Sri Lanka Guide – the Emerald of the Indian Ocean
Sri Lanka has been attracting visitors for centuries with its diverse wildlife, lush tea plantations and kilometres of white-sand beaches. This country with great religious diversity is home to several ancient Buddhist sites, splendid Hindu temples and impressive Colonial era buildings. Thanks to its complex history, the culture of Sri Lanka is truly unique and openminded. The people are welcoming and friendly. Home to the most spectacular train ride in the world, it really has it all. It’s an ideal place to travel with backpacks, solo or for a family trip. In this guide is a list of things you cannot miss while traveling around Sri Lanka.
Guide to the Best Spots of Sri Lanka
Spot Wild Elephants in one of the National Parks
Sri Lanka is the best place to see those incredible creatures in their natural habitat. Go on safari in one of the National Parks: Kaudulla National Park, Udawalawe National Park or Yala National Park. You can witness the beauty of the wildlife: not only elephants can be spotted durning a safari in Sri Lanka. You can also see leopards, sloth bears and many other animals.
Hike up to 220 m High Diyaluma Falls
It’s the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and a great way to spend a day. The hike isn’t hard and on top of the waterfall are many natural pools you can refresh in. As its not the most popular attraction yet, the chance is you will get the whole site to yourself!
Visit the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella
With a small 30-min walk though the jungle from Ella, you will reach a piece of beautiful architecture that is hidden between lush green tea fields. It’s a great thrill to walk on the edge of this bridge. Specially that the railway is working and trains are passing here few times a day.
Train Ride Kandy- Ella
Hands down- its the main reason we have decided to visit Sri Lanka. We were absolutely astonished by this train ride. It’s a long ride of 7 hours. However the journey passes in no-time. The train goes next to incredible rice fields and mountains. You can also can hang off the slowly moving train feeling the wind in your hair. If you are following this guide, this is an absolute must while in Sri Lanka!
Beach Swing in Unawatuna
A trip to Sri Lanka wouldn’t be complete without the swing at the palm trees on the south coast of Unawatuna. It’s such a fun feeling that you want to do it more then once for sure! The swing is located on Dalawella Beach, in front of Dream Cabana.
Galle Fort and Old Town
With excellent examples of colonial architecture and well preserved fortifications, Galle Fort is an atmospheric place to wander around. Located in the heart of the old town, the old Dutch quarter from the 18th century is now transformed into cafes, shops and restaurants. It’s a great place for lunch and stroll.
Visit the Tea Plantations
Sri Lanka was once known as Celyon- there comes a name of tea leaves that till this day are grown here. 4% of the country’s land area is covered with tea plantations. Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea exporters in the world. Wandering through tea plantations in the Hill Country is one of the most incredible things you can do here. There are tea plantations basically everywhere in Sri Lanka and especially around Ella and the mountain region, but we would guide you to go to Nuwara Eliya to find the best ones!
Climb Sigiriya Lion Rock
Lion Rock is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sights in Sri Lanka, and a must visit. This 200m high rock looking over the surrounding jungle looks like it has been placed here on purpose, but it really is just a natural wonder. The fortress on top of the Rock that once used to be astonishing royal palace, today is composed of walls, stairs and water ponds.
Hike to the Top of Pidurangala Rock at Sunset
This hike can be an alternative to climbing Lion Rock if you want to skip the crowds. However, we recommend doing both- Pidurangala Rock is a great place to watch the sunset. The way up is easy at the beginning and takes about 30 min. Towards the end you need to climb up a few rocks and pass narrow spaces. Thus you should be in minimal good condition to do this hike. The views over the Lion Rock are absolutely worth it.
↬ Read : Hike Pidurangala Rock at Sunset
Touch the Clouds on Little Adam’s Peak
The most popular hike in Ella, Little Adams Peak is a great activity for nearly everybody. The hike is easy takes about 2 hours and the views are breathtaking. Do not worry if the weather isn’t perfectly clear the day you plan the hike. We went up while it was drizzling and ended up in the clouds right on top of the mountain. It was just an incredible experience. For a while we couldn’t see anything and then the clouds cleared below us leaving us with mouths open looking at this astonishing view. If you want more and are up for a bigger challenge, you should definitely hike Ella Rock. You won’t regret it!
↬ Read : Hike Little Adam’s Peak in Ella
Visit the Ancient City Ruins of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa was established in the 11th century and its well-preserved ruins are considered as the highlight of the The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Get lost in its vast complex of ruins and impressive dagobas by spending a day in this incredible site.
Relax on the Beach on the South Coast
Sri Lanka has kilometers long, white sand beaches. The best resort towns are located on the south coast of the country. Spend few days in Mirissa or Unawatuna and enjoy relax moments by the ocean. Mirissa is also the best spot to go ethically whale watching!
Sri Lanka has also great surf conditions for most of the year, you can give it a try while there.
Visit Temple of the Tooth in Kandy
One of the most important Buddhist Temples, The Temple of the Tooth is also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa in Sri Lanka. Monks daily visit the temple and many rituals take place throughout the day.
Once a year in August there is a famous festival held here: Esala Perahera. We were planning to stay for the celebration. However we decided to leave earlier not to participate in something that- even if has long tradition- is harmful towards the animals.
Visit Dambulla Cave Temples
The beautifully painted cave temples of Dambulla date back to 1st century BC and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This impressive temple complex carved directly into the mountain is comprised of 5 caves. All of them house statues of Buddha in various sizes.
Try Ayurveda, Sri Lanka’s traditional form of medicine
Translated as “science of life” this form of medicine uses plants, herbs and oils in it’s treatments. It works on the theory that the body is ruled by 3 dosas: vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth). There are many spots to get a good Ayurveda treatments in Sri Lanka. But if you are in Unawatuna, try those ones.