Travel Handbook: Top Places to Visit in Sri Lanka

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One of the ancient civilizations in the world, Sri Lanka is famous for its vibrant culture, rich history, and breathtaking views. One of the most promising travel destinations in the world, this island nation has a lot to offer to history buffs and adventure enthusiasts. Besides being a country of rich history, Sri Lank also exhibits its urban lifestyle in cities like Colombo. All in all, there are ample places that you can explore in Sri Lanka. 

We have curated a list of top places to visit in Sri Lanka that you can include in your itinerary. Read further to know more about the top places to visit before packing your bags! 

Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka

Listed below are the best places to visit in Sri Lanka - 

Places to Visit in Summer

Places to Visit in Winter

Places to Visit with Family 

Negombo

Galle

Kandy

Colombo

Ella

Polonnaruwa

Anuradhapura

Negombo

Tangalle

1. Negombo

North of the country's capital Colombo, on the western coast of Sri Lanka, sits the vibrant city of Negombo. One of Sri Lanka's first beach resorts is located in this city, which is also near the country's international airport - this has led to the city becoming one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Negombo is well-known for its production of cinnamon in addition to tourism.

The following are some places worth a visit in Negombo -

  • Dutch Fort - The Dutch Fort is one of Negombo's top tourist attractions. The fort's architecture is reminiscent of Sri Lanka's colonial period under the Dutch administration. A trip to this fort can help you catch a glimpse of the city's past under the Dutch.
  • Negombo Beaches - The Negombo Beach Park and beaches in Negombo are what draw tourists to this city. Your vacation to this city will be enjoyable thanks to the fine sand beaches and lovely resorts along the coast. For thrill-seekers, these beaches also provide a variety of water sports. 
  • Kelaniya Buddhist Temple - You could have missed the well-known Kelaniya Buddhist Temple if you've already seen the main sights and are wondering what else there is to see in Negombo. Fine wall murals throughout the temple will have you looking at them for a while. Visitors can also devote a few quiet hours at the temple sitting quietly and practising meditation.
  • Hamilton Canal - You can rent a bike and travel along the Hamilton Canal's trails while taking in the beautiful scenery and small towns you pass through. Negombo canal rides are a must-do if you've never experienced one.

2. Galle

Located on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, this ancient city is well-known for its Dutch colonial architecture and Portuguese legacy. Galle is among the top places to visit in Sri Lanka and has grand museums, houses, cathedrals, and mosques as its top tourist attractions. 

The lovely city of Galle, which offers the ocean and lovely sunsets, was created by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and you will discover the city proudly embracing its old legacy. Galle, a city renowned for its delectable Sri Lankan food, pepper pot towers, and bastions, would make you think of its Dutch and Portuguese ancestry.

The following are some places to visit in Galle -

  • Dutch Fort - The Galle Dutch Fort was constructed a number of years ago on a sizable plot of land, and the Portuguese used it before the Dutch acquired control of it. With considerable rebuilding and refurbishment, the British eventually declared the fort to be their own. The distinctive blendings that contributed to the standing of this imposing structure are now recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, earning them a prominent spot on the list of Galle tourist attractions.
  • Dutch Reformed Church - If you appoint a guide to accompany you around with relevant happenings, you will be able to take a tour through history. This church's door is a product of an 18th-century artisan. Also known as the Groot Church, it has several tombs on the floor and has its pulpit made of Malaysian wood.
  • The National Museum of Galle - The National Museum of Galle is "the" destination for you if the study of world history is your life's work. It is one of the tourist destinations in Galle that lets you research Sri Lanka's past beginning in the fourth century.
  • The Jungle Beach - The Jungle Beach is a tranquil, out-of-the-way beach where you can get all the peace and quiet you need while on vacation. This beach is one of the calmest and least crowded of all the tourist destinations in Galle, and it is situated just in front of the Japanese Peace Pagoda.

3. Kandy

Kandy, one of Sri Lanka's major cities, is certainly a unique place. This location receives a lot of support from nature, which endows the city with a comfortable temperature. When you want to spend some lovely evenings and fun late nights mooning around, a city with lakes and unique sceneries is always a treat.

The significant historical occurrences of the colonial era and the mediaeval era are covered in Kandy's extensive historical past. This well-planned town has a bit of Sri Lankan heritage to share with you on every square inch which makes it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka for history aficionados. When you visit a major temple where science and religion coexist and try to justify the intricacy of existence, you may sense the rhythm of royalty in certain colonial structures.

Here are the best places to visit in Kandy in Sri Lanka -

  • Millennium Elephant Foundation - MEF is a 15-acre estate that is home to countless magnificent elephants. It is the only institution where guests are permitted to interact with elephants while riding on their backs (using safety precautions) as part of an educational tour.
  • The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic - One of Sri Lanka's most revered temples, The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is located near the Udawattakele Sanctuary. This shrine, also known as Dalada Maligawa, is located inside the Kandyan kingdom's palace.
  • Ceylon Tea Museum - One of the main sights of Sri Lanka's hill country, Kandy, is the 1925 classic Ceylon Tea Museum which can be found at Hantane. The Tea Museum is housed in a four-storey structure with antique machinery, a library, and an auditorium on the first and second floors. 

You can visit the sales unit on the third level if you want to explore some of the mouthwatering tastes and varieties of Sri Lankan tea. The exquisite café on the fourth level offers a complimentary cup of tea as well as a spectacular view of the hilly landscape surrounding it.

4. Colombo

The city of Colombo is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka because of its breathtaking scenery, stirring mountains, lush green tea farms, and golden beaches. Each stunning natural, historical, and cultural site in the country is more idyllic than the last.

Just like its tonne of tourist attractions, Colombo has a tonne of engaging activities as well. A day trip from Colombo offers a wide range of action-packed adventures. There are other possibilities to decompress and unwind in addition to all the exhilarating sports like snorkelling and diving, such as spa and yoga classes.

Listed below are some of the best places to visit in Colombo -

  • Gangaramaya Temple - The Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, one of Colombo's most important places of worship, is just a short stroll from the picturesque Lake Beira. Both residents and tourists are drawn to the shrine because of its religious significance. The temple is another architectural wonder, combining aspects of Chinese, Thai, and Indian styles.
  • Jami Ul-Afar Mosque - A magnificent mosque called Jami Ul-Afar is located on Colombo's Second Cross Street. With its red and white striped exterior that almost resembles candy, the mosque is highly noticeable and stands out. In this place of cultural treasure, you can observe a beautiful fusion of Gothic, Neoclassical, Indo-Islamic, and Indian architectural styles.
  • Lotus Tower - The Lotus Tower, one of Colombo's most distinctive buildings, stands over Slave Island at over 350 metres tall. The building's top is remarkably similar to its eponymous flower. The tower acts as a transmission centre with the goal of enhancing broadcast and transmission quality.
  • Dehiwala Zoo - The National Zoological Gardens, often known as Dehiwala Zoo, is among the Colombo attractions that are most frequently suggested. It is also one of the earliest zoos in Asia and is home to a wide variety of exotic animal species. Currently, the zoo is home to about 2,500 animals and is actively working to protect and conserve them.

5. Ella

For lovers of nature and people looking for calm, Ella is a paradise. Travellers are enthralled by this small village in Sri Lanka due to its thrilling mountain hikes, lovely spice gardens, and breathtaking waterfalls. Ella is certainly a wonder of nature, from the serene surroundings of Nine Arches Bridge and Little Adam's Peak to stunning waterfalls like Ravana Falls and Bopath Falls.

The following are some attractive spots in this place to visit in Sri Lanka -

  • Ravana Falls - The Ramayana legends are widely spread throughout Sri Lanka, that too in such a manner that captivating stories are connected to even the sceneries found in nature. The demon deity Ravana is claimed to have hidden in a number of locales, including the Ravana Falls and the adjacent caves. Many tourists are drawn to these legends and this Ella site because of its stunning landscape.
  • Little Adam’s Peak - Ella boasts a lot of charming and undeveloped hiking routes due to its natural surroundings. One such well-travelled trail that shouldn't be missed is Little Adam's Peak. The brief 50–60 minute journey takes you past the region's well-known tea plantations. The lush vegetation provides a reprieve for the eyes, and the enticing aroma of the tea leaves enhances the atmosphere.
  • Nine Arches Bridge - One of Ella's major attractions is the Nine Arches Bridge. The history of this bridge is fascinating - villagers built this bridge with stone and bricks after the British stopped building it in the middle of it due to the shortage of steel during World War 1.
  • Ceylon Tea Factory - Actually a restaurant, Ceylon Tea Factory was given this name to spark curiosity and inform visitors about Sri Lanka's long history of producing tea. It is among the most well-liked eateries not just in Ella but across the entire nation. Along with international foods and beverages, you may sample classic Sri Lankan curries and hot rice here.

6. Polonnaruwa

While on vacation in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle, you can take in the beauty of an array of sites in Polonnaruwa - ranging from seeing fascinating national wildlife safari parks like Minneriya, Angammedilla, and Wasgamuwa to viewing the historic relics of the ancient empire like the Palace of King Parakramabahu. As you make your way to Polonnaruwa, among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka,  there are many sites to see -

  • Royal Palace - The Palace has three layers of brickwork with cavities in them. It is thought that it was constructed in the late 1100s. It is said that they have been put on ruined wooden beams in the past, with the wooden underpinnings assisted by the wooden shafts.
  • Lankatilaka Temple - One of the Polonnaruwa empire's most emblematic structures is the Lankatilaka Temple. A short route leads to a magnificent, though currently headless, Buddha statue rising more than 14 metres high. These two large walls, each with a circumference of 4 and 17 metres, define the path. The shrine, which King Parakrabahu built, stands out in terms of Buddhist design. Consideration is given to the enormous statue of the Buddha that occupies the entire shrine rather than the metaphorical stupa.
  • Somawathiya Dagoba - The Somawathiya Rajamaha Viharaya is the name of the premises of the Dagoba. The stupa is situated on the Mahaweli River's left bank, encircled by the Somawathiya nature reserve. As one of the four teeth relics, which Buddhists consider to be the most sacred relics, the right canine teeth of the Buddha are thought to be blessed. Somawathiya Dagoba is older than Jetawanaramaya, Mirisaveti Vihara, or Ruwanveli seya.

7. Anuradhapura

This city is a historical and cultural treat. Known to be among Sri Lanka's oldest capitals, it is not astonishing that it has been acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Here are some attractions in Anuradhapura that are worth seeing - 

  • Ruwanwelisaya Stupa -  In 161 B.C., King Dutugemunu oversaw its construction after conquering King Elara, although he did not survive long enough to witness its success. The shining white structure has a 290-metre circumference and a height of 91.4 metres. It is still a significant place of worship and is the second-highest pagoda in Anuradhapura.
  • Isurumuniya Temple - In Anuradhapura, close to Tisa Wewa, is the Isurumuniya Viharaya. A rock is located above a cave that has a Viharaya linked to it. On it, a tiny stupa is built. The stone carving known as Isurumuniya Lovers is among the most renowned and admired places in the entire globe. Isurumuniya is famed for its stone sculptures. The Royal Family, Elephant Pond, and the Horseman are shown in many carvings.
  • Eth Pokuna - A sizable man-made pond called Eth Pokuna, commonly known as Elephant Pond, is located adjacent to Lankaramaya Anuradhapura. This pond has a storage capacity of 75,000 cubic metres and measures 159 metres long, 52.7 metres across, and 9.5 metres deep. This pond receives its water from the Periyakulama Tank via a network of underground canals, and you can still make out some of the water lines made of rock slabs.
  • Abhayagiriya Museum - The primary aim of this gallery is to demonstrate, through artefacts found in Abhayagiriya, how Sri Lanka was a flourishing society that grew through diplomatic contacts and a nation where technology and arts admirably coexisted.

8. Tangalle

Tangalle, a paradise with undeveloped beaches lapped by turquoise waves and fringed by swaying palms, lies on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. You can visit Tangalle, the perfect destination for a beach holiday in Sri Lanka, and discover its various attractions including the Hummanaya Blow Hole and fun activities like turtle watching at Rekawa and bird viewing at the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary.

Here are the places worth visiting in Tangalle -

  • Goyambokka Beach - The calm, blue waters at Goyambokka Beach is famous for being excellent for diving and swimming. If you actually want to enjoy the best swimming experience possible at Goyambokka, it is advisable to carry a snorkelling kit with you. The water here contains a huge variety of marine life - crabs, lobsters, and colourful fish can all be found here. You may even get the opportunity to observe a scarce sea turtle if you're exceptionally lucky.
  • Hummanya Blow Hole - Hummanaya is the name of the single blowhole in Sri Lanka and the 2nd largest of its kind worldwide. It is among Tangalle's most well-known tourist destinations. The blowhole is formed when seawater penetrates through a tunnel that is submerged and is propelled higher where water will naturally rise as a result of pressure from the sea's surface. Whenever the water pressure rises (once each 10-15 minutes or so), a spectacular spray is created.
  • Silent Beach - In front of the opulent Amanwella resort is this exquisite beach. As the name suggests, the beach is peaceful and secluded, allowing visitors to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Beautiful white sand, a magnificent sea, and a long stretch of palm palms can all be found at Silent Beach.
  • Hiriketiya Beach - Among the best surfing locations in Tangalle is Hiriketiya Bay. Due to the bay's horseshoe shape, suitable swimming and surfboard conditions are maintained all year round. Surfers of all levels of skill will find a challenge in Hiriketiya Bay because waves come in for 10 months of the year.

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