Staying true to its name, which means the resplendent island, Sri Lanka offers extraordinary experiences to fill your soul with great memories and bliss. A precious gem in the Indian Ocean, the country is amongst the top in the world for biodiversity and astounding natural landscapes. For years, travellers have passed overhead to someplace else but now, more and more people are discovering the irresistible charms of Sri Lanka.
Colombo, the capital city and bustling commercial hub of Sri Lanka, is the perfect launchpad of all the amazing adventures you want to experience in the country. As the biggest and most developed city, it offers a wide array of activities you can try before venturing out to the beautiful provinces. Enjoy bargain shopping in Pettah, bask in the sun on Mount Lavinia’s golden beach, visit the Gangaramaya Temple, or simply relax on Galle Face Green urban park whilst eating some shrimp fritters with a fresh lime juice.
With an intriguing history spanning over 3,000 years, Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage evident from the well-preserved ruins found in its hauntingly ancient cities listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The most famed of all is the sacred kingdom of Anuradhapura, the royal capital of 113 successive kings who built grand palaces, opulent gardens, and enormous Buddhist shrines. It is the home of the oldest living tree in the world, the Sacred Bo tree of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. You will also find here some of the world’s greatest Buddhist monuments including the Ruwanweliseya, Jetavanaramaya and Abhayagiri stupas. Another fascinating attraction is the ancient city and fortress of Sigiriya, also known as the Lion Rock, famous for the palace ruins on top of its massive rock dominating the lush jungle from all sides. When it comes to brilliantly preserved archaeological relics, Polonnaruwa is the best bet. Highlights of this incredible city include the Gal Viharaya sculptures, the shrine of Lankatilaka, and the ruins at the Sacred Quadrangle. Meanwhile, surrounded by lush greenery in the peaceful countryside, the large city of Kandy is known for Temple of the Tooth Relic where the sacred tooth of Buddha is kept. Another holy place you should not miss is in the humble town of Dambulla. Perched on a majestic hill on the edge of town, the Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple is the largest and best-preserved cave-temple complex in the country. Moving on towards Sri Lanka’s breathtaking coast, you will find Galle with its fortified old town. This coastal town’s Galle Fort showcases an amazing collection of colonial structures.
On top of its rich cultural heritage, Sri Lanka also boasts an impressively high rate of endemic species, making it one of the best places in the world to see and observe wildlife. The country is absolutely an exotic flora and fauna paradise! Enjoy sightings of wild elephants, leopards, colourful peacocks, sambar deer, water buffaloes, toque macaque monkeys, langurs and other rare species. The most popular wildlife sanctuaries to visit include Yala National Park, Udawalawe National Park, Kumana National Park, and Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Sri Lanka’s waters are also home to blue whales and dolphins. Dondra Point and Mirissa are some of the best locations to spot these amazing creatures.
Temples and elephants are just the tip of the iceberg! Sri Lanka’s beaches are also one of a kind. For a relaxing holiday away from the hustle and bustle, you may travel to the picture-perfect coastal areas of Unawatuna, Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Kalpitiya, Negombo and Tangalle. Laze under the sun and try thrilling water activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, parasailing and windsurfing. If you’re a surfing beast who came in search of the best waves, then the stunning Arugam Bay is the perfect place for you. While its long right-hand point break attracts surfers, its small, laid-back beach scene lures families and honeymooners for a wonderful time on the East Coast. The sleepy fishing town of Weligama is another great destination for beach lovers. The waves here are ideal for novice surfers and you will be amazed to see fishermen sitting on wooden poles, a couple of metres above the water, while skilfully targeting their fish.
The Hill Country
Travelling through Sri Lanka’s Hill Country is probably the closest you get to Nirvana. It is a breathtaking land made of emerald peaks and rolling hills draped in tea plantations. Enjoy a scenic rail journey between Nuwara Eliya and Ella, admiring panoramic views of forest-green mountain ranges; take an easy hike to Little Adam’s Peak; or drive across Kandy, watching out for every crashing waterfalls found in almost every bend of the road. Visit a tea plantation up in the hills of Baddegama or in Hatton and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed Ceylon tea to complete the experience.
When to visit
Sri Lanka is a tropical island nation dictated by two alternating monsoon seasons. Planning ahead is highly advisable so you know which part of the country is dry during your visit. Nevertheless, it can be seen as an all year-round holiday destination because clear blue skies and sunny days can be enjoyed even during the wet season.
High Season (December to March)
- The Hill Country and the west & south coast beaches are busiest and driest.
- The Maha monsoon season (October to January) keeps the East, North and ancient cities wet.
Shoulder (April and from September to November)
- April and September offer the best odds for good weather countrywide.
- A good time to wander without a set schedule.
Low Season (May to August)
- The Yala monsoon season (May to August) brings rain to the south and west coasts plus the Hill Country.
- The weather in the North and East is best.