six well-marked trails and more than 5000 steps which will take one to the mountain top.
If you aren’t confident of your trekking skills, we recommend heading up with the help of a guide. It’s also important to carry the basic necessities one requires during trekking including a sturdy pair of shoes, snacks and water.
Horton Plains National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Horton Plains National Park is counted among the most exciting places to visit in Sri Lanka for adventure enthusiasts. Situated in central Sri Lanka, the park is a part of most sightseeing tours and is highly recommended by travellers.
Surrounded by lush fields, the park is also known as World’s End Cliff owing to the steep plunge at the end of the plateau. Horton is known as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka owing to its spellbinding beauty. Resembling a picture-perfect painting, the Horton Plains is where three important Sri Lankan rivers of Mahaweli, Walawe and Kelani come together. A breathtaking sight, travellers will mostly be behind their cameras to capture the gorgeous views.
Another reason why Horton is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka is because of its leopard population. One can spot Sri Lankan leopards here as well as the unusual purple-faced langurs and Sambar deer. With over 21 bird species, the park is also a delight for bird lovers. One can spot Sri Lanka white-eye, Sri Lanka jungle fowl and the yellow-fronted barbet. We recommend coming here either early in the morning or in the evening if you want to increase your chances of spotting a wild animal in its habitat.
Beach lovers and party hoppers must keep aside at least two days for the busy beach town of Unawatuna. Counted among the most happening places to visit in Sri Lanka, the beach town promises one a perfect combination of a laidback and action-packed vacation.
Dotted with accommodation options suiting all budgets, Unawatuna is a budget traveller's delight. In fact, you'll notice that backpackers head here straight from the airport before they begin their tour.
Another thing that makes this beach town popular among travellers is the number of cafes here which serve delectable local cuisine and give one an opportunity to experience Sri Lanka’s welcoming hospitality. These cafes also transform into busy party places in the evening complete with live performances and sandy dance-floors. For those who’d like to experience the nightlife of Sri Lanka, we can’t think of a better place.
Among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, Unawatuna is loved by visitors and locals alike. If you truly want to experience the charm of Unawatuna, we recommend spending most of your time on the beach where you can find everything you need including natural beauty, delicious food and a great vibe.
Among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka and the beach town, we recommend a visit to Talpe which is located a few km away and Jungle Beach. Jungle Beach is among the lesser-known places to visit in Sri Lanka and is definitely a must-visit for nature lovers.
Places to Visit in Sri Lanka: Towns and Cities
Perhaps one of the most stunning places to visit in Sri Lanka, Kandy is known for its cultural and religious importance. What attracts travellers to Kandy is the presence of one of the most important Buddhist temples in the world - Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. A crowd-puller, the temple is said to preserve Lord Buddha's tooth.
Kandy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its enthralling museums, natural sites, lakes and national parks. Travellers typically spend close to 2 days in Kandy and are able to cover most of its sites.
The Royal Palace of Kandy is highly recommended by visitors since its a perfect example of architectural brilliance. While the palace is in ruins, it's still a delight for history lovers. Visitors must visit the grand audience hall and Tusker hall to admire what once was a landmark of opulence and royalty.
Kandy offers deep insights into the history of the country and is among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka for history lovers. If you are interested to learn more about Sri Lanka's history, there isn't a better place than museums to begin your informative tour. The World Buddhist Museum, National Museum of Kandy and Sri Dalada Museum are some of the notable museums which are located within the complex and will help one trace the history of Sri Lanka and more specifically Kandy.
Nature lovers must head to Udawattekele Sanctuary, Ceylon Tea Museum and Kandy Lake for a break from endless sightseeing tours.
One of the busiest cities in the country, Colombo is also one of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka. With a rich history, an intriguing cultural heritage, visitors must come here to enjoy the warm hospitality Colombo is known for.
With beautiful restaurants, busy markets, cultural sites, architectural marvels and natural retreats – travellers can look forward to an unforgettable experience. Colombo is also a great place to shop for souvenirs. Complete with bustling markets, designer boutiques and high-end brands, there is much to take back.
When you are preparing your Colombo itinerary, you must take note of popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Beira Lake, Dutch Museum, National Zoological Garden of Sri Lanka and Gangaramaya Temple are some of the places that one can include in their tour. Gangaramaya Temple promises one an insightful peek into Buddhism. Combining various architectural styles including Indian, Thai and Chinese – the temple is a beauty.
Counted among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, if this is your first trip to the island nation, we definitely recommend keeping aside at least three to four days for this stunning capital.
A resort town located close to 62km from Colombo, Bentota is among the most popular weekend places to visit in Sri Lanka. Well-known as a resort town, Bentota is loved for its beaches and verdant fields which are dotted with uncountable palm trees. If you happen to visit during a weekend, you will notice just how popular the small town is with locals.
Bentota is also on the list of most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka for luxury travellers who want to experience the beauty and welcoming hospitality of the beach town. There are a plethora of resorts here which offer visitors an irresistible blend of hospitality, efficient service and incredible views.
Adventure buffs can enjoy snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving though we do recommend booking tours which are run by authorised operators. An ideal getaway from the busy city life, Bentota is slowly becoming a part of all Sri Lanka itineraries. Besides admiring the surreal views the town offers, travellers can spend time exploring toddy production factories.
An alcoholic beverage which is prepared using coconut nectar, toddy is among the most popular beverages in Sri Lanka. If you’d like to know more about the production, you can arrange a tour of a toddy factory. Bentota is also one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka to experience the magic of Ayurveda. There are a number of places where travellers can explore more about Ayurvedic therapies and benefits.