40 Places to see in Sri Lanka

Tea estate nuwara eliya

40 Places to see in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the most popular destinations for holidays in Southern Asia. This tropical island is only 65,610 square kilometres in extent but endowed with the immense amount of natural and man-made attractions. The beautiful beaches around the country are more than 1300 km in length and it is the fascinating tourist attraction on the island. But, Sri Lanka is not only suitable beach holidays but also for all other branches of the tourism industry such as adventure holidays, nature holidays, cultural tours, and health tourism. This article is about 40 Places to see in Sri Lanka and covers some of the most important places to see in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka inherits one of the most ancient cultures in the world and it is dating back to many thousands of years. The archaeological sites in the north-central province of Sri Lanka hold the evidence of these great cultures, which flourished on the soil of Sri Lanka. Engineers and artisans of the modern era are astounded to see the palaces, dagobas, temples, gardens and many other artistic works archived by the ancient people of Sri Lanka. Following is a list of tourist attraction in Sri Lanka, which is most popular in Sri Lanka.

40 Places to see in Sri Lanka

40 Places to see in Sri Lanka

Historical and cultural places


Anuradhapura is the most historical city of Sri Lanka and the foundation of Anuradhapura is dating back to 2nd century BC. Today Anuradhapura is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most important archaeological sites in the island with thousands of artefacts attributed to the ancient civilization of Sri Lanka.


Polonnaruwa is another historical city that earned the status of UNESCO world heritage. Polonnaruwa is the 2nd most ancient city of Sri Lanka and consists of hundreds of ruins of Buddhist temples, palaces, gardens, parks, hospitals and many other monuments.


Dambulla is a popular city in the country due to the Dambulla golden cave temple. This historical site is a Buddhist temple built in 1st Century BC. This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the most historical cate temples in the world. The temple is consisting of 5 natural caves and these caves harbour a large number of Buddha statues, god figures and paintings.


Galle is a city in southern Sri Lanka and lies 118 km from Colombo. This ancient city was called Gimhathiththa, but later the name was changed to Galle, after the arrival of Portuguese in 1505. Galle was a flourishing city in the past and it was a trade emporium in the region. A large number of merchant ships plying to west from east to west and vice-a-versa called onto the natural port of Galle to exchange goods. Today it is an important tourist hub with a large number of tourist arrival.


Kandy is a cultural city with a blend of colonial heritage and natural attractions. The city lies about 500 meters above sea level and shows a great contrast in terms of warm climate conditions prevail in the low-country of Sri Lanka. There is a large number of natural and historical attractions within the borders of this UNESCO world heritage site some of them are the tooth relic temple, Udawattekele sanctuary, Royal botanical garden.


Sigiriya is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. The history of Sigiriya is dating back to 5th century AD and the fortress was built by King Kashyapa. Sigiriya attracts a large number of tourist every year and included in most Sri Lanka road trips. Sigiriya is not only important as a historical site but also as a place to explore Sri Lanka’s rich natural wealth, due to a large extent of natural forest cover in the region.


Trincomalee is the holiday hot-spot in eastern Sri Lanka. The city has a fascinating blend of nature, culture and history. The city was largely abandoned by travellers around the world in the past due to the deteriorated security in the region. But the entire east coast became a safe holiday destination since the ending of the civil war in 2009. Today the tourist traffic is heading to the east coast beaches because it is one of the best places for memorable Sri Lanka beach holidays.


Jaffna is the northernmost city of Sri Lanka. Jaffna was an isolated city in the recent past due to the political unrest in the area, today it is free from the terrorist grip and safe place for travellers. There are many historical and natural attractions in Jaffna such as Kadurugoida temple, Nagadeepa.


Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and most populated city in the country. Colombo is named as a garden city of Asia due to its extensive green cover among the high-rise concrete and iron structures. The city has a rich historical past and there is a large number of places in the city with historical and cultural importance.


Kataragama is the most popular religious site in southern Sri Lanka. Kataragama is visited by Buddhist as well as Hindu devotees. The temple is visited by many hundreds of devotees during the annual Esala ceremony.



By far Bentota is the most popular beach resort in the country and the majority of tourist traffic heading to beaches are anchoring here. The beach resort lies 103 km from Colombo international airport.

Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is the surfing paradise on the island and most suitable for beach holidays from April to November. Arugam Bay is tucked along the eastern borders of Sri Lanka and the distance to Arugam Bay from Katunayake is 325 km.


Batticaloa is another popular beach holiday destination in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka lies few kilometres northward from arguable. Best time to travel to Batticaloa is from April to November the rest of the year these beaches are isolated due to the rain.


Beruwala is another popular beach holiday destination with historical value. Kachchimale mosque and Kande vihara are the 2 most important historical places in Beruwala. The palm-fringed pristine beaches with torque water tempt any travellers to spend some time on these beaches. The best time to travel to Beruwala is from November to April.


Few kilometre further north-ward from Beruwala lies Kalutara beach resort. The distance from Colombo to Kalutara is merely 50 km and 1-hour drive. Even though Kalutara is not as popular as Bentota as a beach holiday destination, the pristine beaches of Kalutara also attract large number o sun worshippers every year.


Located at the southernmost tip of the island, Hambantota has torque waters and one the most beautiful palm-fringed wide beaches of the island.  The tourism industry is not well developed in the area like many beach resorts in the country, due to the lack of tourists. The long distance from Colombo identified as the main reason for its unpopularity as a beach holiday destination. There are many evident shortcomings in the resort such as lack of accommodation facilities for luxury seekers, lack of service providers for activities etc.


Hikkaduwa emerged as a beach holiday spot in the early days of Sri Lanka tourism. Today Hikkaduwa is famed for its accommodation and other services suitable for budget travellers. Virtually Hikkaduwa can accommodate any type of budget with wide range of accommodation facilities. Travellers can find cheap accommodation facilities such as dormitories to high-end luxury accommodation at Hikkaduwa. But Hikkaduwa is most popular as a budget holiday destination and a large number of backpackers are gathering here every year. If you go to west coast beaches or southern coast beaches you should never miss the Hikkaduwa marine sanctuary. This is one of the best places to discover the rich coral reefs and sea creatures in the sea.


Kalkudah is most popular as a beach holiday destination on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Kalkudah is largely unexplored and neglected by travellers in the past. The beach is located 193 km from Colombo. The best time to travel to Kalkudah is from April to November.


Kalpitiya is the newest addition to the beach resort list of Sri Lanka. Kalpitiya is lying 163 km north-ward from Colombo. Kalpitiya not only popular as one of the best places for whale and dolphin watching. There are a large number of travellers gathering here for whale watching during the north-west monsoon (From April to November). Kalpitiya is the most popular beach holiday destination in Sri Lanka for kitesurfing.


Mirissa is another unpopular beach holiday destination in southern Sri Lanka. Mirissa lies 154 km from Colombo and it takes around 2 hours to reach this idyllic beach resort from the airport. Mirissa has one of the best beaches in the island, but it is visited only by a few travellers. Mirissa is most important as a whale watching spot. Mirisa is included in most Sri Lanka trips but not as a beach holiday destination but also as a whale watching destination.


Negombo is primarily a beach holiday destination in the west coast of Sri Lanka and lies 30 km from the Colombo and 10 km from the airport. This fancy coastal town is the shortest gateway for travellers, especially for foreign travellers, who wish to have a short vacation in the country.


Nilaveli is another beach holiday destination in the east coast of Sri Lanka. This is one of the best beaches if you look for a Sri Lanka beach holidays from April to November. Nilaveli is a coastal town lies 280 km from Colombo. This coastal town has wide sandy beaches with warm waters of the Indian ocean. The Nilaveli marine sanctuary is just a few hundred meters away from the mainland and provides top-notch diving and snorkelling experience for travellers, who are heading to the east coast.


Pasikudah is an ideal base to explore the pristine beaches of Sri Lanka. The town lies bordering the Indian ocean and it is located 30 km from the major city of Batticaloa.


Unawatuna is one of the best beaches on the island and the top rated beaches in the world. Unlike most Sri Lanka beaches, where the travellers can go for a swim only during the dry season, in Unawatuna, you can swim throughout the year.

Ultimate Sri Lanka Road Trip
Minneriya national park is the most popular wildlife reserve in the central province and has a large collection of wild animals. This is one of the best wildlife reserves to spot wild elephants in Sri Lanka.

National Parks and Reserves

Horton Plains

Horton plain’s national park is considered to be one of the greatest game parks in the country. Horton plains national park is the only wildlife reserve that offers a walking safari in the country. This quintessential national park is dominated by endless grasslands and patches of cloud forests. The park is very rich with Faun and flora, where the nature lovers can see a large number of endemic fauna and flora species.

Bundala National Park

Bundala national park is located bordering the Yala national park and Indian ocean. The park is a major attraction of dry zone of Sri Lanka. Bundala is most popular among the bird watchers. Here you can see thousands of birds in the months of November, December, January, February and March. Bundala is the southernmost destination of bird migration path heading to equator from the northern hemisphere. Therefore, thousands of migratory birds, that departs from Europe, during the winter season to a warm country, anchoring here for 5 months, making it very colourful birding destination in the region.

Yala National Park

Yala rank among the best places to spot leopards in the world, due to the high concentration of leopards in a small geographical area. Yala is the most popular wildlife reserve in southern Sri Lanka and Yala is the most popular safari destination on the island.

Udawalawe National Park

Another popular wildlife reserve in the island and lies near the west coast of Sri Lanka. The Udawalawe national park is the most popular wildlife reserve to spot wild elephnats. If you have planned your beach holiday on the west coast this is the nearest wildlife reserve for you and can be visited in a day tour.

Knuckles Range

Knuckles is one of the most important patches of a patch of rainforests in the country. There are many trekking paths through the forest and a large number of local as well as foreign travellers are heading to knuckles every year.

Minneriya National park

Minneriya national park lies in the central province of Sri Lanka with close proximity to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. The park is visited by a large number of foreign travellers because Minneriya national park is one of the best places to spot wild elephnats.

Sinharaja Nature reserve

sinharaja is the last remaining primaeval rainforest of Sri Lanka and the most valuable patch of rainforest in the country.

Wilpattu National Park

Wilpattu is the biggest wildlife reserve in the island of Sri Lanka and located in the central province of Sri Lanka. Wilpattu is one of the best places to witness leopards.s

Madu river safari

Madu Ganga is a Ramsar wetland and has international importance. Madu river safari is one of the most popular activities among the travellers who based on the west coast of Sri Lanka. Madu Ganga river safari allows you to explore the rich riverine vegetation of Sri Lanka and see a large number of bird species such as the cormorant, herons, fish eagle etc.

Adventure sites


Kkitulgal ais the playground of adventure lovers in Sri Lanka. This remote adventure holiday destination lies  100 km from Colombo. Various adventure activities such as trekking, white water rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, waterfall abseiling, caving can be performed here.


Laid back city of Ella attracts a large number of holiday lovers from all around the world. Ella is most popular as the backpacker’s paradise in the mountains and Ella attracts mostly the young travellers that are travelling on tight budgets. Ella is a popular Adventure holiday destination can travellers can perform many adventure activities such as trekking, mountain climbing, rock climbing.

Adam’s Peak

Sri Pada is a multi-faceted tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. Ada’s peak or Sri pada is better known as the holy mountain of Sri Lanka is a religious site, archaeological site, adventure site and a Nature reserve. Adam’s peak is the 3rd highest mountain of Sri Lanka and local pilgrims climb the mountain to worship the footprint of Buddha. The upward journey takes around 5 hours. For foreigners, the trek is a light-adventure and it allows them to experience the rich natural wealth of peak nature reserve.


Ratnapura is the most important gem producing city in the island and the city is popular for Gems and Jewellery. For the tourists, Ratnapura is important as a destination to explore the rich natural wealth of the island. Ratnapura also accommodates top-rated sites for many adventure sports such as trekking, white water rafting, Kayaking, mountain climbing. Ratnapura is one of the gateways to the most important rainforest of Sri Lanka, Sinharaja rainforest.

Nuwara eliya gregory lake garden

Places to visit in the Mountains

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya lies at the elevation of 2800 meters above sea level and popular as a holiday destination with healing climate. Nuwara Eliya is the most loved holiday destination among the local travellers. The city is most picturesque during the months of April May and June parallel to the flowering season of Nuwara Eliya.

Elephant orphanage Pinnawela

Elephant orphanage is another tourist attraction on the island, where you can see a large concentration of Asian elephnats. The experience at Pinnawala is somewhat different than the experience you get in a national park. Here the travellers see only the tamed elephants.


The second most popular holiday destination the mountain with healing climate after Nuwara Eliya. This is the best alternative holiday destination for Nuwara Eliya, where the travellers can find more affordable accommodation than in Nuwara Eliya.

Posted by

Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

This blog is all about travelling in Sri Lanka, I am trying to illuminate my readers with a wide range of information related to Sri Lanka travel. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you need more information. Furthermore, we can organize your holiday package or any travel related requirement in Sri Lanka. Please contact us on info@seerendipitytours.com

More interesting articles on Sri Lanka tours