20 Things To Do In Sri Lanka

Things To Do In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, an island nation known for its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural landscapes, offers an array of unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or adventure seeker, the diversity of activities available ensures that there is something for everyone. From ancient archaeological sites and vibrant cultural festivals to stunning beaches and exotic wildlife, Sri Lanka is a destination that captivates and delights. In this blog post, we’ll explore 20 top things to do in Sri Lanka, each offering a unique glimpse into the beauty and tradition of this magical island.

Things To Do In Sri Lanka

  1. Explore the Ancient City of Sigiriya

Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, is a stunning fortress and one of the most valuable historical monuments of Sri Lanka. Dating back to the 5th century, this massive rock fortress towers nearly 200 meters above the surrounding plains. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Sigiriya is famed for its well-preserved frescoes and the mirror wall, originally polished so thoroughly that the king could see himself whilst walking alongside it. Climbing to the top of Sigiriya provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the lush greenery below. This site perfectly encapsulates Sri Lanka’s blend of history and stunning natural beauty, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

  1. Visit the Sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy

The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is a deeply significant symbol of Sri Lanka, housing one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics – a tooth of the Buddha. Located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, this temple draws thousands of worshippers and tourists each year. Visitors can experience the traditional puja rituals to honor the relic, which are performed three times a day. The architecture and spiritual ambiance of the temple provide a deep insight into the cultural fabric of Sri Lanka. Visiting during the Esala Perahera festival, which features dances, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, and lavishly decorated elephants, is particularly spectacular.

  1. Enjoy the Beaches of Mirissa

Mirissa is a beautiful crescent-shaped beach on Sri Lanka’s south coast and is a haven for those looking to relax or indulge in water sports. With its turquoise waters and golden sands, Mirissa offers an idyllic tropical setting. It is also one of the best places in the world to spot blue whales and dolphins from November to April. The beach is lined with palm trees and has numerous cafes and bars, where you can sip on a coconut while watching the sunset. For the more adventurous, snorkeling and surfing are popular activities that let you truly embrace the maritime allure of Mirissa.

  1. Take a Scenic Train Ride from Kandy to Ella

The train journey from Kandy to Ella is often described as one of the most scenic in the world. This ride takes you through lush tea plantations, mountain tunnels, and alongside picturesque waterfalls. The slow chugging of the train allows ample time to soak in the stunning vistas of Sri Lanka’s countryside. The journey makes a particularly compelling case for those who want to experience the beauty of Sri Lanka’s highlands without rushing. It’s a perfect opportunity for photographers and nature enthusiasts to capture the beauty of the landscape in a serene travel setting.

  1. Go on a Safari in Yala National Park

Yala National Park is the most visited and the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It is renowned for its variety of wildlife, most notably its leopard population. Yala offers a rugged, thrilling safari experience, where visitors can see elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes, and an incredible array of birdlife. Going on a safari in Yala not only provides the opportunity to witness these majestic animals in their natural habitat but also contributes to the conservation efforts in the region. The park is a crucial conservation area for many species, including aquatic birds and reptiles, making it a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts and eco-tourists.

  1. Wander Through the Galle Fort

Galle Fort, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later fortified by the Dutch, stands as a stunning blend of European architecture and South Asian traditions. Located in the bay of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, the fort is a living heritage site with a vibrant community within its walls. Visitors can explore the lighthouse, the maritime museum, and several ancient churches, all while enjoying the charming streets lined with boutiques and cafes. The fort offers spectacular sunset views and is a great place to understand the colonial history of Sri Lanka, making it an essential stop for history buffs and culture enthusiasts.

  1. Hike in Horton Plains National Park

Horton Plains National Park is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is known for its breathtaking landscapes and rich biodiversity. The park’s most famous feature is World’s End, an escarpment that drops dramatically for nearly 880 meters. Early morning hikes in Horton Plains offer the best views and the chance to see the park shrouded in mist. The park is also home to many endemic species of flora and fauna, making it a fascinating spot for wildlife watchers and nature lovers.

  1. Experience the Vibrant Markets of Pettah

Pettah is one of the most hectic and lively parts of Colombo, known for its bustling markets and colorful streets. It’s a place where locals and tourists alike come to shop for everything from fresh produce to textiles and electronics. Wandering through the Pettah markets provides a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells—offering an authentic glimpse into the everyday life of Sri Lankans. This is an excellent spot for those looking to pick up souvenirs, spices, and handcrafted items while experiencing the vibrant local culture.

  1. Relax in the Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, located near Kandy, are renowned for their collection of orchids, spices, medicinal plants, and palm trees. Spanning over 147 acres, these gardens are a testament to the variety of plant species found in Sri Lanka. Walking through these lush gardens is not only relaxing but also educational, as visitors can learn about the flora and its uses in Sri Lankan culture and cuisine. The gardens are a perfect picnic spot for families and a serene retreat for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

  1. Learn Traditional Cooking in a Sri Lankan Home

Taking a traditional cooking class in a local home is a unique way to dive deep into Sri Lankan culture. Many families host cooking classes where you can learn to make traditional dishes such as curry, hoppers (a type of pancake), and roti from scratch. These classes often include a trip to the local market to pick fresh ingredients, providing a full cultural immersion. It’s not just about food; it’s an opportunity to engage with local people and share stories, making it a must-do for culinary enthusiasts and culture seekers alike.

  1. Discover the Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, is a remarkable complex of five caves, transformed into shrine rooms. Filled with statues and paintings related to Gautama Buddha and his life, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best-preserved and most impressive cave temples in Asia. The caves are located on a large rock that towers over the surrounding plains, offering visitors not only a spiritual experience but also panoramic views of the area. This sacred place offers a tranquil atmosphere and a deep insight into Buddhist culture and history.

  1. Surfing in Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay, on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, is renowned for its fantastic surfing conditions, attracting surfers from all over the world. The bay’s main point break offers reliable waves, making it an ideal spot for both beginners and advanced surfers. The laid-back vibe, coupled with beautiful beaches and a friendly local community, makes Arugam Bay a perfect seaside getaway. Whether you’re looking to catch the perfect wave or simply relax by the sea, Arugam Bay provides a vibrant yet relaxed atmosphere.

  1. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Sigiriya

Experience the breathtaking landscape of Sri Lanka from above with a hot air balloon ride over Sigiriya. Floating peacefully above the jungle and cultural sites like Sigiriya Rock provides a unique perspective and stunning photo opportunities, especially at sunrise. The quiet and serene morning skies offer a magical and tranquil experience, allowing you to appreciate the vast beauty of the island in a truly memorable way.

  1. Visit the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a unique conservation center dedicated to the care and nurturing of orphaned elephants. Visitors can see these magnificent creatures up close, including watching their feeding sessions and accompanying them to a nearby river for their daily bath. This experience not only raises awareness about the plight of the elephant population in Sri Lanka but also offers a chance to learn about the efforts being made to protect and rehabilitate these animals.

  1. Explore the Old Dutch City of Jaffna

Jaffna, located in the northern tip of Sri Lanka, offers a blend of Tamil and colonial heritage, evident in its unique cuisine, architecture, and temples. The city is less frequented by tourists, providing a more authentic and untouched cultural experience. Key attractions include the Jaffna Fort, the ancient library, and vibrant local markets. Exploring Jaffna is a chance to understand the diverse cultural fabric of Sri Lanka and the resilience of its people.

  1. Attend the Kataragama Festival

Kataragama Festival, held in the town of Kataragama, is a significant event that attracts thousands of pilgrims from various faiths, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and indigenous Vedda communities. This vibrant festival features fire-walking, colorful processions, and traditional dance performances. It’s a profound cultural immersion, offering insight into the syncretic religious traditions of Sri Lanka and a chance to witness the devotion and fervor of its participants.

  1. Snorkel in the Coral Sanctuaries of Hikkaduwa

Hikkaduwa is famous for its coral gardens and clear waters, making it a prime spot for snorkeling and diving in Sri Lanka. The marine sanctuary here is home to a vast array of underwater life, including colorful coral reefs and exotic fish species. Snorkeling in Hikkaduwa provides an up-close view of this aquatic biodiversity, offering a serene and mesmerizing experience beneath the waves. This location is ideal for those looking to explore the vibrant underwater ecosystem in a relaxed, tropical setting.

  1. Bird Watching in Bundala National Park

Bundala National Park is a paradise for bird watchers, with its wetlands serving as a haven for migratory and resident bird species. The park is particularly famous for its flamingo populations that visit in large flocks. Bundala’s unique ecosystem supports an impressive diversity of avian life, making it a critical habitat for bird conservation in Sri Lanka. A visit here is not just about bird watching; it’s an educational journey into the importance of ecological preservation.

  1. Cycle Around the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was the capital of Sri Lanka in medieval times and remains one of the best-planned archaeological relic sites in the country, renowned for its ancient structures like temples, stupas, and statues. Cycling through the extensive site offers a unique way to see the ruins at your own pace, with the wind in your hair and the sun setting over the ancient city. This experience combines physical activity with historical exploration, making it perfect for history enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike.

  1. Relax in the Healing Waters of the Kanniya Hot Springs

Kanniya Hot Springs are a series of seven square-shaped wells with water that is believed to have therapeutic properties. The site has historical significance, with roots tracing back to the times of King Ravana, and the temperature of the water varies slightly from well to well. Visiting these hot springs offers a relaxing and potentially healing experience, allowing visitors to soak in warm waters amidst the natural beauty of the surroundings. This spot is perfect for a restful break from the more strenuous tourist activities.


From the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa to the serene waters of the Kanniya Hot Springs, Sri Lanka offers a diverse palette of experiences that cater to all types of travelers. Whether you’re soaking in the rich history, exploring the natural beauty, or indulging in the local cuisine, Sri Lanka is sure to leave a lasting impression. As we’ve seen, the things to do in Sri Lanka are as varied as they are enchanting, making it a perfect destination for those seeking a journey filled with discovery and adventure. So pack your bags, set your itinerary, and get ready to explore the wonders of Sri Lanka, where every corner promises a new adventure and a treasure trove of memories.

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