It is always fascinating to see, how some tourist destinations are more popular among travelers than others. Some countries, like Thailand and India are on tourist’s maps for ages, but some tourist destinations are relatively new to the list. One of these countries is for sure Sri Lanka. Si Lanka was erased from travel maps due to its civil war almost overnight, but luckily the war ended few years ago and without damaging its tourist attractions. Nowadays Sri Lanka is becoming more and more popular among travelers and holiday makers. No surprise though – Sri Lanka is beautiful in general and has lots of tourist attractions, which you should not skip.
Best Sri Lanka tourist attractions
Temples in Sri Lanka
It is said that Buddhism started right here in Sri Lanka. After all Sri Lanka literally means The Holy Island. We can admire numerous temples here and due to them we can easily mark them as being one of the most recognized Sri Lanka tourist attractions. Before traveling to Sri Lanka your plan might be seeing them all, but after seeing one, two, three… twelve… you soon have enough. If you are not a real fan of temples in general, you should not miss the Dambulo caves – one of our favourite Sri Lanka tourist attractions. The temples there are one of a kind, as they are made in caves, owning more than 150 Buddha statues. Maybe a thing or two about the rules before visiting these secret places in Sri Lanka. Man or woman – your shoulders have to be covered and skirt /trousers need to be over the knees. You can walk around the temples and holly grounds only bare foot (on a hot sunny day wearing socks will make your life much easier as the stone grounds are crazy hot). If you want to take a photo with Buddha statue, have in mind that you should never turn your back to Buddha.
Food in Sri Lanka
Colorful countries normally have colorful food and it is no differente here in Sri Lanka. The colors and tastes of food in Sri Lanka are amazing – thanks to numerous spices, which their food contains. What all can turn on your plates in »Food in Sri Lanka« blog post. Food in Sri Lanka will not disappoint you and is definitely worth putting on the list of best Sri Lanka tourist attractions.
People in Sri lanka
As soon as you lay your foot on Sri Lanka, you will realized it is still not so touristy than maybe India or some other Asian country. Even though, you can already find locals, affected greatly with tourism industry. For some of them you are nothing else than a walking Dollar. Watch out for hustlers and don’t forget to use your bargaining skills! But luckily we cannot throw everyone in the same bin and the further from the main touristic places you go, friendliest people you will meet. After all who would be even enjoying best Sri Lanka tourist attractions, if people would be rude.
Elephant orphanage Pinnawala
Elephants in Sri Lanka have always had a big influence on people daily lives and can easily be marked as one of best Sri Lanka tourist attractions. Years ago Sri Lanka had more ten thousands elephants, nowadays there are only about 5000 left. The wild hunters did not bring anything good to Sri Lanka. Lots of elephants are being killed daily. If they are not killed, elephants are wounded or the little ones stay without their parents. For these reasons, Sri Lankan government established Pinnawala elephant orphanage, which is extremely popular among tourists. More about the Pinnawala elephant orphanage here.
Historically looking, Anuradhapura is one of the most important sites in Sri Lanka and because of that, people have always visited it. Anuradhapura was king’s capital for more than 1000 years. The most important tourist attraction, which you should visit in Anuradhapura is a stone temple from 3rd century BC, including with his white stupa. Climbing on it offers nice views on surroundings and nearby royal gardens. Anuradhapura is well known also for having the oldest tree in the whole world. The Holly Tree or Sri Maha Bodi is more than 2000 years old and underneath it, Buddha did his meditations. The tree was brought from India and because of it Sri Lanka’s main religion is Buddhism. In the vicinity of the Holly Tree watch out for the huge white colored Dagobah. Dagobahs are also typical Sri Lanka tourist attractions.
Not far away from Anuradhapura lies Mihintale. Closer we get to Mihintale, more pilgrims are being noticed on the street. We can recognize them because of its white clothes and carrying a long praying scarf, which is put around Dagobah. Mihintale is of big importance to Buddhists in Sri Lanka as this is the place, where Buddhism started and spreaded around the whole country. Reaching the top of Mihintale will be challenging, especially during the mid-day as there are numerous steps to overcome. Luckily there are many jasmine trees around us, which makes our climb a bit easier, especially when the trees are in full bloom.
Polonnaruwa is the second royal city in Sri Lanka, which is younger in origin from Anuradhapura. Maybe that is also the reason Polonnaruwa is better preserved than its forerunner. The area has numerous temples or better said ruins, where Buddha tooth was hidden. We can still see ruins of once mighty palace, built with 7 floors and containing more than 50 chambers. Rent a bike and explore these Sri Lanka tourist attractions in Polonnaruwa being active.
The second largest city in Sri Lanka is Kandy and due to its many tourist attractions, it is well worth stopping and staying for a day, two or even more. Head to the Temple of the Tooth and have a quick peek on the Buddha tooth. Enjoy the vibrant and colorful market, feast over delicious street food, enjoy traditional dancing show and take a walk in the Royal Botanical garden. More about Kandy tourist attractions here.
Spices in Sri Lanka
Even though Sri Lanka is not really a big island, it has surprisingly diverse landscape. The middle part of the island is perfect for spice gardens, which are worth a stop or two. Due to its popularity they can easily be put on the list of best Sri Lanka tourist attractions. Get to know how the cinnamon, vanilla, pepper, cloves, nutmegs etc. are growing. The guided tours are normally free of charge, but there is a catch of course – the guide takes you to its shop after the tour. But do not worry; if you don’t feel like buying, you don’t need to. They will not be happy, but hey, it is your money, right? Have in mind that the prices in these shops are more expensive than buying spices on local markets.
Sea turtles sanctuaries in Sri lanka
Sri Lanka will definitely not disappoint animal enthusiasts as it is rich in flora and fauna. Unfortunately some species are endangered – one of them is sea turtle, which locals use for food. The sea turtle sanctuary pay fishermen to bring them sea turtles which are wounded and caught in their fishing nets. They also collect sea turtle eggs and as soon as the sea turtles are healed or hatched, they are released back into the nature. Paying a small entrance fee will help to preserve this endangered animals, so help them with your visit.
Precious stones in Sri lanka
It is well known that Sri Lanka is wealthy with precious stones and that is why lots of mines can be found here. The working conditions are devastating and the huge amounts of money from profits never reach miners. If you want to see part of their lives, visit a mine and see how the precious stones for jewelry is being dig out. Last but not least, after the free guided tour you will be brought to their jewelry shop. Seing the harsh life and working conditions, gem mines can hardly be seen as one of best Sri lanka tourist attractions.
Negombo fish market
If you are like us, visiting the fish market in Negombo is a must thing to do when traveling around Sri Lanka. Negombo is often completely overlooked by the visitors, but the stop on its fish market is well worth the time. Get up early in the morning and wait for the fishermen returning from the sea. Walk around the stands offering their daily catch and stroll along the beach to see drying of the fish. It is not just eye-opening, it is also free, what is not often with Sri lanka tourist attractions.
The most recognizable tourist attraction in Sri Lanka is with no doubt the famous rock under UNESCO heritage protection. The rock is called Sigiriya what actually means Lion’s Rock. Due to its position Sigiriya was unconquerable. The palace stood up on the top of the rock in the middle of impassable jungle. Even today you will have to be in shape to reach it as more than 1200 steps await for you. Reaching the top there are only ruins from once a mighty palace left, but the views are amazing. Halfway up or down the top, take a look at the nymphs – rock paintings which are the oldest secular paintings in Sri Lanka. Out of 500, only 22 are still left. A “wow” effect is guaranteed!
Animals in Sri lanka
Like we already mentioned, Sri Lanka is rich in flora and fauna. Due to that Sri Lanka attracts numerous tourists, which like seeing animals in the wild and their natural inhabitant. We can see wild animals everywhere we look – monkeys, elephants, water buffalos, monitors, birds… The best places to look are Sri Lankan national parks (Yale), but if you are careful enough, you can spot them everywhere. If travelling to Sri Lanka with kids, this is surely one of the best Sri lanka tourist attractions for them.
Tea plantations in Sri lanka
When Brits colonized Sri Lanka they first wanted to grow coffee here, but it did not work out as planned. Instead of coffee they planted tea and they finally nailed it. The hilly countryside in Sri Lanka is perfect for tea growing, as it has all three features, which are needed to grow tea: warm climate, altitude and steep slopes. Nowadays tea presents the number one exporting article in Sri Lanka. Visit to the tea plantation will leave you speechless and do not forget to visit the production facilities and learn all about tea growing and its production. Vivid green tea bushes are with no doubt one of the most photographed Sri lanka tourist attractions.
Adam’s Peak / Sri Pada
Sri Lanka has several pilgrims’ places, but our favorite was Adam’s Peak for sure. Adam’s Peak is a pilgrims place for more than a thousand years. It is 2243 meters high and to climb it, you will first need to overcome more than 5000 steps and 1000 meters of altitude. We will not lie, it is hard work, but when you are on top, your effort and sweat was worth it. The best time to go up is in the middle of the night and wait for the sunrise, which symbolizes birth. It gets extremely crowded, but the experience is a life time memory.
Traditional masks in Sri lanka
Masks in Sri Lanka have a special meaning and power. Masks can heal and protect people and their homes. Sri Lanka has four main masks, which diverse in shape and meaning: peacock – good and happy life, cobra – protection, fire – energy, snakes – health. The traditional masks are still colored with natural colors, made out of natural ingredients like wood, lime juice, chalk, spices. If you want to take home any Sri Lanka tourist attractions, these traditional masks will be your best choice for sure.
Sandy beaches in Sri Lanka
It is no secret that most popular travel destinations have beaches. After all, it is always nice to relax before heading home. Sri Lanka has some paradise alike beaches, but to really enjoy the right ones, all depends of the season you are visiting. The best beaches during the rainy season (April-October) are on the East side of the island, as the southern side beaches only have big waves and are better for surfing. If you are visiting Sri Lanka over the dry season (November-March), it is right the opposite and the best beaches are than the ones on the south side of the island. We spent few days at Mirissa and it was amazing. Being here in the peak season, it is wise to book your accommodation ahead – we recommend booking.com
Getting up early is always rewarding in Sri Lanka. I guess nothing can bit the golden sun and a walk along the beach. You will not need long to see fishermen or maybe even wander to a nearby fishing port. Colorful fishing boats are just icing on the cake to the rich daily catch. If you are lucky you will even find traditional fishermen, who use stilts to catch fish. Unfortunately not many are still there and use this technique more or less only because of the foreign visitors and to make some extra money with posing in front of our cameras.
Have you been to Sri Lanka? Did we miss any important Sri Lanka tourist attractions? Let us and others know about it.