Sri Lanka is a captivating travel destination, it is modest in size but bursting with culture, wildlife, rolling green scenery, and welcoming locals. With tourism growing fast on this small island nation, it’s a great time to visit! Here are our top 8 experiences we think you just shouldn’t miss!
Experience Sri Lanka’s Elephants:
Wild elephants often come to mind when I think of Sri Lanka, and rightly so as they truly roam free; making for some stunning photo opportunities. I came close to these gentle giants a few times during my travels through Sri Lanka; once with a lone male elephant drinking at a lake’s edge, and another time I was lucky to witness a herd of 15 – 20 elephants crossing a four-lane highway, patiently waiting on the side of the road for a clear gap in the infrequent traffic whilst they constantly grazed on trees and shrubs.
Experience Sri Lanka’s abundant wildlife:
The abundance of wildlife doesn’t stop with the elephants; leopards, sloth bears, crocodiles, spotted deer and mongoose can be seen at Wilpattu National Park in the north-west. You can stroll through the rainforest at Sinharaja National Park in the south amongst the lush green tropical forest which holds a variety of colourful bird life, exotic animals and screeching monkeys. Last, but not least, there’s a splash of dolphin and whale spotting at Kalpitiya in the north-west, where you can explore Sri Lanka’s largest lagoon with deep mangrove forests and dolphins aplenty. Blue whales, sperm whales, orcas and dolphins can be seen between November and April in Mirissa in the south.
See Sri Lanka by train:
Sri Lanka boasts some excellent train journeys through stunning landscapes. Two of my favourites include along the coast from the capital Colombo and south to the coastal colonial town of Galle. Secondly, the eleven-hour train from Colombo through the central highlands to Badulla. This journey passes by the famous nine arch bridge between Ella and Damodara. This bridge is famously said to have been built with solid rocks, bricks, cement and only one piece of steel, as apparently the steel assigned to this project was used up for World War I efforts.
Experience Sri Lanka’s stunning beaches:
There are spectacular beaches dotted all over Sri Lanka, with some absolute tropical gems on the northeast coast in Trincomalee and Nilaveli. Sri Lanka offers beach lovers the picture perfect, postcard-worthy, palm-fringed shoreline, with white sands and clear turquoise water beaches. The beaches in the south and east of the island are also special for their recovery from the destruction and loss of life caused by the 2004 Tsunami.
Experience Sri Lanka’s local people:
When reminiscing of my time spent in Sri Lanka I immediately think of the friendly locals I met along the way; assisting me at train stations, telling me of their personal experience and loss from the tsunami or enquiring about life in the UK, and of course a heap of friendly cricket banter. One memorable experience that I have to share when I saw a collective of local fisherman who was dragging up a huge net of fish, they had a fire on the beach and were cooking a selection of their fresh catch. They insisted I stop and eat with them, fish straight from the ocean, you couldn’t get any fresher!
Experience Sri Lanka’s ancient kingdoms:
The Sinhalese Kingdom ruled Sri Lanka from 543BC to 1815 and left behind some very impressive sights. The most inspiring, Sigiriya, a 200-metre high rock fortress in central Sri Lanka. An ancient King who ruled the Kingdom built a palace and small city on top of the rock, with a giant lion forming a gateway on the side. Many impressive murals decorate the walls and the views from the top over the surrounding water gardens, terraced gardens and countryside are truly spectacular.
Experience Adam’s Peak at sunrise:
The tough climb to Adam’s Peak in central Sri Lanka to witness the magical sunrise and views deserves a special mention and shouldn’t be missed. Known for the Sri Pada, or sacred footprint located at the top, it is special to the Sri Lankan’s as it is believed to hold the footprint of Buddha in the Buddhist tradition, Shiva for the Hindus and Adam for the Christians. At a height of 2,243 metres, after 5,500 steps (around 2.5 – 3.5 hours) you’ll reach the top where a Buddhist shrine sits. Truly the most stunning and magical sunrise I’ve experienced to date!
Experience Sri Lanka’s cuisine and culture in an authentic homestay:
A cultural homestay is a really authentic way to experience daily life in Sri Lanka. With our At Home in the Curry Kitchen trip, you’ll not only do exactly that but also discover and learn the secrets of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. You’ll visit the local markets and fully prepare and cook the selection of dishes with your homestay owner; you’ll be leaving with an arsenal of new sub-continent curries and dishes to cook at home. It’s an experience that will let you gain a deeper understanding of Sri Lanka’s past, and how their recent events of civil war and the 2004 tsunami have made the Sri Lankan’s such a resilient and spirited group.