Sri Lanka, known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” is a land of extraordinary beauty. Its allure lies in its remarkable diversity. Along its coastline, you’ll discover idyllic beaches with soft golden sands, swaying palms, and the warm embrace of the Indian Ocean. Inland, the country transforms into a verdant paradise with emerald tea plantations carpeting rolling hills, misty mountains offering breathtaking views, and tranquil lakes reflecting the lush surroundings.
Dense forests and national parks shelter a rich array of wildlife, from majestic elephants to elusive leopards. Ancient cities like Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa whisper tales of a glorious past through their ancient ruins and sacred temples. All of this is intertwined with the warmth and hospitality of the Sri Lankan people, making it a destination of unparalleled beauty and charm.
List of 8 best things to do in Sri Lanka in 2023
1. the Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Visiting the Sigiriya Rock Fortress is a captivating journey into Sri Lanka’s ancient history and natural beauty. This UNESCO World Heritage site, often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” is an architectural marvel and a testament to the ingenuity of the ancient Sinhalese civilization.
To embark on this adventure, start at the Sigiriya Museum to gain insights into the site’s historical significance. As you ascend the rock, you’ll encounter the famous frescoes and exquisite paintings that provide a glimpse into the artistic skills of the era. The Mirror Wall, once polished to a mirror-like finish, still bears ancient inscriptions.
2. Explore the Dambulla Cave Temples
Exploring the Dambulla Cave Temples in Sri Lanka is a profound and visually stunning experience that offers a deep dive into the country’s religious and artistic heritage. These cave temples, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, are a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important cultural landmarks in Sri Lanka.
The complex consists of five caves, each uniquely adorned with intricate statues, murals, and religious artifacts. These caves have served as places of worship for over two millennia, making them one of the oldest and best-preserved cave temple complexes in the world.
3. Go on a safari in Yala National Park
Embarking on a safari in Yala National Park, located in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka, is an exhilarating adventure through some of the island’s most untamed and pristine landscapes. As one of Sri Lanka’s premier wildlife sanctuaries, Yala is renowned for its remarkable biodiversity and offers a rare chance to encounter a variety of fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.
During your safari, you’ll navigate through diverse ecosystems, from arid plains to lush forests, and encounter an array of wildlife. Yala is particularly famous for its population of elusive leopards, making it one of the best places in the world to spot these majestic big cats. Additionally, you can observe elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, and a plethora of bird species, making it a haven for birdwatchers.
4. Spend a few days in Kandy
Spending a few days in Kandy, Sri Lanka promises a delightful blend of cultural immersion, scenic beauty, and historical exploration. Visit the revered Sri Dalada Maligawa, or the Temple of the Tooth Relic, where a sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is enshrined. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a hub of spiritual significance and architectural grandeur.
Stroll through the enchanting Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, which showcases an impressive collection of orchids, giant bamboo, palm trees, and more. It’s a tranquil spot for nature lovers. Take a leisurely walk around Kandy Lake, known as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk. The lake offers serene views and a pleasant atmosphere. Attend a traditional Kandyan dance performance to witness the city’s vibrant culture through music, dance, and elaborate costumes.
5. Take a train ride from Kandy to Ella
Taking a train ride from Kandy to Ella is not just a mode of transportation; it’s an enchanting journey through some of Sri Lanka’s most breathtaking landscapes. The train journey offers unparalleled views of lush green tea plantations, misty hills, dense forests, and cascading waterfalls. The scenery is nothing short of spectacular, especially as the train winds its way through the Central Highlands.
Along the way, the train makes stops at charming stations like Nuwara Eliya, known for its colonial architecture, and Haputale, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding hills. While the train journey is rustic and slow-paced, it’s incredibly comfortable. You can choose between first, second, or third-class tickets, and the carriages are equipped with wide windows for unobstructed views.
6. Go hiking in Ella
Hiking in Ella, Sri Lanka is a thrilling outdoor adventure that takes you through some of the country’s most mesmerizing landscapes. Embark on a trek to Ella Rock, one of the most popular hiking destinations in Sri Lanka. The trail winds through lush tea plantations, dense forests, and open grasslands. Upon reaching the summit, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of Ella Gap, Little Adam’s Peak, and the surrounding countryside.
For a shorter but equally rewarding hike, head to Little Adam’s Peak. The trail is relatively easy and takes you through tea plantations and serene landscapes. At the summit, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Ella and the surrounding hills. For a more challenging trek, consider hiking to Bambaragala Peak. This less-visited trail leads you through thick forests and rocky terrain to a secluded peak where you can relish uninterrupted vistas of the area.
7. Visit the Galle Fort
Visiting the Galle Fort in Sri Lanka is like stepping back in time to a world of colonial charm, historic significance, and captivating architecture. Galle Fort, also known as the Dutch Fort, is a living testament to the island’s colonial history. Built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later fortified by the Dutch, it has stood for centuries as a strategic stronghold.
Wander through cobbled streets lined with well-preserved colonial-era buildings. You’ll encounter charming Dutch-style villas, British-era mansions, and Portuguese-influenced churches. The architecture is a blend of European and South Asian influences. Stroll along the fort’s massive stone walls and ramparts, which offer stunning views of the Indian Ocean. It’s an ideal spot to catch a breathtaking sunset.
8. Learn to surf in Hikkaduwa
Learning to surf in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka is an exciting and memorable experience. Hikkaduwa boasts long stretches of sandy beaches with warm, turquoise waters. The sandy bottom and gentle waves near the shore make it an ideal place for beginners to practice surfing. Numerous surf schools and instructors are available in Hikkaduwa, offering lessons for surfers of all skill levels. You can easily find a reputable school to get started.
You’ll start with on-land lessons, where instructors teach you the basics of paddling, balance, and proper techniques. Once you’re comfortable, you’ll progress to catching small waves. Hikkaduwa offers consistent surf conditions throughout the year, making it suitable for both beginners and more experienced surfers.
Sri Lanka offers a mesmerizing tapestry of experiences that cater to a diverse range of interests and preferences. From exploring ancient temples and historic forts to embarking on thrilling safaris through lush wilderness, Sri Lanka’s cultural richness and natural beauty are bound to captivate travelers. The country’s pristine beaches, scenic train journeys, and opportunities for outdoor adventures like hiking and surfing add layers of excitement to any itinerary.