Colombo, the capital of the country
We start this guide with Sri Lanka’s capital: Colombo. It is also its largest city and commercial capital. A visit to Colombo is essential to discover the most cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. Well, probably you have already heard that Colombo may not be the best place to see in Sri Lanka; however, it is always worthy of paying a visit to this fantastic capital. While many people believe that a visit to Colombo is not worth it, let us tell you that Colombo hides many magical places to see and discover.
Best places to see in Colombo
1. Colombo National Museum: an important museum to have an overview of the country’s past and present. The Colombo National Museum is the largest museum in Sri Lanka and has an essential display of historical heritage, with valuable objects.
2. Viharamahadevi Park: It is the largest and oldest park in Colombo. It houses several gardens and the National Museum of Sri Lanka or the National Gallery of Art.
3. Independence Memorial Hall – This hall was a tribute to Sri Lanka’s independence from Great Britain. Several notable celebrations take place here, such as celebrations of independence or funerals of Sinhalese personalities.
4. Gangaramaya Temple: it is the most important Buddhist temple in Colombo. It is next to Lake Beira, and its construction ended in the 19th century.
5 – Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque: It is the largest mosque in Sri Lanka, built in the early 20th century. It stands out for its architecture, especially for its famous clock tower.
The best activities to do in Colombo
In this fantastic capital, there are numerous activities you can do in a single day. In order you don´t miss any detail, here we present you on a silver player the top 4 things to do in Colombo
Take a walk around Galle Face Green.
The Galle Face Green is a significant place in Colombo. It is a meeting spot for the locals, where they enjoy the typical food of the city or play sports in front of the sea.
Get lost in the Fort district.
Fort is the financial district of Colombo. Here you can find the highest buildings in the city, like the World Trade Center, which is 152 meters high. The Fort district is a real mix of old and new buildings.
Go shopping at Pettah Market.
It is a street market that occupies an entire neighbourhood, the Pettah neighbourhood. In it, you will find practically all kinds of products, from jewellery, souvenirs, clothing, electronics or food—ideal for mixing with the locals and discovering their daily basis.
See a show at the Nelum Pokuna Theater.
It is a building built by the Chinese in 2011. In it you can see shows of all kinds and, if you do not want to enjoy any of them, we recommend you visit the outside of the building, with impeccable lighting.
Pinnawala, the home of the elephants
Pinnawala is par excellence, the home of elephants in Sri Lanka. A visit to this fantastic city will allow you to enter its temples but, above all, learn about the life of this majestic animal.
A visit to the elephant orphanage is one of the best activities to do in Sri Lanka
The best places to see in Pinnawala
1. Siri Gautama Sambuddharaja Maligawa Temple: It is a new Buddhist temple, which was completed in 2012. It stands out mainly for its paintings and statues of the Supreme Court of Buddha.
2. Mahamevnawa Amadahara Buddhist Monastery: This monastery is the ideal place to get into meditation. The monks offer free meditation classes to their visitors.
Visit an elephant orphanage.
A visit to an elephant orphanage is the star activity in Pinnawala. We recommend visiting the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which currently has more than 100 specimens. You will be able to see how the elephants bathe or feed.
Staying in a hotel by the river
Spending a night near the river is another way to see elephants up close in their natural habitat. There are several hotels with views from which you can observe the day to day of this beautiful animal.
Negombo, a beach next to the airport
Negombo is the city that everybody pays a visit. Why? Well, it is the closest one to the airport, that means that either you see it when you land or you see it before departure. People usually spend either the first night or the last night in Negombo. It is true that there are not many activities you can do in Negombo, however, down here you will find the best places that you can see in Negombo;
What to see in Negombo
1. Angurukaramulla Temple: it is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the city, with almost 300 years of history. It is not a very large building. It stands out for its colourful figures, specifically for a 6-meter statue of a seated Buddha.
2. Fish Market: Go to see a busy fish market, rather than to shop. Negombo is a coastal city, so everyday vendors gather to offer fresh fish on the street.
3. Things to do in Negombo
4. Take a dip on their beach.
Negombo is a perfect beach for a last-minute swim. Negombo beach is located 13 kilometres from Colombo Airport, an ideal location to take a dip before your return.
If you visit this beach in the evening, you can also enjoy the typical gastronomy of the place, since some street vendors are installed on the beach.
Kandy, the cultural epicentre of Sri Lanka
The city of Kandy is considered as the cultural epicentre of Sri Lanka. Renowned temples await you here, as well as one of Sri Lanka’s most well-kept jewels: the buddha’s tooth.
Even though the Temple of the tooth is the most important place to see in Kandy, there are other magical hiding places in this city. It is worth visiting this city and seeing the splendid places that this city offers us.
these are the best places to see in Kandy that will leave you breathless;
The best places to see in Kandy
1. Temple of the buddha’s Tooth: this temple is one of the most emblematic of the city since it is said that it houses the buddha’s tooth, one of the most important relics of Buddhism.
2. Lake Bogambara or Lake Kandy: it is a side that is located in the centre of the city, perfect for enjoying the most natural part of Kandy. Around it are some of the most emblematic monuments of the city.
3. Tea Museum: In this museum, you will get to know in-depth the star product of Sri Lanka, tea. You can stroll through the tea plantations as well as taste an authentic cup of Sri Lankan tea.
4. Giant Mountain Buddha: it is a large statue of Buddha, on top of a hill. From the top, you will have panoramic views of Kandy.Kandy’s Viewpoint (Arthur’s Seat): it is another of the best places to see some beautiful views of the city. It is located at the highest point in Kandy. We recommend you go by tuk-tuk.
The best activities to do
See a dance performance at the Kandy Cultural Center.
In the heart of the city, next to Lake Kandy, you can see a dance and music performance in the cultural centre of the city. You will have the opportunity to see typical Sri Lankan dances. We recommend you go to the show early to get well-located seats.
Go to the Perahera Festival
The Esara Perahera Festival is the most important Buddhist festival in the country. It is celebrated for ten days in July and August (the exact dates vary each year) and, during the celebrations, a procession of elephants takes place with an urn containing the tooth of Buddha, one of the relics most revered by Buddhists.
The Sri Lankan Cultural triangle, discovering SriLanka’ss past.
The cities that are part of the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka were, years ago, the capital of Sri Lanka. A visit to these cities will allow you to learn more about the history of the country through its ruins and temples.
Here you will find many Buddhist temples, ruins and architectural jewels of the antiquity. All of this is served in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, a UNESCO heritage site. If you like history and ancient monuments, Anuradhapura is probably the best place in Sri Lanka to see them
The most interesting places to see in Anuradhapura
1. Ruwanwelisaya Stupa: It is a temple from 140 BC, recognized by Buddhist faithful around the world. It is one of the oldest and highest buildings in the world. It stands out for its large white dome.
2. Jetavanarama Stupa: It is a 122-meter high stupa that was built in the 1st century AD by King Mahasena of Anuradhapura. It is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in the world by surface.
3. Isurumuniya Temple: it is a Buddhist temple with important figures engraved in the stone. It is the oldest Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.
4. Sri Maha Bodhi or the Bodhi Tree: It is a sacred tree for Buddhists. This tree was planted in 288 BC, making it one of the oldest trees in the world.
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Tour the city by tuk-tuk: we recommend you take a tour of the old part of the sacred city and the ruins of Anuradhapura by tuk-tuk to discover everything the city has to offer at your own pace.
Stroll through the ruins of the Vessagiriya Monastery: it is an area formed by impressive rocks, where monks used to live. It is a very natural place.
As in Anuradhapura, here you can see the most important ruins and antiquities in Sri Lanka. Also considered a UNESCO heritage site, Polonnaruwa hides many ancient architectural gems that are worth seeing.
What to see in Polonnaruwa
1. Quadrangle: it is a complex formed by ruined temples, among which the Vatadage, the Lata Mandapaya or the Hatadage stand out.
2. Gal Vihara: it is a monastery rock that stands out for its Buddha statues, especially a 15-meter long statue of the lying Buddha.
3. Prakrama Samudra Lake: it is a large artificial lake ideal for observing a beautiful sunset or sunrise. Around it, there are some of the most relevant ruins of the city.
4. Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum: it is an ideal museum to learn about the past of the city. You will be able to see replicas of what is currently ruined temples.
Things to do in Polonnaruwa
Cycling route among ruins: a morning cycling route through the Polonnaruwa ruins will allow you to know the most relevant of the Polonnaruwa ruins. Renting a bike for three hours costs approximately Rs 250 (about € 1.3).
Did you think you had already seen everything in this world? Hold your breath because Sigiriya is possibly the most unusual and exciting place you will ever see. In a small village in Sri Lanka, you will see a massive rock with the ruins of an ancient civilization on top of it. Besides, the views from the top of this rock are the most beautiful on the island. Ultimately, Sigiriya is the number one place you MUST see in Sri Lanka.
What to see in Sigiriya
1. Lion Rock: it is the main tourist attraction in Sigiriya. It is an archaeological site located on top of a rock, built between the 5th and 6th centuries by King Kashyapa. From there, there are the best views of Sigiriya.
2. Sigiriya Museum: a one-hour visit to this museum will allow you to learn about the past of the city. It is recommended to visit before going up to the Rock of the Lion to learn more about its history before going up.
3. Mount Pidurangala: it is a mountain next to the Lion’s Rock. There are impressive views from the top, but keep in mind that the path has a bit tricky sections.
Things to do in Sigiriya
Jeep safari in Minneriya National Park or Kaudulla National Park: it is an ideal visit for nature lovers. On a jeep safari, you can learn about the life of elephants in a natural habitat. A safari is the best activity to do in Sigiriya
Dambulla and its cave-temples
Dambulla is known for its prehistoric caves. Together they are known as the “Temple of Gold”. There are five main caves, and they are the main attraction to see in Dambulla.
The best places to see in Dambulla
1. Devaraja Cave: also known as the Cave of the Divine King. It stands out because inside there is a 14-meter statue of Buddha, restored on several occasions.
2. Cave of the Great Kings: it is the largest of all the caves of the Temple of Gold, with a length of 52 meters and a height of 7 meters. In it, you will see several figures of Buddha as well as other gods such as Vishnu and Saman.
What to see and do in the Sri Lankan Highlands
Escape from the heat and the crowded beaches of the coast to enter a magical world of green. Yes, indeed, in the highlands of Sri Lanka, you will be able to see the most beautiful landscapes of the island and breathe fresh air. There are many places to visit in this part of the country, in addition to being able to perform activities like nowhere else; mountaineering, rafting, trekking …
Nuwara Eliya, the natural paradise of Sri Lanka
Known as The City of Light, its most urban part is strongly marked by its past. The typical buildings of the British colonization are very present. The natural environment of Nuwara Eliya is one of its best attractions.
The most unique places to see in Nuwara Eliya
1. Post office: located in front of the bus station, the post office is an emblematic building of the city. It is English in style and stands out for its small tower and its garden.
2. Seetha Amman Temple: Also known as Sita Eliya, it is a Hindu temple located on the side of the road. It is not a huge temple, but it is worth visiting.
3. Pidurutalagala: It is the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, with more than 2,500 meters high. It is also known as Monte Pedro.
4. Galway’s Land Bird Sanctuary National Park – If you are an animal lover, this is a highly recommended visit. It is a perfect destination for a walk and, with a bit of luck, you will see an animal.
Nuwara Eliya attractions
Stroll through the Hakgala Botanical Gardens
This botanical garden was built in the mid-19th century and is one of the five botanical gardens in Sri Lanka. We recommend you take a walk to discover its fauna and flora.
Discover the tea plantations
Tea is the star product of Sri Lanka, and in Nuwara Eliya, you will have the opportunity to walk through its plantations, as well as taste this precious product.
Ella is a highly recommended area to disconnect and surround yourself with nature in Sri Lanka. If you want to rest and practice sports surrounded by mountains and green landscapes, this is a destination that you cannot miss.
What to see in Ella
1. Ravana Waterfalls: it is a 25-meter high waterfall, in a privileged, totally natural environment, in the middle of the jungle. Behind the Ravana waterfall, there is a cave that can be accessed. It is one of the most popular places in the place.
2. Little Adam’s Peak: it is a mountain located about 2 hours from Ella. You can climb on foot and, from the top, discover panoramic views of the tea plantations.
Things to do in Ella
Stroll through the tea plantations
As in other areas of Sri Lanka, Ella is an excellent place to get lost among the tea plantations. You can discover the secrets of this product at the Halpewatte Tea Factory.
What to see and do in eastern Sri Lanka
Passikudah, ideal for relaxing on the beach
Passikudah is a coastal city in eastern Sri Lanka. If you are looking for a place to relax and enjoy the beach in total calm, this is your place.
What to see in Passikudah
1. Its beaches: in Passikudah you will find two beaches, the village beach and Kalkudah, 2 kilometres from the centre, which is the most famous beach. It is a very long and quiet beach.
2. Mariamman Kovil Temple: It is a six centuries-old Hindu temple. It is not one of the largest temples in Sri Lanka, but inside you will find some religious figures.
Things and activities to do in Passikudah
Practice water sports: if you like to practice diving or scuba diving in Passikudah you are in luck because you will have the opportunity to see marine fauna and flora such as stingrays or coral reefs.
Flying a kite: it is one of the favourite activities of the locals. It seems that his hobby crosses borders since now it is travellers who also dare to try to fly a kite.
Walking on the sand: Due to the immense Kalkudah beach, a walk on the sand is a must. It is a tranquil place, with hardly any people.
Trincomalee, beach and culture in equal parts
There is no doubt that if Trincomalee stands out for something, it is for its beaches. But keep in mind that this city also offers you the most interesting cultural visits.
What to see in Trincomalee
1. Port of Trincomalee: it is one of the essential ports in Sri Lanka since it was a strategic point of entry from Europe and a crucial English naval base. It is currently a commercial port that works 24/7.
2. Koneswaram Temple: It is a significant temple for Hindus and is dedicated to the god Shiva. The temple was destroyed in the 17th century and rebuilt in 1952. The colourful walls decorated with figures will draw your attention.
3. Fort of Trincomalee or Fort Fredrick: it is a fort from 1622 built by the Portuguese colonizers. From the fort you will have good views towards the port of Trincomalee.
Things to do in Trincomalee
Bathing at Uppuveli beach
Uppuveli beach is one of the best beaches in Trincomalee. It is a large beach, with many hotels and restaurants around it. Still, it is a quiet beach, so you can also enjoy relaxation.
Go on an excursion to Pigeon Island to snorkel or dive.
Near Trincomalee is Pigeon Island, with an impressive seabed. It is 15 minutes by boat from Trincomalee and is a perfect place if you like to snorkel and swim among marine animals.
Arugam Bay, a surfer’s paradise
What to see in Arugam Bay
1. Kudumbigala Monastery: It is an ancient cave temple and is located on a peak, in the middle of the Kumana National Park. It is a perfect place to have a 360º view of the bay and the jungle. On the way to the monastery, you will see many animals.
2. Pottuvil Lake: on the lake, you can make quiet boat routes from where you can usually see elephants and many types of birds.
Things to do in Arugam Bay
If there is a beach in Sri Lanka that is perfect for surfing, it is Arugam Bay. The best time to do it is from May, when the monsoon ends, until October. During these six months, the swell changes, and the wind from noon is perfect for surfing.
What to see and do in southern Sri Lanka
Galle, a city with a history
Galle is an old colonial city of 100,000 inhabitants. It is a fortified city, that means that it is all surrounded by a fort. Galle is undoubtedly one of the main cities in the country and offers countless interesting visits to travellers.
What to see in Galle
1.Galle Fort: it is a 16th-century construction with significant historical and architectural value. In its inner streets, you will see temples, mosques and colonial houses. It is interesting to pad through its streets that surround the entire city.
2. Bastion of Utrecht: it is a fortified platform located within the wall that the soldiers used to shoot at the enemy. It still retains its Dutch name from the period when the Dutch ruled Galle.
Administrative Building and Ancient Gate: The Ancient Gate was the entry point for commercial ships from India. These ships were controlled from the administrative buildings. Now, they are part of the UNESCO world heritage, and it is interesting to visit them to see their perfectly preserved colonial architecture.
3. Clock tower: this tower is inside the Fort and is the highest point in the city. Get up close to it for one of the most beautiful sights in Galle.
4. Galle National Museum: it is one of the national museums of Sri Lanka. The museum building, which is inside the Fort, is the oldest remaining Dutch building in the Fort.
Visit the Mahamodara Sea Turtle Incubation Center – a centre dedicated to saving sea turtles. You can visit the farm, help feed them and learn about the life of the turtles.
Discovering the Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Museum complex: Martin Wickramasinghe is Sri Lanka’s most famous writer. You can visit the house where he lived and his lovely gardens.
Stroll through the Sinharaja forest reserve: it is a national park with a lot of vegetation that in 1988 was declared a World Biosphere Reserve. There are wild animals, and it is recommended to visit it with a guide.
Visiting the cricket stadium – Did you know that cricket is one of the most widely practised sports in Sri Lanka? Galle Stadium is one of the best stadiums in the country, so it’s worth a visit.
Peaceful swimming on the beaches of Galle: Galle has three small and not very crowded beaches: Dalawella, Jungle Beach and Unawatuna. From them, you can see panoramic views of the city.
Unawatuna, one of the best beaches in the world
What to see in Unawatuna
Unawatuna Beach is considered one of the best beaches in the world according to the Discovery Channel. It is located 6 kilometres from the city of Galle, one of the main cities in the country. If you like nature, on this beach, you will see specimens of turtles or coral.
Things to do in Unawatuna
To practice water sports
In Unawatuna, you can practice diving or snorkelling, regardless of your level. You will find several companies that rent you the necessary equipment to start enjoying a day at sea.
Koggala is a coastal city where you can enjoy an incredible natural environment and an important cultural legacy. It is known for the typical image of the stilt fishermen on the water.
What to see in Koggala
1. The stilt fishermen: a few meters from the seashore, you will see fishermen on a wooden pole, with their fishing rod. Keep in mind that they often ask for alms in exchange for being photographed.
2. Koggala Lake: it is a beautiful natural environment, where you can see different species of birds and reptiles. It is a large lake, 7.3 square kilometres in area. You can take a boat tour to see the islets.
3. Kataluwa Purwarama Temple: It is a free temple that is not usually very crowded. It is from the 13th century and has some stunning murals that are more than 200 years old.
Things to do in Koggala
Handunugoda Tea Estate: In the Koggala Mountains you can see up to 25 different varieties of tea and take a tour of its plantations
Whale watching: 40 kilometres from Koggala is Mirissa, a place from where, if you are lucky, you can see whales.
Surfing and other water sports: Koggala Beach is a perfect place to surf thanks to its waves and its long dimensions. Its waters are also ideal for snorkelling and exploring underwater life.
Weligama, to observe whales in their natural habitat
Weligama, a coastal town in southern Sri Lanka, literally means “sand town”, reflecting that it is a town known for its beaches.
What to see in Weligama
1. Weligama Bay: The town of Weligama is located in a small bay that bears the same name. The entire bay is full of beautiful beaches, but perhaps the most prominent is that of Taprobane, where there is a small island a few meters from the shore.
2. Stilt fishermen: Weligama Beach is also famous for stilt fishermen. A few meters from the shore of the beach, you will see fishermen planted on top of a pole.
3. Kushtarajagala: It is an archaeological site where you can see a massive stone with a statue, known as the Kushtarajagala stone statue. The history behind this statue is relatively unknown, and it is believed that it was built between the 7th and 9th centuries.
Things to do in Weligama
Weligama Bay is the best place in Sri Lanka for whale watching. When you are most likely to see them is from November to April.
Bathe on your beach
Weligama Beach is the main beach in town. It is a long and narrow beach where, in addition to enjoying a good swim, you can also do many water sports.
Weligama is a right place for surfing. On the beach, you will find numerous surf schools that rent you a board and offer you an introductory lesson to this sport. At the Weligama Bay Dive Center, you can also do dives, regardless of your level.
Yala National Park, the most visited natural park
If you are passionate about nature, you cannot miss a visit to the Yala National Park, the most visited natural park in the country.
What to do in Yala National Park
Go on a safari to know the biodiversity of the Yala National Park. The main attraction of the Yala National Park is, without a doubt, its incredible biodiversity. Birds are one of the most present animals, with a total of 215 different species.
Through the 4×4 safari, it is also likely that you can see leopards –Yala is the place with the highest density of leopards–, elephants, buffalo or reptiles.
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