Discover 14 things to do and see absolutely in Sri Lanka

Why go to Sri Lanka?

During my two weeks visiting Sri Lanka , I was surprised to meet a very large number of French people there (the majority of travelers who go there, it seems!).

But what attracts all the tourists there? Sri Lanka is a country that offers a wide variety of things to do and see in a compact territory , as you can discover in this list. No wonder travelers return regularly, even though the country was scarred by the 2004 tsunami and civil war until 2009.

Be careful, however, to plan your trip to Sri Lanka well and to define your priorities, because even if the costs of transport, food and accommodation are very cheap, the prices of the activities are quite high for those on a ‘backpacker’ budget. ‘, in particular the entrances to archaeological sites such as Sigiriya or Polonnaruwa .

When to go to Sri Lanka?

The high season is from January to April. The climate is a little complicated given the topography of the country, but even if you come during the monsoon it does not rain all day: the showers are strong, but of short duration. Also, there will always be a part of the island that will be sunny during this season.

There are also other things to take into account when visiting Sri Lanka, such as holidays, national holidays etc… booking in advance is a must in high season.

Be careful if you plan to go to the mountainous regions, remember to take warm clothing because it is generally cool and humid there.Remember to book your hotel in Sri Lanka now on 

What to see and do in Sri Lanka? the Top 14

1 – Take the train

what to do in sri lanka

Taking the train is one of the activities not to be missed in Sri Lanka: it is the preferred means of transport because it is much more comfortable and safe than a bus trip, and you can admire superb landscapes. There are three must-do routes: Colombo to Kandy , Kandy to Badulla  via Nuwara Eliya (one of the most beautiful in the world according to the Guide du Routard ), and the one along the coast from Colombo to Galle .

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2 – Kandy and the temple of the tooth of Buddha

what to visit in sri lanka

Kandy is the second largest city in the country after Colombo . You can discover several things there: the temple of the tooth, an important place for the Buddhists of Sri Lanka because it houses a relic of Buddha. Don’t miss a traditional dance show, take a walk around the lake (spot the monitor lizards), visit the botanical garden of Peradeniya, and the elephant orphanage (there are two: pinnawala and millenium ).

3 – Sigiriya

what to do in sri lanka

Located in the very center of the country, it is certainly the most famous tourist attraction in Sri Lanka : the Sigiriya lion fortress, perched at the top of an immense rock. You can admire magnificent murals (the ‘ damsels of Sigiriya ‘). A place not to be missed in Sri Lanka, despite the prohibitive entrance price (30 USD).

4 – Polonnaruwa

what to see absolutely in sri lanka

A former capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can see ancient royal palaces, huge stupas and temples. This place is also known for its huge Buddha statues. The entrance fee is expensive (25 USD!) but this is in my opinion another place not to be missed in Sri Lanka .

5 – Anuradhapura

what to visit in sri lanka

The first capital of Sri Lanka which was the seat of Sinhalese power for almost 1000 years and abandoned, it is much older than Polonnaruwa (and less well preserved). Like the latter, it is best explored by bike.

6 – Dambulla

What to see in Sri Lanka

The Dambulla Caves are an important place in Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heritage . They house sculptures and statues of Buddha in various positions as well as ancient murals. This site is not very far from Sigiriya.

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7 – Beaches

must see sri lanka

Sri Lanka has very beautiful beaches, especially in the south and east of the country. If you are looking for a quiet place go to Trincomalee , which was very affected by the 2004 tsunami. You can also snorkel there at Pigeon Island . To the south, don’t miss Unawatuna near the town of Galle. Beware, however, of the currents which can be very dangerous (ask the locals before going swimming).

8 – Visit the tea plantations

things to do in sri lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the largest producers of tea in the world, which was brought from China by the British in 1824. Don’t miss Ella , an old colonial village in the heart of the hills and important place of the tea trade. You can also admire the tea plantations and discover how it is marketed in Nuwara Eliya and Haputale (where Thomas Lipton developed the tea trade).

9 – Galle

to see in Sri Lanka

Another world heritage site, Galle is a former Dutch colony where you can discover old colonial buildings (forts, villas, churches, etc.).

10 – Adam’s Peak

what to visit in sri lanka

Sri Lanka ‘s highest mountain is also an important place of pilgrimage for the island’s Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. You have to get there early to see the sunrise, after climbing 4800 steps to the top. No need to be an experienced hiker but better to be in good physical shape.

11 – See dolphins and whales (Mirissa)

things to do in sri lanka

There are two places in Sri Lanka where to see whales and other marine animals: Towards Trincomalee, in the East, and especially in Mirissa, in the South of the country (near Galle). From there you may be lucky enough to see the largest animal in the world , the blue whale. You can sometimes see dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and even killer whales.

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12 – National parks

visit sri lanka

Sri Lanka has many national parks, but if you only have to see one go to Yala National Park . It is the one that is home to the largest concentration of leopards in the world. You can also see crocodiles, monitor lizards, birds, deer…

Other national parks to see are: Minneriya NP (for elephants), Udawalawe NP , Bundala NP and Wilpattu NP (where there are also leopards).

13 – Horton’s Plains et World’s End

visit sri lanka

wild and silent moor often hidden in the fog, located at an altitude of 2000 meters, and which is home to a wide variety of fauna and flora (elephants, deer, etc.). It is 20 km from Nuwara Elliya. Be careful, it can get very cold there. In the southern part is World’s End , where the plain drops nearly 700 meters vertically.

14 – Diving and surfing

sri lanka august

Not as popular as its famous neighbor (the Maldives), Sri Lanka nevertheless has many diving spots that you can explore (wrecks, coral reefs). You can also pass your PADI diving certificate there .

For surf lovers, go to Hikkaduwa  or Arugam Bay which are well-known spots on the South Coast, for all levels.

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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