There are some magnificent tourist attractions in Sri Lanka that you do not want to miss. In this guide I provide detailed information on the top tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, how to get there, ticket prices and places to stay alongside other helpful tips and tricks to help plan your Sri Lanka itinerary.
Ready to learn more about the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka? Read on…
- Tourist Attractions in Sri Lanka
- Nuwara Eliya
- Adam’s Peak
- Little Adam’s Peak
- Tourist Attractions in Sri Lanka- To Conclude
Tourist Attractions in Sri Lanka
There are many tourist attractions in Sri Lanka scattered throughout the country. I have organised this post by destinations in Sri Lanka, to help planning your trip a little bit easier. Keep reading to find out about the major tourist attractions in Sri Lanka and where they are…
Lets start of this article about tourist attractions in Sri Lanka in Kandy.
Kandy is a wonderful place in Sri Lanka, full of culture and history and plenty of tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. We loved our two day visit and we recommend that Kandy is included on any Sri Lanka travel itinerary.
Here is everything you need to know when planning your visit…
Where is Kandy?
Located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Kandy is a major city within the hills of the eponymous plateau. It is also home to tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. It is the current capital city of the Central Province, and was also the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka.
Kandy has had various names. These include Katubulu Nuwara, and the much longer Senkadagala Siriwardhana Maha Nuwara. This roughly translates as great city of Senkadagala of growing resplendence. It is thought that this name came from a brahmin named Senkanda, who lived in a nearby cave – or a queen who was also named Senkanda, or perhaps a coloured stone called Senkadagala.
The English name ‘Kandy’ comes from the colonial era of Sri Lanka. During this time, the name ‘Sinhala Kanda Uda Rata’ – which means the land on the mountain – was shortened and anglicised. This gave Kandy the name that many know it by today!
How to get to Kandy
Currently, Kandy does not have its own international airport. The closest airport to the city is Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. You can fly here from London, Dubai, Melbourne, Chennai, Delhi, Moscow and various other major cities.
Getting from Colombo to Kandy is simple. Both are big cities, so there are a variety of ways to travel between the two. There is a domestic airport in Kandy, and you can fly here from Diyawanna Oya (DWO) Airport – a 6 mile taxi ride from Colombo. However, this can be incredibly costly and involves multiple journeys. Consider the train or bus instead!
Costing just £1-2 GBP, the train from Colombo to Kandy takes around three hours. Take any of the trains heading to Badulla (or one that terminates at Kandy itself) from Fort Station. Trains run daily between 5.55am and 5.45pm.
There is also a direct bus route from Colombo. It leaves every 20 minutes, and takes just over three hours. Again it will only set you back around £1 – which is fantastic for such a straightforward journey. The bus leaves from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal, and drops you at Kandy Good Shed Bus Station.
Because we were tight for time and wanted to pack as much into our Sri Lanka trip as possible, we booked this tour with Viator. I love Viator because they offer such a wide range of tours for a variety of budgets. You also know that the company is legitimate and that you will get your money back if there are any problems.
Things to do in Kandy
There is so much to do in Kandy, involving several tourist attractions in Sri Lanka – here are some of the best bits. They’re the ones you really shouldn’t miss if you do visit this incredible city!
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
This Buddhist temple is located in Kandy. It is one of the most fascinating tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Legend has it that this beautiful temple was built around the Buddha’s tooth, which was gifted to the Sri Lanka monarchy way back when. Tourists and worshippers can visit the tooth, held inside a golden stupa inside a two-story shrine.
Kandy Lake is located here too, incomplete and known as the Milky Ocean – and perfect for a relaxing stroll.
We really enjoyed our visit to the important site in Kandy. There just so happened to be some kind of festival on the evening that we visited and it was REALLY busy. However, we got to see the famous tooth (fo about 5 seconds) and it was a fascination cultural tourism experience.
Tea factories and plantations
Like many other parts of Sri Lanka, Kandy has plenty of tea factories and plantations. You can do a tour of the lush green fields, taste tea at its freshest and learn about the history and process of tea making. Perfect for those tea-obsessives out there!
Dalada Maligawa Museum
Dalada Maligawa Museum is all about Buddhism. It highlights the spread of the religion throughout Asia and worldwide, and there is so much to see and learn here. It is one of the most interesting tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
The museum is perfect for helping your children understand more about other religions, too. There are also plenty of other parts of Kandy that provide a learning opportunity, as well as just showcasing the beauty of Buddhism.
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue is a giant Buddha statue that overlooks the city. You can climb up here, and it’s well worth doing so. The views are incredible… in fact, this is one of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka for vistas!
GOOD TO KNOW: if you do plan on climbing up to the huge Buddha statue, do so early in the morning or towards the evening. The heat can be unbearable in the middle of the day.
Udawattakele Forest Reserve
There are so many tourist attractions in Sri Lanka based in Kandy. Udawattakele Forest Reserve is an urban forest that was once the garden of the kings of Kandy; it is now a wildlife sanctuary, and home to all sorts of plants, mammals and reptiles.
Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden
Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden serves as Kandy’s main spice garden. All sorts of incredible smells fill the air, and there are beautiful plants and flowers too. It is one of my favourite natural tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Where to stay in Kandy
There are a lot of options for accommodation in Kandy. Here are some of my recommendations.
We spent Christmas Day in Kandy and really enjoyed staying at Kings Pavilion Luxury Hotel, where we enjoyed some well-deserved relaxation time in the beautiful pool overlooking the Sri Lankan Tea Plantations and fields. The food was lovely and there was a great atmosphere during the Christmas party. And they even had a Sri Lankan Santa!
Signature Kandy is a guest house a couple of miles from the city centre. Each room has its own bathroom, and the accommodation has free WiFi and free parking. There is ample outdoor space, a shared kitchen, and beautiful views. Shops, restaurants and landmarks are within easy reach of this guest house, and there is even an airport shuttle!
Funk Bunks Kandy offers a variety of rooms. From double rooms to family rooms as well as large dormitories where you can book a single bed, there’s something for every kind of traveller. Just a mile away from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, this accommodation offers free WiFi, free parking and daily housekeeping. There is a bar and restaurant on-site, and various activities can be arranged.
Queen’s Hotel allows you to take a step back in time. A colonial style building with spacious rooms and a fantastic restaurant, the hotel is less than a mile from so many of Kandy’s main attractions. There is a pool, free WiFi, free parking and more.
Not convinced by these hotels? Use the search box below to see the full list of available accommodations for your travel dates.
Sigiriya is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, and for good reason!
This rock has historical value, teaches tourists about the local culture AND provides an incredible viewpoint of the surrounding countryside areas and mountains. So why wouldn’t you visit Sigiriya on you revisit to Sri Lanka?
Anybody can climb Sigiriya rock- if I did it with a baby on my back, anyone can do it! But it’s worth knowing a bit about the area and what it has to offer before you go to make the most of your trip.
What is Sigiriya?
Sigiriya, also known as Sinhagiri, is an ancient rock fortress and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. It is located in the northern Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
Dominated by a huge column of rock (around 200 metres high) it is an incredibly significant historical and archaeological site.
The Culavamsa, the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle, states that this site was chosen by King Kashyapa for his new capital. He ruled from around 473 – 495 AD. On top he built a palace, decorated with vivid and colourful frescoes, and half way up the rock he built a gateway in the shape of a ginormous lion. This lion, in fact, gives the place its name. Sinhagiri means the lion rock.
Now, the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After Kashyapa died, the palace – and the capital it stood in – were abandoned. It was subsequently used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century, and is now said to be one of the most well-preserved examples of ancient urban planning, making this one of the most impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
After being abandoned, it was re-discovered in 1831 by Major Jonathan Forbes. He was a British army major. He was riding his horse in the area and came across the giant rock, palace and lion sculpture!
How to get to Sigiriya
As mentioned, Sigiriya is located in the Matale District of Sri Lanka’s Central Province. The closest city is Dambulla. From here, Colombo is 148 km away and Kandy is around 72 km away.
FUN FACT: Dambulla is actually the centre of vegetable distribution in Sri Lanka.
If you are planning to visit Sigiriya, then Dambulla is a great starting point. To get there from Colombo, the most direct way is to hire a car and drive (around 2.5 hours) or get the bus. This takes about 4 hours, but only costs the equivalent of £1 GBP. The bus goes directly from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal to Dambulla. It runs approximately every 15 minutes.
Getting to Dambulla from Kandy is slightly more complicated. Buses are infrequent and you have to swap – go from Kandy Clock Tower Bus Station to Ambepussa (the number 8 towards Colombo Fort) and then get the 48-17 from there towards Wlkanda, jumping off at Dambulla. Alternatively, a taxi will cost around £25. If you have hired a car, the drive takes just over an hour.
Once you’re in Dambulla, you’re around a 20 minute drive from Sigiriya. If you aren’t driving yourself, a taxi will cost in the region of £4-6 GBP. There are also guided tours that include transport, and they often combine other places in the area such as Polonnaruwa.
If you prefer DIY-style and don’t want to book a guided tour, then here are some tips for visiting Sigiriya!
There are 1200 steps up to the top, so wear your comfiest shoes- this is one of the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka that gets your blood flowing! Walking boots, sturdy sandals or good trainers are a must. Your flip flops will be useless here!
The steps are divided into several staircases, though, so there’s plenty of rest opportunities. Be warned that the last set of steps are metal, and these can get a bit slippy when it’s been raining. Just something to bear in mind…
GOOD TO KNOW: there are no restrictions on what you can wear here in terms of it being a semi-religious site. Shorts and a t-shirt will be fine!
It isn’t cheap to visit Sigiriya. While locals can visit the site for just Rs50, tourists have to pay around Rs2,1500. This equates to $30 USD or £23 GBP. If you want a guide while you are there, expect to pay an added Rs1,000 or thereabouts.
There are ancient ruins all of Sigiriya. Water gardens, terraced gardens, boulder gardens – they’re all over the rock. These are some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world, and they are incredibly special to see.
Beautiful frescoes adorn the site, too. Cobra Hood Cave is the best part of Sigiriya for seeing the artwork!
For those particularly interested in architecture, the site is an absolute goldmine. The plan is elaborate and intuitive, making use of both symmetry and asymmetry alongside the natural structures that were already in place. There are many smaller tourist attractions in Sri Lanka within this site that you will love.
TIP: it takes around an hour to get straight to the top of the rock, but chances are you will want to stop along the way to snap some photos of the view and the wonders of Sigiriya itself!
Visit in the morning. It gets really hot around midday, as well as being busy. The site is open from 7.30 am until 5.30 pm, and most say the best time to go is around 8.00 am after the initial crowds have started climbing.
You want to make sure your visit is as fun and comfortable as possible! Wear your SPF, and take some water with you. Maybe some snacks too…
Once you’ve made the climb and rested your legs, there are plenty of other tourist attractions in Sri Lanks based close by. If your legs can handle it, climb up Pidurangala. From here you will get incredible views of Sigiriya itself, although it is a bit more of a difficult climb… However, it’s definitely the cheaper option at only Rs500.
Minneriya National Park
Minneriya National Park is nearby, and if seeing elephants is high on your Sri Lanka to-do list then this is the place to go. Kaudulla National Park is another good choice for seeing elephants as well as a variety of beautiful birds and is one of the favourite tourist attractions in Sri Lanka for many people.
There is also an archaeological museum at Sigiriya, which is really interesting for those into history. Perfect if you want to know more about the area!
Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful part of Sri Lanka that shouldn’t be missed and is home to some fantastic tourist attractions in Sri Lanka!
Where is Nuwara Eliya?
Located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya is a city within the rolling hills. Its name means city of light or city on the plane. It has a stunning landscape, mild climate and colonial buildings and some of the most interesting tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
How to get to Nuwara Eliya
The closest airport is Colombo International Airport. At around 167 km away, it isn’t particularly close – the drive takes around three hours. You can hire a car from the airport, or get a taxi. The journey costs between £35 and £50 GBP in a taxi. If you are already in Colombo, you can head to Colombo Fort and get the 79-1 bus towards Welimada. This takes around 5 and a half hours, but saves on costs for budget travellers.
If you happen to be staying in Kandy, you’re around an hours drive away from Nuwara Eliya. A taxi will set you back around £26 GBP. There is a bus route too: get the 22-9 from Kandy in the direction of Colombo Fort, and get off around an hour later at Peradeniya. From here, take the 79-1 towards Welimada. This takes you to Magasthota Junction, a 5 minute walk from Nuwara Eliya. The whole journey takes a couple of hours, but is worth it if you’re travelling on a budget.
Weather in Nuwara Eliya
The temperature in Nuwara Eliya is really mild. Ranging from 10°C – 20°C in the winter, and 14°C – 19°C in the summer, it’s never too cold or too warm. April is the warmest month, though, with temperatures reaching up to 23°C.
Things to do in Nuwara Eliya
The area is the most important place for tea production in Sri Lanka, so there are many tea-related activities you can do in Nuwara Eliya, which are some of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Visit the tea plantations
There are hundreds of acres of tea plantations across the city. You can visit tea factories, drink tea, eat tea-flavoured ice cream… the possibilities are endless! The tea plantations were some of y favourite tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
St. Clair’s Falls
Head to St. Clair’s Falls to see a beautiful waterfall surrounded by tea plantations and you won’t be disappointed! This is one of my favourite tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Seetha Amman Temple
Seetha Amman Temple is high on a lot of people’s lists when visiting Nuwara Eliya. It is a stunning Hindu temple, adorned with bright colours and said to be the place where Sita was held captive by Rawana, the demon king. She prayed daily for Rama to come and rescue her.
There are circular impressions on the rock face across the stream from the temple – these are said to be the footprints of Rawana’s elephant.
Devoted Hindus flock here due to the legend associated with the temple, and it is a beautiful to visit for non-Hindus too.
Hakgala Botanical Garden
Hakgala Botanical Garden in Nuwara Eliya is the highest-altitude botanical garden in the world, making this one of the most famous tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Not only this, but it is also the second largest garden in Sri Lanka.
The space was transformed into a botanical garden in the late 1800s, and there are so many beautiful plants and perfectly groomed flowerbeds to admire.
There is plenty of colonial architecture to admire in Nuwara Eliya. The post office is a popular one, but walking around the streets is a treat.
The Grand Hotel is another example of this. They served afternoon tea, which is really luxurious and a great way to spend a few hours. They also serve all sorts of tea-related drinks (even cocktails) if you don’t fancy a full on spread!
Gregory Lake is amazing for boat trips and is one of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka for watersports.
You can also jet ski or go speed-boating, and there are pony rides and chopper tours available. Bikes are available to hire here too! The lake is incredibly scenic, and a lovely place to relax and enjoy the weather.
Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya
There are plenty of places to stay in Nuwara Eliya. Whether you’re looking for luxury, or hoping to save your coins for another cup of Sri Lankan tea, you’ll be able to find the perfect place for you. Here are some options…
Laughing Leopard Hostel, on Udapusewalla Road, is around 1.7 miles from Gregory Lake. It has free WiFi, a garden and terrace area, and a 24-hour front desk. There is free private parking, a shared kitchen and a buffet-style breakfast too. Choose from private rooms or a shared dormitory, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. Previous guests have praised the staff, the cleanliness and the common areas.
Heritance Tea Factory is the height of colonial-style. Right in the mountains, this luxurious hotel has a spa, organic tea leaves for you to make tea with, and rain showers in every bathroom. Mini golf and billiards add to the colonial feeling, and the restaurant serves a mixture of Eastern and Western dishes. You can even dine inside a train carriage! Free WiFi and parking are available, and the hotel has all the amenities you might need. Previous guests really rate the food, friendly service and the tea plucking experience.
UYOU Ceylon Guest House is a bright blue building just a 5 minute walk from the bus station. You can’t miss it! There is an on-site restaurant, free private parking and free WiFi. With twin, double and triple rooms available, there is something for everyone. There is a bar with a fire and a pool table, and everywhere is lovely and colourful. Previous guests praise the comfortable beds, great location and friendly staff.
If you are looking for a major city to visit in Sri Lanka, then Anuradhapura should be on your list as there are lots of tourist attractions in Sri Lanka here.
Where is Anuradhapura?
Located in North Central Province, Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura is a bustling provincial capital city. It is also the capital of the Anuradhapura District itself as well as being one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals! Th city of Anuradhapura lies on the banks of Malvathu River.
Now, the city is a UNSECO World Heritage Site. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities anywhere in the world, and is popular with history-loving tourists and travellers from across the globe. It is home to many of the historic tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
How to get to Anuradhapura
Colombo, the main capital of Sri Lanka, is around 205 km away from Anuradhapura. You can hire a car in Colombo and drive to Anuradhapura, which takes just under four hours. A taxi would cost just under £100 GBP.
If public transport is your preferred method, you can take either the train or bus to Anuradhapura. There are various trains that leave from Fort Station early in the morning, and it takes just over three hours. Leaving four times daily, the bus from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal takes around five hours. The bus and train each cost around £1-3 GBP, so they are the perfect option for budget travellers.
Kandy is slightly closer. The drive to Anuradhapura takes around 2.5 hours – and a taxi will cost around £45 GBP. However, there is no direct train or bus from Kandy. You can get the train to Polgahawela Station from Kandy, and jump on another train from there to Anuradhapura. By bus, you have to get from Kandy to Kegalle and then from Kegalle to Polgahawela. The train is definitely more straightforward! Again, by public transport the journey only costs around £3.
You can also book a day trip to Anuradhapura, which can be a great option if you have a busy itinerary or are staying near by.
Things to do in Anuradhapura
There are so many tourist attractions in Sri Lanka based in this ancient capital city. Here are some of the very best!
Mihintale, thought to be the birth place of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, is incredibly special. A hill with some rudimentary steps and a wobbling railing, this is somewhere that definitely requires sensible footwear!
The view from the top is spectacular, and it is obviously a sacred area. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Entry costs Rs500. This includes nearby religious sites too; make sure to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting.
GOOD TO KNOW: you might spot some monkeys at Mihintale!
Other ancient ruins
There are so many ancient ruins in Anuradhapura- These are some of the most remarkable tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Ratna Prasada, originally a 7 story jewel palace, has a beautiful guard stone at its entrance. Ranmasu Uyana is a great example of ancient archaeology and technology, while the Royal Palace, Vijayabahu Maligaya, is a fascinating site too.
Anuradhapura has plenty of other sites of religious significance too. Ruwanwelisaya is the tallest Dagoba in the whole of Sri Lanka, and is incredibly peaceful and pretty.
Jaya Sri Maha Boodhi
Jaya Sri Maha Boodhi, an ancient spiritual tree, is a popular place for Buddhist pilgrims. The atmosphere is one of absolute bliss making this one of the favourite tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
If you want to catch a stunning sunset, head to Tissa Wewa. This is an artificial reservoir, and provides space for a relaxing stroll. You’ll be able to spot two gorgeous white stupas (rounded structures used for Buddhist meditation) in the distance. This is one of the mopst relaxing tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Wilpattu National Park
For animal lovers, Wilpattu National Park is the city’s go to. There is no end to the amount of different animals you’ll see on your Anuradhapura safari here. Keep your eyes peeled for elephants, deer, bears, foxes, leopards, birds and many, many more.
Where to stay in the city
No matter what your budget is, you’ll find somewhere stay in this incredible city. Use the search box to find a list of available hotels on your travel dates. Or alternatively, check out my personal recommendations below!
Heaven Upon Rice Fields offer clean and bright accommodation, with a private bathroom in every room. There is free WiFi, air conditioning and free parking. Rooms have hairdryers and toiletries, and the hotel offers breakfast too. There is plenty of outdoor space, and you can even hire a bike from this hotel if you fancy cycling around Anuradhapura.
Belmond Lake Hotel has everything you could possibly need – including a spa! There is free WiFi, a 24-hour front desk, room service and a children’s play area. Rooms have private bathrooms, and there is a terrace area as well as other outdoor seating space. Airport transfers can be arranged, and there is free parking should you need it.
Liyana Holiday Resort, just two miles from Anuradhapura Railway Station, is another great option. With free WiFi, free parking, easy check in and a restaurant, you’ll get on well here. The hotel has outdoor spaces for relaxing in the sun, garden view rooms and an airport shuttle service too!
If you are travelling to/around Sri Lanka on a budget, there are plenty of hostels in Anuradhapura. Whether you want a cheap private room or are happy to take a bed in a dormitory, there are ways to ensure that your trip fits with your planned costs.
Tips for visiting Anuradhapura
With year-round temperatures falling between 22 and 24°C, the city has a warm climate. However, autumn/winter is incredibly rainy. June-September are the best months to visit to ensure sunny days!
For the equivalent of around £20 GBP, you can purchase a UNSECO cultural heritage pass. This allows you to gain access to many of the archaeological and historic sites around Anuradhapura. Grab one of these from the Archaeology Museum. They are open from 8.30 am until 5.00 pm every day, except for Tuesdays when they are closed.
If you are travelling around Sri Lanka, then aim for 2-3 days in Anuradhapura because there are so many of the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka that are based here. This is the perfect time to really make the most of this ancient capital city and everything it has to offer.
Bentota is a great place for a beach break, offering the perfect mix of culture, adventure and rest and relaxation. It is home to some of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Where is Bentota?
Located in the Galle District of the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, Bentota lies on the coast. It’s around 40 miles (as the crow flies) south of the capital city, Colombo. It’s a haven for tourists because of its beauty and attractions, but it’s not somewhere that’s overcrowded. In my opinion, it is one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka for families. These beaches are some of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
How to get to Bentota
Getting to Bentota is fairly straightforward. The nearest international airport is Bandaranaike International Airport in the capital – you can fly into here from places such as Melbourne, Kuala Lumpar, Chennai and Dubai. We flew direct from London with Sri Lankan Airways and got a great price on Skyscanner.
From the airport, there are various ways you can travel to Bentota. Katunayake Airport Bus Station is a 16 minute walk from arrivals – jump on the 187-E CMB towards Colombo, which takes 45 minutes and will cost the equivalent of £1 GBP. At Colombo Bastian Maratha Bus Terminal, you can get a bus to Aluthgama (£1 GBP, taking 2 hours).
Alternatively you can alight and walk to Fort Station (11 minutes away). You can get the train to Aluthgama Station from here, which again costs the equivalent of £1 GBP and takes around 57 minutes. Aluthgama is a mile from Bentota, and you can walk or get a taxi into town.
TIP: the train to Aluthgama only runs every 4 hours, so it might be worth spending some time in Colombo before heading to the station!
If DIY-travel isn’t for you, and you’d rather head straight to Bentota, you can get a taxi. This will take just under 1.5 hours and should cost around £40-55 GBP. Alternatively, you may be able to arrange a transfer with your hotel.
Because our visit to Bentota was part of a larger trip travelling around Sri Lanka, we didn’t need to worry about how we would get there. We booked this customised tour on Viator, which was just perfect for us and encompassed lots of the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Things to see and do in Bentota
As Bentota is a resort town, it’s mostly for relaxing. But if you’ve spent a bit too long lying horizontal on a sun bed with a Pina Colada in hand, there are some other tourist attractions in Sri Lanka to check out instead…
Whilst not technically tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, there are plenty of water sports on offer in Bentota.
The crystal-clear turquoise water is the perfect place for wind surfing, banana boat rides, canyoning, jet skiing, wake boarding and more. You will find plenty of water sports centres in Bentota, and your hotel will be able to provide information and recommendations too.
If the thought of bouncing around the water is a bit much for you, go on a safari! You can do both river and land safaris in Bentota.
Many land safaris take tourists to nearby Udawalawe. Here you can see wild elephants, Sambur deer, water buffalo and more! The river safari will take you down the Bentota River where you can appreciate the pure serenity of the river and also spot crocodiles, chameleons, snakes and lizards.
TIP: sometimes the skippers on the river safaris will take you to see a captive crocodile, which is a photo opportunity. As some people are morally against this, it’s worth knowing in advance and possibly checking if this is the case with your safari when booking.
Of course, the beach at Bentota is not to be missed as this is one of the major tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Often referred to as the most beautiful beach in Sri Lanka, it provides the perfect place to laze around in the sun or play in the shallows. There is beautiful white sand, and the beach itself is well-maintained. There are bars and restaurants just off the beach too!
Turtle hatching centre
Also in the vicinity of the beach you’ll find a major attraction: the turtle hatching centre. This is one of the most impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
The Sea Turtle Protection Association is located on Galle Road, and gives you the opportunity to see and hold different species of turtles. You are also invited back at sunset to see the recently-hatched turtles being released into the water.
It costs 2000 LKR per adult, and 1000 LKR per child. This money goes towards the conservation efforts in the area.
Other activities in Bentota
There are plenty of other tourist attractions in Sri Lanka based in Bentota and the surrounding areas. You can go whale watching, spend the day on a fishing trip, head to the nearby UNSECO-listed city of Kandy or explore the local area by Beetle.
Where to stay in Bentota
Being a coastal resort, there are plenty of places to stay in Bentota. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking the perfect hotel, so here are a few of the best to get you started…
Taj Bentota Resort & Spa is an amazing hotel! It offers spectacular views of the Indian Ocean. It has a pool, spa, and four different restaurants. Rooms range from superior through to residential, and have either garden or sea views. There’s free WiFi and parking on site, airport transfers can be arranged and check-in is 24 hours a day. With room service, spa treatments and the beach on your doorstep, this is perfect for romantic getaways.
Heritance Ahungalla is a 5 star property with a pool, tennis court and golf course on site. There’s a gym and karaoke too – so something for everyone! The hotel has free WiFi and free parking, spa facilities, evening entertainment, a variety of food and 24-hour check in. Previous reviews praise the friendly staff and excellent breakfast.
Hostel Residence Bentota has private rooms and dormitories, an outdoor pool, plenty of outdoor seating areas and a terrace too. There’s free private parking, and you can do your laundry here too if you’re a long-term traveller. The beach is around 5 minutes walk away, and previous guests can’t rate the American-style breakfast highly enough.
For a full list of available accommodation options on your travels dates use the search box below.
Yala isn’t always on everybody’s Sri Lanka itinerary, but it should be as this is home to some of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka!
Where is Yala National Park?
Located in the southeast part of Sri Lanka, Yala National Park actually borders the Indian Ocean. It lies across two of the country’s provinces: Southern Province and Uva Province. This national park is home to some of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
The park covers 378 square miles (979 square kilometres), and it is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. Yala National Park is actually made up of five blocks, as well as adjoining blocks and sanctuaries. This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
How to get to Yala
Yala National Park is around 190 miles (300 kilometres) away from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. Many people stay in Colombo when visiting Sri Lanka.
You can drive to the Yala area if you charter a taxi – it takes around 4.5 hours.
Alternatively, for a budget DIY way of travelling from Colombo to Yala National Park, take the EX 1-12/32 bus from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal (heading towards Kataragama). Alight at Tangalle and get a taxi to the Yala area. The bus will cost around £1-2 GBP, with the taxi costing around £13 GBP.
We opted to do a customised tour during our travels through Sri Lanka. This allowed us to plan the itinerary and make sure that all the best bits were included, including a trip to Yala! You can find the tour we did here.
What’s the weather like in Yala?
The Yala National Park area is warm. It’s not quite hot, but it’s definitely warm! Temperatures tend not to fluctuate too much throughout the year, either.
The coldest months (December through February) see lows of 23°C and highs of 30°C, while the warmest months (March-May) have lows of 24-26°C, and highs of 31°C. So no matter what time of year you visit, it is likely to be warm
The rainy months are April, May, September, October, November and December. February is the driest month, and despite being the coolest month it still has temperatures of between 23 and 30°C making it an optimum time to visit the Yala area.
Most safari trips start early in the morning before it gets light. At this time it can be a bit chilly, so I recommend that you pack a jumper.
Tip: Don’t forget to pack your mosquito repellent! When it starts getting light the mozzies will be out and about…
Things to see at Yala National Park
The park itself and the surrounding area is a complete hotspot for eco-tourism in Sri Lanka. There is so much to see, and with blocks 1, 4 & 5 of Yala National Park being open to the public, plenty of opportunity to see it!
Entry to the park costs the equivalent of around £12 GBP for (foreign) adults and around half of this for children. Here you can hire a jeep with driver; this costs around £30 GBP for a half day, and just under £60 GBP for a full day. Jeeps hold up to six people and the cost remains the same.If you want to book in advance you can find some good options with Viator.
All of the tours seem to collect people at the same time in the morning (before it gets light). They then race to the park in the jeeps, which can be a bit of a rough ride so make sure you hold on! They then have to go and collect the tickets, which takes a while. So be prepared to wait in the jeep while your driver organises everything. We were waiting around 45 minutes, but some people were waiting longer.
Visit the national park
This national park is one of the most impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka and a safari is the best way to explore.
There are so many beautiful animals in the area, and you’ll have the opportunity to spot plenty of them: leopards, elephants, crocodiles, peacocks, sloths and more. To see animals relatively up close in their own environment is a rare treat for most people, and something that can’t be taken for granted. It is an absolute must if you’re in the area!
Birds are some of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka and bird watching is another fun way to spend the day at Yala.
There is a whole rainbow of birds present at the national park: from the Lesser Whistling Duck to the Eurasian Spoonbill, and the Painted Stork to the Ruddy Turnstone – there is no shortage of bright and beautiful birds flying and swooping through the trees and around the water.
DID YOU KNOW: there are 44 varieties of mammal and 215 species of bird in the national park!
There is also an area of the Yala National Park that offers space to walk along the beach. With stunning views, clear blue water and soft white sand it is a beautiful place to relax, reflect and soak in the atmosphere.
Here you will also find a memorial to the victims of the 2004 tsunami. Around 250 people died in the national park as a result of the tragedy, and of course the land changed completely. No animals in Yala National Park were harmed during the tsunami, which has fascinated scientists and researchers.
This is one of the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka that invokes sadness, but it is important to remember.
For a truly wild experience, you can camp in the national park or stay in one of the wildlife bungalows. For more information and to book, click here. By staying within the park, you’ll be the first ones out on safari the following day!
If you want some history and culture as well as all the nature, visit Sithulpauwwa. This is an ancient rock temple, the name of which comes from ‘Chittalapabbata’ meaning the hill of the quiet mind. It is something of a pilgrimage for a lot of people, and is believed to have housed 12,000 monks in ancient times.
Where to stay in Yala
There are plenty of hotels and accommodation options in the surrounding area, just a few minutes away from Yala National Park. Here are a couple of my recommendations.
Cinnamon Wild Yala is pure luxury. Just a five minute drive away from the national park, there are stunning chalets with private balconies, beach or jungle views, and private bathrooms. There is an outdoor pool, free WiFi, a restaurant offering both local and Western dishes, and 24-hour check in services. Spa facilities are available, and the hotel can provide a packed lunch for your day in the national park, too!
Best Hostel Yala is also just a few minutes drive away from Yala National Park. There is free WiFi, and the hostel offers double rooms as well as dormitories. All rooms have shared bathrooms, and staff are happy to organise national park tours for guests. Rooms are clean and basic, and there is plenty of socialising space.
There are also several other places to stay around Yala National Park. For a full list of accommodation options available on your travel dates use the search box below.
When I travelled to Sri Lanka I had never heard of Polonnaruwa. But I am so glad that I did some research before hand (from reading blogs like this one!) and added it to my tour around Sri Lanka with a baby. Polonnaruwa really is a Sri Lankan gem and it should certainly not be overlooked if you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka as it is home to so many incredible tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
What is Polonnaruwa?
Located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, South Asia, Polonnaruwa is a large town and home to many ancient tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. The town is split into two distinct areas: Kaduruwela, the new town, and the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa. The latter is the royal ancient city that draws so many visitors to the area.
Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient of the Sri Lankan kingdoms, making this one of the most important tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. It was first established in the 10th century by the Chola dynasty. The ancient city is classed as a World Heritage Site, while the new town is undergoing major development: the Awakening of Polonnaruwa project is set to improve the roads, education, agriculture, health and more.
Getting to Pollonnaruwa
If you’re remotely interested in history or archaeology, you should definitely consider visiting Polonnaruwa. No matter where you’re staying, consider taking a short trip to the area.
When flying into Sri Lanka, most people land at Bandaranaike International Airport. This is located in Katunayake, 20 miles north of Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. The airport is around 4.5 hours from Polonnaruwa by car.
For DIY and budget travellers, getting from Bandaranaike International Airport to Polonnaruwa is actually quite straightforward and it is easy to visit these tourist attractions in Sri Lanka by yourself:
- Walk around 15 minutes to Katunayake Airport Bus Station, and take the 187-E CMB to Colombo. This costs the equivalent of around £1 GBP, and takes 45 minutes to get to Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal. The bus leaves every 30 minutes.
- From Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal, walk for approximately 10 minutes to Fort Station. Here you can catch a train (5 times per day) to Habarana. It’ll cost you the equivalent of £1-3 GBP and takes just over an hour.
- At Habarana, take a taxi to Polonnaruwa. This will take just under an hour, and only cost you the equivalent of around £11 GBP – if there’s a few of you travelling together, or you happen to bump into some fellow travellers going the same way, splitting costs makes it even cheaper!
TIP: if you are already staying in Colombo, follow the above journey from Fort Station to get to Polonnaruwa!
Things to see in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa
Once you’re there, what is there to see? There are plenty of tourist attractions in Sri Lanka based here!
Polonnaruwa was built at a time when Hinduism was flourishing, so the ancient city has stunning temples and statues.
It also has an irrigation system so good that the kingdom was completely self-sufficient during the reign King Parakramabahu! Here are some of the best things to marvel at when visiting Polonnaruwa…
At the entrance of the ancient city you’ll find the Archaeological Museum. If you want a brief introduction to what you’re about to see, head inside!
TIP: the entry fee for the ancient city is 4500 LKR (around £19 or $25). Visitors from SAARC countries pay half price with a valid passport shown on arrival.
Royal Palace Group
When you first enter the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, you’re greeted with a group of ruins known as the Royal Palace Group, which are some of the most impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Here you can walk around what remains of the King’s Royal Palace, the Audience Hall (one of the most well-preserved structures, with elephants carved into the walls and stone lions greeting you at the top of the steps) and the king’s swimming pool.
The Scared Quadrangle
The Scared Quadrangle is another group of ruins, located within their own raised up platform. These are more of the most impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
You can see The Vatadage, a circular house with four entrances. An enormous Buddha guards each entrance.
TIP: visitors are advised to cover their knees and shoulders, as many of the ruins in the ancient city are sacred.
Shiva Devale No.2
Shiva Devale No.2 is the oldest building in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, making it one of the most notable tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
It is a stunning Hindu temple, barely touched by time and weather – a real must see to get a feel for how the area once looked.
Gal Vihara is another part of Polonnaruwa that you simply cannot miss. It is a group of four buddhas, in perfect condition, cut from one long slab of granite.
Other statues and monuments
There are hundreds of statues, temples, houses and buildings in the ancient city as well as jungle traces too. These are all very impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
A lot of the trees have boards built into them – why? You can climb up and look out for elephants who have wandered away from the nearby National Parks.
TIP: considering hiring a bicycle to get around the ancient city – many people do this. You can also book a guide to take you around Polonnaruwa.
Where to stay in Polonnaruwa
There are a variety of places to stay that are close to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Here is a handful of them…
Livinginn Polonnaruwa has single, double and family rooms available. There’s free WiFi and parking, and you can hire bikes here easily. The accommodation has a spacious garden, 24-hour check in, and the location is near to the ruins of the ancient city. Previous guests praise the food, and say that it’s safe for solo travellers.
Seyara Holiday Resort is 1.2 miles away from the ancient city. It offers budget, standard and deluxe rooms. The hotel has a pool, free WiFi and free parking. There is a restaurant on site, and they offer bike rental too. Reviews praise it as having great food and being child-friendly.
Pharo Lake, on the shore of the stunning Lake Parakrama, has incredible views and elegant decor. There’s an outdoor pool, free WiFi, an airport shuttle service and free private parking. With a 24-hour front desk, evening entertainment and bike rental, this is also a place where you’re likely to spot elephant while eating your dinner!
Adam’s Peak is a wonderful sight to see and a lot of fun to climb! This was one of my favourite tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Nature is truly remarkable – and it’s no wonder that people flock from around the world to see certain destinations. Adam’s Peak is no exception to that.
What is Adam’s Peak?
Adam’s Peak is a mountain in Sri Lanka and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
It is a conical mountain, standing at 2,243 metres (7,359 feet) tall, and famous for Sri Prada. This roughly translates to ‘sacred footprint’, and is located near the summit. It is a 1.8 meter (5 ft 11 in) rock formation that is important to various religious.
In Buddhism, Sri Prada is said to be the footprint of the Buddha. Within Hinduism, it is said to be the footprint of Hanuman or Shiva. And in some Christian and Islam traditions it is known as Adam’s footprint, or that of St. Thomas. Sri Prada was first mentioned in the 4th century: there is note of it in the earliest Pali chronicle, known as the Deepawamsa.
Adam’s Peak is a holy site, thus making this one of the most important tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims visit it as a pilgrimage site – especially Buddhists.
There are thousands of steps, and the journey takes a good few hours at least. April is peak pilgrimage season at Adam’s Peak! You can read about my climb up Adam’s Peak here.
Where is Adam’s Peak?
Adam’s Peak is located in central Sri Lanka and makes a great addition to any Sri Lanka travel itinerary. It is in the province of Sabaragamuwa, around 140 km away from Colombo. The nearest city to the mountain is Hatton, around 31 km away.
Getting to Adam’s Peak isn’t too difficult. You want to head to Hatton first and foremost, which you can do via train. It takes around 5-7 hours to reach Hatton via train from Colombo; there are various trains from Fort Station to Hatton Station, and they cost less than £5 GBP. Kandy to Hatton is a much shorter journey at around two-three hours; there are a couple of different routes, including overnight trains, and these journeys cost the equivalent of £1-2.
Once you’re in Hatton – an incredibly picturesque area with waterfalls, reservoirs, rivers and more – you can head to Adam’s Peak! It is best to arrange accommodation in Hatton for a day or so, as it is around 2 hours by car to the mountain itself. This costs around £25 in a taxi, of which there are plenty. Alternatively you can get the bus to the nearby village of Dalhousie, where you can stay before your hike if you want to be super close to the mountain and start your hike early.
TIP: this bus ride takes around 1.5 hours, and will set you back less than a pound. For a slightly more authentic experience you can get a tuk-tuk which takes around an hour, although this costs in the region of £7-10 GBP.
Climbing Adam’s Peak
As one of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka you will surely want to climb Adam’s Peak if you have the time.
The best time to climb Adam’s Peak is between December and May, as it can get pretty rainy in the area. Add to this thick mist and strong winds, and you don’t want to be scaling a mountain!
The climb takes around 5-7 hours, and is classed as ‘easy to moderate’ in terms of how difficult it is. Guides are readily available in the village of Dalhousie, costing around the £10 mark, though you likely won’t need one if you’re in a big group and climbing during the day.
Solo climbers and those planning night hikes might benefit from a guide, however! There are various guided tours available in case you would rather someone else take care of the whole thing, too.
Locals climb the peak on Saturdays and Sundays – this is when you will meet a lot of pilgrims. If you are hoping for a quieter hike, choose mid week. It is extremely cold at the top of Adam’s Peak, so take warm clothes or plenty of layers with you in preparation! And be warned: during off season, there are leeches around!
There are six routes used to climb Adam’s Peak. The most popular is the Hatton Route, from Dalhousie, which takes around three hours. It is 5 km (one way) and involves 5,500 uneven steps. The Ratnapura-Palabaddala route, often just referred to as Palabaddala, is another more popular route for climbing Adam’s Peak. The Kuruwita-Erathna trail is another well-used route, but the remaining three – Murraywatte, Mookuwatte and Malimboda – are very rarely used.
TIP: one of the best ways to climb Adam’s Peak is to ascend via the Hatton route, and descend via the Palabaddala route. That way you can a fantastic view both ways!
Many people start to climb Adam’s Peak at some point between 11pm and 2am, meaning they get to watch the sunrise at the peak surrounded by pilgrims and other travellers. Whilst the climb is hard work, the stunning view at the top makes this one of the most impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Staying in Dalhousie
There are plenty of hotels, hostels and other accommodation options in Dalhousie for those planning to climb Adam’s Peak. For example, Green View Guest Inn offers free WiFi, 24 hour check-in, an Asian or American breakfast and a comfortable place to rest before and after hiking. There are budget and more luxury options, and most places available in the area have stunning mountain views!
You will also be able to find plenty of hostels in the area if you are on a backpacking trip. These don’t even have to be booked in advance a lot of the time, so if you decide you really want to climb up Adam’s Peak then you should be absolutely fine to do so.
Little Adam’s Peak
You likely may have heard of Adam’s Peak, in the Sabaragamuwa region of Sri Lanka. But you may not have heard of Little Adam’s Peak, four hours away in Ella. This is another one of the most popular natural tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Little Adam’s Peak is a great alternative for those who don’t fancy climbing the larger volcano and is one of the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka for adventure tourists.
What is Little Adam’s Peak?
As the name suggests, Little Adam’s Peak is a smaller version of Adam’s Peak (but just because it is smaller, doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the most impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka!).
If the idea of a 5 hour hike doesn’t pique your interest, then Little Adam’s Peak is the one for you! It is a similar shape to the bigger mountain, but does not hold the sam religious significance – so there are less pilgrims, but more tourists and families willing to take on an easy trek.
Little Adam’s Peak is 1141 metres tall – that’s 3743 feet. This places it at just under half the height of the original Adam’s Peak, and the climb is much easier because of this. It generally takes around 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit, via a zig zag path. You will be greeted with 360° views of the area when you get there- its is certainly one of the most impressive tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Where is Little Adam’s Peak?
You can find Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, Sri Lanka. It is on Passara Road, and can be reached on foot from Ella itself in around half an hour to forty minutes. Head down via the Namunukula Road, and there is a sign-posted turn off to the right. Alternatively you can take a taxi, which only takes around 5-10 minutes but will cost in the region of £6-8 GBP.
Ella is a small town around 200 km east of the capital city of Colombo. It is in the Badulla District of the Uva Province, and is rich in bio-diversity.
Climbing Little Adam’s Peak
Here are a few more details about the last of the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka that I am covering in this post…
When it comes to climbing Little Adam’s Peak, it’s fairly easy.
Make your way there from Ella, and you’ll find a large white buddha marking the start of the mountain route. First you will pass through tea plantations – lush green spaces full of women plucking the tea leaves. There are stunning waterfalls and paddy fields too, and the climb gradually gets a bit steeper.
However, it is so worth it when you reach the top. Turn your head in every direction and you’ll see rolling green fields, beautiful skies and stunning scenery. See if you can spot the incredible Ella’s Rock, too!
GOOD TO KNOW: you will find local women – mainly those who pick the tea – willing to pose for photos with you in exchange for money. Make of that what you will.
Due to being a fairly easy climb, Little Adam’s Peak is definitely something you can do as a family – people often take their small children with them, and it can be a lot of fun. It is one of the most fun tourist attractions in Sri Lanka!
There are plenty of different plants, birds and insects to see on the way, many that your children probably won’t have seen before, so it’s a great learning opportunity.
On top of that, it’s a great way to introduce them to hiking. You can organise a private tour, to make things even easier for everybody! That way you’ll get picked up and dropped off, so the only walking you’ll need to do is the hike itself…
It is worth getting up and climbing Little Adam’s Peak early in the morning. That way, you’ll be able to watch a beautiful sunrise when you get to the top! Stop for breakfast at 98 Acres Resort & Spa on your way back down, and you’ve started your day in Ella, Sri Lanka perfectly.
Staying in Ella to climb the peak
The best place to stay when you’re wanting to climb Little Adam’s Peak is, of course, the town of Ella itself. There are plenty of places to stay here, whether you want budget or luxury. Here are some recommendations!
Hangover Hostels Ella offers private rooms and dormitories. There is a terrace with an incredible view and plenty of outdoor seating, free WiFi, a smoking area and the option to hire bikes for your time in Ella. Little Adam’s Peak is 2.5 km away, and this hostel is great for a younger travelling crowd! There are big lockers in the dormitory rooms, and previous guests have praised the cleanliness of the hostel as well as how helpful the staff are.
The Onestar Homestay has views that will take your breath away. Every room has its own bathroom and hot tub, and there is free WiFi and parking available. Little Adam’s Peak is around 1.5 miles away, and you can fill up on a classic Asian breakfast before you head out. Vegetarian options are available too! Previous guests praise the view, the helpful staff, delicious food and how peaceful this accommodation is. This seems to be a favourite with families visiting Ella!
EKHO Ella is the place to stay if you like to travel in style. It is slightly further away from Little Adam’s Peak, but offers incredible views and luxurious amenities. There is free WiFi and parking, a sun terrace and garden, and a restaurant/bar area too. EKHO even has a heated jacuzzi outside – almost entirely surrounded by lush green leaves, and with hat beautiful mountain view. There are sun loungers and comfortable outdoor seating, perfect for relaxing after a hike up the mountain. Previous guests praise the view, the food and the cleanliness of this hotel.
Tourist Attractions in Sri Lanka- To Conclude
As you can see, there are many wonderful tourist attractions in Sri Lanka to visit and Sri Lanka has something to offer everyone and every type of tourist. The tourist attractions in Sri Lanka are varied fun and fascinating. I know I certainly can’t wait to visit the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka again!
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