From culture to history to wildlife, Sri Lanka offers everything you could possibly want from a holiday. There are areas to visit and things to do to suit every type of traveller, in fact, the biggest problem will be trying to squeeze everything into your itinerary!
If you’re not sure where to start holiday planning in Sri Lanka then you’re in the right place! Here’s a snapshot of the best things to do, see and experience in Sri Lanka.
1 – View jaw-dropping scenery everywhere you go
Sri Lanka is a lush green wonderland with some of the most spectacular landscapes, especially in the hill country. Here there is an abundance of hiking opportunities, including Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock, both of which will reward all of the efforts you put into the climb with an unparalleled view at the end. Alternatively, if relaxation is more your style, you can choose to enjoy the view from your hotel balcony. In Ella, many of the hotels are built high up on the hillsides overlooking the incredible Ella Gap. The danger is that you may end up so enamoured with the sight that the thought of leaving the hotel at all becomes a hardship!
An iconic attraction in Sri Lanka that you are sure to want to add to your itinerary is the trek to the breathtaking World’s End. One of the most popular sites in Horton Plains National Park, this is a sheer cliff with a drop of about 4000 feet… and there is no barrier! It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to look out at that view and feel like you really are at the edge of the earth.
2 – Ride the most scenic stretch of railway line in the world
Another highlight of any trip to Sri Lanka is a ride on the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella through the aforementioned hill country. Not only is the train journey a chance to get a glimpse into life in Sri Lanka and get acquainted with some of the friendly locals but it is also another opportunity to take in the stunning surroundings. As the tea plantations whizz past the window you will soon understand the reason that this stretch of the railway line is often referred to as the most scenic in the world.
Something else that makes this journey unique is the opportunity to experience train travel in a different way. You will notice people hanging out of the doorways and windows all along the train, as in the second and third classes there are no closed carriages. This means you need to shun the first-class air-conditioned carriage to get the best experience (and the best photographs!).
3 – Witness a unique ceremony at one of the holiest sites for Buddhists
The religious ceremony of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy is something that really has to be experienced rather than described. Imagine what seems like every person in Kandy in one room trying to catch a glimpse of a tiny gold box and you have an idea of what the viewing ceremony is like. While that might not sound like much fun, this is a very special experience to be a part of and something that is completely unlike anything else you’re ever likely to have the opportunity to take part in.
For that alone, it is an essential cultural activity to add to your itinerary. It is unforgettable and will leave you feeling like you have really experienced an important part of Sri Lankan culture.
4 – See some of the rarest animals on earth
Sri Lanka is a country that will delight wildlife enthusiasts but even those who don’t consider themselves in that category could not fail to be impressed by the sight of hundreds of elephants roaming only metres away from your jeep whilst on safari in Minneriya National Park. If you’re a fan of the less adorable specimens there’s also plenty to thrill you including crocodiles, eagles, monitor lizards, wild boar and buffalo, all of which you might spot on safari in Yala National Park.
As for the rarer appearances, if you’re lucky you may spy a sleepy sloth bear emerging from the bushes or even a leopard. Yala contains the highest density of wild leopards in the world so taking a safari there is statistically your best chance at ever seeing one! Then there are the animals you can see without even stepping foot into a jeep. Out and about on your day-to-day travels in Sri Lanka, you will soon come to know (and be wary of) the cheeky monkeys that run riot in most areas. Whilst snorkelling off the beach in Unawatuna there’s a good chance you’ll spot a turtle too!
5 – Relax on unspoilt beaches and explore an underwater paradise
Many of Sri Lanka’s beaches are largely unspoilt and if you’re smart about it you can almost entirely avoid other people. As an example, many tourists stay in Unawatuna but rather than frequent the beach there, if you take a tuk-tuk just 15 minutes down the road you’ll find pristine sand with almost nobody else around.
Whilst there are so many other amazing things to do in Sri Lanka that going for the sole purpose of a beach holiday (however amazing the beaches!) might seem a little bit of a waste, it is the perfect way to end an adventurous 2-week itinerary. There are plenty of watersports on offer to keep the more energetic traveller entertained and for the rest of us, we might like to enjoy a gentle snorkel with a sea turtle over the stunning coral reefs- bliss!