Sri Lanka is known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”. This relatively compact island boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Sri Lanka is a charming tourist destination owing to its mesmerising tropical climate, impeccable mountains and rivers, impressive rain forests, historical places and culture, not to mention the extraordinary cuisine. Find out what are some of the top attractions in Sri Lanka.
Dambulla Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is one of the largest and best-preserved cave temples in Sri Lanka. The Dambulla Cave Temple is a part of the ‘Cultural Triangle’ — town of Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy — in Sri Lanka. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area and the popular Royal Rock Temple complex sits about 160m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. Main attractions include stunning Buddha statues and paintings spread over five caves. Each of the caves was built at different periods of Sri Lanka’s history and will provide you insight into the evolving Sri Lankan culture. From the caves, you’ll get superb views over the surrounding countryside.
Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most popular wildlife park. The park offers the greatest diversity of animal and birdlife in the country. You’ll get an opportunity to witness colourful painted storks perching at the shores, fantail peacocks in resplendent blues and greens parading about, monkeys hanging and leaping, as well as elephants crossing the tracks. Yala National Park is also one of the world’s most popular destinations to spot the elusive leopards, who love to lounge on the huge granite boulders that dot the parkland.
Right next to Yala National Park is Arugam Bay. Locally known as ‘Arugam Kudah’, Arugam Bay is like the Bondi Beach of Sri Lanka. Whether you’re a beginner or professional surfer, Arugam Bay is a surfers paradise. It’s absolutely the place to ride the waves and even companies like Red Bull organise competitions here. Elephant Rock, located at the end of the bay, is a great place to have a panoramic view of the area. Just be careful not to go too near the rivers as the crocodiles are active.
Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress, a historical and archaeological site that is approximately 180m high. Sigiriya or Sinhagiri means the ‘Lion’s Rock’, where you have to climb up 1200 steps before reaching the top. Most of the route up to the frescoes is relatively easy but there are some stretches of the stairways which are unstable for those who may have vertigo. Many travellers say that it is the most impressive site in Sri Lanka with stunning views from the top. Some of the key features of Sigiriya are graffiti, Lion’s paw entrance, boulders garden, mirror wall, fresco paintings of female figures, landscaped garden, water gardens and remains of the palace. This well-preserved ancient rock fortress is one of the archeological treasures in South Asia.
Galle is a historic city, an exotic old trading port blessed with imposing Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches, grand mansions and museums. It is a delightful place to explore on foot. You’ll pass stylish cafes, quirky boutiques and impeccably restored hotels. Cinnamon has been shipped from here for a thousand years and it was to these shores and Galle’s natural harbour that King Solomon came for ivory, peacocks and other island valuables. Some of the activities you can do in Galle include blue whale and dolphin watching, bike riding, surfing, scuba diving and wildlife sightings. Watch the sun set into the horizon at the end of Galle Fort where the Flag Rock is located or explore the Maritime Archaeology Museum.
Known as ‘Bridge in the Sky’, the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella is one of the most iconic spots in Sri Lanka. Located in a town high in the mountainous region of Sri Lanka and standing at an elevation of 1,041m above sea level, the beautiful architecture is hidden between lush green tea fields. The bridge is one of the best examples of colonial-era construction and an incredible architectural feat. Today, travellers and locals come to catch a glimpse of the famous blue train slowly inching its way across the bridge. This picturesque place is definitely a photographer’s paradise.
Often referred to as ‘Little England’, Nuwara Eliya boasts a landscape far more dramatic than Britain's. With its cool climate, colonial-era bungalows, Tudor-style hotels, well-tended hedgerows and pretty gardens, Nuwara Eliya is a great place for relaxation. If you’re a tea lover, you should check out the many tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya. Most of the plantations offer free tours and free tea! Your trip will also be incomplete without tasting the famous Ceylon tea in Nuwara Eliya where most of the leaves grow. Nuwara Eliya is a popular stop between Ella and Kandy to break up the famous hill train journey.