Blessed with beautiful beaches, lush jungle landscapes, incredible wildlife and awe-inspiring religious sites, it’s no surprise that Sri Lanka was named Lonely Planet’s number one destination to visit in 2019.
The so-called ‘Teardrop of India’ has enjoyed significant growth in tourism over the past decade, with travellers flocking to enjoy the natural and cultural splendour the country has to offer. However, the tragic events of the 2019 Easter terrorist attack may have left some reconsidering their travel.
As travellers, we can support this beautiful country in recovering from this harrowing chapter in its recent history. Watch the video below to see ten stunning reasons to visit Sri Lanka, and read more information on these attractions below.
1. Take a train over the Nine Arch Bridge
Why: An exhilarating view of the Sri Lankan jungle
The railway has become an iconic attraction for travellers in Sri Lanka, thanks to breathtaking sites like Ella’s Nine Arch Bridge. A vibrantly coloured train bending through the lush jungle as it crosses the bridge is a dramatic sight, and captures the sense of adventure that lures so many travellers to Sri Lanka.
The train from Ella to Kandy is one of the most picturesque routes in the country. On one end of the journey, you’ll find unbelievable natural beauty in Ella. On the other, you’ll meander through ancient temples in Kandy, including the fabled Temple of the Tooth. But the view of the jungle from the 30-metre high Nine Arch Bridge is hard to surpass anywhere in the subcontinent.
2. Witness the hatching of baby sea turtles
Why: A first-hand experience of Sri Lanka’s remarkable wildlife
Picture hundreds of newly-hatched sea turtles scurrying towards their new lives in the Indian Ocean - witnessing the birth of these magnificent creatures is truly an amazing scene to behold.
There’s no better place to experience the magic than in the small coastal town of Kosgoda in Sri Lanka’s south. The region is a prime nesting site, with green sea turtles laying their eggs year-round, especially from January to March.
There are several conservation projects open to the public in the area, like the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project and the Victor Hasselblad Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Centre, which prioritise the sustainable longevity of Sri Lanka’s marine life.
3. Learn how tea is produced
Why: An educational and aesthetic experience of old Ceylon
Where: Nuwara Eliya
Sri Lanka’s tea production was born in 1867, when a British planter named James Taylor arrived and identified its promising climate. Today, tea contributes over US $1.5 billion to the Sri Lankan economy each year, and is an important part of the country’s national identity.
Not only is Sri Lankan tea delicious to taste; the seas of rolling plantations are popular photo opportunities for travellers. Hotels like the Heritance Tea Factory even offer luxury accommodation converted from an old tea factory with fine dining, spas and complimentary tea plucking tours, so you can enjoy an immersive plantation experience high in the scenic Nuwara Eliya mountains.
4. Explore sacred ruins in Kandy
Why: Some of the oldest and most significant religious sites in the country
Kandy is home to some of the most important religious sites in Sri Lanka, like the Sacred Temple of the Tooth in the heart of the city. Officially known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, which has played an important role in Sri Lankan society for centuries. In fact, it’s believed that whoever holds the relic holds the authority over Sri Lanka’s governance.
There are countless other significant sites in Kandy, including Gadaladeniya, Embekke Devale and Lankathilaka Viharay; The Great Temple of the Kings built by the Gampola King in the 14th century. If temple-hopping is high on your Sri Lankan travel plan, there are few more awe-inspiring cities than Kandy.
5. Catch a wave on world class breaks
Why: Enjoy a vibrant and growing Sri Lankan surf culture
Where: Nation-wide depending on the season
Sri Lanka may not be the first place you associate with a surf trip. However, the country has a growing surf scene and a smattering of fantastic waves to test your skills. From December to March, the best beaches in Sri Lanka for surfing can be found in the south-west, like Weligama, Midigama and Hikkaduwa.
From May to September, Arugam Bay in the east of the country becomes a surfer’s paradise, with long reef-bottom breaks attracting thrill-seekers from all over the world.
6. Hike to an ancient palace carved from rock
Why: Stunning scenery and religious splendour
The Lion Rock, locally known as Sigiriya, is an impressive ancient rock fortress and significant historical site. According to ancient Sri Lankan history, the site was chosen by King Kashyapa as his new capital and the home of his palace, which included an imposing rock lion statue and colourful frescoes.
Today, Sigiriya attracts thousands of travellers every year, who come to explore the ruins of the King’s palace, wander through surrounding gardens and climb the 1,200 steps to the summit of the rock.
7. Discover pristine, golden, palm-fringed beaches
Why: A tropical oasis with boundless room to explore
Where: South-western, southern and eastern coasts
Far from the crowded shores of Waikiki or the bustling streets of Bondi, Sri Lanka’s beaches offer a more off-the-beaten-track appeal than your typical coastal holiday.
Popular tourist towns like Hikkaduwa in the south-west and Arugam Bay in the east do get busy, however, search a little further afield and you can find your own slice of palm-lined paradise.
8. Embrace wellness in picturesque surroundings
Why: Be inspired and energised by Sri Lanka’s tropical serenity
Where: Nation-wide, but particularly along the southern coastline and near Kandy
Looking for an overseas wellness retreat with a twist? Sri Lanka is dotted with suitable accommodations offering yoga, meditation, spas and more, like the popular Santani Resort near Kandy. The award-winning luxury retreat offers several wellness packages, including those tailored for weight loss, sleep and detox.
If you’re travelling on a tighter budget, you’ll find plenty of more affordable options along the southern coastline of Sri Lanka.
9. Get up close with wild elephants
Why: Experience the best of Sri Lanka’s wildlife
Where: Yala National Park
With wild elephants, leopards, monkeys, alligators and more, Sri Lanka can match it with almost anywhere in terms of majestic wildlife. Yala National Park in the country’s south-east is one of the the most popular places to observe these animals in their natural surroundings, and is the largest and most well-known reserve in the country.
Just two of the five zones in Yala are open to the public, and you’ll need to visit these with a licensed tour operator. The other three zones of the reserve are exclusively accessible by researchers and documentary filmmakers, lending to the feeling of a truly raw and unfiltered natural adventure.
10. Visit a flavourful food market
Why: A festival of scent and spice
Sri Lankan cuisine is a celebration of spice, seafood and traditional staples like curries and roti. Wander through the bustling streets of Colombo at lunch time, and you’ll be treated to a fanfare of flavours and smells, and the rhythmic preparation of kottu roti; the so-called ‘Sri Lankan fast food’.
Colombo is also home to many of the best food markets in the country, including the Petta Market and Good Market. Just remember your street food safety!
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