The best 22 Things to do in Sri Lanka + Travel Tips

In this Sri Lanka travel guide I tell you the 22 best things to do in Sri Lanka with map and the most important travel tips for the former Ceylon. In recent years, the island has developed from an insider tip to a popular tourist destination – and rightly so.

You don’t want to miss any Sri Lanka highlights during your trip to South East Asia? Then JOURNICATION is the right place for you! With the BIG5 checklists, a map with the most amazing things to do in Sri Lanka and my personal experience report with the best activities, photo spots and insider tips in Sri Lanka you are well prepared. A trip to Sri Lanka: My absolute recommendation for 2023!

What are you learning in this article?

Checklist of the 22 most beautiful things to do in Sri Lanka

Here you have an overview of the 20 highlights in Sri Lanka, so to speak your personal Sri Lanka Bucket List to check off. This way you can make sure that you don’t miss any of the best things to do in Sri Lanka – of course, best suited for screenshots 📷📝

  1. Lion rock at Sigiriya
  2. Nine Arches Bridge near Ella
  3. Hiking on the Ella Rock
  4. Swimming under waterfalls
  5. Coconut Tree Hill & beaches in Mirissa
  6. Train ride through the Central Highlands
  7. Anuradhapura: Tree of Life & Dagobas
  8. Ruined city of Polonnaruwa
  9. Pigeon Island near Trincomalee
  10. Tooth Temple in Kandy
  11. Cave temple in Dambulla
  12. Nuwara Eliya
  13. Sri Pada: Climb the Adams Peak
  14. Pearl of the North: Jaffna
  15. Hiking in the Horton Plains
  16. Safari in Yala or Udawalawe National Park
  17. Dream beaches of Tangalle
  18. Fort Galle with historical old town
  19. Turtles in Hikkaduwa
  20. Fish market & lagoon in Negombo
  21. Asian metropolis in the capital Colombo
  22. Visit to a tea factory in the highlands

 

Best Things to do in Sri Lanka highlights one day travel tips hotel recommendation: Coconut Tree Hill Mirissa

#1 Things to do in Sri Lanka: Lion rock in Sigiriya

Only about 20 kilometers away from Dambulla the next Sri Lanka highlight is waiting: The lion rock of Sigiriya. The 200 meter high monolith of solidified lava rises from the dense forest and is an impressive sight from all angles.

Through the lion’s gate – of which only two enormous paws are left – it goes over many steps through the steep wall. For the way you should be free of giddiness and not necessarily suffer from fear of heights. Halfway through the wall, the mirrored wall with centuries-old drawings and the frescoes of the famous “Cloud Girls” of Sigiriya await you.

At the top of Lion Rock you walk through the ruins of the impressive rock fortress and are rewarded with a great panoramic view of the vast surrounding countryside.

 

 

The Lion Rock of Sigiriya is one of the highlights of Sri Lanka and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Insider Tipp: A great view of Lion Rock you have from the opposite rock Pidurangala – especially at sunrise and sunset. A hike to Pidurangala instead of Lion Rock will also save you a lot of money! At Lion Rock you have to pay an entrance fee of 30 dollars (!), at Pidurangala only about 5 dollars.

View of the lion rock of Sigiriya with monkey from Pidurangala Rock

#2 Nine Arches Bridge near Ella

A particularly high density of Sri Lankan attractions can be found in Ella. The city in the Central Highlands is without a doubt one of the tourist centers of the island.

Most travelers arrive here on the famous train from Kandy. The train continues over the iconic Nine Arches Bridge, one of the typical postcard motifs of Sri Lanka and definitely worth seeing. The bridge is located in Demodara near Ella.

In 1921 the bridge was built. Thus is is considered one of the typical testimonies of colonial railroad construction. The Nine Arches Bridge is about 91 meters long and 25 meters high. You can cross it for free without paying an entrance fee.

Best Things to do in Sri Lanka highlights one day travel tips hotel recommendation: Nine Arches Bridge with train

Especially beautiful viewpoints are located in the hills on both sides of the bridge.

Insider Tipp: If you want to experience the bridge with a passing train: It is best to ask at your accommodation for the current train times. These can change depending on the season and availability.

How to get to the Nine Arches Bridge? You can reach the bridge on foot from Ella by simply following the tracks. Another way is from the side road that leads you to Little Adam’s Peak. Tuk-tuks and cabs also go almost directly to Nine Arches Bridge.

#3 Hike on the Ella Rock

In Ella, the main focus is on hiking. If you like it a bit more challenging, you can venture up to Ella Rock. From up here you have a fantastic view of Little Adam’s Peak, the Ella Gap (the valley from Ella between Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak) and in all directions far into the country.

I’ve summarized everything you need to know about the Ella Rock hikein a detailed article, including maps, packing list and important tips.

 

 

A bit more relaxed is the hike up Little Adam’s Peak. Little Adam’s Peak is a great destination for a sunrise hike, from downtown Ella it only takes about 45 minutes.

Best Things to do in Sri Lanka highlights one day travel tips hotel recommendation: Golden Buddha on the Little Adam's Peak Ella

 

#4 Swimming under waterfalls

Besides the hikes, there is one good thing to do in Ella: marvel at waterfalls!

Near the city, the Ravana waterfalls fall into the valley from a dizzying height. The waterfalls are a total of about 25 meters high and are considered one of the largest in all of Sri Lanka. From Ella it is about 5 kilometers to the Ravana Falls. You can walk the distance, take the local bus for a few cents ticket cost or take a tuk tuk or cab.

The mighty Ravana Falls near Ella

You have to drive a bit longer from Ella to theDiyaluma Falls. For this you can rent a scooter or hire a tuk tuk driver. The waterfalls are with about 220 meters the second highest in Sri Lanka.

Caution: Swimming is officially prohibited at both. Depending on the amount of water, the ban also makes sense, because in the rainy season there is acute danger to life due to the high volume of water and strong currents.

On the other hand, you can swim at the “Secret Waterfall” near the village Ballaketuwa – from my side absolutely recommendable!

Swimming in the Secret Waterfall near Ella

#5 Coconut Tree Hill & Beaches in Mirissa

Mirissa is located on the south coast of Sri Lanka just west of Matara and is known for its beaches and whale watching.

Don’t miss the iconic Parrot Rock at the eastern end of Mirissa Beach. From here you can get a good view and watch the surfers.

You like palm trees, palm trees, palm trees? Then head for the fascinating Coconut Tree Hill. My tip: The hill is a real highlight in Sri Lanka, especially at sunset!

Best Things to do in Sri Lanka highlights one day travel tips hotel recommendation: Coconut Tree Hill Mirissa

Like most places on the south coast of Sri Lanka, Mirissa has great beaches. Besides the main beach right in front of town, many sun worshippers are drawn to the “Secret Beach” a little further away. It has become more and more popular in recent years. Well, it is not quite “secret” anymore. But the beach with its natural pool behind high cliffs in the sea is still worth a visit. It is best to take a tuk tuk to the top of the hill and walk down.

Secret Beach Mirissa

Things to do in Sri Lanka: Whale watching

During the whole trip in Sri Lanka I was fascinated by how many different wild animals you can see in Sri Lanka. In Mirissa, another highlight was added: Whales!!! You want to go whale watching in Sri Lanka? Mirissa is THE place to be. Here there are many tours that bring you very close to the giants of the seas. Off the coast of Mirissa you can observe many species of whales – even blue whales, the largest mammals on our planet. During the high season, whale watching tours depart daily from Mirissa.

The town in the south of Sri Lanka is a well-known surf spot among connoisseurs – but only for professionals and advanced surfers.

You don’t count yourself among them yet, but you really want to learn how to surf in Sri Lanka? Then let’s go to neighboring Weligama! Weligama is the Mecca for surfing beginners on the south coast of Sri Lanka.

#6 Train ride through the Central Highlands

What would a trip to Sri Lanka be without a train ride through the breathtakingly beautiful nature of the highlands?

The ride has gained popularity in recent years, especially through social median, as the spectacular pictures of passengers hanging out of doors and windows spread quickly.

A typical route for most travelers is the ride from Kandy to Ella (or in the other direction). The stretch from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is considered the most beautiful, but from my point of view even the stretch from Kandy is absolutely worth seeing.

Some people describe the long drive (more than 6 hours from Kandy to Ella) as very monotonous and even a bit annoying because of the slow speed. Personally, I enjoyed the entire ride very much, could not get enough of the landscape – and spent significantly more time sitting or standing at an open train door than on my actual seat.

 

 

Insider tip: Tickets can also be booked online. This way you can avoid that the tickets are fully booked on the days you need them.

You can hang out of the moving train in Sri Lanka

#7 Tree of Life & Dagobas in Anuradhapura

If you are particularly interested in cultural and historical things to do in Sri Lanka, you should not miss Anuradhapura. The city was the capital of various Sinhalese rulers and royal dynasties for many centuries – and you can still see that today.

On a huge area there are countless temples and excavation sites. The old great monasteries Abhayagiri and Jetavanarama / Jetavanaramaya bear witness to ancient power and greatness. The Jetavanaramaya Dagoba impresses even today as the largest brick building in the world!
Already since 1982 Anuradhapura belongs to the UNESCO world cultural heritage.

Anuradhapura is still an important Buddhist center and pilgrimage destination.

In its center stands the tree of life Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, the world’s oldest tree planted by human hands! Next to the Tooth Temple in Kandy, the Sri Maha Bodhi is the most important pilgrimage destination in Sri Lanka and one of the most valuable and sacred relics.

Just nearby, the mighty Ruwanweliseya Dagoba towers. The impressive snow-white stupa was for a long time the largest Buddhist structure in Sri Lanka. The plateau of the huge complex is surrounded by 344 elephant statues – as in many temples in Sri Lanka. In Buddhist belief, they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.

 

 

#8 Things to do in Sri Lanka: Ruin city Polonnaruwa

Plonnaruwa was, along with Anuradhapura, an important center of the early Sinhalese kingdoms.

In the large archaeological park, impressive cultural and historical testimonies from glorious times await you.

In Polonnaruwa, embark on an exciting journey through the ruins of temples, dagobas, palaces and parks. A special highlight are the Buddha statues of Gal Vihara, huge images carved into the rock.

The entire area has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

 

 

#9 Pigeon Island near Trincomalee

You want to experience beautiful beaches and colorful underwater world in Sri Lanka, and without large crowds of tourists? Then I recommend the east coast of the country! The nature, diving and snorkeling paradise in the national park Pigeon Island near Trincomalee is a popular destination for excursions. The island is located only about one kilometer from Nilaveli Beach.

Trincomalee is a little off the typical tourist route on a Sri Lanka round trip – and worth a trip for that reason alone.
The two picturesque beaches Upuveli and Nilaveli are absolute recommendations for relaxing beach days under palm trees.

The city also has other attractions to offer, such as the historic Fort Frederick and the impressive Hindu temple Koneswaram directly on the Swami Rock, a cliff above the city.

 

 

#10 Tooth temple in Kandy

Kandy is the gateway to the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka and for many travelers the starting point for the famous train ride to Ella. Many travelers see Kandy only as a necessary transit hub and plan as short a stop as possible. But from my point of view wrongly:

The kingdom of Kandy successfully defied the Europeans for a long time during the colonization of Sri Lanka and was only conquered by the British in 1815.
All Sinhalese and especially the inhabitants of the city are particularly proud of this – and you can still feel it today.

In Kandy one of the most important sights in Sri Lanka awaits you: The Sri Dalada Maligawa, better known as the Temple of the Tooth. The upper molar of the Buddha, one of the holiest Buddhist relics of the country, is said to be kept here. The whole temple complex is extremely worth seeing.

 

 

After visiting the temple you can stroll around the Kandy Lake and observe lizards, flying foxes and various water birds. Other sights in Kandy are the viewpoint Adam’s Seat and the botanical garden.

My personal highlight is the Bahiravakanda Buddha, a huge white Buddha statue high above the city with a great view over Kandy and the surrounding area.

Take a day in Kandy before you travel on to the Central Highlands or Sigiriya.

Best Things to do in Sri Lanka highlights one day travel tips hotel recommendation: Bahiravakanda Buddha over Kandy

#11 Dambulla Cave Temple

The large golden Buddha statue at the entrance already gives an idea that a special Sri Lanka highlight awaits on the area. The cave temple of Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved in Sri Lanka, although it can look back on a very long history.

Magnificent golden Buddha at the entrance to the cave temple of Dambulla

For more than two millennia, Buddhist monks have used the caves as a sacred place of worship. There are an impressive number of Buddha statues and wall and ceiling paintings to admire.

Also worth seeing is the huge golden statue at the entrance to the sacred grounds.

Insider Tip: Be careful, the Dambulla site has two large entrances. If you arrive from the direction of Colombo / Negombo, you drive directly into a parking lot without seeing the large golden statue. I learned this only on my second visit to Dambulla.

The cave temple of Dambulla has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.

 

 

Dambulla is a hub for many bus lines and is particularly suitable for the onward journey to Anuradhapura or Sigiriya.

#12 Things to do in Sri Lanka: Nuwara Eliya

In the central highlands of Sri Lanka you will find another beauty: Nuwara Eliya. The town is picturesquely situated at an altitude of 1,990 meters between the tea plantations so typical for the region. Nuwara Eliya is in contrast to the quite young, it was founded only in the 19th century as a resort for British officials.

And you can still feel that today, Nuwara Eliya is considered the “most British town”in Sri Lanka. No wonder: Here you will find many old – typically British – country houses, a horse racing track and an extensive golf course. If you want to stay in one of these old houses, I can recommend the Hotel Hill Club.

Other places of interest are the Botanical Garden, Victoria Park and the Hindu temple Sita Eliya. If you don’t plan to stay in Ella, Nuwara Eliya is a great place to take long walks through the tea plantations and visit a tea factory.

Victoria Lake in Nuwara Eliya

You can also reach Nuwara Eliya with the famous train ride. However, the train does not stop directly in town, but at Nanu Oya station, just a short ride over the hill from the city center.

Nuwara Eliya is a good starting point for the onward journey to Haputale for the ascent of Sri Pada / Adam’s Peak or for hiking in the Horton Plains.

#13 Sri Pada: Climb Adams Peak

Adam’s Peak or the “Butterfly Mountain” as it is called in Sinhala, is a massive 2,243 meter mountain in the central highlands of Sri Lanka.

Contrary to many opinions, it is NOT the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, which is Pidurutalagala at 2,524 meters.

Sri Pada Adams Peak Sri Lanka

The mountain is considered sacred by 4 world religions. One thing unifies here actually Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims: the belief in Sri Pada, the sacred footprint. This well 1.80 meters wide depression in the ground is regarded as the footprint of Shiva, Buddha, the apostle Thomas or Adam, depending on the faith.

Sri Pada und das Auf dem Gipfel befindliche Kloster ist noch heute für Buddhisten eine bedeutende Pilgerstätte, die man einmal im Leben besucht haben sollte.

Pilgrims and travelers climb approximately 1,000 meters of altitude over 5,000 steps mainly because of the spectacular sunrise. The night climb is also the means of choice to avoid the heat during the day. You should plan around 6 hours for the climb – at a leisurely pace. There are always tea rooms where you can take a break. Sounds exhausting? Absolutely, it is! But it is worth it! It’s a great feeling to stand on the summit at sunrise, which the pilgrims accompany with loud shouts of “Sadhu Sadhu”.

 

 

You reach Adam’s Peak via Hatton station. Most travelers start the ascent in Dalhousie, where there are numerous accommodations today.

#14 Things to do in Sri Lanka: Jaffna

The pearl of North Sri Lanka! Jaffna is the capital of the district of the same name and is located in the north of Sri Lanka. Due to the somewhat longer journey, many travelers shy away from a side trip to the region, which is mainly populated by Tamils – a separate ethnic group in Sri Lanka.

This makes the city an exciting cultural center for the Tamil minority, where there are some of the best things to do in Sri Lanka to discover.

In Jaffna, you can admire the impressive Nallur Kandaswamy Temple, one of the most important Hindu temples in Sri Lanka.
Throughout the city you will find evidence of the Portuguese, Dutch and English colonial times, such as the St. James Church and the – unfortunately currently not open to the public – Jaffna Fort.

 

 

From Jaffna you can easily make a trip to Pedro Point, the northernmost point of Sri Lanka with a prominent lighthouse.

#15 Hiking in the Horton Plains

The Horton Plains National Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The plains lie at an altitude of 2,100 – 2,300 meters and are home to countless rare animals and plants.

Probably the most famous destination of all hikers in the Horton Plains is the World’s End, a good 900 meters deep rockfall. From here, on a clear day – usually only in the early morning – you have a breathtaking view, even to the sea in the south of Sri Lanka. So getting up early is worthwhile.

Worlds End rock cliff in the Horton Plains

Circular trails lead you further to Baker’s Falls. The beautiful waterfalls, about 20 meters high, emerge from the Belihul Oya River. As you can see, untouched nature and a diverse flora and fauna are the hallmarks of the Horton Plains. Lace up your hiking boots and let’s go!

The Horton Plains are also accessible by train. Ohiya, Ambewela and Pattipola make for a relaxing journey. The train station in Pattipola is located at 1,891 meters and is the highest in Sri Lanka.

#16 Safari in Yala or Udawalawe National Park

One of the most impressive things to do in Sri Lanka is game watching because of it”s species-rich wildlife. I honestly didn’t realize before how many wild animals there are here – and which ones. Safaris are only in Africa? Far from it! Besides hiking, the many beaches and endless temple hopping, you can also go on a relaxed – or completely relaxed – safari in Sri Lanka.

The Yala National Park and the Udawalawe National Park are ideally suited for this purpose.

The Yala National Park on the south-east coast of the country is the largest national park of Sri Lanka with 1,300m2. There are especially many elephants here, but also other exciting animals like leopards. Yala is not only the largest, but also the oldest national park in Sri Lanka.

On the way from Ella to the beaches in the south, the Udawalawe National Park is also convenient for many travelers. Here, too, there are particularly many elephants and water buffalo.

Best Things to do in Sri Lanka highlights one day travel tips hotel recommendation: Elephant bathing place in Sri Lanka National Park

Especially recommended for a safari in Sri Lanka are the drivers who also act as guides. They have usually already discovered animals where you still see wild bush – and are in contact with other drivers for particularly spectacular animal sightings.

#17 Things to do in Sri Lanka: Tangalle dream beaches

Most travelers use the center of Tangalle only for transit and have mainly the dreamlike beaches in the southeast of Sri Lanka as a goal:

These are mainly Goyamboka and Silent Beach.

Picturesquely situated between large rocks, the beaches of Tangalle in combination with countless palm trees and the turquoise blue water offer the perfect postcard motifs. Large rocks are not surprising here, as Tangalle means “protruding rock.”

Goyamboka Beach Tangalle

There are also several palm tree swings at the expansive Silent Beach for great pictures and fun away from the big waves.

Best Things to do in Sri Lanka highlights one day travel tips hotel recommendation: Palm swing at Silent Beach Tangalle

However, there are not only expensive luxury resorts here, but also affordable accommodations for families and backpackers just beyond.

#18 Fort Galle with historical Old Town

The large city of Galle in the south of Sri Lanka is famous for its historic fort. The fort was built by the Dutch as early as 1663 (hence the common name “Galle Dutch Fort) and is today the largest preserved fortification in Southeast Asia built by Europeans.

Within the fortress is also the historic old town of Galle. The entire complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. For the visit of the fort and the old town you should plan enough time: The rampart has a length of over 3 kilometers. There are 14 (!) bastions with partly spectacular views of the city and the ocean. Highlights are the “Old Gate” with the coat of arms of the Dutch East India Company, the old warehouse, the white lighthouse built by the British, the old clock tower, the churches and the Flag Rock Bastion.

Above all, stroll through the many alleys and side streets that exude a special colonial flair. The fort and the old town of Galle are very touristy, there are countless souvenir stores and vendors. So be prepared for that.

 

 

The entrance to the old town and the fort is free! If you don’t want to walk the whole way, I recommend hiring a tuk tuk driver for sightseeing. For little money you will then be driven comfortably to all the important points.

Things to do in Sri Lanka: Galle outside the Fort

Even away from the fort, Galle has some exciting sights like the Shiva Temple on Park Road and the market near Ward Street. Here you can buy cheap spices and fruits a bit off the typical tourist paths.

In both directions along the coast, you can make the onward journey quite easy: Galle is connected to the railroad line in the south of Sri Lanka, with which you can easily travel to Hikkaduwa and Colombo or to Matara.

#19 Turtles in Hikkaduwa

The popular destination in the west of Sri Lanka is particularly attractive because of its relative proximity to Colombo. It is only about two hours from the airport to the beach via the highway.

Hikkaduwa is especially popular for diving or snorkeling. A long, rocky reef stretches along the coast directly on the beach. From the hotel directly to snorkeling with colorful fish? That’s definitely possible here. The Turtle Beach deserves its name. Here you can often observe adult sea turtles in knee-deep water – and even feed them.

Best Things to do in Sri Lanka highlights one day travel tips hotel recommendation: Sea turtle in Hikkaduwa

On the long beaches of Hikkaduwa you will find countless restaurants and bars, from cheap and simple to expensive and exclusive. Surfers also get their money’s worth here.

Beach and snorkeling in Hikkaduwa

In many blogs and reports Hikkaduwa is also called “Hippieduwa”. This description is not quite clear to me after my visit – here there are neither hippies nor special places or bars that would justify this name. In the past, maybe.

#20 Fish Market & Lagoon in Negombo

The city of Negombo on the west coast is not often mentioned as THE special place for sightseeing in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time there very much and don’t want to deprive you of Negombo in the list of the best things to do in Sri Lanka. The city is particularly conveniently located near Sri Lanka’s international airport. As a result, many tourists visit Negombo at least once during their Sri Lanka round trip – directly after arrival or before departure.

In Negombo long sandy beaches with palm trees are waiting for you – unfortunately not very suitable for swimming. Be sure to visit the fish market near the old Dutch fort. Fishing is still very important on the west coast. And you can see that here impressively. In addition to many stalls with fresh fish, tons of dried fish are offered here. And how this is dried, you can watch live: On huge cloths right in front of your eyes under the hot Sri Lankan sun. Impressive pictures! Everywhere along the coast you will meet the Oruwas, the traditional outrigger canoes.

 

 

Worth seeing in Negombo is the large lagoon, where you can observe a variety of birds and aquatic animals. There are also many Christian churches and holy figures on almost every street corner. I read about “Little Rome” somewhere in connection with Negombo.

All in all, a good place to slowly acclimatize to Sri Lanka. The first rides with Tuk Tuks through the streets, the first meals, the first Lion beer in the huge bottle – running 🙂

Negombo is a good starting point for your Sri Lanka round trip, no matter in which direction it goes! My next destination was Dambulla, with onward travel to Sigriya.

#21: Big city hustle and bustle in Colombo

Colombo is described by many blogs as not recommendable.

Yes, of course, Sri Lanka has more impressive sights to offer. Nevertheless, Colombo is worth a trip from my point of view.

Colombo is a great way to experience a typical big city on the Indian subcontinent. If you haven’t experienced something like this yet, you shouldn’t miss Colombo.

All the hustle and bustle, the traffic, the honking, the many market stalls and people. For me, this also makes for an exciting trip, experiencing something that definitely can’t be found like this at home.

 

 

Sights in Colombo are Independence Square and the iconic Gangaramaya Temple with its Buddha statues in front of Colombo’s skyline. Viharamahadevi Park, the World Trade Center with the Bank of Ceylon and the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque in the market district of Pekkah.

#22 Things to do in Sri Lanka: Visit a tea factory near Ella

From Ella Rock you also have a great view of the tea factories near Ella. In the middle of the typical tea plantations, Ella is also a great place to visit a tea plantation and especially a factory. Here you can visit the Newburgh Tea Factory (only green tea) just outside the city and the Halpewatte Tea Factory near Ella.

 

 

Map of the 22 best things to do in Sri Lanka

Here I have summarized the Sri Lanka highlights in a map for you:

As additional inspiration source and a local travel guide, I recommend the Lonely Planet for Sri Lanka:

 

Sri Lanka Graffiti in Negombo

BIG5 Sri Lanka Travel Tips – Speed Date

What should you know before your trip to Sri Lanka? So let’s go on a speed date:

What is outstanding in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is a very affordable and uncomplicated destination that makes an extremely versatile trip possible! Beach vacation, hiking, culture, safari, culinary delights? You can experience all that in Sri Lanka!

What sucks in Sri Lanka?

You have to apply a new layer of sunscreen and bug spray several times a day – otherwise it becomes uncomfortable

What you should definitely DO in Sri Lanka?

Dive into the culinary world and diversity of Sri Lanka: The dishes are refined with local spices super delicious, spiciness as desired and above all unbeatable cheap.

What NOT TO DO in Sri Lanka?

Do not provoke or feed the wild monkeys! They can bite extremely painful

What not to tell your mother about Sri Lanka?

The driving style of the bus drivers is very offensive and sometimes risky – and in case of doubt the old buses are not the most stable and safest vehicle.

BIG5 Sri Lanka – Rapid Fire Q&A

How many days do you need for a Sri Lanka round trip?

For a Sri Lanka round trip you should plan at least two weeks. More relaxed everything goes in three weeks or even more. But it also goes “Sri Lanka Express”, so for those in a hurry: With a driver and only selected things to do in Sri Lanka you can do the highlight of the island also in less than 10 days.

What are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka you can admire 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

UNESCO World Heritage Site:

  • Ancient city Sigiriya (1982)
  • Holy city Anuradhapura (1982)
  • Ancient city Polonnaruwa (1982)
  • Holy city of Kandy (1988)
  • Old town of Galle and its fortifications (1988)
  • Golden temple of Dambulla (1991)

UNESCO Natural Heritage:

  • Sinharaja Forest Nature Reserve (1988)
  • Central Highlands of Sri Lanka (2010)

What are the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka, a multitude of incredibly beautiful beaches await you at the Indian Ocean: In the east, Nilaveli Beach and Passekudah are particularly worth mentioning, in the south the Secret Beach of Mirissa as well as Silent Beach and Goyamboka Beach in Tangalle.

Is Sri Lanka a safe destination?

Yes, like most countries in Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka is considered a very safe destination. Even backpacking adventures alone as a woman are no problem.

Is Sri Lanka expensive?

No, absolutely not! Sri Lanka is an extremely affordable destination. Accommodations, transfers and meals are well suited even for travelers on a budget.

BIG5 Sri Lanka – Orga

What is the best travel time for Sri Lanka?

The best time to travel to Sri Lanka depends on the destination region. The central highlands of Sri Lanka can be visited all year round. For the south coast November to April are recommended, for the east coast March to November.

How to get to Sri Lanka?

Do you need a visa for Sri Lanka? 

Visa: Check here whether you need a visa for Sri Lanka with your passport

  • Flight: Bandaranaike International Airport (IATA: CMB) near Negombo and Colombo is served directly by many international airlines.

Where is the best place to stay in Sri Lanka?

Where should I book a hotel in Sri Lanka? Recommended location: You will find accommodation for all needs and budgets in Sri Lanka. Whether it’s a backpacker hostel with fantastic dorm prices, hotels for families or luxury resorts right on the beach of the Indian Ocean.

Find the best accommodation for Sri Lanka at Booking.com.

What is the Price Level / Budget for Sri Lanka?

  • What is the currency of Sri Lanka? – The currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR), currently the conversion rate is approx. 1 Sri Lanka Rupee = 0.0026 Euro Euros.
  • Can I pay with Euro in Sri Lanka? – No, in Sri Lanka you pay everywhere with Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR). To change money on the black market, dollars or euros are also good.

Withdraw money: Withdrawing money is no problem in Sri Lanka, there are ATMs everywhere. However, most take an additional fee around 400 rupees (1.00 – 1.50 euros). I did not pay any fees at the Bank of Ceylon.

To save money when traveling, you should use a credit card that does NOT charge additional fees when abroad. I have been using the free DKB VISA credit card for many years.

Beer indicator: A large beer (500-625ml) will cost you around 600 rupees, and 900 rupees upwards in upscale restaurants.

What is the Taxi fare in Sri Lanka? The cost of a tuk tuk or cab depends heavily on the route. To get a good feeling for this, ask your accommodation for the current rates to certain places in your area – the rest is then a matter of negotiation.

Yes, even tuk tuk or cab prices are negotiated in Sri Lanka. For important information about this read here: Negotiating abroad | Tips & tricks to save money.

Cost for public transport: Tickets for the public intercity buses in Sri Lanka often cost no more than 1-2 euros, no matter how far the route seems to you.

Do you need a travel adapter plug for Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka D, M & G sockets are used with a voltage of 230 V with a voltage of 50 Hertz.

Do you need a travel adapterfor the sockets in Sri Lanka? Then I can recommend you SKROSS Pro World travel adapter, which I myself have in my luggage for some time:

 

BIG5 must do Activities in Sri Lanka

What activities should you not miss in Sri Lanka in any case? Here are my BIG5:

  • Train Ride: Hang out the door or window as you ride through the breathtaking scenery of Sri Lanka’s highlands
  • Water Sports: Surfing: Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, Sri Lanka has the right points; Snorkeling or diving at the coral reef
  • Hiking: From easy to very challenging, there is something for everyone
  • Animal watching: Elephants, leopards, whales, … what would you like to have?
  • Enjoy the culture with typical food, temples and customs

BIG5 Sri Lanka – The best Photo spots

You may wondering about the best photo locations to take pictures for Instagram or your holiday album. Here we go:

  • The great colorful Hindu temples, like here in Trincomalee
  • Golden Buddha at sunrise on Little Adam’s Peak, Ella
  • Coconut Tree Hill in Mirissa
  • Nine Arches Bridge near Ella
  • View of the Lion Rock from Pidurangala

 

 

BIG5 Sri Lanka – Insider Tips / Things to do off the beaten track

  • Visit the less crowded east coast around Trincomalee or Pasikuda – even if it seems like a detour at first.
  • Also not on the typical route is Jaffna in the north of the island

BIG5 Sri Lanka – Communication

What language do you speak in Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka you speak Sinhala.

Here are the BIG5 words for basic friendly communication in the local language:

  • thank you – aṭa stutiyi
  • yes – ov
  • no – næta
  • hello – āyubōvan
  • goodbye – samugannavā

BIG5 Sri Lanka – Culinary Journey: What to eat in Sri Lanka?

  • Kottu – chopped roti (local pancake) mixed with egg, onions, peppers, spices and possibly meat or fish
  • Lamprais – rice dish served in a banana leaf
  • Sri Lanka Curry – usually rice is served with 5-6 bowls of curry, depending on the region e.g. lentil, pea, potato, fish or chicken curry
  • Shakri – honey candy, served with tea, in porridge or on bread.
  • Kiri with Pani – local buffalo curd with Kithul Treacle (vegan tree honey)
  • Tea – must not be missing in a list for Sri Lanka cuisine: Try local tea directly from the factory

BIG5 Sri Lanka – Helpful Websites / Links

  • Official website of the Sri Lanka Tourism Association
  • Current information about entry and exit as well as security advices of the German Foreign Office
  • You don’t want to take care of all the organizational matters yourself? Just enjoy your vacation and still not miss any sights in Sri Lanka? No problem, there are great tours and excursions offered on site:

 

  • As additional inspiration source and a local travel guide, I recommend the Lonely Planet for Sri Lanka:

The 22 best things to do in Sri Lanka 🇱🇰

Once again summarizing the Sri Lanka highlights as checklist for you at a glance:

  1. Lion rock at Sigiriya
  2. Nine Arches Bridge near Ella
  3. Hiking on the Ella Rock
  4. Swimming under waterfalls
  5. Coconut Tree Hill & beaches in Mirissa
  6. Train ride through the Central Highlands
  7. Anuradhapura: Tree of Life & Dagobas
  8. Ruined city of Polonnaruwa
  9. Pigeon Island near Trincomalee
  10. Tooth Temple in Kandy
  11. Cave temple in Dambulla
  12. Nuwara Eliya
  13. Sri Pada: Climb the Adams Peak
  14. Pearl of the North: Jaffna
  15. Hiking in the Horton Plains
  16. Safari in Yala or Udawalawe National Park
  17. Dream beaches of Tangalle
  18. Fort Galle with historical old town
  19. Turtles in Hikkaduwa
  20. Fish market & lagoon in Negombo
  21. Asian metropolis in the capital Colombo
  22. Visit to a tea factory in the highlands

 

Now you know the 22 best things to do in Sri Lanka and see what a great destination Sri Lanka is. Is Sri Lanka, now also on your bucket list? What do you find particularly exciting? Let us know in the comments!

 

We have compiled more Sri Lanka travel tips and additional inspiration for you:

In Sri Lanka, you can book great tours in advance if you don’t want to worry about all the planning:

 

Are you looking for more exciting destinations in Asia? Then we have some inspiration for you on JOURNICATION! Have a look here:

 

Leaving soon for Sri Lanka? 

We use these resources ourselves for our travel planning:

Compare for the cheapest flights to Sri Lanka run on Skyscanner

Great hotels and accommodation for all needs can be found on Booking.com

  • Hikkaduwa: Great location directly on Turtle Beach with exclusive beach access: Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon
  • Affordable 5* luxury in the heart of Kandy: Ru Boutique – Only 300 meters walk to the Temple of the Tooth, great facilities with pool
  • World class SPA Resort in a former tea plantation around Kandy: Santani Resort & Spa

The best car rental comparison you have at DiscoverCars

Excursions & tours we book comfortably in advance at Get your Guide

Receive a SIM card for Sri Lanka from Holafly in advance and have internet available immediately after landing

 

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The best things to do in Sri Lanka | Highlights and important Travel Tips

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6 Comments

  1. Paulo

    Thanks Phil for sharing such a great overview!

    Reply
    • Phil

      Thank you Paulo,
      that is nice to hear!

      Best regards,
      Phil

      Reply
  2. Maria

    Very useful! We will follow your tips for sure!

    Reply
    • Phil

      Thank you Maria, enjoy Sri Lanka 😊

      Reply
  3. Nadeeka

    Thank you so much for your visit and greatest review.. Hope you will visit Sri Lanka again

    Reply
    • Phil

      Thank you Nadeeka,
      for sure I am looking forward to visit Sri Lanka again!

      Best wishes
      Phil

      Reply

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