Sri Lanka, also known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, appeals through its absolute natural beauty of lush terraced fields, long sandy beaches, amazing cascades, flourishing rainforests, and fluttering colorful birds that it is an exemplary magical paradise. Apart from that, the genuine Sri Lankan hearts and the island’s rich cultural values further enhance the glamour and the fascination of these serene surroundings.
Certainly, it is not only this natural beauty that attracts millions towards this appealing land. There are a lot more exciting activities to do in Sri Lanka that enchants both local and foreign visitors. Wondering how to enjoy your stay in Sri Lanka at its best? If so, here we have lined up the best activities that anyone can take part in! Sightseeing to hikes to city rides to adventures to what so not? A variety of such exciting activities add up to bring about memorable experiences catering to all kinds of your interests. So, why not? Let us start exploring the best things for you to do in Sri Lanka!
Best Things to do in Sri Lanka!
Believe us, you will definitely find enough and more reasons to visit this island after going through this list. The best out of the best are lined up below!
- Elephant Rides
- Whale Watching
- Jeep Safari
- White Water Rafting
- Canoeing / Kayaking
- Deep-sea Fishing
- Train Rides
- Visiting Ancient Places
- Colombo City Ride
Indeed, you might be excited to know more about them. Nothing to worry about! Let us get to know all about them in detail one after another!
A Full Overview on the Best Things to do in Sri Lanka
All of these activities hold a fascination of their own to delight you with. The following sections would prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt!
1. Elephant Rides in Sri Lanka
Elephant Rides in Sri Lanka is certainly thrilling, yet a unique experience that anyone could ever think of. Being on this majestic giant not only allows you to enjoy the wildlife from an elevated view. It also gives you the chance to share the day in the life of an elephant. Most probably these elephant rides take riders across pathways, jungles, swamps, rivers, and also around villages. Therefore, while enjoying nature, the riders can also get to know about the traditional lifestyles of the rural villagers. Moreover, the riders can groom and feed this giant during most of the elephant rides as well.
If you wish to go on an elephant ride any sooner, the following Q&As will certainly help you.
Are elephant rides safe?
Elephants used for these rides are tamed. Moreover, a mahout accompanies almost all the elephant rides. These factors make the Sri Lankan elephant rides safer. Moreover, the riders would sit on a safe and comfortable wooden saddle, which the elephants would carry on their back. However, the riders should be careful to bend down when necessary to avoid being knocked by the tree branches along the way.
How many riders can be taken on a ride at a time?
Most probably around 4 adult riders can sit on this saddle for a ride. If kids join a ride, it is always better if an elder accompanies them.
How to book an elephant ride?
Online platforms provide you the opportunity to choose and book elephant rides according to your convenience. Apart from that, you can even book an elephant ride through a travel agent, or after visiting a service provider.
What are the most popular places in Sri Lanka for elephant rides?
If someone wishes to create a special bond with baby elephants and to spend a day with them, the Pinnawala Elephant orphanage would be one of the best choices since elephant rides are also available in that vicinity. Apart from that, below are some of the most popular areas for elephant rides.
- Habarana: Habarana is 210 km from Colombo, and is a popular place among wildlife enthusiasts. Moreover, it is the central location of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, and the transit point for large herds of elephants.
- Minneriya: Apart from Habara, Minneriya is the next popular location for Elephant rides. Rides here would be around the Minneriya tank, Minneriya National Park and the vicinity around.
- Kaudulla: Kaudulla, which is also closer to Habarana, is located around 200 km away from Colombo. Kaudulla National Park is a highlight in this area, and the elephant rides in Kaudulla are mainly around the routes that elephants take and the villages around.
- Sigiriya: Sigiriya is an area near Dambulla city, which is around 180 km away from Colombo. Most elephant rides having Sigiriya as the main point take the riders around the village areas of Sigiriya, and the lakes in the neighbourhood.
- Yala: Yala, located around 260 km south east of Colombo, is popular among locals as well as tourists due to the Yala National Park. A person who chooses to go an Elephant ride in Yala would get the opportunity to witness the beauty of wildlife fauna at its best.
An elephant ride would be an exciting, yet wonderful journey after all. Make sure you go on an elephant ride if you ever visit the above-mentioned areas.
2. Whale Watching in Sri Lanka
After going on an elephant ride, why not try whale watching the next day? Sri Lanka has got them all! That is why travelers call it a splendor of nature indeed. Whales jumping on and off the ocean creates the magic of their own and set up the beauty of nature on another level. Hence, whale watching is like a ‘must’ in Sri Lanka, and make sure not to ignore it.
It is important to make sure that the weather condition is fine in order to enjoy the best of whale watching. Most service providers schedule their whale watching sessions in the morning hours. However, the time, session duration, and cost varies among different service providers. Below are the most ideal places for whale watching in Sri Lanka!.
- Trincomalee: Trincomalee which is around 275 km east of Colombo is one of the best whale watching spots in Sri Lanka. Most ideal time period to spot whales in Trincomalee is from May to October.
- Dondra Point: This can be considered as the southernmost point of Sri Lanka, and is accessible from Galle, Mirissa and Hikkaduwa. The season of whale watching in this area is from November to April.
This is something that the whole family would enjoy. Hence, this is one of the best activities to do in Sri Lanka. Besides, excited to know more about the delight? Read our article on Whale Watching in Sri Lanka!
3. Jeep Safari in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a country with high wildlife diversity even in smaller geographical areas. Hence, a Sri Lankan jeep safari would be an exciting ride to go on. A comfortable 4 wheel, specially designed for safari drives with comfortable seats, bag pockets, and bean bags is usually used for these rides.
Watching the sunrise in between the tree lines in the wild is of course a breathtaking view. Therefore, most safari rides begin their journey at dawn, aiming to watch this sunrise as well. A safari ride would last for about 4 or 5 hours approximately and the time duration of the ride also depends on the rider’s expectations.
Are you just wondering about what you will be able to see during a jeep safari? Have a look below!
Popular sights that you can expect while in the Sri Lankan wild
- Leopards resting and walking across: Leopards are a popular site in Sri Lankan National parks such as Yala, and Minneriya. Mostly, leopards can be spotted in the seasons where the rainfall is low, and the majority of them would be resting on the ground, or either on tree tops .
- Crocodiles in lakes: Crocodiles in pairs, nearby the shore is one of the common sights in lakes in the wild. October to December would be the best to spot crocodiles in Sri Lanka, yet most of the travellers spot crocodiles during the other times of the year as well.
- Wild elephants roaming around: Roaming elephants is a common sight in the national parks, as well as in the surrounding areas of the Sri Lankan national parks. While the most common sight is elephants roaming, elephants crossing lakes, and having their own fun in water can also be seen if you are lucky enough.
- Various birds soaring: Colourful and rare bird species are common in Sri Lankan national parks, as well as in village areas. Morning and evening times are the best times to catch them in flights.
- Peacocks walking around: Ideal time to catch the sight of peacocks in the morning time. They might be either strolling across pathways or rather walking around the lawn areas in the wild. The perfect scene would be to see them perching their fan of feathers.
To enjoy the wonders of wildlife up close and personal, best is to choose one of the places from below
- Minneriya National Park: It is 182 km away from Colombo, in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, it is popular as the largest known place with Asian elephants in the world.
- Udawalawe National Park: Udawalawe National Park, located 180 km away from Colombo, is the 6th largest animal sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Elephants, water buffaloes, wildboar, deer, mongooses, foxes, gray langers, and jackal are the main attractions here.
- Yala National Park: Yala National Park is around 200 km away from Colombo, and is the second-largest national park in Sri Lanka. It is the home for a variety of wild animals such as leopards, elephants, crocodiles, wild water buffalo, and many other endemic species of reptiles, and colourful birds.
- Wilpattu National Park: It is approximately 188 km away from Colombo, and is the oldest national park in Sri Lanka. Elephants, sloth bear, leopard, water buffalo, sambhur, spotted deer, mongoose, mouse, shrew along with other reptiles and birds reside here.
Water Activities in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka being an island surrounded by blue waves, creates perfect opportunities for a number of water activities. The mains of them are as follows.
4. Snorkeling in Hikkaduwa
Willing to enjoy the beauty of the bottom of the ocean? Looking inside the ocean life is exciting itself, and that is not a dream anymore if you visit Hikkaduwa on the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka. It is a spot that has earned a great reputation in terms of offering exclusive snorkeling day tours for its customers. Its vivid coral reef and the amazing underwater ecosystems with living corals and glowing reef fish never fail to provide one of the best snorkeling experiences for the snorkelers.
Any questions about snorkeling in Hikkaduwa? If so, just have a look at the Q&A s below. You’ll certainly find answers to the questions you have in your mind!
Is snorkeling in Hikkaduwa safe and is it only for professionals?
The travel is around 200 meters offshore and around 4 meters deep, in comparatively calm and shallow waters. Hence, the water is clear and the journey is not that hard. So, it is safe to snorkel in Hikkaduwa. Not only experts and professionals, but also amateurs can try this out.
Can we go snorkeling as a team?
Yes, of course! You can form your own teams, and book a suitable snorkeling package considering the number of your team members. And why not? You can even try snorkeling with your family!
Is snorkeling safe for kids?
Normally, snorkeling is not for kids under 6 years of age. However, if children over 6 years of age are trying out this activity, it is always better to accompany elders and to have close supervision.
How to book snorkeling in Hikkaduwa?
There are a number of service providers around Hikkaduwa who offer various snorkeling packages in order to provide the best sub aqua experience possible. You can either book a snorkeling tour online, or else there are a number of shops on the beach where you can hire snorkels and the other necessary equipment.
How much will a snorkeling package cost and what will be included in the package?
Normally the cost of a snorkeling package varies within the range of US$54 to US$96. The price variation depends on the number of team members, and the additional features included. Almost all the packages include all the essential equipment and experienced instructors. Some packages might even include refreshments, meals, and photographers as well.
What is the best season and the time period for snorkeling in Hikkaduwa?
The most popular time period for snorkeling is the morning time, approximately between 9 a.m to 11 a.m, in the months between November to April. The seas are calm during these months and the sun is directly above within that time period, which enhances the underwater visibility.
Willing to know more about this wonderful water sport? Read our article on Snorkeling in Sri Lanka!
5. Surfing in Sri Lanka
Riding among the waves is just thrilling, yet enjoyable than ever. Sri Lanka being an island surrounded by fun waves all around along with golden beaches and wonders of nature, where else is a more perfect place to surf and enjoy around? Therefore, never forget to add surfing to your ‘to-do list’ in Sri Lanka. Of course, this island has got a number of surf breaks, from which you can select the best as per your wish. Here are some of the perfect surfing destinations in Sri Lanka!
Surfing in Arugam Bay
Arugambay is a beach with a breathtaking view and both locals and foreigners love this place a lot. And of course, it is a perfect spot for surfing as well. The ideal time period for a surf here is between May to September. Here are the perfect surfing spots in Arugam Bay:
- Main Point: Has the longest season. Suitable for experienced surfers.
- Baby Point: Close to town. Recommended for beginners.
- Elephant Rock: Recommended for beginners. Yet, it is a bit of a hard journey to reach here.
- Whisky Point: Suitable for experienced surfers. Easily crowded.
- Pottuvil Point: Situated on a deserted beach. Suitable for experienced surfers.
Surfing in Hikkaduwa
Hikkaduwa is one of the most picturesque beachside locations in Sri Lanka and is ideal for surfing as well. The perfect season for Hikka surfs is from November to April. The most popular surfing spots in Hikkaduwa are in Wewala. They are as follows:
- Benny’s: A left hander break. Most suitable for experienced surfers.
- Main Reef: Right and Left handers over a deep break. Recommended for surfers of all levels.
- Beach Break: Recommended for beginners. It is safe with reef break and the shore.
Surfing in Mirissa
Mirissa is a well-known beach area for its crescent-shaped beach. Moreover, it is popular among both local and foreign surfers. If you are a well-experienced surfer, of course, this would be a perfect spot to further enhance your surfing skills. Yet, if you are a beginner, surfing spots such as Weligama and Midigma along the South Coast would be a better match for you. The perfect season for surfing in these areas is from October end to early April.
However, these are just a few popular surfing locations. As you know Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by blue waves, so it is not that hard to find a surfing spot in other beach areas as well.
By chance, if you are interested in learning more about the fascination of surfing in Sri Lanka, make sure you check our article about it!
6. White Water Rafting in Kitulgala
White water rafting in Sri Lanka will certainly be a thrill for a lifetime, with a bunch of memories to reminisce about. The fresh waters of the Kelani River which musically flows amidst rocks provide an absolutely perfect spot for white water rafting in Kitulgala.
Hoping to go on white water rafting in Kitulgala? If so, the following Q&As will definitely help you plan your journey!
Is White Water rafting in Kitulgala challenging and hard?
Four minor rapids and five major rapids are there in this rafting stretch. Yet, it is not that much of a hard journey if you have the will and the enthusiasm. Even though it is an exhilarating water sport, it does not require very strong physical strength. Hence, anyone who is physically fit and does not suffer from any severe health conditions can try out this fun.
How to book white water rafting in Kitulgala?
It is possible to book a white water rafting tour simply online, or else, your travel agent might help with it. However, booking a package prior to your visit will help you choose the best, and it will definitely save your time as well.
Around how much will a white water rafting package cost and what will the package include?
White water rafting packages are mostly team-based. An average package with a two-hour ride and lunch would cost approximately around US$40 per person. However the cost of packages varies with the number of team members, and the other options included such as meals, hikes, additional water activities, and overnight camping facilities.
Is this activity suitable for kids?
Rafting in Kitulgala is not for kids below 13 years and even the children above 13 years should be with an elder during this rafting journey.
White Water Rafting in Kitulgala is certainly a marvelous journey! So, never forget to enjoy the excitement and the fun amidst the cool breeze at Kitulgala, while rafting.
7. Canoeing / Kayaking in Sri Lanka
Negombo in the Western Province of Sri Lanka is famous as a paradise for canoeing due to the direct access to rivers and the protected lagoon in this area. If you wish to go canoeing/kayaking in the calm blue waters of Negombo, the following Q&As will certainly help you!
Around how much will a canoe / kayaking tour in Negombo cost?
A canoeing tour might approximately cost around US$ 15 per hour, and a kayaking tour might cost around US$ 10 per hour. Each exceeding hour will charge an additional cost.
Would canoeing / kayaking be safe for kids?
Canoeing is one of the safest water activities in Sri Lanka to accompany kids as well. Kids of any age can enjoy a canoe ride, yet it is better to be with elders. When it comes to kayaking, it is ideal for kids over the age of 10. However, even if so, if a kid is traveling in a kayak, it is better to choose a two-seater kayak and share it with an elder.
What is the maximum head count for canoeing / kayaking tours?
The canoes normally come with two seats and are appropriate for a maximum of 3 adults. If kids are accompanied for canoeing, the recommendation is to take two kids along with two adults in a canoe, and not more than that. Kayaks are mostly suitable for two travelers maximum.
How to book a canoeing / kayaking tour?
It can be either booked online or after visiting a service provider. Most service providers provide canoeing for individuals as well as for teams. Apart from that, travelers also have the opportunity to rent a canoe and explore the surroundings on their own.
What is the best season and the time period for canoeing / kayaking?
There is no exact season as such. Unless it is rainy, you can always engage in this activity. The best is to choose the morning and evening times of the day.
Canoeing / Kayaking is one of the best ways to indulge yourself in a marvelous environment where you can experience the changing landscapes and the beauty of the fauna. Never forget to try out this fun, if you ever visit Negombo.
Also, if you need to know more about the delight of kayaking in Sri Lanka, make sure you read our article on it!
8. Deep-Sea Fishing in Sri Lanka
Bentota is an ideal place in Sri Lanka for an unforgettable deep sea fishing experience. The lonely waters there are rich with the finest deep-sea fish species such as sailfish, and blue or black Marlene. If you are lucky enough, rare species like tuna and wahoo can also be hooked. This is a perfect water activity for both anglers and first-timers. Beginners will be led by an experienced guide and it would absolutely be a wonderful ride with everlasting experiences.
Need to get to know more about deep sea fishing in Bentota? Just go through the Q&As below, and you will find all that you need to know.
How much will a deep sea fishing package in Bentota cost?
The deep fishing trip packages start at around US$60 per person and most of these packages include fishing equipment, meals, and refreshments as well. The cost per person would be higher than this if you are choosing to sail individually, rather than in a group.
What will be the maximum head count for a fishing boat?
The maximum headcount for a boat would normally be 6. You can either form your teams or even visit with your family. Fishing alone in a boat is also possible, yet the cost would be higher if you choose to travel alone.
How long will be a deep sea fishing trip?
A trip would normally last for about 3 – 4 hours. The time period of the journey may vary with the package you choose, and, you have the freedom to add extra hours for your journey if you wish to.
What is the best season and the time period for deep sea fishing in Bentota?
The perfect season for deep sea fishing is from November to April, and most service providers have two trips scheduled, one in the morning and the other in the evening. You have the opportunity to choose the session as per your preference.
If you are ever visiting Bentota, never forget to experience this awesome experience in the middle of the blue waters.
9. Diving in Beruwala
Photo Credits: Barcelo Hotel Group
Sri Lanka is certainly an amazing dive location, with vivid coral reefs and shoals of tropical fish. Moreover, you would also be able to explore wrecks, which are beautifully placed among the marine wonders. Hence, a dive in the area of Beruwala will undoubtedly offer you a truly delightful experience under the waters, while providing you an opportunity to enjoy the secrets of this blue ocean.
The best time period for the dives in Beruwala is from October to May. The Beruwala dive is deeper than 20 meters and to get the point the divers will have to travel around half an hour in an engine boat. Apart from the marine life, the amazing rock formation in Beruwala will also amaze the divers. If you are lucky enough, you might be able to spot a shark as well. A dive in Beruwala will for sure give you everlasting memories.
If you are willing to know more about diving in Sri Lanka, make sure you read our article on it!
10. Hiking in Sri Lanka
The areas around the amazing cascades and the hill country, create perfect opportunities for hiking in Sri Lanka. You can find below some of the most popular hikes on this splendid island!
Hiking Adam’s Peak
Adam’s Peak, well known as Sri Pada or Samanala Kanda is an attraction for both tourists and locals. It is a mountain that stands at 2, 243 meters, and its uniqueness is that it is sacred for almost all the religions practiced in Sri Lanka. Hence, this is also considered a symbol of unity among these different religions.
However, the trek to Adam’s Peak is not that much easy. Yet, the view at the top and especially, the sunrise view at the top of this mountain certainly rewards the effort. Anyway, if you are planning to hike Adam’s Peak, it is normal that you might have a few doubts about the hike. Just check below whether we have answered the questions in your mind.
How long is the hike to Adam’s Peak?
The hike includes nearly 6000 crumbing steps, and whoever is physically fit to go on a hike can reach the peak. The average time to climb the mountain ranges from 2 to 4 hours and the time to descend ranges from 1 to 2 hours.
Is there any season for this hike?
The season for the Adam’s Peak trek is between January to May, and it is always better to pay attention to the weather condition when planning this trek.
How to get ready for the hike?
Make sure you have gloves and warm clothes when climbing Adam’s Peak because it is really cold towards the top! Apart from that, you can bring with you the snacks, water and the first-aid that you need. However, you can find small boutiques at several places on your journey to the top.
Can anyone try out this hike?
This hike is not recommended for people who are weak in health, and not fit to walk such a distance. Other than that, anyone can go on this hike.
Climb Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya, or the ‘Sinhagiri Rock’ is an ancient fortress located near the Dambulla town in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. This is also declared as the eighth wonder of the World. Climbing Sigiriya is not that hard. Even kids would make their way to the top with their elder help. So, it is certainly an ideal place for family visits as well. The entrance fee will cost around US$30 for foreign visitors and Rs. 50 for locals.
The lion mouth, the mirror wall, and the remains of the water garden are also significant sections of this fortress that highlights its grandeur. A fleet of around 1200 steps leads to the summit of the fortress where ruins of the ancient sky palace can be seen. Apart from that, the Sigiriya summit provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the surroundings. There is certainly a lot to admire, learn and photograph during the walk at Sigiriya.
Hiking to top of Pidurangala rock
Pidurangala Rock is situated just adjacent to the Sigiriya rock, and many who visit Sigiriya never forgets to hike Pidurangala rock as well. This rock houses a temple and offers travelers a natural feel while hiking. It doesn’t contain any dangerous sections along the climb. It is just a huge row of steps along with some boulders. Yet, it cannot be known as an easy climb. It is challenging, yet the views it provides on top are just spectacular than ever. Many choose the top of Pidurangala rock to cherish the moments of the sunrise or the sunset. Furthermore, the rock top is an ideal place to sit and chill while enjoying the peaceful nature of the surrounding.
Photo Credits: Lakpura LLC
Riverston in Matale is an ideal site for a peaceful hike. If you are planning on a Rverston hike make sure you go through the following Q&As, which would definitely give you a good overview of this hike.
How long is the riverston hike?
It is a hike with around 5 kilometers both ways. This hike begins at the Riverston Telecommunications Tower. Then the path is led towards the mountain, with flourishing greenery throughout the entire pathway.
Can anyone go on this hike?
Of course, yes! Anyone can try this hike, yet it is recommended not to accompany kids under 10 years of age for this trek due to safety concerns.
Should the traveller be ready with anything special for this hike?
Not at all! Just the normal things such as a cap, towel, water bottles, snacks, and first-aid would be sufficient for the hike. And don’t forget the camera if you love photography.
The hike ends with a sharp 300 meters drop, which is known as the world’s end. This point provides the perfect scenery of the Thelgamuwa Valley, the terraced rice fields, and the Knuckles mountain range. This is an ideal site with an impressive view, especially for nature lovers and nature photographers.
11. Train Rides in Sri Lanka
Train Rides in Sri Lanka are one of the ideal ways for you to explore the hidden charms of Sri Lanka. The following trains rides are indeed the best with regard!
Kandy to Ella Train Ride
Kandy to Ella train ride is one of the most beautiful train journeys one could ever imagine. The view on both sides of the railway is just as spectacular as ever, as this train winds through hill areas, tea plantations, farms, greenery lawns, and mist. Moreover, it would give you the opportunity of experiencing a significant climatic change as well. It passes through a number of tunnels as well. This absolutely magnificent scenery coupled with the innocent smiles of the villagers certainly makes this train ride a journey of a lifetime.
The most breathtaking part of this Kandy to Ella train ride is from Hatton to Haputale. The travelers can either get the train from Colombo Fort railway station, or either from the Kandy/Peradeniya railway station. It would approximately take around 3 hours for the train to reach Kandy and around 6 hours to reach Ella.
The compartment details of this train are as follows.
- Two luxury air conditioned compartments operated by the private sector. (Food and beverages are included for the fee, and reservations are required)
- Observation Salon (Not Air Conditioned, Reservations are required)
- 1st Class (Air Conditioned, Reservations are required )
- 2nd Class (Not Air Conditioned, Reservations guarantee a seat)
As mentioned above, of course, some tickets include food and beverages. However, local sellers also sell delicious snacks, freshly cut mangoes, guava and pineapple pieces with spicy powder sprinkled over, and many more crisps which would make this train journey yet more interesting. Do not miss this out and hesitate later because this train ride gives you the exact feel of a real train ride as never before!
Need to know more about train rides in Sri Lanka? Read our article on ‘The Delight of Wonderful Train Rides in Sri Lanka‘.
12. Visiting Ancient Cities in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka being a country with a proud history of several thousand years, there are many cities on this island, that still hold the grandeur of the past. In fact, these cities house a number of ruins, constructions with amazing arts, statues, murals, and religious attractions as well. Hence, visiting them and exploring them would certainly be an experience of a lifetime. They will not only offer you a bunch of memories to your travel diary but also reveal to you the charm of the Sri Lankan cultural heritage.
The most popular ancient cities for visits are as follows.
- Ancient City of Anuradhapura
- Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
- Sacred City of Kandy
Of course, we are sure that you are delighted to know more about these ancient cities. Continue reading, and you will get to know many interesting facts about them!
Ancient City of Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura, the capital of the North Central Province is an ancient kingdom in Sri Lanka. It is now a developing city, yet there are certain areas in this city that still hold the grandeur of ancient Sri Lanka. It seems that everywhere you look around in those areas are historical sculptures, monuments, and buildings. However, almost all those ruins either possess a Buddhist religious value or a historical value, or both. Some choose to walk around the city while some choose to cycle. Whatever the travel method you choose, do not forget to visit the below-mentioned attractions in this sacred city!
- Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya
- Samadi Buddha Statue
- Ratna Prasadaya
- Ritigala Forest Monestry
- Rajagiri Lena
- Twin Ponds (Kuttam Pokuna)
- Awukana Buddha Statue
- Elephant Pon
- Ruins in the ancient city
- Anuradhapura Archeaological Museum
We are sure that you are willing to know about these attractions in detail. Keep calm, and scroll down!
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya
This is a branch of the Bo tree in Buddha Gaya – India, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Buddhists consider this as the most sacred, and ancient tree in Sri Lanka. Hence, many Buddhists visit this sacred place at least once a year, and they also don’t forget to make wishes in front of it. Besides, the devotees perform several rituals on behalf of this sacred tree and expect blessings. Read our article on Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, to know more about this sacred attraction.
It is a sacred Buddhist hemispherical structure and is 338 ft in height. Drona of the Gotham Buddha’s relics is enshrined in this stupa. The large stupa of Ruwanweliseya stands majestically in a calm surrounding, and thus, any who visits this place get the opportunity to soothe their souls. Hundreds of devotees visit this religious attraction daily and is a must-visit when you explore Anuradhapura. Read our article on Ruwanweliseya to know more about this significant highlight furthermore.
Majestic Mirisawetiya, which lies on the shores of Tissa wewa, is a historical stupa built by King Dhutugamunu. As history reveals, the king built this stupa in order to punish him for a deed he did, and thus, there are several interesting stories in history that have a relation with this wonderful attraction. This is also one of the eight most sacred places of Buddhists. Hence, many Buddhists choose to visit Mirisawetiya when exploring Anuradhapura.
This is the oldest stupa in Sri Lanka. Hence, it has a very special place in Sri Lankan history. Besides, this stupa holds some unique values when compared with other religious attractions in this ancient city. In fact, the stupa house (watadageya), which surrounds Thuparamaya holds a unique architectural value. Thus, this attraction is popular as a place with a rich cultural heritage. Owing to all these reasons, many locals, as well as tourists, make sure to visit this place when they arrive at Anuradhapura.
The religious attraction, Abhayagiriya is one of the most ancient stupas in Sri Lanka. It is built by King Valagamba. Unlike other stupas, the stupa of Abhayagiri looks brick color and holds the ancient look in a way like no other. Besides, the ruins of the ancient constructions that surround it, reveal to the visitors, about its ancient grandeur. So, the charm of this majestic attraction indeed makes this a significant place in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, that many choose to visit.
This stupa is built by King Mahasen and is considered the highest stupa in Sri Lanka. With a height of 400 feet, it had been the third tallest building in the world at that time. Now even as a brick monument, it stands as the tallest of the world of its kind. Besides, the brick looks that it has coupled with the religious significance it holds, makes it one of the most-visited attractions in Anuradhapura.
Lovamahapaya is between Sri Maha Bodhiya and Ruwanweliseya. Hence, anyone who walks from the Sri Maha Bodhi to Ruwanwelseya, or vise versa, can observe this wonderful attraction. It is also popular as the Brazen Palace or Lohaprasadaya. This is a construction that holds a unique architectural value, besides its historical value. Its ruins are not in a condition, and thus, its front part is modified at the moment.
This is the place where King Dathusena met Monk Mahinda, who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Therefore, Buddhists in Sri Lanka believe that Mihintale is the place where the birth of Buddhism in Sri Lanka took place. Apart from its cultural and historical value, it is a peak with wonderful surroundings. So, this is not only a religious attraction, but also a favorite of adventure seekers. Read our article on Mihintale to get to know about this place furthermore.
Samadhi Buddha Statue
This is a world-famous buddha statue in Mahamewna Uyana, Anuradhapura. It is carved out of dolomite marble and depicts Buddha in the position of Dhyana Mudra. Many experts reveal that this is one of the best Buddha statues of this style. In fact, the calmness of the face of Lord Buddha in this statue is indeed appreciable. Besides, this is one of the best artwork that reveals to the world the wonderful talents of ancient Sri Lankan artists. Hence, many visitors spend several minutes staring at the Samadi Buddha statue, when they visit this place!
This lies as a ruin, in the Abhayagiri Vihara Complex. It had been built as a five-storied building by King Kanitta Tissa. History reveals that the Bhikkhus of ancient times lived in this building. However, among the ruins of this past marvel, there is a guard stone, that remains in good quality even in the present. Many consider that it is the best guard stone from the Anuradhapura Kingdom. Hence, it adds more value to this significant attraction.
Ritigala Forest Monastery
This is not exactly a rainforest, yet it has got the elements of a rainforest. This is a place where forest monks have lived, and ruins of structures can be found here. Anyone who visits this place can feel the power the calm surroundings of this place have in soothing one’s soul. Hence, any of the visitors spend a few hours in this place, enjoying the peaceful surroundings.
This is a kind of forestry area with rocks and caves. Further, this is famous as an archaeological site as well. Besides, the surrounding of this place makes this site perfect for an adventurous visit. Hence, travelers who visit Anuradhapura often choose this place for hikes.
‘Twin Ponds’ means a pair of ponds used for bathing in ancient times. It is famous as ‘Kuttam Poluna’ as well. The structures of these ponds still remain strong, and they are fine examples of the talents of ancient Sri Lankan artists. So, they not only hold historical values but also rich artistic values. Moreover, this is certainly a wonder of ancient hydrologic engineering.
Awukana is a world-famous standing Buddha statue located a few kilometers away from Anuradhapura. It stands close to the Kala Wewa reservoir, and many believe that this statue is designed in a way that the Lord Buddha stares at this reservoir. Apart from its historical values, this is famous as a statue that reveals wonderful artistic talents. So, this is simply a delicacy of stone that attracts the world! Read our article on Awukana Buddha Statue to get to know about this attraction in detail.
This is the largest pond in Anuradhapura. It is 500 feet in length and 150 feet in width and holds 75,000 cubic meters of water. Yes, you guessed it right! It has got its name, considering its massive size. However, history reveals that it has conduits conveying water from reservoirs to this pond and channels taking water out of it. So, one can indeed introduce this as an engineering marvel from past Sri Lanka as well! Elephants’ Pond is popular among Sri Lankans as ‘Eth Pokuna’.
Ruins in the Ancient City of Anuradhapura
The city of Anuradhapura is well known as a zone with well-preserved ruins of the ancient kingdom. The areas such as Mahamewuna Uyana and Ranmasu Uyana are the best spots with a collection of ancient ruins. Apart from that, forestry areas and many other locations in Anuradhapura too have a number of ancient ruins.
Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum
This is between the Ruwanweli Seya and the Brazon Place. It was established in 1947 and is famous as the oldest archaeological museum in the Cultural triangle. This museum houses several Buddha statues, inscriptions, drawings, puppets, coins, jewelry, and other miscellaneous things. So, it is indeed a wonderful place in this ancient city, to explore the wonderful heritage of Sri Lanka. Yet, it is closed for renovations from the year 2016.
Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa, the ancient royal city of Polonnaruwa kingdom, is the second capital of Sri Lankan history. This city is also declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. As same as the city of Anuradhapura, this is also a city with plenty of historical monuments and constrictions, yet there are slight differences in terms of architectural styles. Most ancient religious sculptures of Polonnaruwa are based on Buddhism and Hinduism. Apart from that historical monuments related to the kingdom can also be seen. Some of the important places to visit in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa are as below.
- Galpotha (Stone Book)
- Gal Viharaya
- Parakrama Samudraya
- Alahana Pirivena Monestry
- Thivanka- patamagara Image House Buddhist Shrine
- Rankoth Viharaya Buddhist Shrines
- Kirivehera Temple
Of course, you might be willing to get to know about these wonderful attractions. Continue reading!
The citadel of Polonnaruwa is itself a site with a high historical value. This place houses several ruins from the past and they surely show the grandeur of the second ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka. As per history, this place has significant connections with the royal dynasty of that era. Hence, the importance of the citadel of Polonnaruwa is further magnified, and many choose to visit it while exploring this ancient city.
This is an area with a group of ancient ruins. This site is located in the direction of north from the entrance of Polonnaruwa ancient city. The ancient Buddha statue in the center of the Quadrangle, as well as the stone sculptures that surround it, hold high importance in terms of their historical and artistic values. Hence, this happens to be a must-visit in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.
Gal Pota (Stone book)
This is a massive stone slab that can be seen in the quadrangle. It is a famous work of King Nishshanka Malla, and the details on the slab describe his reign. Although the present generations cannot understand what the stone slab says, the historians have studied them and revealed to the world what they really mean! In fact, it contains information with regard to the royal dynasty, kingdom customs, the services of King Nishshankamalla, and many things more. Thus, many consider this as a great source that gives a good insight into this ancient kingdom’s capital.
Gal Vihara (Stone Temple)
People used to name this place ‘Uttararamaya’ in the past. This site is famous for its four caves, namely the Cave of Vijjadharas, Excavated Cave, Cave of Standing Image, and Cave of Reclining Image. Besides, this Gal Viharaya temple houses four wonderful stone statues that show different postures of Lord Buddha. The style of these statues seems to be highly different than the artwork of the Anuradhapura era, and thus, remains significant among the ancient Sri Lankan artistic treasures. Hence, many people visit it, not only due to its religious values but also due to the rich cultural values that it holds.
This is a famous Buddhist image house built by King Parakrama Bahu. It is a construction with unique values and decorated brick walls. Only the ruins of this ancient attraction are visible in the present, yet they clearly prove how wonderful this construction has been in the past. History reveals that this image house has had five stories. However, only the pillars and the ground floor ruins are present by now. Besides, Lankatilaka Image House has an ancient standing Buddha statue, which is completely made out of clay bricks. All these remains still hold the grandeur of the Sri Lankan past and amuse any of the visitors.
Parakrama Samudraya, constructed by King Parakrama Bahu, is one of the largest reservoirs ever in Sri Lanka. It consists of five separate reservoirs connected by narrow channels. Many believe that this is an ancient marvel of Sri Lankan engineering technology. This still remains a significant aspect of the Sri Lankan irrigation system, contributing immensely to the paddy cultivations in Polonnaruwa. Besides, this reservoir enhances the charm of the pleasant surroundings of this ancient city. Thus, many choose to spend some time by Parakrama Samudraya, while exploring the grandeur of Polonnaruwa.
Alahena Pirivena Monastery
This is a monastic complex, constructed by King ParakramaBahu. As per history, this construction covers an ancient cremation ground, and thus got this name. During the olden days, Alahana Pirivena has had several units, and the priests during that era had got together at this place along with their chief priests to discuss ‘Vinaya – the discipline rule of monks’. Even today, the ruins of the stairways, the platforms, and the boundaries are still visible for visitors.
Tivanka-patamaghara Image House Buddhist Shrine
This had been a part of the Jethawanarama Monestry Complex, which was done by King Parakramabahu. This is a Buddhist shrine with a Standing Buddha Image with a Thrice Bent Posture in it. Ruins of this Buddha Statue are still there in this image house. Many visit this place, especially, to observe this valuable sacred statue.
Rankoth Viharaya Buddhist shrines
According to the legends, King Nishshanka Malla who ruled the Polonnaruwa kingdom built this stupa. The structure of this shrine is entirely made out of bricks and is the largest stupa in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Also, it is the fourth largest stupa in Sri Lanka. Besides, many believe that this stupa looks a lot similar to the Ruwanwelimahaseya in its look, and
Kiri Vehera Stupa
This is a large olden stupa constructed by a queen of King Parakramabahu in the Polonnaruwa reign. This is in the North of the Lankathilaka Pilima Ge. Further, Kirivehera is also a part of the Alahana Pirivena. It had been famous earlier as the ‘Rupavati’stupa. Many who visits Polonnaruwa, never forget to visit this religious attraction and to spend some time amidst its calm and peaceful surroundings.
Ancient City of Kandy
Kandy, as you might already know, is a significant tourist attraction on the splendid island of Sri Lanka. This was the city in which the last ancient kingdom capital of Sri Lanka was based. Thus, this is not only a scenic town with unique natural charms but also a city with lots of cultural attractions. Some of the significant highlights of this ancient town are as follows.
- The Temple of the Tooth Relic
- Embekke Devalaya
- Lankathillake Temple
- Gadaladeniya Temple
Of course, if you are planning to visit Kandy any sooner, you will certainly need more information about these places. Take it easy, because we are ready to enlighten you about all these attractions!
The Temple of the Tooth Relic
The temple of the tooth relic is the most sacred religious attraction of Buddhists in Sri Lanka. In fact, it houses the left tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Several rituals are conducted daily on behalf of this sacred relic, and annual ceremonies such as the Kandy Esala Perahera are performed paying homage to this relic. Besides, the white temple complex, ancient paintings, murals, and buildings with unique architectural values further magnify the significance of this wonderful attraction. Hence, a visit to the temple of the tool relic happens to be a must if anyone arrives at this charming ancient city of Central Sri Lanka.
The Embekka Devalaya, commonly known as the Embekka temple, is a great Sri Lankan site that thrills tourists with some of the world’s best wood crafts. This is something that even UNESCO acknowledges. This location, however, is in the lovely Kandy city’s Udu Nuwara neighborhood and dates from the Gampola Kingdom’s reign. As a result, this is not just a destination that showcases the world’s obsession with the island’s traditional arts and crafts, but also a historical site.
The Lankathilaka Temple is a historic Buddhist holy site located in Udunuwara, about 17 kilometers from Kandy. This structure also dates from the Gampola Period of ancient Sri Lanka, and it showcases the unique architectural styles of that era to the rest of the globe. Aside from that, the temple’s position in a natural rock is truly stunning. Furthermore, every visitor to this attraction will undoubtedly be delighted by the murals and paintings out there.
Gadaladeniya is another old Buddhist temple from the Gampola era that is located adjacent to the Lankathilaka temple. In Diggala, near Kandy, there is this beautiful religious attraction located on top of a cliff. According to history, it is clear that the Portuguese have destroyed some of the old Buddha sculptures that this temple housed. However, the attractiveness and rich values of the remains make it a must-visit for anyone who explores the ancient city of Kandy.
13. Colombo City Ride
Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka is the city with the highest population in Sri Lanka. Even though it is limited to a geographic area of around 38 km², it is well known as a vibrant city with historical monuments, antique buildings, modern architecture, and greenery streets. The City of Colombo is quite busy in the daytime, yet it creates a peaceful and spectacular sight towards the late hours of the day. Yes, Colombo nightlife is exciting and amazing. However, there are a number of day and night Colombo City Tour packages, and the travelers have the opportunity to choose the best according to their preferences. Of course, one can even travel around Colombo for days. There are many places to visit. Below are a few of them.
- Colombo Lighthouse
- President’s House
- Slave Island Area
- Lotus tower
- Beire Lake
- National Museums
- Nelum Pokuna Theatre
- Vihara Maha Devi Park
- Colombo Town Hall
- Colombo Race Course
- Parliament Complex
- Gangaramaya Temple
- Replica of Awukana Buddha Statue
- Diyatha Uyana
- Port City
- Independence Square and Arcade Independence Square
- South Expansion of Colombo Harbour
- York Street
- Galle Face Green
- Shopping Malls
Excited to know more about these places? Continue reading!
Colombo Lighthouse was built in 1952 and is located in the Galbokka Point south of the Port of Colombo. D.S. Senanayake, the first prime minister of Sri Lanka, declared open this iconic monument. From that point onwards, it remained iconic. Thus, it is still a significant attraction in the city of Colombo, and many visit it during Colombo city tours.
This is a historic building in Colombo at present and is a tourist attraction. It is located in the Janapathi Mawatha in the city. During the colonial era, this has been the residence of British governors and governors-general and then after independence, it has been the residence of the presidents in Sri Lanka. The building of this institution itself has a unique look at its own, and thus, it has become a major highlight among the architectural marvels in the city as well.
Slave Island area
This is a very busy commercial area in the present, yet, an area where the slaves were held in the past. Old building structures are still there in the streets of this area, which makes it a major attraction in the Colombo suburbs. However, this area of Colombo is highly crowded. Many street stalls, boutiques, shops, and factories are located in this area, and thus, many people arrive at Slave Island daily.
This tower is the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia in the world today. Besides, it is the 11th tallest tower in Asia and the 19th tallest tower in the world. Illuminated with lights, the Lotus tower stands with majesty, making it a star attraction within the city limits. Of course, it has now become the symbolic landmark of Sri Lanka, and when opened for visitors, it is certainly going to become one of the major tourist attractions on the island.
It is located at the heart of Colombo and surrounds a vast area of the commercial city. The temple inside the lake adds more beauty to the lake and has made it a site loved by a lot. With the illuminated buildings surrounding the lake, Beire lake is highly attractive at night. Nonetheless, many who explore the delight of Colombo, never forget to spend a few minutes by this lake, to relax a bit and soothe their soul.
National Museum of Sri Lanka, founded in 1877, has been developing over years with the expansion of galleries. It consists of various sections specially dedicated to ancient kingdoms, cultures, professions, and many more. Hence, it is undoubtedly a place in Sri Lanka, that provides a good insight to any of the visitors about the history of Sri Lanka. Many students, locals, as well as tourists, visit this place daily, to experience this delight.
Nelum Pokuna Theatre
This is also popular as the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre and aligns with the concept of a lotus flower. It is one of the high scale performance centers in Sri Lanka, meant for large-scale theatrical productions. Further, Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre facilitates an audience that exceeds 1200 and is equipped with the latest technologies. It came up in 2011, and since then it has been the venue for many grand scale ceremonies held in Sri Lanka.
Vihara Maha devi Park
It is the oldest and the largest public park is located in Colombo 07. It attracts both foreigners and locals and is popular as a place to enjoy and relax. The beautifully landscaped lawns, children’s park, paths through the greenery, and the benches placed among them create the perfect atmosphere for anyone to spend some good time out there. Vihara Maha Devi Park is highly crowded during the weekends, and evenings especially.
Colombo Town Hall
It is the headquarters of the Colombo Municipal Council which is still functioning. This is in front of the ViharaMahaDevi Park, and is a symbolic construction in the city of Colombo, due to its unique architectural values.
Photo Credits : https://en.wikipedia.org/
Race Course, located in Colombo 07, had been a harness racing course in the past. Upon renovations, it is now a shopping complex and is a famous place among locals as well as tourists to relax and enjoy.
This is located in Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, the administrative capital of Sri Lanka. A part of it still acts as the place for the parliamentary gatherings, and thus, is restricted for visits and observations. However, the public building complex of the parliament certainly adds glamour to the city due to its location on an island, surrounded by the Diyawanna Oya.
Gangaramaya Temple is located in Beira Lake and is one of the ancient Buddhist temples in Colombo. Its uniqueness lies in its architectural designs. Moreover, it houses several valuable statues and murals making it a perfect place for visitors to explore a bit about the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. Hence, this happens to be a must, in any of the Colombo city tours. Besides, it is popular for its glamorous decorations during the season of Vesak.
Photo Credits : https://www.dailymirror.lk/
This is the only State-owned Gift & Souvenir Boutique chain in Sri Lanka. It is a huge tourist attraction due to its availability of all handicraft stuff, spices, tea, clothes, and many more Sri Lankan sale items. A visit to Laksala, not only created the opportunity for the visitors to buy some souveniors, but also to observe the values of the Sri Lankan arts and crafts. Thus, if you arrive at Colombo, make sure you visit this place too!
‘Ape Gama’ cultural village
Photo Credits : https://srilankafinder.com/
This is a model of a Sri Lankan cultural village. The constructions, stalls, and the environment here recreate the Sri Lankan cultural value in a unique and significant manner. Ape Gama is also used as the venue for various functions with cultural values. Owing to all this reason, this too happens to be a major attraction in the vibrant city of Colombo.
Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH)
This is a convention center built in the 1970s. Further, it was an outright gift from the People’s Republic of China. This place was named honouring S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, an iconic figure in Sri Lanka politics. BMICH was renovated several times, and it has now become a significant symbol of the country where a number of international summits and conferences take place.
Replica of Aukana Buddha Statue
This is a replica of the Aukana Buddha Statue in Anuradhapura. This statue in Colombo, stands majestically in Colombo 07, opposite the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall. Many visitors who explore the delight of the city of Colombo never forget to stop at this place to observe teh grandeur of this wonderful statue.
Photo Credits : https://www.dailynews.lk/
This is a picturesque market and landscaped gardens on the banks of the Diyawanna Oya. It has succeeded in attracting people as an ideal place to spend some time in leisure and enjoy. The food stalls out there are also highly significant since they create perfect opportunities for the visitors to enjoy a wide variety of food items. However, Diyatha Uyana is mostly crowded during the evenings, and the weekend.
This is a modern city complex that is still under construction. Upon development, it would be an extension to the commercial city of Colombo. The specialty is that it uses a number of modern technologies and architectural styles. Port City will surely be the largest attraction in Colombo in the years to come.
Independence Square and Arcade Independence Square
Independence Square, also known as the Torrington Square, is a national monument built in commemoration of the independence of Sri Lanka from British rule. Arcade Independence square which is located at its next end of the land it is a modern shopping complex, housed in a group of renovated buildings. Besides, its white building complex makes it a star attraction within the city limits.
South expansion of the Colombo Harbour
Colombo harbor is the largest and busiest harbor in Sri Lanka. South expansion of the Colombo Harbour is a project which is still in the go, and upon completion, it would enhance the capabilities of the Colombo Harbour, and expand the area of Sri Lanka as well.
York Street with remnants of British Colonial Architecture
York Street is a street with a group of interesting and attractive colonial-style buildings. Walking along the corridors of the old Millers and Cargills building on this street will obviously remind you of the classical English movie backgrounds.
Galle Face Promenade with cannons of World War II
Galle Face promenade was laid out in 1859 and is a major attraction with a historical value. While viewing the chronicle grandeur of Galle Face, most visitors never forget to enjoy the evenings at the Galle Face Green amidst the breeze of the Indian Ocean waves under the open sky. The street food stalls out there further magnify the delight of this place.
There are a number of recently built modern shopping malls in Colombo. They offer all types of luxury as well as Sri Lankan shops. A few of the popular shopping malls in the Colombo suburbs are Colombo City Center, One Galle Face, Liberty Plaza, Majestic City, and Arcade Independence Square. Of course, a city tour in Colombo won’t be ever complete, without a visit to these shopping malls!
The Bottom Line
Sri Lanka is certainly a land of culture and the beauty of nature. This uniqueness coupled with the wonders of the surroundings has made it a perfect land of a fun-filled paradise for backpacking. These are just a few of the activities to do in Sri Lanka that should undeniably go into your ‘to-do list’. There are a lot more activities for you to do and a lot more places to visit, on this beautiful, and captivating island. So, just visit Sri Lanka yourself and experience its wonders. Yet, make sure to choose the best time to visit Sri Lanka, with the perfect weather and climate to enjoy. If so, surely, your stay here would be the best days of your life!