Sri Lanka Tourism and Travel Guide

Sri Lanka tourism has gone through drastic changes in the last few decades. From a fairly unexplored destination to one of the most loved countries, the island has made its way into the itineraries of world travellers. Natural beauty, timeless charm, hoards of elephants, tea plantations and UNESCO World Heritage sites come together to take you on what travellers call “an unexpected journey”. The charming island nation of Sri Lanka is located in the Indian Ocean, southeast of the Arabian Sea. Blessed with a rich history of over 3,000 years, it is one of the most important Buddhist centres in the world. Taking you through the architectural marvels of Galle and Trincomalee, encouraging you to soak in the beauty of Kandy's sacred temples and nudging the explorer in you to traverse through verdant national parks – Sri Lanka tourism brings to life every traveller’s dream. Rising above its conflicted past, the country has emerged stronger and is in the midst of a huge wave of development. Connecting its villages with urban towns, the country offers travellers an intriguing mix of natural beauty, culture and spirituality. A country is made of its people and even though the perennial conflict between Tamilians and Sinhalese remains strong – as a visitor you’ll only receive warmth and love from the locals. A melting pot of cultures and ethnicities is in fact what gives Sri Lanka its unique identity and has boosted Sri Lanka tourism. Despite numerous challenges and hardships, Sri Lanka tourism continues to thrive and people from across the world continue to visit this land of archaic legends and palm-fringed beaches.
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Best Luxury Hotels in Sri Lanka

Enjoy relaxing spas, azul pools, massages, beach views, delicious dishes and the best of Lankan hospitality at these handpicked luxury hotels in Sri Lanka

Best Mid-Range Hotels in Sri Lanka

Comfortable stays, good food and ocean vistas, Tripoto's list of the best mid-range hotels will let you witness the charms of Sri Lanka without having to spend a fortune.

Best Budget Hotels in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a plethora of budget options with incredible facilities that will make you say, "How can this be so cheap?" Find one from Tripoto's list of the best budget hotels in Sri Lanka

Best Hostels & Homestays In Sri Lanka

Homestays are the perfect way to gain insight into the unique Lankan culture and lifestyle. Or, you can stay at these happening hostels with happening crowds.

Travel Articles And Blogs For Sri Lanka

Where To Go In Sri Lanka

 

Sigiriya

There are a few places which become a symbol for their home country – Sigiriya is that symbol for Sri Lanka. Travellers will tell you that a trip to Sri Lanka is incomplete without a visit to this splendid UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built over 1600 years ago, the ancient fortress is a classic example of Sri Lankan architecture. Built atop a rock, it’s also known as Lion’s Rock owing to the shape of the gateway. One has to climb for about 60 to 90 minutes to reach the top and Sri Lanka tourism board has made notable efforts to ensure that the trek is seamless and convenient for the thousands of visitors who come here every year. Once at the top, you’ll be greeted by views of a vast expanse of land as far as your eyes can see and small gardens rolling down the rock. A guided tour of Sigiriya will cost you approximately Rs. 700 and is definitely worth it.

 

Kandy

Declared as a World Heritage Site, Kandy is the star destination for Sri Lanka tourism. No trip to the country is complete without a trip to this city surrounded by verdant tea plantations, mystical mountains and sacred places of worship for Buddhists. In fact, it is home to one of the most sacred and revered temples for Buddhists – Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Located in the royal palace of Kandy’s erstwhile king, the temple is said to have preserved Lord Buddha’s tooth. Also known as the ‘Great City’ or Maha Nuwara, Kandy is enveloped by surreal white mist for most part of the year. Dotted with vibrant houses, and a picturesque landscape, the city is known for tranquillity and as a peaceful escape from the daily humdrum. If you happen to be in the city during the months of July and August, you must attend the Kandy Esala Perahera festival, highly recommended by Sri Lanka tourism, to catch a glimpse of the city’s diverse culture.

Places to visit: Temple of the Tooth, Gadaladeniya temple, Kandy Lake

 

Adam's peak

The 5th tallest and most sacred mountain in Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak takes close to 5 hours to reach. Known as Sri Pada which translates to ‘sacred footprint’, it is said to be the place where Lord Buddha began his ascent to heaven, though to be fair, there are quite a few legends in respect to the importance of the mountain. With a trek beginning around midnight, travellers reach the top as the sun is rising and it is said to be one of the most mesmerising sights one can witness in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka tourism has made it quite convenient for travellers to trek up the mountain with rest-stops on the way as well as guided tours. If you are sceptical about the climb at night, you can also try the expedition during the day, however, we’d suggest the night trek for its beauty and peace.

Best time to climb: January to May

 

Galle

The timeless town of Galle was built as a fortified city to keep invaders away. One of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka, today it is a bustling city with tourists, office-goers and shopkeepers going about their daily tasks. An important part of Sri Lanka tourism, it is home to Dutch–colonial buildings which dominate the city along with palm-fringed shorelines giving photographers an opportunity to capture the scenic views. If you’d like to explore Sri Lanka’s popular Southern cuisine, do try one of the many cafes lining the streets of Galle or head to some of the local bakeries for a treat. To keep busy during your stay here, you can explore Galle Fort, shop at Galle’s local market and enjoy high tea at Amangalla Hotel.

 

Mirissa

A quiet, relaxed vibe welcomes you to the beach city of Mirissa. Lying along the South Coast of Sri Lanka, the city is known for its slow-paced life, picturesque cafes and dolphin-spotting tours. Although slowly gaining popularity, Mirissa is far from crowded. Perhaps it is the town’s tranquillity or warm culture, but everything seems better in Mirissa – whether it’s haggling with Sri Lanka tourism operators for lower rates or watching dolphins dance in the blue-green waters. You can also try snorkelling and surfing here since the water is clear and there is increased visibility. Sri Lanka tourism has made it easier for tourists to book snorkelling and dolphin-watching tours, but we’d recommend booking the tour through your resort for better discounts and knowledgeable guides.

 

Colombo

An intriguing mix of the old and new, Colombo is the busiest city in Sri Lanka. The first stop for most travellers, it is an urban city which has held on to its tradition with pride. Home to diverse cultures and religions, the city is a fine example of ‘unity in diversity’. In the port city of Colombo, you can explore the city's monuments with guided walking tours organised by Sri Lanka tourism and if food is your motivation, you can head to the city’s oldest and most popular restaurants for a taste of the local cuisine. The city is also famous for its glittering and happening nightlife with live gigs and jazz clubs. Offering an array of unique experiences including cooking classes, tea-tasting and spirituality, it should definitely be on your Sri Lanka itinerary.

Places to visit: Gangaramaya Temple, National Museum of Colombo, Barefoot cafe

Activities and Things to Do in Sri Lanka

 

If your idea of a vacation is an itinerary full of activities, then Sri Lanka will not disappoint you. Each city promises something new to discover and each discovery leads to a memorable experience. Sri Lanka tourism has greatly helped tourists find and explore the kind of activities they’d enjoy through a collaborative initiative with locals.

 

Water sports

If this is your first tryst with water sports then there isn't a better place than Sri Lanka to start. Giving you the opportunity to snorkel, surf and go dolphin watching, there is nothing that Sri Lanka doesn't offer for both amateurs and pros. The best part is that you can choose any beach town in the country and you’ll be surprised by the range of activities available. Contributing to Sri Lanka tourism, all activities are reasonably priced and don't eat into your budget. Here are a few of our top suggestions:

 

  • Deep-sea fishing at Hikkaduwa
  • Sailing in Bruwela and Bentota.
  • Whale and Dolphin watching in Mirissa
  • Catamaran excursion in Trincomalee
  • Windsurfing at Bologoda Lake

 

Explore Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a significant part of Sri Lankan culture. Focusing on healing the body and mind, Sri Lankans consider it a way of life and offer this magical experience to its visitors as well. So much so that there are Ayurvedic resorts all around the country which focus on giving you a quiet, disconnected and rejuvenating experience. Gradually becoming a big factor in increasing Sri Lanka tourism, tourists who travel primarily for Ayurveda cover the breadth and length of the country for the right course and treatment. If you’d like to experience the bliss of Ayurveda and give it a try, you can go for a one-day session. For those who’d like to deeply explore the tenets of the system, you can try a stay at one of the below mentioned resorts.

 

  • Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort
  • Ayurveda Paragon Resort
  • Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara

 

A trip to Yala National Park

If you’d like to spend a day amidst the wild, then we can’t think of a better plan than exploring the Yala National Park. Divided into five blocks, the national park adjoins other sanctuaries including Lahugala, Lunugamvehera, Kumana National Park, the Yala Strict Nature Reserve and the Kataragama, Katagamuwa, and Nimalawa sanctuaries. The entire area is covered with lush, thick forests and truly gives you an experience of being close to the wilderness. The proximity of the sanctuaries allows elephants to roam around freely between the corridors and offers visitors a glimpse of these gentle giants in their habitat – an experience that stays with you forever. With frequent safaris to the forests, you have the freedom to plan your itinerary, though the best safari is either the first one in the morning or the last one in the evening. Also, you won’t face any trouble with guided tours since Sri Lanka tourism has made exploring the wildlife sanctuaries quite convenient for tourists.

 

Explore Tea Plantations

Contributing to the growing popularity of Sri Lanka tourism are tea-tasting tours. The fourth largest tea producer in the world is naturally blessed with a number of tea plantations which are open to visitors and give them an opportunity to learn and experience the art of tea making. You can begin your experience in the gorgeous town of Nuwara Eliya. Once a retreat for British colonials, today the city flourishes as a prominent centre for tea production. When in Nuwara Eliya, you can travel back in time and enjoy high tea in the town’s beautiful and historic Grand Hotel. Complete with cheese and cucumber sandwiches, it’s an almost surreal experience to sip the best tea ever overlooking lush, green tea estates. Other places to try for Sri Lanka’s famous tea is Dilmah, which is in Colombo, as well as the Hundungoda Tea Estate, which is known for growing the distinct ‘white tea’.

Cost: Approximately Rs. 500

 

Snorkel at Pigeon Island National Park

Pigeon Island National Park owes its name to the numerous Rock Pigeons which use it as a breeding ground. In the last few years though, it has gained popularity as a snorkelling spot. With clear waters, it is a great place for beginners to start their tryst with snorkelling. A popular marine national park, the island boasts of stunning coral reefs and an astonishing variety of marine life. Located a kilometre away from Nilaveli beach in Trincomalee, it is home to more than 200 species of fish. Keep a lookout for the Blacktip Reef Shark, rumper fish, parrot fish, angel fish as well as the popular Hawksbill Turtle. There are guided tours going out every day and it’s best to book one through a reputed operator of Sri Lanka tourism. If you are an experienced diver and snorkeler, you can head out on your own. A guided tour, on the other hand, increases your chance of spotting some unique marine life, so choose wisely.

Cost: Approximately Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 7,000 for a guided tour as well as a boat ride.

 

Where To Stay In Sri Lanka

 

The increase in Sri Lanka tourism has prompted locals to open boutique hotels as well as offer a range of customised Sri Lanka travel packages. Also, since backpackers make for the majority of tourists travelling to Sri Lanka, there are a number of reasonably-priced accommodation options for them.

 

Luxury hotels in Sri Lanka

For a few travellers, the accommodation makes or breaks a destination. Sri Lanka tourism has given rise to a plethora of hotels that are designed to give travellers a luxurious experience. From warm and efficient service to an array of facilities, let’s take a look at some of the best hotels as recommended by Sri Lanka tourism.

 

  • Taj Samudra
  • Amaya Hills
  • Saman Villas
  • Amaya Langdale
  • Taprobana Wadduwa
  • Le Grand Galle By Asia Leisure

 

Mid-range hotels in Sri Lanka

Promising you a combination of efficient service and decent facilities, mid-range hotels in Sri Lanka save your money and give you an experience to remember.

 

  • The Waterfall Villas
  • Habarana Village by Cinnamon
  • Anantaya Resort and Spa Chilaw
  • Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa Sri Lanka

 

Budget hotels in Sri Lanka

If you are travelling on a strict budget, Sri Lanka will surprise you with its range of budget accommodations. Without compromising on service or facilities, some of the best budget hotels according to Sri Lanka tourism guides are:

  • Naomi River View Villa
  • Coral Sands Hotel
  • Talalla Retreat
  • Golden Star Beach Hotel

 

Hostels and Homestays

Homestays have become a popular accommodation option, especially if one is travelling on a budget. With Sri Lanka tourism gradually growing, the country is warming up to the idea of homestays and quite a few have come up in the last few years. Let’s take a look:

 

  • Singha Sanasa Homestay
  • Sigiri Rock Side Home Stay
  • Mount Lavinia Homestay
  • City Lake Residence by Sunrise
  • Kandy City Village Home Stay

Sri Lanka Cuisine: Best Places to Eat

 

Sri Lanka offers a memorable culinary journey for food lovers. Influenced by flavours from a number of other international cuisines, the country’s spicy and aromatic cuisine is famous across the world. It doesn’t matter if you are digging into fish curry at a local, roadside stall or enjoying dinner at one of the many high-end restaurants – the unique flavours and distinct style of cooking is sure to win you over. Owing to the growing number of tourists who explore the country for its food, Sri Lanka tourism has encouraged locals to open cafes and restaurants. Here are a few dishes and restaurants that are recommended by Sri Lanka tourism are:

Dosas
Crunchy and paper-thin, Sri Lankans can surprise you with their variety of dosas, though the best one is the plain dosa with coconut chutney on the side.

Kola Kanda
Available at almost every restaurant, it is a porridge made from rice, green vegetables and coconut.

Jaffna crab
You have to try this crab curry for its rich flavours and fragrant aroma. Best enjoyed with rice.

 

Best Places to Eat in Sri Lanka

  • Old Railway Cafe
  • Bedspace Kitchen
  • Ministry of Crab
  • Talpe Beach Resort
  • Queens Art Cafe
  • Soya Centre

Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka

 

With two monsoon seasons, Sri Lanka enjoys great weather throughout the year – another major factor as to why Sri Lanka tourism is on the rise. The best time to visit and explore Sri Lanka tourism will depend entirely on your route and the kind of vacation you are planning. The average temperature is between 26 to 30°C in the city and 18 to 22°C in the mountainous areas, so if you are travelling to the west and south coasts and hill stations, it’s best to visit between December to March. For the east coast, you can plan your trip between May to September.

 

Visa Information

If you are travelling from India to Sri Lanka, you need to have an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to your arrival in the country or on arrival. To apply for Sri Lanka Visa, you can visit www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/. It’s important to remember that an ETA for Sri Lanka tourism is issued only in the case of short business and tourist visits or transit purposes.

The Sri Lanka visa documents that are typically required for Indians travellers are:

  • Signed application form
  • One passport size photograph (in white background)
  • Passport with six months validity
  • Photocopy of the front and back pages of the passport
  • Confirmed returned flight tickets and hotel bookings for the duration of your trip
  • Original detailed bank statements for the last six months

The maximum stay for Indian tourists is 30 days. Further, the ETA visa will be valid only for a time period of 180 days from the date of application.

 

Typical Costs In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is not an expensive country and depending on the kind of experience you are looking for, Sri Lanka tourism has options for luxury as well as budget travellers. Let’s take a look at per day costs in the country.

Luxury travellers can spend up to Rs. 15,500 per day in the city including accommodation, sightseeing, water sports and eating out.

For travellers who are looking for a mid-budget trip, this cost can come down to Rs. 6500 a day including accommodation and food.

At the same time, budget travellers can spend as low as Rs. 900 a day and have a great time enjoying the beautiful country.

 

Transport In Sri Lanka

The growth in Sri Lanka tourism has boosted infrastructure and in turn has led to increased connectivity between the country’s cities. With an extensive network of trains, buses and tuk-tuks, you can travel around the country without any hassles.

 

Trains

Most of the important cities in Sri Lanka are connected by trains. In fact, if you want to enjoy the beauty of Sri Lanka, there are some scenic routes that you must try.

Cost: Train tickets can cost anywhere between Rs. 100 to Rs. 1000 depending on where you are going.

 

Buses

The country’s road network is quite strong and you’ll get a private as well as state-run bus at every major terminal. With elaborate bus routes, Sri Lanka tourism has made it easier for tourists to plan their trips keeping public transport in mind.

Cost: Rs. 50 to Rs. 800

 

Tuk Tuks

Tuk Tuks are a favourite with travellers. There are some places in Sri Lanka that let you drive the tuk-tuk on your own – an experience you shouldn’t miss if you have the opportunity. Cheaper than most transport options, the only disadvantage is that it isn’t the best option for long distances.
Cost: Rs. 30 to Rs. 150

Frequently Asked Questions about Sri Lanka Tourism

Where is the Sri Lanka airport located?

Bandaranaike International Airport is the main international airport in Sri Lanka. It is located in Katunayake, almost 30-km away from Colombo.

 

Which are the best beaches in Sri Lanka?

The pristine beaches of Sri Lanka have hugely contributed to the popularity of Sri Lanka tourism. The most popular ones are Unawatuna, Dickwella, Mirissa, Bentota and Galle. You can also try a variety of water sports at these beaches.

 

How much do Sri Lanka honeymoon packages cost?

The cost of honeymoon packages in Sri Lanka depends on the number of days you are travelling. Ranging from Rs. 15,000 for 3 days to Rs. 90,000 for 10 days, Sri Lanka tourism packages include accommodation, travel and activities in Sri Lanka.

 

What should Sri Lanka itinerary include?

Sri Lanka packs in a ton of experiences for travellers. Depending on your preferences, your Sri Lanka itinerary can drastically vary in comparison to fixed itineraries. However, among must-visit places which are part of Sri Lanka tourism, you must include Galle, Mirissa, Colombo and Bentota beach.

 

Where can I get a Sri Lanka map?

You can get a map for the country from any of the Sri Lanka tourism shops in Colombo.

 

Are there any flights operated by Sri Lankan airlines between India to Sri Lanka?

Yes. To positively contribute to Sri Lanka tourism, there are multiple flights operating between India and Sri Lanka. The cities that they operate in are Chennai, Trichy, Trivandrum, Mumbai, New Delhi, Gaya, Madurai, Varanasi, Kochi, Bangalore and Kolkata.    

 

How many days do I need for my Sri Lanka trip?

According to Sri Lanka tourism information, you will need at least 10 days to explore the beautiful country of Sri Lanka.

 

Where will I get the best Sri Lankan food?

Sri Lanka’s local cuisine is available everywhere in the country. A contributing factor to Sri Lanka tourism, you’ll find cafes and restaurants serving local cuisine in almost all the cities you visit. We recommend the busy city of Colombo for the best local cuisine.

 

Do Sri Lankans speak English?

The official language in Sri Lanka is Sinhala and Tamil, though English is spoken across the country as well. Used primarily for commercial purposes and Sri Lanka tourism, you will not face any language barriers in the country.

 

What is Sri Lanka currency?

The Sri Lankan currency is Sri Lankan Rupee with the abbreviation – LKR.

 

Is it possible to get an Ayurvedic treatment?

Yes, it is possible to get an ayurvedic treatment almost everywhere in Sri Lanka. We do advise to get the best recommendations from your resort or the office of Sri Lanka Tourism Board.

 

What kind of souvenirs can I buy from Sri Lanka?

Increasing Sri Lanka tourism and along with it the local economy, shopping in the country is a popular activity. Sri Lanka tourism is most well-known for its traditional souvenirs in the form of makara, which are animal figurines most commonly available in the shape of a lion, swan or elephant. You can also take back teas, lacquerware and semi-precious jewels. Remember to bargain and only pick up jewellery from approved Sri Lanka tourism shops.

 

What should I pack for my trip to Sri Lanka?

Packing for Sri Lanka is fairly convenient. Since the temperature is mostly tropical, you can take light cottons paired with scarves. Scarves also come in handy during visits to temples. If you are travelling to the mountainous region, it’s best to carry a few light woollens as well.

 

What are the best things to do in Sri Lanka?

Packing a bundle of experiences in one place, Sri Lanka tourism has prospered in the last decade. With snorkelling, surfing, Ayurveda, whale-watching and sailing – you are spoilt for choice. If you aren’t looking at an activity driven trip, you can also stick to relaxing on the beach.

 

Is there vegetarian food in Sri Lanka?

The staple diet in Sri Lanka comprises of lentils, roti and fresh vegetables grown locally. They love their green, leafy veggies with a hearty mix of coconut and it’s a part of almost every meal.

 

Can I find ATMs in Sri Lanka?

To make things convenient for tourists, Sri Lanka tourism has ensured that all major cities and towns in Sri Lanka have ATMs. At restaurants and hotels, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted.

 

What can I expect from Sri Lanka weather?

One of the reasons that Sri Lanka tourism has seen an increase is the pleasant climate the island offers. You can go anytime in the year and the country will welcome you with sunny skies and a gentle sea breeze.

 

Is Sri Lanka safe to travel?

In the last few years, Sri Lanka tourism has faced quite a few challenges. Despite these hardships, owing to the sincere efforts of Sri Lanka tourism board, it is quite safe to travel to the country. It is however recommended that you conduct a cursory search before you plan your Sri Lanka trip.

 

Can one witness traditional festivals in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is home to a number of religions, but the most prevalent is Buddhism. Every full moon night in Sri Lanka is a Buddhist public holiday, and most offices are closed. The most popular festival in the country is Kandy Esala Perahera, which is celebrated in Kandy. Observed from late July to early August for a period of 10 days, it is a procession of drummers, musicians, dancers, acrobats and robed elephants heading towards the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. To boost Sri Lanka tourism and the local economy, you can be a part of this festival as a spectator and enjoy the musical procession.

 

Which are the best places to visit in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is home to a number of beach towns, historic cities and hilly hamlets. Depending on your preference you can visit the popular cities of Galle, Mirissa, Nuwara Eliya, Trincomalee and Sigiriya to boost Sri Lanka tourism.

Written by Kirat Sodhi, an in-house Tripoto writer. Kirat is a proud mom of three cats and lives for lemon tea, a good book and spontaneous travel plans. Follow her to ignite your wanderlust. 

 

 

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