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Where to go in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and the island attracts many million tourists every year. Sri Lanka is a multifaceted holiday destination with historical monuments, wildlife reserves, beaches and many many more. Due to the such, a vast number of places to visit, where to go in Sri Lanka is a big question for most foreign as well as local travellers. As a local traveller, I thought of crafting this article on some of the important places in Sri Lanka, here is a list of 11 places to explore ahead of the crowds.

Where to go in Sri Lanka – here is a list of 22 places

  1. Mahiyangana
  2. knuckles forest
  3. Pigeon island marine sanctuary
  4. Kalpitiya beach
  5. Yapahuwa
  6. Ritigala Buddhist hermitage
  7. Narak Village
  8. Meditation centre
  9. Southern coast
  10. Aluvihara Temple
  11. Dimbulagala temple
  12. Negombo
  13. Mirissa
  14. Polonnaruwa
  15. Kandy
  16. Ella
  17. Anuradhapura
  18. Diyaluma fall
  19. Pigeon island
  20. Bentota beach
  21. Sinharaja rainforest
  22. Blowhole

1. Where to go in Sri Lanka to meet Sri Lankan aborigines

Mahiyangana used to be inhabited by a large number of Vedda community. Vedda community considered being the ancestors of Stone Age inhabitants of the island, who believed to be a crossover to the island from India about 1600 years back. The community still has the old lifestyle and they are mainly living on hunting while some people are engaged in agriculture. Today most of them are living in Dambana, which is located about 19 kilometres eastward from Mahiyangana.

Visiting the Vedda community is an interesting thing to do because there is still stick to their age-old lifestyle. They are still clinging to their customs and traditions and they are fascination. However the Vedda community is shrinking past due to the changing lifestyle of modern Vedda generation, they are absorbing the average Sri Lankan lifestyle, traditions and customs while alienating their traditional life.

A Sri Lanka jungle tour of Dambana in the Vedda territory allows you to meet these indigenous people; the Vedda will host a traditional meal for you and take you to their village. This is a perfect opportunity to meet the tribesman, who still lives partly in the jungle. Hunting and agriculture are the main income for the people in the village. This is a perfect opportunity to discover the jungle territory and get a clear insight into the rural life of the Vedda community.

2. Where to go in Sri Lanka – Knuckles forest

The knuckles forest sits in the central province of Sri Lanka; this jungle terrain is remote, beautiful and visited by few travellers every year. Sinharaja is a bio-diversity hot spot and hosts a large number of fauna and flora species, and many dozens of endemic species among them. The patch of forest with mountainous backgrounds is a UNESCO world heritage site since 2010.

Trekking through the knuckles forest enables you to explore one of the most beautiful patches of cloud forests in the island. Leopards lurk in the shadows (although they’re rarely seen) along with many other creatures such as purple-faced langur monkeys and giant squirrels as well as many endemic avian Fauna species.

Pigeon island marine sanctuary is one of the best places to explore the rich underwater world of Sri Lanka. However, visiting pigeon island is multiday affair sn you need to venture on a trip such as 5 days Sri Lanka trip to the east coast or 7 days Sri Lanka trip that covers east coast travel route.

3. Visit Pigeon Island marine sanctuary and swim with sharks

Pigeon island marine sanctuary is one of the 2 marine sanctuaries in Sri Lanka, located in the east coast of Sri Lanka off the town of Trincomalee. A short boat ride from Nilaveli beach takes you to the tiny island with pristine beaches known as Pigeon Island. He Island is surrounded by a plethora of marine life.

A large array of exotic fish species, coral reefs, sea-weeds, sea turtles, are a very common sight for snorkelers here, and all life a few meters away from the beach. Here you can make a short boat trip to shark point reef, where you can spot blacktip reef sharks. Surfing, whale watching, fishing are some other activities readily available here.

4. Kalpitiya is a largely unexplored destination in Sri Lanka and best place to spot dolphins

Kalpitiya is fast developing beach resort on the north-west coast of Sri Lanka. Kalpitiya was out of reach for more than 30 years due to the north-east civil war, however, it has been able to get its due place in the tourism industry with the ending of civil war. Kalpitiya still largely unexplored, it pristine beaches awaits the attention of travellers.

The Puttalam lagoon from one side and the Ocean from the other side, this peninsula hide a narrow sliver of land, perfect for a tranquil beach holiday. The lagoon is the perfect spot for kite-surfing and fishing.  The most popular natural splendour of Kalpitiya undoubtedly is the vast pods of spinner dolphins that can be spotted from the shore. A trip in a boat off to the sea gives you unforgettable experiences. As your boat runs over the waves, you will be accompanied by dozens of dolphins, racing alongside your boat. Occasionally launch their body into the air with a twisted acrobatic movement.

5. Enjoy the mesmerizing views at Yapahuwa

Yapahuwa was one of the many capitals of historical Sri Lanka and little remains from the ancient capital today. Much of it except the stoned staircase had been destroyed at the wrath of harsh weather. Visiting cultural triangle in the bucket list of most Sri Lankan visitors but Yapahuwa still remains in the list of unexplored places in Sri Lanka.

Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa are some of the historical tourist hot spots in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka located within easy reach of Yapahuwa. Investing a little bit of your time is well worth; the astonishing near-vertical staircase is in very good shape and well preserved.

The staircase is adorned with friezes of stone carved musicians and dancers while two lions guard the entrance. There had been a palace on the elevated platform to which the staircase is directed to. Today almost nothing is to be witnessed from the palace. However, the view from the top across the plain below is spellbinding. Some parts of the ancient city that stood at the foot of the rock can be seen from the top.    

6. Explore Buddhist hermitage of Ritigala

Exploring Sigiriya rock fortress, Dambulla golden cave temple, crumbling monuments in Anuradhapura ancient city is part of most tour itineraries. Ritigala forest hermitage is equally magical but less encountered in most tour itineraries, by and large one of the least explored places in Sri Lanka.

Ritigala forest hermitage sits in the forested hill of Ritigala, at the heart of the north-central province of Sri Lanka. The forest-dwelling monks used it as their abode for many millennia before, which is a perfect spot to carry out their mediations habit without any disturbances from the outside world.   

According to the historical notes, many hundreds of Buddhist monks lived in the jungle hermitage about 5000 years ago.  Most of the ancient building that stood in the hermitage is reduced to rubble. However substantial remains still hiding in the jungle and can be accessed. 

Meditation paths, in the deep jungle, could have been perfect spots for concentrations and calm the mind and body. Many quaint little monastic residences are still can be seen in the thick forest reserve. A pair of tiny houses, ponds, walking paths and a tiny bridge can be easily spotted here.

water rafting kitulgala
  • Highlights-Water rafting, Boat tour, Rainforest trek, Visit temples, Jeep safari
  • Duration-4 Days
  • Places- Pinnawala elephant orphanage, Kithulgala, Tooth relic temple, Sinharaja forest, Udawalawe national park, Mirissa, Galle Fort, Bentota
  • Start/End-Colombo
  • Transport-Private vehicle
  • Accommodation 3-star hotel
  • Meals-Breakfast and Dinner
  • Availability-From Nov 2019 to Nov 2021

Special Price US$ 550, save $125, Regular Price US$675

7. Visiting most remote village in Sri Lanka- Narak village

The economic development has encroached the beautiful natural wealth of Sri Lanka. A large part of Sri Lanka’s forest cover was removed over the last few decades in order to make room for the highrise buildings, highways, farmlands, airports, harbours and many other development projects. Unfortunately, the destruction is still continued.

A majority of people fo Sri Lanka is now in search of exotic holiday destination to see beautiful landscapes, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and green covers. Most people of Sri Lanka have no access to nature at home, most of theme are ling in the concrete jungle.

However, there are few places remains on the island that is spared by economic development. But, I highly doubt that they remain unaltered by the human for a long time.

Narak village is an isolated remote village located in Balangoda. The village is surrounded by pristine forest cover. The village is situated at the elevation 720 meters above sea level, hence it has a very unique healing climate

Only a handful of travellers on the island know about the place and only a few people are been to the Narak village. The population in the village is not more than 50 and most of them living in the tea industry.

8. Meditate in a health resort

Sri Lanka is a venue for Buddhist pilgrim tours for many millennia and Buddhism is a living religion. Sri Lanka is one of the best countries in the world to get a perfect picture of Buddhist spirituality. Meditation and Yoga practices are very popular among the locals as well as foreign travellers.

There are large numbers of health retreats on the island providing all facilities for travellers, who wish to engage in Yoga and meditation in order to relieve from the stress and calm their body and mind. Most health retreats conduct the sessions for local as well as foreign travellers and many of them provide ac accommodation for their visitors. Many health retreats of Sri Lanka provide day tour packages for travellers to make use of benefits of Ayurveda treatments, Yoga sessions and Meditation. 

9. Unexplored south coast beaches

Sri Lanka is a leading beach holiday destination in the world and visiting beaches is part of almost every Sri Lanka tour package while some other opt only to stay on the beach. West coast beaches are the most popular hideouts for foreign travellers and they are popular day outing places in Sri Lanka. Southern coast beaches are still not fully utilize for recreation activities. , However, there is an increase of tourist on the south coast over the last few years.

The tourism infrastructure is not well developed to accommodate thousands of travellers on the south coast like in west coast beaches; however, there has been an improvement in the tourism industry during the recent past.

Only a few tourists can be seen on the south coast beaches, means that you can evade the crowd, head to beaches such as Weligama, Tangalle and Hambantota and enjoy the peaceful holiday. In the south coast, there are many palm-fringed pristine beaches with warm torque water of Indian Ocean they are perfect spots for sunbathing and swimming.

10. Unexplored Aluvihara rock cave temple

Aluvihara Buddhist temple is one of the most ancient Buddhist temples on the island but it is coming under off the beaten track tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. It is rarely included in most Sri Lanka trips as it is not coming under top-notch tourist attractions.

The temple is located in a series of natural caves. The ceiling and the walls of the caves are hidden with religious paintings depicting sceneries of the life of Buddha. The cave temple houses 10 meters long reclining Buddha statue hewn into the natural granite rock.

It is believed that the history of the temple goes back to the 3rd century BC. The oral teaching of Buddha was committed to writing at Aluvihara in 3rd century BC. That’s the most significant event took place in this temple that hides amongst the boulders.

All visitors to these sacred places suppose to dress in a particular manner to uphold their religious values. There is a set of rules that every visitor to religious sites observes while visiting sacred places in Sri Lanka. If you are wondering what these rules are? Check this article “13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRES’s CODE“.

11. Dimbulagala Temple Sri Lanka

Dimbulagala is a range of hills situated 20km south-east of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa and it is 220km from Colombo. The journey to Dimbuilaga is more than 6 hours from Colombo, therefore it is not certainly a one day trip place in Sri Lanka.

Dimbulagala rock is picturesquely located bordering the Mahaweli River. Dimbulagala rock rises within the jungle near the Batticaloa-Valachchane main road. It can also be easily reached by the road of Mahiyangana.

Dimbulagala rock is surrounded by Jungles, farmlands, rice fields, and Dumabara mountain range from one side. One can have beautiful bird’s eye view over the surrounding area from the summit of the rock, after the long and little bit tiring climb. The huts installed along the way up to the summit can be very handy to have a rest and have a refreshing drink such as juice, tea or coffee.

Dimbulagala considered being one of the important places for Buddhist in Sri Lanka. It is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Since it is located in the former war-torn area, it had been unsafe for people in the past and rarely visited by the people. Today after the 30 years wars, people from all around the country are pouring into the historical temple of Dimbulagala. People make donations of money and goods to rebuild the dilapidated temple premises.

Historical background of Dimbulagala

The history of the temple is going back to the 3rd century BC. The historical name of Dimbulaga is Yakshapura and inhabited by tribal groups known as Yaksha and Naga. It had been the meeting place of these groups. Another ancient name of the rock is the Udiumbagiri. The temple was resided by Kashyapa Thera, during the reign of Greta Parakramabahu. The temple was frequented by the King while he was instructed by the monks with the state affairs. The king had donated a huge area of land for the temple. It is believed that if somebody uses this land illegally or by force, they will be born as crows and dogs.

Dimbulaga can be compared to cave hermitages such as Mihintale, Vessagiri, Dambulla and Pidurangala. Dimbulaga had been a popular training monastery for Buddhist in the early stage of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The monks from foreign countries such as Siayam, Kambodia, Soli country, Burma and Pandy country were also among the monks learned here.

There are ruins of the historical temple in Dimbulagala. There had been more than two thousand monks in the ancient learning centre. There are two ponds among the ruins namely Namal Pokuna and Ausada Pokuna used by the monks. There is a large number of ruins in the temple dating from 300BC to 1200AD. The Brahmi inscription of caves proves the antiquity of this temple.

Near the summit of the rock is a series of caves with white plated walls known as Maravidiya. According to the historical information, large numbers of books, documents were written here by learned monks that lived here.

The present condition of Dimbulagala

Well, known monk, Matara Kithalagama Siri Seelalankara Threra (Lion of Dimbulagala) is the key figure, who had started the present temple in Dimbulagala in 1954. At the initial stages, it was inhabited by wild animals such as elephants, leopards, bears and the people of Vedda community.

This brave monk was working very hard to improve the living standard of the people in this remote village while facing a permanent threat from the Terrorists. It had been a very difficult task to improve the literacy of the people in the remote area. But thanks to the untiring effort of the monk, a new school was built and other infrastructures such as roads, sanitary facilities, clean water, hospitals were also improved with the help of villagers.

The development of the area was widened up to the areas such as Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee. Even though he was a Buddhist monk, he did not favour the Buddhist; he did not consider religion or race. He helped all people in order to protect their rights and improve their living standards. Unfortunately, this monk was killed by the terrorists. Today the temple is resided by 300 monks and Monk Maldeniye Jenalankara Thera continues the good works started by his predecessor.

12. Negombo

Negombo is a cosmopolitan beach holiday resort on Sri Lanka’s west coast.  Negombo is a dream destination for the picky vacationers. Negombo has a gorgeous stretch of sand along the Indian Ocean, which is the most important reason for its popularity as a place for a Sri Lanka beach tour. Negombo is a pretty old fishing village Negombo that shows colonial influence with colonial buildings, such as the fort, churches, and big houses.

It also offers stylish restaurants and plenty of opportunities for shopping. Negombo is conveniently located near the international airport of Colombo and the journey between two locations takes only 15 minutes. Therefore it is the perfect spot for Sri Lanka holidays when you have limited time. So need to taste the Sri Lankan life in a short period of time then Negombo.

13. Mirissa

Mirissa sits near the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Mirissa is unpopular compared to most beach tour places in Sri Lanka such as Bentota. Mirissa is known for surfing, natural beauty, pristine beaches, affordable accommodation and tasty seafood. Mirissa is the set-off point for whale watching tours on the island and provides easy access to whale colonies in the ocean near the southern border of the country.

14. Polonnaruwa

Covering a part of Sri Lanka’s dry-zone, Polonnaruwa is a world heritage site on the island. It offers a large number of natural and man-made historical attractions. Polonnaruwa is famous for ancient Sinhalese culture, engineering feats and arts and crafts. Polonnaruwa is an important city of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle and included in most Sri Lanka cultural triangle tours.

15. Kandy

Kandy is a tropical paradise characterize by rainforest cover and ancient Sinhalese as well as colonial-style buildings. Kandy is certainly one of the most picturesque cities on the island. Highlights include the temple of the tooth, Udawattakele sanctuary, Peradeniya botanical garden and many historical Buddhist temples.

Where to go in Kandy Sri Lanka

  • Temple of the tooth relic
  • Royal botanical garden
  • Udawattekele sanctuary
  • Kandy lake
  • Kandyan cultural show
  • Pinnawala elephant orphanage

16. Where to go in Sri Lanka to picturesque mountains-Ella

This entire region south of Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful environment made of mountain, escapements, rocks and caves. Ella gap which lies between two gigantic mountains is the deepest and longest gap in the country. It is about 1000 meters deep and 10 kilometres long. Here you can have a stunning panoramic vista and adventurous trek through the isolated patches of forests.

Ella does not come with most Sri Lanka hill country tour packages, because it is comparatively small hill country resort and still need a lot of improvements to accommodate foreign travellers.

Where to go in Ella

  • Ella rock
  • Ravana waterfall
  • Tea garden factory
  • Mini Adams peak

17. Anuradhapura-Where to go in Sri Lanka to see crumbling historical monuments

Jetawanarama is a UNESCO world heritage site and located North-West of Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura stands as a testament to the great Sinhalese civilization. The archaeological site of Anuradhapura is dominated by hundreds of ancient construction such as Buddhist temples, palaces, parks, schools etc. Most of these historical constructions are more than 2000 years old and regarded as structures with extreme archaeological interest.

Jetawanarama is a stunning historical building in Anuradhapura, which dates back to 1st century BC. It was built of brick and contains millions of bricks. This massive dagoba was as big as the second pyramid in Giza. And it was the largest Buddhist building in the old. When planning a Sri Lanka holiday make sure have time to visit this historical place.

Where to go in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka

  • Jetawanarama dagoba
  • Isurumuniya temple
  • Ruwanaweli dagoba
  • Sri maha bodhi
  • Thuparama dagoba
  • Twin pond
  • Samadhi Buddha

18. Badulla-Where to go to Sri Lanka to see a beautiful waterfall

Diyaluma waterfall in Badulla draws a massive number of nature lovers. This massive waterfall has a great sheet of water and massive power. It creates a huge smoke-like mist when the water touches the ground. Diyaluma is one of the most photogenic waterfalls in the mountains and it is surrounded by beautiful mountains, escapements, tea plantations and rock formations.

Therefore surrounding area s also highly praised by the nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. Badulla is the nearest city to the waterfall and provides plenty of opportunities for a comfortable overnight stay. Book a hotel in Badulla and choose from trekking, hiking, walking, mountain climbing, rock climbing.

19. Pigeon island-Where to go in Sri Lanka for diving

This natural jewel is located in eastern Sri Lanka about 200 kilometres from Colombo. The short boat ride from the beach resort Nilaveli brings you to the pigeon island. This small island has interesting rock formations and sand dunes. It is surrounded by coral reefs and rock that inhabited by thousands of exotic sea creatures. Swimming, snorkelling, diving and beach hopping are the favourite activities here.

20. Bentota-Where to go in Sri Lanka for beach hopping

Perhaps Bentota beach is the most popular tourist hot spot on the island and travellers love its sandy palm-fringed beaches. It has the best atmosphere for beach holidays and water sports. The highlight of Bentota is the wide sandy beaches and a beautiful river that flows along the eastern border of the beach resort. The southern border of the resort sits at the meeting point of the Bentota river and the sea. Don’t forget to take a boat ride on the Bentota River and experience the fascinating riverine environment of Bentota River.

21. Sinharaja rain forest-go in Sri Lanka to explore a rainforest

Sinharaja is a heaven for the nature lovers and located in the wet zone of the country. It is undoubtedly the most precious natural asset of the people of Sri Lanka. This verging rain forest is a UNESCO world heritage site and venturing on a Sinharja rain forest tour is the best way to explore it.

Singaraja is the oldest patch of rainforest in the country and it is millions of years old. Sinharaja is a valuable rain forest with one of the highest Bio-diversities in the world and accommodates hundreds of thousands of species of fauna and flora and it has the largest concentration of endemic Fauna and Flora of the island.

22. Where to go in Sri Lanka-Blowhole

This is the second-largest natural fountain in the world. It is created by a sea cave on the beaches of the southern coast. It is an attraction not to miss when visiting Sri Lanka. This natural cave lies at the same level as the sea; the tidal surge creates a massive fountain that rises up to 30 meters from the ground. The massive spouting accompanies the sound”Hooo hooo”, which heard miles away from the beach.

Get ready and start exploring unexplored places in Sri Lanka?

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