Things To Do in Sri Lanka & Must Have Experiences

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Things To Do in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka as a country has much to explore - trying out its tasty cuisine, paying visits to holy temples, gazing at items in the museums, participating in water sports at beaches, going on treks and (Read More)safaris in national parks, admiring nature's landscapes of hills, peaks, rocks, parks and so on. One gets to experience metro-fast lives in Colombo and historical suburbia in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. There is a never a limit for things to do in Sri Lanka as it has a rich repository of cultural, historical, adventurous and natural accumulations.

Here is the list of 40 Things To Do in Sri Lanka & Must Have Experiences

1. Whale Watching in Mirissa

Whale Watching in Mirissa

Mirissa is hugely famous for its whale-watching and dolphin-watching activities. Whale watching in Mirissa allows visitors to enjoy watching them swim and play in their natural habitat. The best time for whale watching in Mirissa is from November to April, especially the months of March and April, for frequent sightings of the whales. Numerous reputed tour operators conduct tours for whale watching in Mirissa.

2. Climb Sigiriya Rock

Climb Sigiriya Rock
4.5 /5

Sigiriya, or the Lion Rock, is an ancient fort located in the Matale District in central Sri Lanka. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it an interesting thing to do in Sri Lanka. It consists of a citadel and has ruins of palaces, the Lion Gate, gardens, moats, the Mirror Wall, and many beautiful frescoes (paintings made in wet plaster on walls). The place got its name from the Lion claws carved at the entrance of the Lion Gate. You can reach the Sigiriya Fortress either by bus or by train from the main towns of Dambulla or Habarane.

3. Visit Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy

Visit Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy
4.2 /5

Sri Dalada Maligawa is the Sinhalese name for this holy shrine. Famously called the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, it is touted to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in the whole world. One thing to do in Sri Lanka is view the tooth of Buddha nestled in a golden chamber within the premises of the royal palace complex (formerly a princely state). Kandy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is said that whichever state holds the tooth relic maintains an essential place in the governance of the country.

4. Explore Galle Fort

Explore Galle Fort
5.0 /5 View 77+ photos

Known For : Galle Fort Galle Lighthouse Galle Fort Clock Tower

Tucked into the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, Galle is a major city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Blessed with imposing Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient churches and mosques, blond beaches, mansions and museums, quirky boutiques, and a convivial seaside promenade, Galle attracts locals, foreign travelers, history buffs, and nature lovers alike.

Best Time: February

33 Galle Attractions

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5. Kandy to Ella Train Ride

Kandy to Ella Train Ride

Often described as one of the most scenic train rides in the world, the train journey is a must-do in Sri Lanka. The train ride between Kandy and Ella takes you 6 hours. The train takes you through tea plantations, waterfalls, mountains, clouds, mist, and more, making you feel like you’re inside a fairy tale. The tickets are usually cheap but require a reservation to travel comfortably, but the money will be worth it.

6. See Asian Elephants at Udawalawe National Park

See Asian Elephants at Udawalawe National Park
4.2 /5

Over 30,000 hectares, Udawalawe is best known for its large population of Asian elephants. Enjoy a jeep safari at the national park, venture deep into the wilderness, and encounter elephants, along with other wildlife such as buffalo, deer, monkeys, and a variety of bird species. You can also go birdwatching, take nature walks, and camp in Udawalawe.

Best Time: December to March

7. Marvel at Dambulla Cave Temples

Marvel at Dambulla Cave Temples
4.3 /5

Known For : Dambulla Cave Temple Dambulla Golden Temple & Museum Sigiriya

Nestled in Sri Lanka's Central Province, Dambulla is a treasure trove of historical Buddhist and megalithic monuments, mountains with thick tropical forests and lakes, naturally-formed sky-high rocks, and centuries-old temples. Dambulla's most-visited attraction is the UNESCO-listed Dambulla Cave Temple, which displays over 150 priceless Buddha statues, intricate sacred cave paintings, and huge murals. It is Sri Lanka's best-preserved Buddhist shrine within ancient caves.

Best Time: January to May

11 Dambulla Attractions

8. Spot Leopards at Yala National Park

Spot Leopards at Yala National Park
4.6 /5

Yala National Park was originally a hunter's arena during British colonial rule but now has the highest population of leopards on earth. It is one of the most adventurous things to do in Sri Lanka as it is the largest national park with a total area of 900 Sq Km. Yala National Park attracts a lot of tourists throughout the year due to its high density of leopards, sloth bears, crocodiles, and deer.

Best Time: February - July

9. Try Sri Lankan Cuisine

Try Sri Lankan Cuisine

Being a coastal country, some of the staple items found in much of Sri Lankan cuisine are rice, coconuts, and seafood. There is also a surprising use of species in preparing chutneys, which leads back to Sri Lanka's history of spice production. One of the must things to do in Sri Lanka is try some of these dishes of Sri Lankan Cuisine - sour fish curry (malu ambul thiyal), Hoppers, Kottu roti, Kiri Bath, Lamprais, and Wood Apple.

10. Visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
4.5 /5

Witness the heartwarming sight of rescued elephants roaming freely in the natural surroundings of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Observe these majestic creatures bathing and playing in the river, while learning about the conservation efforts aimed at protecting Sri Lanka's elephant population. Support ethical wildlife tourism practices and contribute to the welfare of these gentle giants through responsible visitation.

11. Trekking Adam's Peak

Trekking Adam's Peak
4.1 /5

Considered to be the most sacred place in the whole of Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak rests between a thick forest in Sabaragamuwa province. Thousands of devotees and travelers trek to the top and consider it a spiritual thing to do in Sri Lanka. The peak is believed to have the footprint of Lord Buddha, which is preserved at the Summit’s temple. The trail upwards will offer you breathtaking views and valleys with an amazing display of colors with the sun in the middle during sunset.

Best Time: December to May

12. Experience Ayurveda in Sri Lanka

Experience Ayurveda in Sri Lanka

Indulge in the ancient healing traditions of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka, where skilled practitioners offer personalized treatments to rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit. From therapeutic massages using herbal oils to detoxifying therapies and yoga sessions, Ayurveda retreats provide a holistic approach to wellness amidst serene natural surroundings.

13. Explore Minneriya National Park for Elephant Gatherings

Explore Minneriya National Park for Elephant Gatherings
4.1 /5

The Minneriya National Park is in the Northern province of Sri Lanka, four hours away from Colombo and 30 minutes away from Sigiriya. The national park is famous for its herds of elephants migrating for food, water, and shelter and forming a 'gathering'. The dry season is the best time to visit this place, as the majestic elephants migrate to the Minneriya Tank for water. Apart from elephants, the national park is also home to several mammals, birds, reptiles, and different kinds of plant species.

Best Time: December - March

14. Tea Plantation Tour in Nuwara Eliya

Tea Plantation Tour in Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya's hills are ripe for cultivating tea trees such that one of the most agrarian activities conducted on these lands is tea plantations. There are multiple tea plantations that tourists can get to visit and even taste their specially grown and brewed teas. One of the things to do in Sri Lanka is to visit the two most significant touristy tea plantations - Pedro Tea Estate and Bluefield Tea Gardens. Take a stroll around and visit the tea estates and interact with the workers; they will allow you to taste different types of tea and even show you methods of tea extraction and more.

15. Experience a Traditional Kandyan Dance Performance

Experience a Traditional Kandyan Dance Performance

This ancient dance style was developed during the reign of the Kandyan kings and is today known as the national dance of Sri Lanka. It is usually a performance that is the narration of stories from the ancient Indian epic Ramayana. The dancers impersonate the movements of different animals, like elephants and peacocks. The striking feature of the dance form is the beautiful costumes.

16. Turtle Hatchery Visit

Turtle Hatchery Visit
4.4 /5

One of the things to do in Sri Lanka is to visit the Sea Turtle Hatchery, which is situated in Habaraduwa and was established in the year 1986. It has successfully rescued and taken care of more than 1,000,000 sea turtles. Sri Lanka is a place that is favorable for sea turtles, where many sea turtles lay their eggs on the sandy beach and later go back to the water.

17. Explore Ancient City of Anuradhapura

Explore Ancient City of Anuradhapura
4.2 /5 View 8+ photos

Known For : Sri Maha Bodhi Lovamahapaya Ruwanweliseya

Anuradhapura is a historical paradise as it houses several heritage monasteries, palaces, and monuments. Some of the things to do in Sri Lanka would be to visit Anuradhapura's vast dagobas or brick stupas, ancient ponds and pools, and magnificent temples. The city was established as the first capital of Sri Lanka in 377 BC.

Best Time: April and September

20 Anuradhapura Attractions

18. Attend a Traditional Mask Carving Workshop

Attend a Traditional Mask Carving Workshop

Participate in a traditional mask-carving workshop to immerse yourself in Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage. Learn the intricate techniques of carving and painting colorful wooden masks used in vibrant rituals and performances. Engage with local artisans who pass down centuries-old traditions, and create your own masterpiece to cherish as a souvenir of your cultural immersion.

19. Pidurangala Rock Hike

Pidurangala Rock Hike
4.3 /5

The Pidurangala Rock is a few kilometers away from the famous UNESCO site, the Sigiriya Rock. It is known for the view on top of the rock, the white temple situated at the base of the cliff, and the enormous reclining Buddha statue located under an ancient boulder.

20. Explore Colombo

Explore Colombo
4.7 /5 View 65+ photos

Known For : Gangaramaya Temple Galle Face Green Viharamahadevi Park

Colombo is Sri Lanka's largest economic corridor and tourist destination. It is in Colombo that you can find it all; from the Lotus Tower, South Asia's tallest freestanding structure, world-class casinos like Bellagio and Ballys, and cinnamon plantation hiking trails. The city identifies with the classic form of urban tourism and offers a great experience of sightseeing, shopping and nightlife.

Best Time: December to March

68 Colombo Attractions

21. Nine Arches Bridge Visit

Nine Arches Bridge Visit

Nine Arches Bridge, also known as Ahas Namaye Palama or The Bridge in the Sky, is an iconic architectural structure located in the mountainous region of Ella in Sri Lanka. It is a magnificent stone bridge built amidst lush green tea plantations, with stunning mountains in the backdrop. This ancient construction is 91 meters long and 24 meters high and never fails to leave tourists spellbound by its beauty.

22. Go Scuba Diving in Sri Lanka

Go Scuba Diving in Sri Lanka

Scuba diving in Sri Lanka is an exploration of the country's incredible marine life. It is known to have some of the best dive spots in all of Asia, where divers have seen a large variety of coral and fish. Explore the underwater world of turtles, colorful corals, and fascinating fish swimming past you in an exhilarating scuba diving experience. Popular diving places in Sri Lanka are Unawatuna, Mirissa, Passikudah, Hikkaduwa, amongst others.

23. Witness the Annual Esala Perahera in Kandy

Witness the Annual Esala Perahera in Kandy

Kandy Esala Perahera, famously known as The Festival of the Tooth, is celebrated across Sri Lanka and brings in a unique crowd of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. The festival lights up the town for a ten-day celebration in July or August. Kandy Perahara procession is a procession where one can experience and witness the displays of traditional customs.

24. Water Sports in Hikkaduwa

Water Sports in Hikkaduwa
4.2 /5

Known For : Hikkaduwa Beach Turtle Beach Hikkaduwa National Park

Hikkaduwa finds itself nuzzled in the Galle district of South Western Sri Lanka, 2 hours away from Colombo. The beaches of Hikkaduwa have been visited since the 1970s for their vibrant nightlife and cuisine. The beaches make for a lot of things to do in Sri Lanka, such as surfing along with other water sports. Hikkaduwa Beach also has a large coral reef, the Hikkaduwa Coral Sanctuary, which is favorable for scuba diving and snorkeling. It is also touted to have the second best surfing in Sri Lanka.

Best Time: November - April

15 Hikkaduwa Attractions

25. Witness Stilt Fishing

Witness Stilt Fishing

Stilt fishing is a skillful traditional practice across the coastal towns of Sri Lanka by local fishermen. The idea is to sit perched on a long log embedded in the riverbed so as to cast little or no shadow on the sea while fishing. This ensures the sea life remains undisturbed and makes baits out of small fishes easier. One of the things tourists can do in Sri Lanka is participate in stilt fishing, which seems easier for the fisherman but is a skill of honed balance.

26. Hike in Horton Plains National Park

Hike in Horton Plains National Park
4.6 /5

Known For : World’s End (Horton Plains) Gommolli Kanda Ohiya

Located at an elevation of 2,300 meters, Horton Plains National Park is popular for housing the famed ‘World’s End Cliff,’ a long, steep plunge of 880m where the plateau comes to a dramatic stop. The most popular thing to do here is hike to the World’s End cliff. Surrounded by tea gardens, World’s End overlooks numerous lakes, waterfalls, rocky hills, and the scintillating ocean. During the hike, a popular stop is the multi-tiered, 20-metre-tall Baker’s Waterfall, where you can swim during monsoon.

Best Time: January to March

6 Horton Plains Attractions

27. Go Surfing at Arugam Bay

Go Surfing at Arugam Bay
4.1 /5

Known For : Crocodile Rock, Arugam Bay Arugam Bay Beach Elephant Rock, Arugam Bay

The Sri Lankan coastal town of Arugam Bay lies on the Indian Ocean, 320 kilometers from the capital city of Colombo. With several surfing spots scattered across the area for both beginners and skilled surfers, Arugam Bay is often called a surfer’s paradise. The famous surfing points here are Main Point and Whiskey Point, with surfboard rentals nearby.  If you’re a non-surfer, you can choose to chill on the beautiful beaches. At night, the beaches play host to many beach parties, offering a chance to soak in the lively atmosphere.

Best Time: April to September

10 Arugam Bay Attractions

28. Visit the Ravana Falls in Ella

Visit the Ravana Falls in Ella

The Ravana cave and Ravana Falls are just 2 km from Ella city, perched at an altitude of 82 feet. The history of Sri Lanka dates back to over 2000 years, and it finds itself in the iconic Ramayana. It is believed that Ravana was a fervent Sri Lankan by origin and stood as a villain in the lives of Ram–Sita. He captured Sita and kept her hostage in his custody in the famous Ravana caves and the Ravana Falls. Landscapes around the Ravana Falls comprise slopes, valleys, hills, and streams that ornament the rocks.

29. Find Peace in Temples

Find Peace in Temples

The influence of religion on Sri Lanka can be widely attested to the huge number of temples in Sri Lanka. Buddhism and Hinduism - the two major religious sects of the country - account for the multiple number of temples that reside in almost every nook and corner of the country. Most of the temples are extremely popular amongst pilgrimages and have even made it to UNESCO's Heritage Sites list. While visiting Sri Lanka, one should definitely pay these temples a visit to soak in the spirituality of the country.

30. Stay at a Beach Hotel in Negombo

Stay at a Beach Hotel in Negombo

Experience the ultimate beachfront retreat at a luxurious hotel in Negombo, where sun-kissed sands and azure waters beckon right at your doorstep.  Indulge in world-class amenities, including infinity pools, spa treatments, and delectable dining options featuring fresh seafood and international cuisine. Whether you're seeking relaxation on the pristine beach or exciting water sports adventures, a stay at a beach hotel in Negombo promises unforgettable moments of bliss and tranquility, enveloped in tropical luxury.

31. Hot Air Balloons

Hot Air Balloons

One of the things to do in Sri Lanka during the months of March and April is Hot Air Ballooning to swoon at the breathtaking views of rolling greens and rippling blues - the shades of Sri Lanka's evergreen forests and surrounding beaches. Though the ride is dependent on the wind timings, no other ride is the same as the route for hot air balloons can't be predicted.

32. Beach Hopping

Beach Hopping

One of the things to do in Sri Lanka is to spend a day wiggling your toes in the sand and sunbathing. Arugam Bay is a favorite spot on the east coast of Sri Lanka. It’s considered to be the best surfing spot. Galle Beach is always bustling with visitors all year round. The yellow sand and shaped coastline make it a picture-perfect destination. Hikkaduwa is just a two-hour drive from the capital of Colombo, which is again an amazing destination for families who want to relax and play in the sand and water.

33. Diyaluma Waterfall Hike

Diyaluma Waterfall Hike

At a distance of an hour from Ella, Diyaluma Waterfalls provides an engaging trail to hike, which is one of the things to do in Sri Lanka. Being the second tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka, it offers a breathtaking view from the top. There are a lot of tiny pools along the hike where one can take a swim. While returning back, there is a small local village where one can observe rubber production.

34. Visit the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Visit the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
4.2 /5

Known For : The Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu Gal Vihara  Dalada Maluva Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa, a marvel of a place, is in Northern Sri Lanka. The city once served as the capital of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa under the Chola Empire in the 10th century. This makes it the second most historic kingdom in Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura. The old part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has numerous ruins dating back to 800 years, comprising of tombs, temples, statues, and stupas. The Minneriya National Park, dedicated to elephants, is also located closeby. It has the most significant elephant gathering in the whole of Asia.

Best Time: November to March

16 Polonnaruwa Attractions

35. Enjoy the Coastal Charm of Unawatuna

Enjoy the Coastal Charm of Unawatuna
4.4 /5

Known For : Unawatuna Beach Jungle Beach Japanese Peace Pagoda

Known for its beautiful beaches, hip cafes, trendy restaurants and plenty of sightseeing make Unawatuna an attraction for tourists as well as the locals who are looking for a weekend getaway. The main attraction of the place is the famous banana-shaped golden beach. You can relax, unwind have a relaxing time at the beach, or take a dip in the cold water.

Best Time: October to April

15 Unawatuna Attractions

36. Visit Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya

Visit Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya
4.6 /5

The most prominent garden in Sri Lanka, Royal Botanical Gardens is situated 5 km west of Kandy. The gardens are home to more than 4000 species of plants, including orchids, spices, medicinal plants, and palm trees. It is a 147 acre - of natural elegance holding landscaped gardens and scenic beauty. The garden has species of floral representations from all over the world that boast tropical trees and shrubs.

37. Discover Beaches of Trincomalee

Discover Beaches of Trincomalee
4.2 /5

Known For : Koneswaram Temple Trincomalee Fort Frederick Nilaveli Beach

The quaint city of Trincomalee, also famously known as ‘Gokarna,’ is an essential fragment of Sri Lanka. Trincomalee is a port city famous for its white sand beaches and most beautiful harbors. Owing to its long history of civilian settlements, the town is quite prominent for its culture, tradition, and its well-known historical sites. The Trincomalee or Gokarna Bay and the ‘Then Kailayam’ (also known as Kailash of the South/Koneswaram) temple are some of the most famous spots in the city.

Best Time: May - October

20 Trincomalee Attractions

38. Explore Beaches of Bentota

Explore Beaches of Bentota
4.2 /5

Known For : Bentota Beach Saman Villas Brief garden by Bevis Bawa

Bentota is a picturesque coastal town on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, around 62 kms from the capital city, Colombo. Blessed with natural beauty and a laid-back ambiance, Bentota is known for its pristine beaches, lush greenery, and tranquil waterways. It is a popular destination for beach lovers, water sports enthusiasts, and families and couples seeking relaxation amidst tropical surroundings.

Best Time: November - April

25 Bentota Attractions

39. Discover Knuckles Mountain Range

Discover Knuckles Mountain Range

Embark on a thrilling adventure through the rugged terrain of the Knuckles Mountain Range, a paradise for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Trek along scenic trails that wind through misty forests, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque valleys, offering breathtaking panoramic views. Encounter diverse flora and fauna, including endemic species, and experience the tranquility of remote villages nestled amidst the mountains.

40. Birdwatching at Bundala National Park

Birdwatching at Bundala National Park
3.7 /5

Bundala National Park is off the Sri Lankan coast, around 12 km from the port town of Hambantota. Harboring 197 colorful species of birds each year, the park is an internationally eminent, UNESCO-listed wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. Over 50 migratory species, including the greater flamingo, arrive in large flocks during winter, making it a prime attraction for bird watchers, photographers, and ornithologists.

Best Time: October to March

Now that you have a full list of all the things to do in Sri Lanka, why wait? Find the next best holiday week and jump on the bandwagon of happy and thrilled Sri Lankan tourists!

This post was published by Muhammed Salih

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