The Best of Sri Lanka – 10 irresistible places to visit

Sri Lanka Things to do

Off the coast of India, the South Asian country of Sri Lanka can be the perfect far-flung holiday destination if you are looking to escape further than Europe.

Currently offering UK holidaymakers reduced restrictions on entry requirements, this stunning tropical island lying in the Indian Ocean has never been closer.

Visitors will find a number of important religious and cultural attractions here, including famous mountaintop fortresses, vast National Parks, and ancient cities and villages with long and notable histories, all drawing tourists from overseas seeking to experience this beautiful part of the world.

1. Golden Temple at Dambulla

best of sri lanka tour

Holding World Heritage Site status, the Golden Temple at Dambulla is one of the most important sites in Sri Lanka, located some 80 miles away from the capital of the country, Colombo.

The Temple is actually situated within a cave complex containing a number of religious relics and works of art.

A range of Buddha statues reside in the Temple, ranging in size.

Contained within the caves, some of the statues tower over visitors and snugly fit in under the cave walls.

Due to a lack of natural light and thanks to a number of carefully positioned light fixtures, these statues appear quite golden, surrounded by intricate decoration – an indication of their importance.

Dating back to the first century, the Temple is one of the greatest religious sites in the world.

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2. Nuwara Eliya

best of sri lanka tour

Found in the heart of the country, the city of Nuwara Eliya is famed for its tea production.

Situated amongst the tea hills of Sri Lanka, the city is a popular tourist stop for holidaymakers looking to experience the best of this beautiful country and the cultural heart of one of its most famous exports.

Bit of Trivia – Nuwara Eliya translates to ‘City on the Plain’.

As well as being home to a centuries-old Tea Factory dating back to the 19th century, the city is home to some great scenic spots perfect for relaxing and admiring the views.

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3. A Tea Plantation

Tea Plantation Sri Lanka

Thriving in the tropical climate, tea plants stretch across vast stretches of Sri Lanka’s countryside.

Visiting the region around Nuwara Eliya, visitors will be welcomed by this wonderful sight of tea plant fields surrounded by beautiful scenery.

Still practicing traditional farming methods, the locals are masters of their craft.

Visiting a plantation will give holidaymakers an authentic flavour of the way of life practiced here and provide insight into the farming process.

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4. Sigiriya Rock Fortress

best of sri lanka tour

Ancient Sigiriya Rock Fortress is another of Sri Lanka’s most important sites.

This island wonder is of great archaeological and historical importance.

An ancient palace and fortress, Sigiriya rests between the towns of Halbarane and Dambulla.

Towering over 100 metres over the surrounding landscape, visitors can climb this huge rock via a series of stairways leading to the summit.

Before you even climb the rock, the entrance itself is visually striking.

Carved to resemble a Lion, the ferocious animal’s claws are instantly identifiable, protruding out the rock.

As you climb the steps of the fortress, be on the lookout for the great Mirror Wall, once polished regularly creating a mirror-like effect.

This huge sheer rock face climbs several metres and is a popular stopping point on the climb up to the summit.

Arriving at the top of the fortress, you will find the Gardens of Sigiriya, complete with ancient pools and pleasing on the eye terraced areas, some of the oldest of its kind on the planet.

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5. Temple of the Sacred Tooth

best of sri lanka tour

The city of Kandy is home to our next great Sri Lankan highlight – the Temple of the Sacred Tooth.

The Temple houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddist relic, a tooth of the Buddha.

At certain times, during periods known as ‘puja’, the safely guarded room is open to tourists looking to experience this important religious site for themselves.

This main temple is surrounded by other, smaller temple buildings, museums, and shrines.

With multiple important Buddhist sites including the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, Kandy holds UNESCO-listed status and is Sri Lanka’s most culturally important city, one of the last capitals of the Sinhalese Monarchy.

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6. Yala National Park

best of sri lanka tour

One of Sri Lanka’s most popular attractions, Yala National Park offers the chance to go out in search of some magnificent animals, including Elephants, Leopards, and a number of bird species.

Expertly led, safaris around the Park provide the best chances of catching sight of some of the world’s greatest animals beyond the television screen in the flesh.

Be on the lookout for elusive crocodiles, one of the oldest animals on the planet who date back to prehistoric times.

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7. Galle

best of sri lanka tour

On the Sri Lankan coastline, the village of Galle is an old city with Portuguese and Dutch ties dating back to the 16th century.

The city shows signs of its past with landmarks including Galle Dutch Fort.

One of the symbols and most photographed spots in the city, Galle Lighthouse is over 100 years old and one of the country’s most famous attractions.

Traditional fishing methods are still practiced today that see fishermen patiently wait on stilts that keep them just above the waterline and, crucially, out of sight from fish going about their business.

At sunset, the spectacle of the men fishing, with the Indian Ocean stretching out beyond them for hundreds of miles really is a special sight.

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8. Colombo

best of sri lanka tour

Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, a blend of fusion of old and new, is a great city resting on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Skyscrapers dominate the city’s skyline and are an indicator of the changing times.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Galle Face Green, a great beachfront where you can rest and relax looking out across the ocean with skyscrapers towering off in the distance.

However, crucial links to the country’s past can also be found throughout the city.

Like so many other bustling cities around Asia in particular, temples rest amongst the more modern additions to the city with space at a premium.

Gangaramaya Temple is a perfect example of this and one of Colombo’s most important temples.

If you are looking to learn more about your holiday destination’s history, there’s nowhere better than the National Museum of Colombo, the largest museum in Sri Lanka dedicated to providing visitors with a valuable overview of the country through its exhibits.

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9. Kandy

Kandy

On the banks of a lovely scenic lake, the city of Kandy is surrounded by mountains.

A deeply historic city, there are a number of important Sri Lankan landmarks found throughout the city ranging from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth and a forest reserve offering lovely walking trails.

Sure to intrigue any green-fingered enthusiasts, the Royal Botanical Gardens close to the city is a memorable collection of some exotic flowers and plants that immediately catch the eye with their standout colours.

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10. Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura

The ancient city of Anuradhapura has a number of astounding features including ancient ruins and temples that are extremely well-preserved.

One of the country’s ancient capitals, Anuradhapura is Sri Lanka’s northern capital.

True architectural wonders, the Buddhist shrines and temples here are the last remains of the lost, ancient Sinhala civilization that once ruled the land.

Iconic draws that capture the imaginations of visitors in the ancient city include Abhayagiri Dagoba, the Samadhi Buddha, Kuttum Pokuna ponds and the striking white Isurumuniya Temple.

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