6 best cultural places in Sri Lanka and 10 best cultural tours in Sri Lanka

This blog post is about the 7 best cultural tours in Sri Lanka featuring important cultural places in Sri Lanka. All cultural tours we discuss in this article include not only cultural places in Sri Lanka but also historical places, temples, wildlife reserves, and beaches. There are 6 tour ideas to choose from and undertaking one of these 6 cultural tours in Sri Lanka allows you to explore the rich cultural past of the island.

6 Best cultural tours in Sri Lanka

  1. Grand cultural tour of Sri Lanka
  2. Polonnaruwa cultural tour
  3. Mini cultural tour of Sri Lanka
  4. Sri Lanka tea country cultural tour
  5. Sri Lanka upcountry cultural tour
  6. Southern Sri Lanka cultural tour

6 Best cultural places in Sri Lanka

  1. Sigiriya Rock fortress
  2. Dambulla (golden cave temple, Minneriya national park)
  3. Kandy (tooth relic temple, royal botanical garden, elephant orphanage)
  4. Polonnaruwa
  5. Anuradhapura
  6. Nuwara Eliya

5 best places to visit in Sri Lanka in one day

12 best places to visit in Sri Lanka in 2 days

15 best places to visit in Sri Lanka in 3 days

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22 places to visit in Sri Lanka in 5 days

Sri Lanka cultural tour

Every cultural tour is planned as a 3-day Sri Lanka trip and all 3-day cultural tours in Sri Lanka can be started from Colombo or any other resort on the west coast and the ending places are the same as the starting point.

With visits to important historical places, these 3 days tours take you through Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Dambulla all are UNESCO world heritage sites and important cultural places. All these cultural tours in Sri Lanka are private tours and the packages include accommodation in a standard hotel, an expert guide, driver, transport in a private vehicle and more.

Jetawanarama Dagoba Anuradhapura

1.Grand cultural tour of Sri Lanka

The grand cultural tour of Sri Lanka sits first on the list. The tour is very popular among travellers and includes many interesting cultural places in Sri Lanka.

Places included in the grand cultural tour

Sigiriya

Sigiriya is of the most visited tourist hotspots on the island and a part of most cultural tours in Sri Lanka, which is visited by thousands of travellers every day. Sigiriya showcases a 5th-century palace complex built by King Kashyapa, which comprised of landscaped gardens, pools, ponds, fountains, the remnant of a palace, paintings and many other ancient constructions.

Dambulla

Dambulla golden cave temple is another tourist hot spot on the island and is located within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. The temple is a UNESCO world heritage site and features a large number of Buddhist paintings and Buddha statues. Dambulla temple is a part of most Sri Lanka heritage tours and cultural tours in Sri Lanka. The history of the temple goes back to the 1st century BC and is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the world and is still in very good condition.

Pinnawala

Visiting Pinnawala is on the bucket list of most Sri Lanka visitors, even though it is not a cultural or historical site. Pinnawala elephant orphanage is a conservation and research center dedicated located near Kandy. The Pinnawala elephant orphanage was started in 1975 in order to rescue the orphan, sick and injured animals found in the jungle, later it was developed into a research centre. Now it is carrying out much important research in view of the conservation effort of the wild elephants in Sri Lanka.

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is the most historical city on the island dating back to the 3rd century BC. Anuradhapura temple is the first site that most tourist visits on cultural tours in Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura is an archaeological zoo, where the visitors see a large number of ancient monuments such as temples, palaces, stupas, image hoses, lakes, parks, gardens and many other ancient constructions.

Grand cultural tour in a nutshell

Day 1 of Sri Lanka 3 days tour

On the first day of Sri Lanka, on 3 days tour, you will leave for Anuradhapura, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, the distance from Colombo to Anuradhapura is 200 km and the time taken for the journey is roughly 4 hours and a half. After the Anuradhapura, the sightseeing tour proceeds to the hotel in Sigiriya, distance to cover this leg is 70km and the time taken for the journey is 1 hour.

Day 2 of Sri Lanka 3 days tour

On the next day of the tour you will be visiting the Sigiriya rock fortress in the morning and visiting Dambulla golden cave temple in the afternoon, later in the day optional jeep safari at Minneriya national park, Overnight stay in Sigiriya. All major attractions that you visit today are located near the hotel and it takes 30 minutes maximum, to reach any of the places (Sigiriya rock, Dambulla golden cave temple, Minneriya national park) from the hotel.

Day 3 of the tour

The last day of the tour proceeds to Colombo after breakfast, and en route visiting the Pinnawala elephant orphanage. The distance from Sigiriya to Pinnawala elephant orphanage is a00 km and it takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach the elephant orphanage from your hotel.  Pinnawala elephant orphanage is located on the way to Colombo from Sigiriya, however, there is a small detour that lasts about 15 minutes as the orphanage is located away from the main road. After visiting the Pinnawala orphanage leave for Colombo and you will reach the city in 3 hours’ time.


Tiwanka image house

2.Polonnaruwa cultural tour

This is a private tour and starting city and the ending place are highly flexible. However, if you start the tour from Colombo there will be no additional charges for the transport. If the pick-up and ending point are far away destinations from Colombo there could be additional charges, please inquire. 3 days in Sri Lanka tours take you through 3 UNESCO world heritage sites namely Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla as well as Pinnawala elephant orphanage.

Places to visit in the Polonnaruwa cultural tour

Polonnaruwa

If you opt for this tour as you spend 3 days in Sri Lanka, you have the opportunity to see one of the important UNESCO world heritage sites on the island, namely Polonnaruwa. You will be visiting 4 major UNESCO world heritage sites on this trip including Polonnaruwa.  Polonnaruwa was the 2nd capital of Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura and this ancient city harbors a large number of monuments such as temples, palaces, image houses, stupas, lakes, ponds, gardens, and many other ancient structures.

Polonnaruwa cultural tour in a nutshell

Day 1 of Sri Lanka 3 days tour

On the first day of this 3 days tour you will start the journey in Colombo and proceed to the hotel in Sigiriya vial Kegalle, en-route visit Pinnawala elephant orphanage and Dambulla golden cave temple. The journey will last around 5 hours with the visit to Dambulla golden cave temple, the distance to cover is 175 km.

Day 2 of Sri Lanka 3 days tour

On day 2 of the trip visit Sigiriya rock fortress in the morning and visit Polonnaruwa historical city in the afternoon, overnight stay in Sigiriya. The drive to the Sigiriya rock fortress from your hotel lasts only a few minutes as it is located very close to the hotel, however, the Polonnaruwa historical city, which will be visited is about 75 km from the hotel and the journey takes about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Day 3 of Sri Lanka 3 days tour

On the last day of the trip, you have the opportunity to venture on a Sri Lanka jungle tour at Minneriya national park and see Sri Lankan wildlife. Later return journey to Colombo.


Sigiriya rock fortress

3. Mini cultural tour of Sri Lanka

Start and end in Colombo! However, the pick-up location and endpoint can be varied depending on the client’s requirements. Please write to us if you need to change the pick-up and drop-off location. During these 3 days in Sri Lanka tour you can visit 3 major tourist host spots namely Kandy tooth relic temple, Dambulla golden cave temple, Sigiriya rock fortress, Pinnawala elephant orphanage, Tea Gardens, and Kandyan cultural show. The package includes accommodation, daily breakfast and dinner, transport and more.

Sri Lanka cultural places included in the mini cultural tour

  • Sigiriya rock fortress
  • Dambulla cave temple
  • Pinnawala elephant orphanage
  • Tooth relic temple
  • Pinnawala elephant orphanage
  • Spice garden
  • Minneriya national park

Tooth relic temple

The tooth relic temple is another major tourist attraction on the island due to its historical and religious importance. The temple of the tooth relic is the most important tourist attraction on the island and is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple on the island. The temple is a major pilgrimage site and attracts thousands of local devotees every day. You will be visiting the temple during the evening ceremony.

spice garden

Spices are a major export product of the country and it is one of the most important foreign exchange earners for the economy. The spice of Sri Lanka is exported to many countries around the world. At the spice garden, the visitors are able to see a large number of plants and trees that produces spices, At the same time the visitors are educated about the economic benefits of spices and how they are been used in the preparation of Ayurveda medicine along with other herbs.

Mini cultural tour in a nutshell

Day 1 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

On the first day of the trip, you will be visiting the Pinnawala elephant orphanage and tea garden as you drive to Kandy, later in the day visit the tooth relic temple and Kandyan cultural show, and overnight stay in Kandy. On the first day of this Sri Lanka 3 days tour, the takes place in the direction of the central mountain range and the distance to cover is 115 km. The journey takes around 3 hours including the visit to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage. The Pinnawala elephant orphanage is located about halfway down the journey and is the only major place to stop on the journey. The afternoon sightseeing tour of Kandy includes many interesting places to visit such as the tooth relic temple, Kandy market, Kandyan cultural show, etc.

Day 2 of Sri Lanka 3 days tour

The day second day of the tour starts after breakfast and you leave for Sigiriya via Dambulla, en-route visit Spice garden, Dambulla golden cave temple an optional safari at Minneriya, and overnight stay in Sigiriya. Today you drive deep into the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and visit another 2 major UNESCO world heritage sites on the island namely Sigiriya rock and Dambulla cave temple. The distance from Kandy to Dambulla and Sigiriya is 90 km and the journey lasts around 2 hours.

Day 3 of Sri Lanka 3 days tour

The last day of the tour starts after breakfast and visits Sigiriya rock fortress, later proceeding to the hotel in Colombo via Kurunegala. The journey lasts around 5 hours.


4. Sri Lanka tea country cultural tour

The tour starts on the west coast of Sri Lanka near Colombo and takes you through the countryside of semi-mountainous areas in Sri Lanka. During these 3 days on the Sri Lanka tour, you experience the rich historical, natural and cultural value of the Sri Lanka Mountains. You will be visiting the tooth relic temple, tea country of Sri Lanka better known as Nuwara Eliya, Sita temple, waterfalls, Gregory Lake, and Pinnawala elephant orphanage.

Places to visit in Sri Lanka tea country cultural tour

  • Seetha Amman temple
  • Gregory Lake
  • Kandy
  • Tooth relic temple
  • Royal botanical garden
  • Pinnawala elephant orphanage
  • Tooth relic temple
  • Spice garden
  • Waterfalls
  • Tea garden

Tea factory

Making a visit to a tea factory is customary for every traveller, who visits this tea country,  where the world-famous CEYLON tea is manufactured. At the tea factory, the visitors are able to witness the tea manufacturing process and sip a freshly brewed cup of Ceylon tea.

Nuwara Eliya

Nicknamed “Little England”, Nuwara Eliya had been the most popular holiday destination among British citizens, who lived on the island from 1796 to 1948. Today it is still a major tourist hotspot and is visited by a large number of local as well as foreign travellers.

Unlike in other places on the island, there is an acute shortage of historical monuments in Nuwara Eliya, however, it harbours a large number of many other interesting places such as parks, gardens, golf course, racecourse, Gregory lake with water sports, trekking sites, and national parks.

Ramboda Falla

One of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island is located halfway on the track from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.

Gregory Lake

The lake is located near the city of Nuwara Eliya and is one of the most beautiful places to explore. It was founded by one of the British governors in the 18s for recreation activities such as fishing, rowing, and boating.

Sri Lanka tea country cultural tour itinerary

Unlike the other 3 days in Sri Lanka programs that we discussed already, this 3 days tour includes the breathtaking mountains of Sri Lanka.

Day 1 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

The tour starts from Colombo and proceeds to the hotel in Kandy, en-route visit the Pinnawala elephant orphanage and spice garden, and later in the day visit the tooth relic temple and the Kandyan cultural show. The journey from Colombo to Kandy lasts around 4 hours with 2 visits to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage and spice garden. Later in the day Kandu sightseeing tour which is a hop-in and hop-out last around 3 hours, you will be sitting about 15 minutes in the vehicle during the city tour.

Day 2 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

The second day of the 3-day tour starts after breakfast and you will be making a day trip to Nuwara Eliya where you visit waterfalls, tea plantations, Gregory Lake, a tea factory, Nuwara Eliya city, and Sita temple. Nuwara Eliya, which is considered to have the best healing climate on the island is surrounded by mountains and valleys.

The uphill journey starts from Kandy at 500 meters above sea level and the elevation rises up to 1800 meters as you reach Nuwara Eliya. The drive lasts around 4 hours with a visit to the tea plantation and factory. The uphill journey also includes a few casual stops in order to enjoy the breathtaking scenery that you encounter on the way. You will trek t the Ramboda fall on the way so be prepared with good pair of shoes.

Day 3 of Sri Lanka 3 day tour

Last day of this 3 days trip you leave for Colombo Kitulgala en route to optional white water rafting Kitulgala. The distance to cover today’s journey is 165 km and it takes around 5 hours. You will encounter many waterfalls, tea plantations, patches of forests, and green-capped mountains during the journey.


Tooth relic temple of Kandy

5. Sri Lanka upcountry cultural tour

The tour starts in Colombo and ends in Colombo, however, if you live in a hotel on the west coast of the southern coast by we can arrange the pickup without any additional charge. The tour revolver around Sri Lanka upcountry and it includes many interesting places such as Adams peak, tooth relic temple, Natha Devala, Kandyan cultural show,

Places to visit in Sri Lanka upcountry cultural tour

  • Kandy
  • Tooth relic temple
  • Adams peak
  • Pinnawala elephant orphanage
  • Kitulagala

Kitulgala

Kitulgala is a laid-back village that is surrounded by a rainforest while in the backdrop are huge mountains. The lazy city is a heaven for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. The river of Kelaniya split the village into 2 parts is the lifeblood of Kitulgala and the river provides the essential water to sustain the evergreen forest. The forest hides many places such as trekking sites, mountains, caves, birds, and a large number of mammal species.

Adams peak

Adams peak is the third highest mountain in Sri Lanka, which is a popular pilgrimage in the country, believed to have the footprint of Buddha. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims of all ages make the hike every year in order to worship the footprint. Adams peak trek lasts around 8 hours (upward and downward journey) and the reward of the difficult task is the gorgeous view of the sunrise and the breathtaking scenery around the jungle.

Sri Lanka upcountry cultural tour in a nutshell

Day 1 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

On the first day of the tour, you drive to Kitulgala via mountains and take part in a white water rafting session, kayaking, and rain forest trek. Kitulgala is most popular on the island for adventure activities such as whitewater rafting, canoeing, rainforest trekking, caving, mountain climbing, and trekking and the nature activities available are quite understandable with its nickname “Adventure Playground of Sri Lanka”. The journey from Colombo to Kitulgala lasts around 3 hours and the journey cut the beautiful countryside, patches of forests, rubber plantations, coconut plantations, and laid-back small cities like Avissawella. After the thrilling adventurous activities Overnight stay in Kitulgala.

Day 2 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

The next day continues with the journey to Hatton and makes the Adams peak hike, later proceed to hotel in Kandy, in the afternoon visit tooth relic temple and make a sightseeing tour of Kandy, Overnight stay in Kandy. The first leg of today’s journey lasts about 2 hours, which is about 50km but lasts almost 2 hours due to the badly maintained road. the second part of the road trip (Adams peak to Kandy) lasts about 3 hours.

Day 3 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

The last day of the tour starts after breakfast at the hotel and leaves for Colombo, en-route visit Pinnawala elephant orphanage, tooth relic temple, Tea Gardens, and Pinnawala elephant orphanage, later departure transfer to Colombo via Kandy and Pinnawala. The downhill journey takes place between the picturesque mountains and valleys, to the beach areas. The distance to cover is 1215 km however it lasts about 3 hours due to the traffic.


Visiting Galle fort is included in every trip to the south coast. Most travelers, who stay in Colombo, also book a one-day Galle trip from Colombo

6. Southern Sri Lanka cultural tour

The tour starts from Colombo and takes you to southern Sri Lanka and ultimately the cultural hub of Sri Lanka better known as Kandy. These 3 days cultural tour includes many temples and historical monuments as well as wildlife tours based on national parks in southern Sri Lanka.

Places included in the Southern Sri Lanka cultural tour

  • Galle Fort
  • Madu River estuary
  • Bentota beach
  • Mirissa
  • Kandevihara temple
  • Mask Museum
  • Yala national park
  • Tooth relic temple
  • Elephant orphanage
  • Colombo Gangarama temple
  • BMICH
  • Independent square
  • International Buddhist Museum
  • Kandyan cultural show
  • Kataragama temple

Galle

Galle is the southern capital of Sri Lanka, which lies bordering the southern coastal belt. Galle is a city with coastal city with old-world charm and it is the home to the best-preserved ditch Fort in the region. This 15th-century Fort is a huge city that showcases palaces, hotels, galleries, guardrooms, cafes, galleries, and many other structures required for cosy life in a city. The city was occupied by Cutdh administrators in the old days, today the city attracts a large number of travellers and they take refuge in the Fort, which is a fantastic hideout for a peaceful and quiet holiday.

Madu river estuary

Madu river estuary is a Ramsar wetland and a large water body expanse over many square miles is a heaven for nature lovers. Boating is the most popular activity in the estuary and a slow boat ride along the river gives toys the opportunity to witness a large number of bird species, animals such as crocodiles, water monitors, monkeys, and a fascinating collection of mangroves.

Bentota

Bentota is the most popular beach resort on the island and earned the nickname “Golden Mile”, due to its gold colour, and palm-fringed beaches. The beach attracts a large number of beach holiday lovers and it is customary to encounter hordes of foreign travelers, especially from November to April.

Whale watching

Sri Lanka has become a whale-watching hotspot over the last few years and today a large number of travellers heading to southern Sri Lanka in view of taking part in a whale-watching trip. Unlike most other whale watching destinations, Sri Lanka is suitable for whale watching at this time of the year and can witness a few blue whales without any hardships. It is very rare that you miss a whale on a whale-watching trip in southern Sri Lanka.

Yala national park

Yala is the most popular national park on the island and about half of the wildlife enthusiasts, who do jeep safari choose Yala as the venue of their event. Yala is the best wildlife reserve in the world to spot leopards, due to the high concentration of leopards in the park. The leopard population is considerably gone up in the past due to the abundance of games and lack of competition for superiority in the jungle.  Leopards are the biggest carnivore in the park, however, spotting leopard is a bit more difficult than spotting wild elephants, wild buffaloes, jackals, bears, and crocodiles.

Southern Sri Lanka cultural tour itinerary in a nutshell

The tour starts on the west coast of Sri Lanka as usual, however, this 3 days tour also has maximum flexibility from start to the end as it is a private tour. You will encounter picturesque southern coastal tourist attractions as well as experience the rich wildlife of Sri Lanka.

Day 1 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

On the first day of the tour you will drive to Mirissa via Galle and Bentota, today you can do boating in the Madu estuary, explore coral reefs in Hikkaduwa, visit Bentota beach, and see the fascinating medieval construction at Galle fort, Overnight stay in Mirissa. The journey takes place along the beautiful coastal belt with several stops at Madu river, Bentota, and Galle fortress. The journey from Colombo to Mirissa lasts around 5 hours will all sightseeing mentioned above. There are several optional stops on the way such as Mask museum,  Sea turtle farm, Hikkaduwa beach, and moonstone mines.

Day 2 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

On day 2 of the 3 days in Sri Lanka tour, you will board a whale-watching boat in order to see blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins. Afterwards, leave for Yala, Overnight stay in Yala. You will leave on the whale watching trip early morning and the trips last between 2-5 hours. Later in the day leave for Yala and again you continue along the southern coastal belt, the 150km journey lasts around 3 hours.

Day 3 of Sri Lanka 3-day tour

On day 3 leave for Colombo via Kandy, en-route visit the tooth relic temple, Tea gardens, Kandy city and Pinnawala elephant orphanage. Early morning leave for Yala national park jeep safari, which lasts between 3-4 hours, afterwards leaves for the hotel in Colombo, the journey lasts around 5 hours.

End 6 Sri Lanka tour ideas for mesmerizing cultural tours in Sri Lanka

If you like to book this Sri Lanka 3 days tour program or any other holiday package to Sri Lanka please don’t hesitate to contact us at admin@seerendipitytours.com

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