20 November 2018
Last month, Sri Lanka was hailed as the number one country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet, and with a mix of religion and cultures, world-class temples, rich and varied wildlife and an emerging surf scene, it seems like an obvious choice. Discover 12 must-see attractions on a holiday to this Asian island nation.
With golden sands stretching as far as the eye can see and warm Indian Ocean waters lapping on the shore, the beach at Tangalle is the perfect place to spend a day in the sun, or an evening watching the sun set on the horizon. Just a couple of kilometres up the coastline there’s Rekawa Turtle Beach where you’ll find Rekawa Turtle Watch, a marine conservation project which aims to protect this turtle nesting site.
Riding the trains is a quintessential Sri Lankan experience that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Chugging slowly along the hills and valleys, you will be able to enjoy incredible views of the countryside while hanging out the side of the carriage, and the trip from Peradeniya to Ella is known as one of the most scenic in the world.
Sri Lanka is packed with national parks, and one of the best to visit is Udawalawe, which is home to the Elephant Transfer Home, an orphanage and rehabilitation centre for orphaned and injured elephants. Go on a trek through the park and you will come across the beautiful creatures in their herds, as well as a number of different bird species.
Grown from a cutting brought from Bodhgaya in India, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, or the Sacred Bo Tree, has stood for over two millennia and is said to be the oldest tree in the world and one that Buddha chose to sit under.
Sigiriya is the country’s most famous attraction. This impressive archaeological site is a rising rock formation surrounded by beautiful jungle, villages and farmland. On its flat-topped summit lies the ruins of an ancient civilisation, thought to have once been the epicentre of the kingdom of Kassapa. Climb to the top for jaw-dropping views and to learn about its fascinating history.
"One of my favourite parts of the trip was the climb of over 1,200 steps to the top of Sigiriya, also known as the Lion Rock. Considered the eighth wonder of the world, Sigiriya was built in the 5th century by King Kasyappa. We arrived on a feast day and there were huge crowds, so the climb took about two hours. The views from the top of the rock were incredible and I experienced a huge sense of achievement."
Mary, Travel Counsellor
Located inside the Royal Complex in Kandy, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth is considered one of the most important sites in Sri Lanka as it holds the relic of the real tooth of Lord Buddha, believe to have been his left upper canine.
Venture into any Sri Lankan market and be greeted with the colour and smell of the nation’s rich diversity of flavours. Markets are where locals buy the ingredients for the national dish of rice and curry, with some offering cookery demonstrations allowing you to sample incredible Sri Lankan food and find out how to make it yourself.
Recognised by UNESCO for its cultural and historical value, Galle is an old trading port with imposing Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches and grand mansions and museums. Don’t forget to stop by the 16th-century Galle Fort which features a blend of European architecture and South Asian tradition.
Although often shrouded by rain clouds, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its extreme biodiversity. Go on a walking tour with park rangers who will point out some of the plant, bird and animal life that calls this rainforest home.
Sri Lanka is a paradise for those looking to try surfing for the first time, with Arugambay on the east coast being one of the country’s top spots. The sandy break will cushion your fall, while waves are sizeable, but not as big as the intimidating ones that you might find in Hawaii or Australia.
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most important tea producers, and you can see their huge tea plantations which cover miles of hillside in the south. The lush green vegetation on the rolling hills is spectacular, and on your visit you can stay in plantation homes, visit the factories where it is processed and partake in Ceylon tea tasting.
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s leading wellness destinations with Yoga classes and ayurvedic spas all over the country which practice the ancient Indian therapy.
If you would like to book a trip to Sri Lanka to check out some of these incredible sites, contact your Travel Counsellor