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. Sinharaja rainforest is comparable to forests such as Amazon and Kongo, it has a breathtaking and fascinating collection of Fauna and Flora as well as landscapes…these are the BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SRI LANKA OFF THE BEATEN TRACK.
Places to Visit in Sri Lanka Off the Beaten Track
Sri Lanka is a cultural melting point and home to a number of ethnic groups. Whether you have explored enough of Sri Lanka popular tourist 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.
- White water rafting Kitulgala
- Jungle trek and bird watching in Kitulgala
- Rainforest trek Sinharaja
- Wildlife safari Udawalawe national park
- Whale watching Mirissa
- Walking tour Galle fort
18 best places to visit off the beaten track, distance from Colombo
- Sinharaja rainforest – 158 km
- Southern Sri Lanka – 100 km
- Haputale – 200 km
- Madu river wetland – 118 km
- Sigiriya Rock Fortress – 150 km
- Kataragama – 297 km
- Dova cave temple – 213 km
- Mulgirigala Buddhist temple – 211
- Negombo Lagoon – 37 km
- Bundala national park – 263 km
- Muthurajawela – 24 km
- Pigeon Island Marine Sanctuary – 278 km
- Udawalawe – 179 km
- Wilpattu National Park – 170 km
- Kitulgala – 80 km
- Adams peak – 150 km
- Kalpitiya Beach – 170 km
- IFS Popham Arboretum Sri Lanka –163 km
What can we do in below places?
- Sinharaja – rainforest trekking
- Southern Sri Lanka – beach hopping, watersport
- Haputale – mountaineering
- Madu river wetland – boating, explore aquatic Fauna&Flora
- Sigiriya Rock Fortress – trekking, exploring historical places
- Kataragama – exploring historical, religious places
- Dova cave temple – exploring historical, religious places
- Mulgirigala – exploring historical, religious places
- Negombo Lagoon – boating, explore aquatic Fauna&Flora
- Bundala national park – wildlife safari
- Muthurajawela – boating, explore aquatic Fauna&Flora
- Pigeon Island – diving, snorkelling
- Udawalawe – wildlife safari
- Wilpattu National Park – wildlife safari
- Kitulgala – adventure sports
- Adams peak – hiking and visiting the temple
- Kalpitiya Beach – boating, explore aquatic Fauna&Flora
- IFS Popham Arboretum-Sri Lanka – wildlife exploration
Sri Lanka off the beaten track tour
- Highlights-Sinharaja Rainforest, Udawattekele, Galway’s bird sanctuary, Horton plains, White water rafting, Udawalawe national park, Yala national park, waterfalls, Spice garden, tooth relic temple, tea factory and plantation, Bentota beach
- Duration-5 Days
- Transport-Private vehicle
- Accommodation 4-star hotel
- Meals-Breakfast and Dinner
Special Price US$ 530, save $80, Regular Price US$610
9 Off the beaten track tours of Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka off the beaten track rain forest trek with Sinharaja forest reserve tours
- Sri Lanka off the beaten track adventure tour
- Sri Lanka off the beaten track hill country and beach
- Sri Lanka off the beaten track tour with Yala safari and Galle
- Sri Lanka off the beaten track water rafting, Kayaking, rain forest trek
- Whale Watching Bentota: Sri Lanka’s Blue Whale Highway
- Sri Lanka off the beaten track- Waterfall Abseiling Sri Lanka
- Off the beaten track Udawalawe safari tours
- Off the beaten track tour to Kitulgala
Sri Lanka off the beaten track tours to Sinharaja rainforest
Bing 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. Sinharaja rainforest is comparable to forests such as Amazon and Kongo, it has breathtaking and fascinated landscapes as well as rich fauna and flora within its realm, in fact, Sinharaja is the only Gondwanaland patch of forest in Asia. Therefore Sinharaja offers many opportunities for off the beaten track tours in Sri Lanka.
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 off the beaten track site. Sinharaja is one of the most important Sri Lanka off the beaten track attractions and should be in the bucket list of every nature lover. The Sinharaja rainforest stands from the plethora of sites for adventure tours in Sri Lanka due to its high biodiversity.
The vast southern coastal region is another Off the Beaten Track locality 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, off the beaten track pristine beaches of southern Sri Lanka, are largely unexplored and untouched by the tourist traffic.
Sinharaja rain forest tour
- Highlights- Sinharaja rainforest trek 4 hours, Freshwater river bath (optional), Exploring fascinating Fauna and Flora of the Rainforest
- Duration-1 Day
- Places- Sinharaja
- Transport-Private vehicle
Special Price US$ 150, save $60, Regular Price US$210
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 laid-back mountain resort is a perfect off the beaten tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. This untouched wilderness lies 1431 meters above 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.
Madu river wetland, Sri Lanka’s largest inhabited island complex, lies in the imposing Madu river estuary in Bentota beach. This Ramsar wetland is a haven of nature lovers. A world within a world, boating, and canoeing, in the wetland of Madu river, are the best way to explore this off the beaten track tourist attraction, which lies near the western coast beaches of Sri Lanka.
The wetland of Madu offers a plethora of off the beaten track activities and most of them are waterbased activities such as fishing, exploring mangrove forests, kayaking and visit historical Buddhist temples in the island, all are on the bucket list of the visitors of this off the beaten track attraction. Madu river estuary is one of the most popular places for Sri Lanka off the beaten track tour and mainly attracts the travellers from southern and west coast beaches, due to the convenience of reaching out to Madu river from the southern and west coast beaches.
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 UNESCO 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.
There are many dozens of places to explore off the beaten track in Sigiriya such as,
- Pidurangala rock
- Sigiriya wildlife reserve
- Sigiriya lake
- Hiriwadunna village
- Hurulu eco-park
Visiting Sigiriya on a day trip
- Duration-6 Days
- Regions-Cultural triangle, Upcountry, Beach
- Places-Sigiriya rock, Dambulla temple, Minneriya National Park, Royal botanical garden, Tooth relic temple, Tea country, Bentota beach, Colombo
- Transport-Private vehicle
- Accommodation 4-star hotel
- Meals-Breakfast and Dinner
- Age range-all ages
If the hustle of Kandy is too much, Kataragama is a more peaceful alternative for you. The regions are often referred that abode by God Kataragama or Murugan and this is the Gods own country. This holy off the beaten track village is sitting along the banks of Holy River known as “Menik Ganga”. The popular temple of Kataragama is visited by the believers of Buddhism, Hinduism 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 on the island known as the Esala ceremony of Kataragama temple.
Dova cave temple, situated about 10 km 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). The temple is an unknown historical site in Sri Lanka and even it is not known to most people in other parts of the island. The temple has a natural cave, which is the most important attraction at the site. The spacious cave showcases a large number of Buddha statues and ancient paintings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha.
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 a 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.
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.
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 is located about 20 km from the commercial centre, Colombo city tour of Sri Lanka. It is a heaven for 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 visited 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 floodwater 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.
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.
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. Udawalawe offers many possibilities for off the beaten track tours in Sri Lanka such as trekking, caving, rainforest exploration tour, kayaking and Sri Lanka wildlife tours.
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 located adjoining the Udawalawe reservoir. The national park is inhabited by a large number of animals such as elephants, leopards, bear, and crocodiles.
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 easy access for travellers who visit 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-Sri Lanka off the beaten track adventure tours
- Kandy, Pinnawala elephant orphanage, tooth relic temple, royal botanical garden, Water rafting, jeep safari at Udawalawe national park, Boat tour at Madu river estuary, Bentota beach
- Duration-4 Days
- Places- Kandy, Udawalawe, Kitulgala, Bentota, Colombo
- Transport-Private vehicle
- Accommodation 4-star hotel
- Meals-Breakfast and Dinner
Special Price US$ 690, save $60, Regular Price US$750
Kitulgala in the Sabaragamuwa province is very popular Sri Lanka off the beaten track holiday destination, which attracts most adventure holiday seekers, who come to engage in adrenaline-pumping activities such as mountain climbing, rock climbing, waterfall abseiling, white water rafting etc. Kitulgala is also a very popular place for rainforest exploration, where you encounter a large tract of secondary rainforest cover. This tiny remote village lies on the Awissawella-Nuwara Eliya main road and travellers can easily reach Kitulgala By road.
Adams peak is a hidden gem located in the western slope of Sri Lanka’s hill country. It is one of the uncommon places to visit with regards to most foreign travellers because most of the foreigner are not aware of it. The hike at Adams peak is suitable for nature lovers and adventure enthusiast. Of you are fancy of gorgeous scenery and like to spend time with mother nature, this is a perfect opportunity. The hike at the Adams peak lasts about 5 hours and throughout the hike, you see only the endless lush green forest.
Usually, the hike at Adams peak starts at midnight and which culminates by reaching the summit at around 5.00 am, enabling you to witness the sunrise. The view of sunrise from Adams peak is considered being one of the most beautiful scenery and a large number of people make it a reason to climb the mountain.
Lying elbow-to-elbow with other travellers is not usual at pigeon island like most other popular beaches on the island because there is ample empty space around you. This stretch of beach is tucked away from the main island, off the north-west coast of Sri Lanka. The Kalpitiya beach and the Puttalam lagoon are still a best-kept secret for most travellers. The remoteness from the west coast is the main reason for its unpopularity among travellers.
Kalpitiya beach has a rugged and rocky terrain, which resulted in the sea erosion that takes place over the many past millennia. Geologists opine that this off the beaten track beach had been much bigger than what we see today, however it got smaller in the wrath of erosion. It is in total isolation during the off-peak holiday season in the east coast (April -Nov)), However, you can encounter few foreigners here during the peak holiday season on the east coast (Nov-April).
IFS Popham arboretum is forest managed by the Organization of Ruk Rakaganno (protectors of trees). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of these two words is the ‘A place devoted to the cultivation and exhibition of the rare tree; a botanical tree-garden’. Popham arboretum is a classic example of forest regeneration in the island.
The forest is located in the heart of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka; it is just less than an hour drive from Dambulla. IFS Popham arboretum is a forest of valuable hardwood species of the country. It has collection specimens such as ebony (Diospyros ebenum), satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia), tamarind (Tamarindus indica), Ceylon oak (Diospyros chloroxylon), Jack tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus), Ironwood (Mesua nagassarium). This valuable forest provides a tranquil and peaceful surrounding amidst valuable tropical trees.
One can easily reach this forest along the wide road from the world heritage sites of Dambulla and Sigiriya. Cultural triangle of Sri Lanka is popular for the number of historical sites and natural wealth in the region is largely forgotten. It is very rarely one visit the important places such as IFS Popham arboretum or ironwood forest. The visitor centre of as IFS Popham Arboretum was designed by the popular architect of Jeffrey Bawa, The internationally acclaimed Sri Lanka architect.
The entrance to this valuable site costs a fraction of the money that one spends for the entrance nearby cultural sites. Even though the cultural triangle attracts hundreds of thousands of people every month, very few people were visiting this valuable secondary forest. According to the information the trend is changed during the past few years, suggesting that people are becoming more enthusiastic about nature. With the illegal timber harvesting, some of the valuable hardwood species such as ebony has become extremely rare in the environment. But fortunately, places like IFS Popham arboretum come in handy to see the living specimen of these rare trees.
The forest harbours around seventy different species of trees. The forest has created a very attractive environment for a large number of animal species. It harbours many species of wild and rare creatures. It is inhabited by animals such as White-spotted mouse-deer (Moshiola meeminna), dry zone slender loris (Loris tardigradus tardigradus), and Sri Lankan giant squirrel (Rtufa macroura). Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus), Blue Tailed Bee Eater (Merops philippinus), and Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostrifs) are the most common birds here.
The area where it is situated in the dry zone was covered with thick jungle about 50 years back. But due to the demand for wood and expanding the human settlement, the forest cover was reduced to the thorn shrubs. IFS Popham arboretum was initiated by Sam Popham, a Second World War sailor and a tea planter. He was graduated from Cambridge, he was a nature lover and highly interested in the beautiful forests of Sri Lanka. He started to develop this secondary forest, as an experiment known as ‘Popham method’ in 1963.
The method he followed was simple but proved to be successful. The shrubs were removed in the initial stage and the forest was allowed to grow its own. But the saplings of trees were procured from the outside. The native species of trees grew well even in the dry weather prevailed in the area and needed minor supervision. Human intervention was needed only in a situation such as a wildfire or destruction caused by the animal such as cattle. It has developed to a fully grown secondary evergreen dry zone forest within a short period of time.
After about fifty years and all the hard work, Popham returned to his native country (England), due to ill health. His ecological treasure was handed over to IFS (Institute of Fundamental studies); it was further expanded under their supervision before handed over to the society of Ruk Rakaganno in 2005. According to the naturalist, it is very hard to find a collection of valuable trees like here and it is a very significant ecological achievement of Mr Popham.