Things to do in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country with very high diversity. Sri Lanka offers countless tourist attractions from historical temples to rolling tea plantations, colonial heritage sites, wildlife reserves, amazing beaches, scenic landscapes, and many more. When it comes to interesting activities to do, Sri Lanka offers many dozens, from visiting ancient temples to doing safaris, beach hopping, engaging in water sports, doing adventure activities, and many more.  We have summed up below the things to do in Sri Lanka, however, the duration of your trip is a critical factor that decides how many and what places you can visit on your Sri Lanka trip.

Here are the 18 best things to do in Sri Lanka

  1. Wildlife safari
  2. Visiting Anuradhapura ancient city
  3. Visiting Sigiriya rock fortress
  4. Climbing Sigiriya rock
  5. Visiting the temple of the tooth relic
  6. Exploring the Royal botanical garden
  7. Tea factory visit
  8. Exploring Galle Fort
  9. Colombo city tour
  10. Sampling delicious fresh fruit
  11. Taking a hill country train trip
  12. Visiting Ella
  13. Visiting the golden temple of Dambulla
  14. Visiting Pidurangala Ancient temple
  15. Visiting Mirissa Beach
  16. Visiting red mosque
  17. Safari at Yala National Park
  18. Climbing Adam’s peak
  19. Exploring Mihintale

1. Things to do in Sri Lanka: Wildlife Safari

Sri Lanka is one of the best places for wildlife safari. Sri Lanka is considered the best safari destination in the world, outside of Africa. Sri Lanka has one of the highest numbers of indigenous fauna and flora in the world. There are two dozen national parks in Sri Lanka, and travellers can choose one of them to do a safari in. The variety of wildlife observed in the national park varied depending on the national park. If you choose Yala National Park on the south coast of Sri Lanka, you can witness a wide range of wild animals, including elephants, leopards, bears, crocodiles, jackals, wild buffaloes, and many more. Spotting leopards and bears can be difficult in the national park; however, spotting a wild elephant is fairly easy. Some of the popular places for safaris in Sri Lanka are Yala national park, Minneriya national park, Udawalawe national park and Wilpattu National Park.

What are the best places for a Sri Lanka safari?

  • Yala national park
  • Wilpattu national park
  • Minneriya national park
  • Udawalawe national park

2. Things to do in Sri Lanka: exploring the ancient city of Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is the first recorded capital on the island of Sri Lanka. The city can be explored on foot, by bike, or by private taxi. The ancient city’s history dates back to the 3rd century BC, and Anuradhapura is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. During its heyday, the ancient city was dotted by hundreds of Buddhist temples, palaces, gardens, monasteries, stupas, and many other ancient constructions. According to the historical notes, tens of thousands of monks lived in the ancient city. The travellers can cycle through the ancient city while exploring archaeological sites. Visiting the three largest man-made stupas on the city tour is a main highlight for most travellers. Jetawanaram Stupa was the biggest Stupa found in Anuradhapura, and it was the 3rd largest man-made ancient structure in the world after the 2 pyramids in Giza.

3. Things to do in Sri Lanka: visiting Ritigala monastery

Ritigala monastery can be classified as a rare gem tucked away about 200 km from Colombo. This forest monastery is visited by very few travellers, and it is frequented by Buddhist monks and devotees. Ritigala is one of the oldest monasteries in Sri Lanka; it is as old as the ancient city of Anuradhapura. This off-the-beaten-track forest monastery is huge, spreads over 700 acres, and was occupied by Buddhist monks. The monks lived in the forest and had a very modest lifestyle while practising the teachings of Buddha. Today, the forest monastery is abandoned, and a large part of the monastery is taken over by the jungle.

4. Climbing Sigiriya rock

Sigiriya rock fortress is one of the most important tourist attractions in Sri Lanka and included in most Sri Lanka tour packages. Sigiriya Rock Climb is about conquering 12,000 steps along with a walk of many hundreds of metres through the ancient city. However, most travellers say that it is 100% worth the time and calories spent at the ancient site. Sigiriya is one of the most beautiful historical sites in the world, and it is surrounded by patches of forest, isolated villages, beautiful countryside, rice paddies, lakes, and crumbling monuments. The Sigiriya rock fortress is involved with a rich historical past; it shows very high knowledge of the ancient people on engineering, water management, as well as arts and crafts.

5. Visiting the temple of the tooth relic

Sri Lanka is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic country. Many religious and ethnic groups live in this cultural melting pot. However, Buddhism is the most popular religion on the island, and about 69% of the population adheres to Buddhism. Many thousands of temples are dotted throughout the island, and they are to be discovered in all parts of the country. The Temple of the Tooth Relic is the holiest and most sacred Buddhist temple on the island, and visiting this ancient temple is on the bucket list of all Buddhists around the world. The temple houses one of the most important and sacred elements for Buddhists; it is the left eye tooth of Buddha, which was brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD from India.  Being the most sacred Buddhist temple on the island, it is visited by tens of thousands of locals and travellers every day. The best time to visit the temple is during the ritual hours, which happen three times a day. To enter the tooth relic temple, visitors should wear an appropriate dress and remove shoes and head covers too.

6. Explore the Royal Botanical Garden

The Peradeniya Botanical Garden, better known as Peradeniya Botanical Garden, is the largest of its kind on the island and is located only a few kilometres from the ancient city of Kandy. This is heaven for anyone who is obsessed with trees, plants, orchids, and other flowering plants.

7. Visit a tea factory

Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world, and the tea industry helps the island earn a large amount of foreign currency. The tea industry is the third-most important foreign exchange earner for the island after textiles. A tea factory visit includes both a tour of the tea plantation and a factory visit.

8. Explore Galle Fort

Exploring Galle Fort is on the bucket list of most foreign travellers in Sri Lanka. Galle Fort is a huge contrast to most things that visitors see on their Sri Lanka trip. The Galle Fort is purely about the colonial past. The Galle City is located towards the southern tip of Sri Lanka, and it hosts the best preserved colonial city in Sri Lanka. The Galle Fort is the best preserved colonial city in Asia. The Portuguese built it first in 1505, and the Dutch East Indian Company later widened it. Explore the ancient fort on a walk along the cobble-stoned pathways and visit its museums, galleries, temples, and churches to learn about the rich historical past of this fortified city. See the many ethnic and religious groups living in the city while rubbing their shoulders.

9. Explore Colombo

Colombo provides a different experience to the travellers; here you see a bustling metropolis against the charming remote village and lush jungle landscape that you see mostly in other parts of the country. In Colombo, you encounter high-rise buildings, a lot of Tuk Tuks, packed streets, and urban temples. Colombo is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious city with hundreds of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic religious sites throughout the city. Colombo can be explored on a 4-hour city tour or a full-day city tour, depending on the time you can dedicate to it. With other interesting temples, parks, beaches, and historical monuments, Colombo also offers a wide range of restaurants and eateries; therefore, Colombo can be considered one of the best places to enjoy typical Sri Lankan food varieties.

10. Eating fresh fruit

Sri Lanka is a tropical country and offers dozens of delicious fruit varieties. Fruit stalls can be found everywhere on the island. They are selling fresh fruits at a low cost.

11. Taking a hill country train journey

The train trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and Ella is considered to be one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. The hill country blue train on the rail track while passing the green-capped mountain, tea plantations, patches of forests, and gorges Sri Lanka hill country train trip offers a good opportunity for travellers to witness the breathtaking scenery in the hill country. The train trip is also a perfect opportunity to interact with the local community and taste delicious Sri Lanka local food.

12. Things to do in Sri Lanka: Explore Ella

Ella is one of the most popular hill country resorts in Sri Lanka. Ella is set amidst lush tea plantations and patches of forests. If you look for stunning mountain scenery, natural scenery, and a couple of interesting hikes and treks, Ella is the best bet for you. The travellers spend some time exploring the gorgeous natural forest covered by mountains in Ella, and it is on the bucket list of most travellers. There are numerous guest houses, cafes, galleries, and cosy corners nestled in the hills for a peaceful getaway. Some of the most popular places to visit in Ella are the Nine Arch Bridge, Ella Rock, Mini Adams Peak, Tea Factory, Ravana Waterfall, and Spice Garden.

13. Things to do in Sri Lanka: visiting Golden Temple Dambulla

Dambulla is a charming city in the north-central province of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is one of the popular cities in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka due to the epic golden temple of Dambulla. Dambulla Golden Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical and religious importance to the world. This ancient temple has been a sacred place of worship for Buddhists for more than 2000 years. The temple consists of five natural granite caves. They are filled with giant Buddha statues and wall paintings. The dress code plays an important role in visiting this ancient temple and read our article about visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temple.

14. Things to do in Sri Lanka: visiting Pidurangala Temple

A kind of off-beaten-track tourist attraction in Sri Lanka in the past. But now it is gaining popularity among travellers. Pidurangala is another ancient temple, and historical notes suggest this ancient temple functioned as the official Buddhist temple of the nearby Sigiriya rock fortress. The rock cave temple has one natural cave with many Buddha statues and Buddhist paintings. Part of the cave temple is found on top of the Pidurangala rock, while the image house, dwelling houses of monks, and sacred bo tree are found at the foothills of the rock. Climbing the Pidurangala rock is not a tedious task if you have already climbed the Sigiriya rock fortress. Plan your Pidurangala temple visit early in the morning so that you can also witness the sunrise from the top of the rock.

15. Things to do in Sri Lanka: visiting Mirissa

Mirissa is a beach town on the south coast of Sri Lanka and offers pristine beaches for swimming, surfing, diving, and whale watching. Mirissa has become a popular whale-watching destination in Asia, and Mirissa attracts a large number of travellers every year to its pristine beaches. Whale watching is a seasonal adventure in most places around the world; however, whale watching is a year-round activity in Mirissa, and there is a very good chance of spotting a couple of blue whales on your whale-watching trip. Mirissa is tucked away about 150 km from Colombo. The beach of Mirissa is dotted with hundreds of beach restaurants, cafes, and bars, making it ideal for nighttime activities.

16. Things to do in Sri Lanka: visit Red Mosque

Located in the busiest part of Colombo, the red mosque is one of the most visited Muslim religious sites in Sri Lanka. The mosque was originally built in 1908; initially, it was small, but now it is enlarged and is one of the biggest mosques in Sri Lanka. The mosque has unique architecture, and its walls are painted red and white. In the early days, the mosque was used by the Arab traders who arrived at Colombo port.

17. Things to do in Sri Lanka: Safari at Yala national park

For wildlife enthusiasts, it is highly recommended to visit Yala National Park. Yala National Park allows travellers to have a top-notch wildlife experience, and Yala is the most popular safari destination in Sri Lanka. The travellers can witness a wide range of wild animals in Yala National Park, including leopards, panthers, elephants, crocodiles, bears, and many other creatures. Yala is the second-biggest national park in Sri Lanka and is considered one of the best national parks in the world to spot leopards due to the high density of leopards. Many archaeological sites are also to be found within the national park, including the Situlpawwa ancient temple, which dates back to the 2nd century BC.

18. Things to do in Sri Lanka-Adams peak hike

The Adams Peak hike is popular among pilgrims and adventure seekers. Adams Peak hike is an adventure activity with a twist of cultural and religious significance. The sacred mountain in Rathnapura is popular as a pilgrimage site among local travellers. At the pinnacle of the mountain is the shrine with a footprint, and this footprint is important for the main three religions in Sri Lanka. Buddhists say that the footprint belongs to Buddha, while Hindu claim that it is the footprint of Adam, Catholics say that it is the footprint of St. Thomas

Adam’s Peak is the 3rd tallest mountain in Sri Lanka, and it is 2300 metres high. Apart from religious reasons, many travellers climb the mountain as an adventure activity.  Hiking at Adams Peak is perhaps the most challenging hike in Sri Lanka. The hike at Adams Peak lasts about 5 hours. Usually, the pilgrims take the arduous journey during the night to escape from the heat of the sun; however, some are choosing the day hike. The Adams Peak hike allows the hikers to have spectacular views of the surrounding lowland and the mountains.

18. Exploring Mihintale

Located near the oldest capital of Sri Lanka Mihintale is visited by most travellers who arrive at Anuradhapura. Mihintale is considered the cradle of Buddhism, where the first Buddhist king embraced Buddhism from Arahat Mahinda, who arrived in Sri Lanka from India in the 2nd century BC. There are many historically important monuments in Mihintale, like stupas, hospitals, and Buddha statues.