10 Great Outdoor Activities in Sri Lanka

10 Great Outdoor Activities in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a popular holiday destination in Asia and the island attracts a large number of travellers every year. Sri Lanka is the most popular beach holiday destination in the world. However, Sri Lanka should not essentially be a beach holiday destination because Sri Lanka offers not only beaches but also many other places that can be used for adventure tours, eco-tours, and nature tours, wildlife tours. Sri Lanka possesses a large tract of pristine forests and untamed Sri Lanka is simply spectacular: wildlife sanctuaries and reefs, mountains and rainforests, waterfalls and rivers. Few countries in southern Asia or anywhere – match the range of outdoor activities in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka available in many facets

Sri Lanka is home to a large number of modern, well-ordered cities with high-rise buildings at every nook, in between these modern skyscrapers sits the colonial building with its signature architecture denoting its relationship to colonial rulers such as the Dutch and British. Colombo, Galle and Kandy are the best cities to show Sri Lanka’s close relationship with colonial rulers.

Sri Lanka is a cultural melting pot, where a large number of ethnic and religious groups live freely, with ethnic and culinary mélange into which Sinhalese, burghers, Tamil, Muslims and numerous other indigenous groups contribute cuisines and customs.  

Sri Lanka still possesses a large tract of pristine forests and untamed Sri Lanka is simply spectacular: wildlife sanctuaries and reefs, mountains and rainforests, waterfalls and rivers. Few countries in southern Asia or anywhere – match the range of opportunities for getting adventurous outdoors.

What are the 10 best outdoor activities in Sri Lanka

  • Dive to the pigeon island marine sanctuary
  • Surf the breaks of Aru Gam Bay
  • Go to the rainforest of Sinharaja
  • Hike through the jungle of Horton plains
  • Raft the Kitulgala River
  • Trekking through the tea plantations
  • Spot elephants at Udawalawe elephant transit camp
  • Visit Vannila atto/ aborigenes
  • Snorkel the reefs of Hikkaduwa
  • Adams peak Hike

1. Pigeon island & marine sanctuary: Outdoor Activities in Sri Lanka

Pigeon Island marine sanctuary is located on the east coast of Sri Lanka. There are 2 protected areas in the ocean around Sri Lanka, pigeon island marine sanctuary and Hikkaduwa marine sanctuary. The pigeon island marine sanctuary occupies a large area of the sea around pigeon island on Sri Lanka’s east coast. Besides its large size, the pigeon island marine sanctuary is home to a large array of marine life, hosting mammal species, nesting bird species and endangered sea turtle species, including the endangered green turtle. The ocean floor of the pigeon island marine sanctuary is illuminated with a large number of coral reefs and the waters around pigeon island provide many tons of fish to the people on the east coast. Due to the rich biodiversity in the Pigeon Island marine sanctuary, it is one of the best places for diving and snorkelling in Sri Lanka. However, diving and snorkelling on pigeon island can be done, only during the low season in Sri Lanka, from April to November. during the rest of the year, from November to April, the sea off Nilaveli becomes very rough and not suitable for diving, snorkelling or any other sea-based activities.

Pigeon island beach resort is a popular holiday destination on the island and it attracts a large number of beach holiday lovers. However, pigeon island is not among the places to visit in Sri Lanka on one-day tours due to the distance between Colombo and pigeon island resort. Maybe it is part of Sri Lanka multi-day land packages such as a 2-day Sri Lanka tour, a 3-day Sri Lanka trip or 7 days Sri Lanka tour. So, if you intend to visit Nilaveli marine sanctuary and Nilaveli Beach it is better to plan a multi-day beach holiday to East Coast Sri Lanka.

2. Surf the breaks of Aru Gam Bay: Outdoor Activities in Sri Lanka

There 2 major areas that are popular for surfing in Sri Lanka, the south coast of Sri Lanka and the east coast. However, the swells of Sri Lanka’s east coast grab the headlines, but Sri Lanka’s southern coast and west coast also offer options for surfing. Arugam Bay is the surfing hot spot on the east coast of Sri Lanka and April to October is the best time for surfing in Aru Gam Bay, the world surfing competition, which is an annual event, is hosted in Arugam Bay. The breaks around Arugam Bay and the eastern coast sea waves hold five or six feet – plenty for both beginners and more-ambitious surfers.

3. Go to the rainforest of Sinharaja: Outdoor Activities in Sri Lanka

It is a fine one-day Sri Lanka trip from Colombo and most beach resorts in western and southern Sri Lanka, through the gloomy and mist-shrouded rainforest. Sinharaja is the largest tract of primaeval of the rainforest of Sri Lanka, which harbours many hundreds of fauna and flora. Bird watching is one of the best-known activities of the visitors of the rain forest and Sinharaja is home to a large number of bird species including dozens of endemic avian fauna specie.

4. Hike through the jungle of Horton plains

Leopards, endangered Slender loris, Sambar deer – they are all here – though admittedly it is a tricky business to spot animal species such as leopard and slender loris, among the 3160 hectares of the lush cloud forest. A hike through the Horton plains is not about ticking off species but, rather, exploring the rich flora and witnessing a large number of birds, fish and primordial woodland, ducking under remote waterfalls, and watching for monkeys.

5. Raft the Kitulgala River

Sri Lanka is not a popular adventure holiday destination, however, Sri Lanka offers many interesting activities such as white water rafting, mountain climbing, waterfall abseiling, and mountain biking for adrenaline junkies. Kitulgala on the west coast of Sri Lanka, located at the foothills of Sri Lanka’s hill country has diverse geographical features such as mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and rivers. Kitulgala is considered as the adventure playground of Sri Lanka as it offers opportunities for adventure holidays in Sri Lanka. The Class I-III rapids of the Kelaniya River, in Kitulgala, are a mere nursery for the big adrenalin-pumper, with whitewater rushing over the 5km course. The River flows through lush green vegetation, providing ample opportunities to gaze into the rainforest lining the river.

6. Trekking through the tea plantations

Sri Lanka hill country and tea are going in hand-in-hand and every nook of the hill country is hidden with tea bushes. Tea is the most popular export agricultural product on the island with its roots going back to the early 18s.

For a very English adventure – tea and strawberries, it could almost be Wimbledon – take to the trails around the hill station of Nuwara Eliya. Amid the well-maintained, pleasingly geometric forms of the bushes of the tea plantations, stretch your legs in the cool high-level air for views of peaks and waterfalls.

7. Spot elephants at Udawalawe elephant transit camp

The elephant has already been declared an endangered animal in the world, and its population is plummeting very fast across Africa and Asia. Poaching and deforestation are mainly to be blamed for the reduction of wild elephants in the jungle over the last few centuries. Sri Lankan jungles are home to more than 5000 wild elephants and they are confined to 2 dozen wildlife reserves. Sri Lanka is a protected animal in Sri Lanka and its population on the rise over the last few decades. Due to the high concentration of wild elephants in Sri Lankan national parks, they have become hot spots for elephant spotting. Many local tour operators like Seerendipity Tours offer safari to popular wildlife reserves such as Yala national park, Udawalawe national park and Minneriya national park.

All three national park mentioned in the earlier paragraph has a large concentration of wild elephants. However, Udawalawe national park is highly recommended for spotting wild elephants as it gives you the best opportunities to meet herds of wild jumbos. Same time the elephant transit camp and elephant care centre are also established next to the Udawalwe national park in order to look after the sick, old and orphaned elephants. The elephant transit camp was an ambitious project of the government to rehabilitate the orphan baby elephant found in the jungle. Here you can witness many dozens of baby elephants which are reporting to the feeding hut to grab their portion of milk during the feeding hour. And afterwards returning to the herd living in the jungle.    

But there is nothing like delving into the jungle for some real wildlife-watching. Take an early morning or evening wildlife safari in the Udawalawe national park for the chance of spotting large gatherings of elephants, monkeys, crocodiles and vivid birdlife.

8. Visit Vannilaatto

The opportunity to meet the indigenous people of Sri Lanka believed to be the descendants of stone age humans who lived on the island and learn about the nature-friendly lifestyle of the small and dwindling ethnic group in Sri Lanka. Exploring their lifestyle, dancing, music and customs and traditions are key reasons for visiting this remote village known as Dambana. This is a perfect opportunity to meet with Sri Lanka’s tribespeople and still offer unique insights into fast-eroding cultures.

9. Snorkel the reefs of Hikkaduwa

Snorkel without getting wet in the sea off Hikkaduwa. This almost stereotypically tropical marine sanctuary lies in the western province of Sri Lanka between Galle and Colombo, tempting with sand and snorkelling. However, most snorkelers here are not jumping into the sea, but they use a glass-bottom boat to explore the sea bed, which is full of seagrass, exotic fish species, corals and endangered sea turtles. The Hikkaduwa marine sanctuary is also a great place to learn to scuba dive, with varied sites and reasonable prices.

10. Adams Peak Hike

This huge grey lump is the third highest mountain on the island, which suppose to host the Buddha’s footprint, therefore, is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka. The moonlight hike of Adams peak is very popular among local travellers as well as foreign tourists. However, it does not reflect in most leisure holiday packages in Sri Lanka. If you book and Sri Lanka adventure trip or a nature trip Such as Sri Lanka 5 days nature tour, then it may include Adams Peak.

Adams Peak is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka with hundreds of thousands of Buddhists taking the arduous 5 hours trek to worship the footprint of Buddha and take a glimpse into the very first rays emitted by the sun. Soaring to a sharp 2243m peak looms large over the western flank of Sri Lanka’s hill country; the moonlight hike requires steely determination to tackle hours of solid uphill – but dawn views across the peak wilderness and surrounding hills on a clear morning offset even the most burning thighs.