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The 10 Best Places to Go in Sri Lanka

Whether it’s adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion that you’re after, Sri Lanka promises endless experiences to satisfy every traveller’s needs. With hundreds of sights to see on this tear-drop-shaped island, we’ve narrowed things down to the ten best places to go in Sri Lanka. Each offers a unique glimpse into the nation’s natural beauty, ancient heritage, and vibrant communities, to ensure an adventurous and unforgettable journey for all.


1. Kitulgala Rainforest: White Water Rafting

Adventure seekers? Kitulgala rainforest is for you! Aside from its breathtaking scenes of waterfalls, streams, and luscious flora and fauna, this forest reserve offers the very best white-water rafting experiences – making this a great place to go in Sri Lanka for the adrenaline junkies. Take on the Kelani River, navigating exhilarating rapids amidst the stunning jungle scenery. Whether you are a novice or an experienced rafter, Kitulgala offers an exciting adventure for all difficulty levels. After conquering the river, bask in the satisfaction of completing the journey and immerse yourself in the pristine rainforest surroundings.


2. Hatton to Ella: Scenic Train Journey

No visit to Sri Lanka is truly complete without hopping on board the train from Hatton to Ella – more commonly known as the most beautiful train journey in the world. Pass through local tea plantations, verdant forests, misty mountains, and picturesque valleys as the train meanders through the very best of rural Sri Lanka. With breathtaking views of waterfalls, villages, and terraced hillsides from the comfort of your carriage, there is no better way to appreciate the enchanting beauty of Sri Lanka’s countryside than with this iconic train ride.


3. Weligama Bay: Surf Lesson

Famous for having some of the finest waves in the world, Sri Lanka’s southern waters offer the perfect opportunity for travellers who want to try their hand at surfing. Is this you? Look no further than Weligama Bay – one of the best places to go in Sri Lanka for surfing. With skilled instructors at the ready, learn the basics of surfing and enjoy the rush as you catch your first wave against a backdrop of golden sands, turquoise waters, and the occasional turtle from time to time. After, kick back on a sun lounger and relish in the hustle and bustle of this quaint surfers’ town. You never know, you might leave Sri Lanka as a surfing pro!

4. Ella: Ella Rock Sunrise Hike

Ella – one of Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist destinations and a prime hotspot for hiking lovers! If you’re wondering how to make your visit a truly memorable experience, why not try a sunrise hike to Ella Rock, followed by a plunge swim at Ravana Falls? Though an early start is required, this will not be without the reward of stunning views! You will be met at the top by a sea of rolling mountain landscapes and valleys, all glowing golden as the sun rises over the horizon – a truly unforgettable moment. Accompanied by an array of other wholesome activities, such as yoga in the mountains, Sri Lankan cooking lessons, or yet more hikes around these stunning landscapes, Ella is ‘up there’ as a great place to go in Sri Lanka.


5. Udawalawe National Park: Jeep Safari

Not short on its diverse range of wildlife, embarking on a jeep safari is a must-do activity, and Udalawalawe National Park is one of the best places to go in Sri Lanka for this. Home to a thriving population of elephants, the park offers great opportunities to get up close with these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Along the way, explore the park’s diverse landscapes, from open grasslands to dense forests, and encounter a range of wildlife, including water buffalo, deer, crocodiles, and numerous bird species.

6. Dambulla: Temple Cave Complex

If exploring the nation’s rich cultural heritage is high on your list, then Dambulla Temple Cave Complex is one of the best places to go in Sri Lanka. Positioned atop a rocky outcrop, this UNESCO World Heritage Site features five intricate caves, built over 2000 years ago, housing over 150 stunning Buddha statues and paintings depicting Buddhist mythology. Step outside, and the site offers panoramic views of the surrounding flatlands, including Sigiriya’s rock fortress.


7. Sigiriya: Hike the Rock Fortress

Speaking of which… Renowned as one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites – the ancient city of Sigiriya makes it into our top 10 best places to go in Sri Lanka. Home to mesmerising frescoes, gardens, and ruins of the capital built by King Kashyapa I during the reign of 477 – 495, the ancient rock fortress is a must-visit whilst visiting the city. Ascend steep staircases and winding pathways to reach the top, where the 5th-century palace ruins await against a backdrop of panoramic views of the surrounding lowlands.


8. Galle: Explore the Fort

Known as the nation’s busiest southern city and home to another captivating UNESCO World Heritage site, Galle Fort City, Galle is in our top 10 best places to go in Sri Lanka. The fort, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, is a phenomenal historic feature that demonstrates the interaction between architectural styles and South Asian traditions. The fort ramparts, including a lighthouse, clock tower, houses, churches, and other various buildings, are well-preserved – most now playing host to chic restaurants, private villas, boutiques, and guesthouses – without, of course, compromising on the authenticity of the fort. After exploring the city, finalise your day by watching the golden sunset on the fort’s ramparts.

9. Knuckles Mountain Range: Manigala Trail Hike

Nestled in central Sri Lanka, in the districts of Matale and Kandy, Knuckles Mountain Range is renowned for its unique recumbent folds and peaks that resemble (yep, you guessed it) the knuckles of a clenched fist. Boasting breathtaking vistas of lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic mountain views, this mountain range is a great place to go in Sri Lanka for a hike. The Manigala Trail, suitable for hikers of all levels, winds through diverse landscapes – dense jungle and rocky paths – culminating at the summit of Manigala Peak for spectacular views.


10. Negombo: Local Fish Market

Looking for an authentic taste of Sri Lankan fishing culture? There’s no better place than Negombo’s local fishing market. Located in a bustling coastal town by the Indian Ocean, this market is alive with, none other than, the banter of proud fishermen! Witness the daily auction of fresh catches, including prawns, crabs, and a variety of local fish. With a fishing culture that has thrived here for centuries, Negombo is the best place to go in Sri Lanka to get a taste of true authenticity.


Whether you are looking to sap up the best of traditional Sri Lankan culture, get your teeth stuck into adrenaline-pumping water sports, or discover some of the best wildlife in the world – Sri Lanka has it all! So, are you ready?

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