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15 of the Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka Off the Beaten Track

Turtles in Hikkaduwa marine sanctuary

15 of the Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka Off the Beaten Track

Sri Lanka is also a cultural melting point and home for a number of ethnic groups. Whether you have explored enough of Sri Lanka popular tourist attraction attractions, or just keen to drop into several less touristy places, there is an interesting blend of places to visit in Sri Lanka that are off the beaten track. Here are the 15 of the Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka Off the Beaten Track.

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Sinharaja rainforest

Being a tropical country Sri Lanka has the natural wealth at its best. Sinharaja rainforest is undoubtedly the most renowned and valuable natural wealth of Sri Lanka. This rainforest can be compared to the forests such as Amazon, it has a breathtaking and fascinated landscapes as well as rich fauna and flora within its realm. From the thousands of years of old giant trees and fascinated wildlife to rugged high rise mountains, there is a lot to explore in this tropical heaven. Sinharaja is one of the most important Sri Lanka off the beaten track attraction and should be in the bucket list of every nature lover.

Buddha statue, places in Sri Lanka off the beaten track

Southern Sri Lanka

The vast southern coastal region is another Off the Beaten Track attraction in Sri Lanka and it can be best described as Sri Lanka’s “wild south”. Much of this region is consisting of the thickly forested countryside that dominated with thorn bushes and species of dry zone trees and plants. The extensive, pristine beaches of southern Sri Lanka are largely unexplored and untouched by the tourist traffic.

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Places to Visit in Sri Lanka Off the Beaten Track

Sri Lanka off the beaten track attraction – Haputale

When it comes to the places in high altitude areas for holiday in Sri Lanka, you would most likely opt for Nuwara Eliya. But what about quite unpopular Haputale? Tucked away from Nuwara Eliya in the western slope of the central mountain range, this untouched wilderness lies 1431 meters above the sea level. This mountain resort is scattered with patches of forests, tea gardens, cascading waterfalls, small villages, and enclosed by soaring mountains crowned with a green blanket.

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Madu river wetland

Madu river wetland, Sri Lanka’s largest inhabited island complex, lies in the imposing Madu river estuary in Bnetota beach. This Ramsar wetland is a heaven of natural wealth. A world within a world, boating, and canoeing, in the wetland of Madu river, are the best way to explore rich green cover and animal world of Madu river. Go bird watching, fishing, exploring mangrove forests and visit historical Buddhist temples all are on the bucket list of the visitors of Madu.

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Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya rock fortress is one of the most popular off the beaten track tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. For those who enjoy the mountain climbing and feel not fit enough to climb Mt Everest, then it is the time to consider the Sigiriya rock fortress. It is a lot more easy to climb Sigiriya rock fortress than gigantic mountains such as Mt Everest. This adventure does not last more than two hours and it is suitable for young and old as well. Sigiriya important is not only as an adventure destination but also due to the historical factors.

Sigiriya is a world heritage site and one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world originated in the 5th century AD. At present, there is only one route to go in the upward direction of the rock. The steps provide a very easy climb for the novices and experienced mountain climbers. Every climber is rewarded with a breathtaking view from the summit of the rock and some of the oldest paintings known as Sigiriya Apsaras on the halfway up the rock.



If the hustle of Kandy is too much, Kataragama is a more peaceful alternative for you. The regions are Often referred to the region that abode by God Kataragama or Murugan and this is the Gods own country. This holy remote village is sitting along the banks of Holy River known as “Menik Ganga”. The popular temple in Kataragama is visited by the believers of Buddhism, Hindu and Islam. If you plan to visit the temple in the month of July, August you are very lucky to witness one of the most colourful pageants in the island known as the Esala ceremony of Kataragama temple.

Dova cave temple

Dova cave temple, Situated about a half an hour south of Bandarawela on the way to Kataragama and Yala from Nuwara Eliya, Often referred as a part of the underground tunnel network of Ravana, existed about 7000 years back. Today the temple is purely a Buddhist religious site with beautifully painted image house and dozens of Buddha statues. The present temple is dating back to the Polonnaruwa period (11th Century).

Mulgirigala Buddha statue

Mulgirigala Buddhist temple

Mulgirigala is one of the oldest temples on the island near Tangalle. This historical temple is dating back to the pre-Christian era (2nd Century BC). It had been a Buddhist temple complex, learning centre as well as a library. There had been a large number of books and manuscripts, including many original version of books, in the ancient library. The books were written by the scholarly monks of the monastery. The monks have copied every book written on the island, pertaining to religious or secular.

Scholars around the world had come to the library to get copies of the valuable writings. The caves in the lower part of the temple had been used as the shelters for the meditating monks. Scholars from all over the island had gathered here to study Buddhism and meditation. Today Mulgirigala is a valuable archaeological site and been visited by foreigners and Sri Lankans.

The temple is located in four levels and at the most lover level of the ground is several caves that housed the library in the ancient time. The second level is about 10 meters above the first level. Sacred Bo-tree, ancient granite caves that turned to image houses can be seen here. There are several caves with valuable Buddha statues at this level. The statues are dating back to several centuries from the present.

The trail up to the summit or the highest level is about 500m long, but the climb is very steep. The climb gets steeped gradually and towards the end of the climb is the most difficult part, where the steps are carved on to the solid rock. The third level of the climb houses several granite caves and you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the surrounding lush green vegetation. The third level skirts the edge of more than 1000ft sheer cliff. A large number of ancient Buddha statues and painting can be seen here. Some of the statues are renovated and they are in very good condition. But paintings are in dilapidated condition, while they are not conserved during the last several centuries.

The last portion of the climb is the most difficult party to climb due to the narrowness and steepness of the climb, in some places, there is hardly any room to move your body, during the climb. The climb culminated with the view of the historical Stupa and patches of dry zone evergreen in southern Sri Lanka.


Negombo Lagoon

You can be forgiven if you had no idea about the Negombo lagoon and its mangrove vegetation. Negombo lagoon has a large extent of mangrove forest and it is one of the largest mangrove forests in the country. Despite its importance as one of the last remaining mangrove forests in the country, it is not on the most Sri Lanka tour itineraries. However, this fascinating and remarkable natural forest definitely worth a visit.

Bundala national park

Are you hoping to visit Yala national park but like to avoid the crowd? It is only 1-hour drive to Bundala national park from Yale wildlife reserve. Bundala national park is located adjoining the Yala wildlife reserve and in Bundala also visitors can see the most animal that roams in the Yala national park. Bundala is rank among the best places to spot a large number of bird species. Bundala is included in every bird watching tour in Sri Lanka. Bundala is the resting place of bird that migrates to the southern hemisphere in the months of October to March from Europe.

Muthurajawela Wetland

Muthurajawela wetland is located about 20 km from the commercial centre, Colombo of Sri Lanka. It is a heaven for the nature lovers. Muthurajawela is abundant of various species of mangroves and its inhabitants. It is inhabited by a large number of fish species, animals such as Crocodile, monitors, monkeys, deer, reptiles, birds and insects. It can be described as a must visit place for bird watchers, animal lovers and nature enthusiasts.

A large number of shallow waterways flow into the wetland, nourishing it with the earth residue. Hence it is very rich in various types of mangroves. Muthurajawela acts as a flood water trapper, allowing the excess water flows into it during the heavy rain. It can be best explored by a boat; a boat tour through the wetland on the shallow waterways allows you to enjoy the riverine environment of this natural wetland.

Make sure you have an experienced tour guide to guide you and explain to you the vast diverse wildlife that includes long tail leaf monkey, Crocodiles and a large array of aquatic bird species. The boat tour usually starts early in the morning or in the evening and lasts about four hours. During this time the animals are most active and the birds also can be best observed.

Turtles in Hikkaduwa marine sanctuary

Pigeon Island Marine Sanctuary

Pigeon island marine sanctuary is located some 20 km away from the main city of Trincomalee in the east coast of Sri Lanka. it is a world-class diving spot and attracts a large number of divers every year. Pigeon island marine sanctuary is very rich in marine life and very suitable for experienced and novice divers alike. It has a large number of coral reefs starting from the shallow waters and spreads to the Deep Ocean.

The marine park covers the pigeon island and its surrounding. Pigeon Island is about 5 nautical miles from the east coast beach holiday destination Nilaweli. Large numbers of people come here for Snorkeling and diving and they are fascinated by the diversity of exotic fish species living around the reefs. The waters around the pigeon island are also suitable for whale watching, dolphin watching, fishing and shipwrecks exploration.

sri lanka crocodile

Udawalawe National Park

The Udawalawe national park is one of the most popular national parks in the west coast of Sri Lanka.  It can be easily reached from the beach holiday destinations on the west coast of the island. Udawalawe is one of the most visited national parks in the country.

The national park was established in the 1960s and popular for elephant watching. There are large numbers of elephants in Udawalawe national park due to the abundance of elephant foods, water tanks and small land area compared to other national parks provides better chances of spotting large herds of jumbos. This national park spread over the dry zone of Sri Lanka and locate adjoining the Udawalawe reservoir. The national park is inhabited by a large number of animals such as elephants, leopards, bear, and crocodiles.

Leopard at yala national park

Wilpattu National Park

One of the distinct features of the park is the existence “Willus” (natural lakes), these are sand rimmed natural basins, that filled up with the rainwater. The number of Willus, as well as tanks, exceeds many dozens and they are important water storage facilities in the park

The national park is located in north-east Sri Lanka near the cultural triangle. The park can be added to the tours and excursions aimed at visiting Anuradhapura because it is located on the main road from Colombo to Anuradhapura. It provides the easy access for travellers who visit the historical sites such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Yapahuwa. Wilpattu national park is one of the most popular spots for watching leopards in Asia. It is inhabited by a large number of leopards and was closed for more than 30 years due to the security reasons. Wilpattu is the largest national park in the country and spread over 1317 square kilometre.


Kitulgala in the Sabaragamuwa province of Sri Lanka is very popular off the beaten track destinations, which attracts most of the adventure seekers, who come to engage in adrenaline-pumping activities such as mountain climbing, rock climbing, waterfall abseiling, white water rafting etc. Kitulgala is a very popular place for rainforest exploration, where you large tract of secondary rainforest cover. This tiny remote village lies on the Awissawella-Nuwara Eliya main road and travellers can reach Kitulgala By road.

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

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