Things to do in Sri Lanka that no tourist can miss out onby Pancho Barranco | June 3, 2020
There is a reason why Sri Lanka is often referred to as The Pearl of the Indian Ocean. With the highest biodiversity in Asia and a permanent tropical weather, the island attracts all types of tourists and travelers all year long. There are plenty of things to do in Sri Lanka, from walking among elephants, swimming with whales, diving into the island’s rich colonial history to visiting vibrant modern cities.
Located on top of the Indian ocean, by the southern tip of India, this island-nation offers the perfect combination of pristine beaches, ancient temples, wildlife, nature, culture, pleasure, and adventure.
All foreign tourists are obliged to comply with the entry requirements for Sri Lanka. If you are planning to visit the country, you will need a Sri Lanka ETA that you can obtain online on Visagov.com. The ETA Visa enables you to visit Sri Lanka for up to 30 days.
Keep reading to discover some of the top things to do in Sri Lanka, and the typical activities of some important cities.
Things to do in Sri Lanka
Although relatively small in size, there are many things to do in Sri Lanka. It is recommended to plan your trip in advance so you make the most out of your experience. These are some of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.
Climb the Sigiriya rock-top fortress
A UNESCO world heritage site, the fortress itself constitutes one of the most important urban planning projects of the first millennium. The summit of the rock-top fortress will unveil astonishing views of the vast and densely forested woodlands around it.
See elephants at Uda Walawe national park
If you visit Sri Lanka for the wildlife, Uda Walawe will not disappoint. Home to wild buffalos, sambars, deer and more than 400 elephants, its scattered vegetation is perfect to spot the animals while exploring the beauty of the park.
Explore the beaches on the south coast of Sri Lanka
Did you know that one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka is going to the beach? The southern coast of the country is home to some of the best in Sri Lanka. The small size of the island makes distances very accessible and the hundreds of beaches along the south coast are easy to find.
From Kandy to Ella, enjoy one of the most scenic train rides of the world
Famous for its breathtaking landscapes, Sri Lanka is best enjoyed on a train across the central countryside. This 5-hour train ride is for those who want to explore their adventurer side and an off the beaten path experience with the locals.
Explore Sri Lanka's Highlands
From colonial tea plantations to stunning waterfalls and breathtaking hikes, Sri Lanka’s vast highlands have everything you could ever expect from the rural countryside area of this fascinating island.
Things to do in Colombo
Colombo’s key location in the Indic ocean made it one of the most important ports during colonial times for centuries. The Portuguese, Dutch, and British empires shaped the island’s culture, architecture, and economy. Colombo is the best place to appreciate Sri Lanka’s colonial past and vibrant present, one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.
Get lost in the bustling streets of Colombo
There is no better way to grasp a city’s essence than walking its busy streets. Admire the vivid color signs of stores and restaurants and watch locals come and go on their daily chores.
Try Sri Lanka's street food
Don't miss out on the amazing street food in the city, one of the greatest things to do in Colombo. The Galle Face area is famous for having the best street food stalls. Some traditional bites you can’t miss are the tasty Kottu rice and the Hoppers.
Explore the Gangaramaya temple
One of the largest Buddhist temples on the island, this is one of the best things to do in Colombo. Both an education center and a museum, the temple and its surrounding areas are a must-see.
Visit the Pettah market
One of the most authentic markets in the city, the Pettah market will activate all your senses. Dive into a mix of colors, smells, and vegetables of all shapes and sizes while you watch locals buy produce.
Soak up the island's history at the Colombo National Museum
The largest museum in Sri Lanka is something you can’t miss either if you’re interested in the island’s fascinating history. The building itself is already worth a visit.
Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
See the tea fields: Halpewatte Tea Factory and Lipton’s Seat
One of Sri Lanka’s main exports is tea, and you can explore the lush tea fields in two different locations: the Halpewatte Tea Factory and Lipton’s Seat. Their origins can be traced back to Sir Thomas Lipton, a Scottish tea producer, famous for the Lipton Ice Tea.
You’ll be able to learn about Ceylon tea and take advantage of the tea tasting offered in the factory. Lipton’s seat also offers stunning views of the surrounding fields.
Take a dip in Ella’s stunning waterfalls
This beautiful island country offers its visitors the chance to cool off in one of its many waterfalls. If you visit Ella, the best waterfalls to visit are the Ravana, Diyaluma (the second-highest in the country!) and Ellawala falls.
See the Nine Arch Bridge
Walking across the Nine Arch Bridge is one of the most iconic things to do in Sri Lanka. Built when the country was under British rule, the best time of the day to enjoy the amazing panoramic views is at sunrise.
Trek to Ella Rock
One of the amazing things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka is trekking to Ella Rock. It takes about 2 to 3 hours. You can enjoy a picnic along the way while admiring the beautiful natural sights.
It’s recommended to do this activity accompanied by a local guide who knows the hiking trail well because it lacks the appropriate signposting.
Visit the Dhowa Rock Temple
This temple, also known as Rajamaha Viharaya, was built around 2000 years ago. It’s one of the most famous things to do in Sri Lanka because of the paintings and sculptures that line the walls of the temple.
It used to be a sanctuary for King Walagamba, who is rumored to have been an art lover responsible for most of the rock paintings still seen today.
Things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Walk in the Kandy Lake area
Kandy Lake is an artificial lake built in 1807, and it constitutes one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka for travelers looking to relax in beautiful places. You can walk around the 2 km long pathway, sit down and admire the surrounding natural beauty, or even book a boat to sail across the lake.
Visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
The Temple Of Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa) is one of the most famous things to do in Sri Lanka and a very important pilgrimage spot for Buddhists.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this temple is supposed to have one of Buddha’s teeth in a golden casket, which explains why it’s considered the most sacred place in Sri Lanka.
Walk through the Udawattakele Forest Reserve
Sri Lanka is a paradise for nature lovers, and this attraction is one of the many reasons why. The enormous Udawattakele Forest Reserve is perfect for wildlife spotting (especially birds), but the vegetation is just as exciting (the giant lianas!).
Enjoy the Royal Botanical Garden of Peradeniya
The largest garden in Sri Lanka, it used to be exclusively for the use of the royal family of Kandy until the British turned it into Botanic Gardens in 1821.
It’s most famous for its more than 4000 species of plants, particularly for the orchids. Interestingly, there are also medicinal plants and spices being grown in the garden.
Experience an authentic Kandy dance show
Kandy is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and, as such, it’s no surprise that it offers some of the best cultural activities you’ll be able to enjoy in the island.
If you have the time, try to see a Kandy Cultural Dance Show, the national dance of Sri Lanka. This type of performance serves as an educational tool about the culture and traditions of the island, its legends and history.