Sri Lanka Travel Guide

While most Indians associate Sri Lanka with cricket or the home of Ravan, they rarely know about Sri Lanka’s tourist places. People of India will usually jump to Thailand or, Bali or Singapore but don’t really look into Sri Lanka’s tourism potential.

Well, we have a great Sri Lanka travel guide for you to help you fall in love with the country.

A quick overview of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a diverse array of attractions within its modest size. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, its coastline features idyllic and often undeveloped beaches, while the interior boasts a range of landscapes from wildlife-rich lowland jungles to misty highlands covered in tea plantations.

The country is also rich in man-made attractions. With over two thousand years of recorded history, the early achievements of the Sinhalese civilization are visible in the ancient cities and grand religious monuments scattered across the northern plains. So, there are many places to visit in Sri Lanka to explore and enjoy.

These remnants of early Buddhist civilization are a source of national pride, and Sri Lanka's long-standing role as a major centre of Theravada Buddhism gives it a unique cultural identity. However, Sri Lanka's culture is not solely Buddhist. Its strategic location as a key point in Indian Ocean trade has exposed it to a wide range of influences. 

Over generations, settlers from Arab, Malay, Portuguese, Dutch, and British backgrounds have subtly influenced its culture, architecture, and cuisine. Additionally, the Tamil population in the north has developed a vibrant Hindu culture that is more closely aligned with India than the Sinhalese south.

Best places to visit in Sri Lanka

Replete with romantic landscapes, lush green tea gardens, golden beaches, soulful Buddhist monasteries, historic temples, and exotic wildlife, Sri Lanka is a true paradise in every sense of the word. Its beauty is awe-inspiring! And the more you explore, the more you fall in love with it. 

You could spend a lifetime exploring the incredible sights of Sri Lanka. However, since not everyone has the luxury, here are some of the must-visit Sri Lankan tourist places

  • Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla is a popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka. A beautiful city, it attracts tourists from all over the world who come here to explore the stunning and yet mysterious Dambulla Cave Temple. It is one of the largest temple complexes in the country and it is believed to have be built in the 12th Century AD. 

Apart from its awesome tourist places, Dambulla is also popular among cricket fans for hosting many international matches. While visiting the city, you can use the opportunity to visit the stadium and relive all those wonderful moments of cricket that you may have witnessed on TV while watching the match back home. 

  • Commonwealth War Cemetery

Visiting a cemetery during a holiday may not be the typical thing to do, right? But, if you have a knack for doing the unusual or have an affinity for history, you would love visiting this place. One of the popular tourist places in the city of Kandy, this place is nothing fancy but you must visit this place to pay homage to the martyrs of the war. Make sure to take a guide on the tour to know about the rich history of the war and the stories of the soldiers, which could move you to tears. 

Kandy has many other attractions throughout the city, and one of the most notable ones is the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.

Also Read: 6 Unforgettable Bowling Performances in Asia Cup History

  • Unawatuna Beach

Sri Lanka is an island nation, and is replete with some of the most stunning beaches you would find in the world. Apart from the natural beauty of the beaches and the scenic landscapes around, Sri Lanka is known to offer a vibrant nightlife and many water activities for tourists to enjoy. One such awesome beach that you must definitely include in your Sri Lankan itinerary is the Unawatuna Beach. It is one of the places to visit in Sri Lanka for all beach lovers.

Here you can have a wonderful time with your friends and family, relaxing at the beach and enjoying the delicious Sri Lankan food. It is a perfect gateway to seek both solace and adventure. There are many water activities here that are sure to give you the thrills you need. Close to the beach is the Japanese Peace Pagoda, it is a beautiful place that you must visit to soak in the serene and calm vibe.

  • Dondra Lighthouse

Built during the colonial era, Dondra Lighthouse is known for its stunning architecture. It is open to all tourists, and you can climb up all the way to the top and enjoy the most gorgeous panoramic view of the ocean and the city. 

The rows of palm and coconut trees lining the beach, the golden sand and the blue water look absolutely surreal from the top. After enjoying the view from the top, and clicking some stunning pictures for your social media, you can head down to the beach and relax. If you are visiting in the evening, make sure to get a view of the sunset, it is sure to be a magical experience of your life.

  • Old Dutch Fort

Located in Galle, one of the most scenic cities in Sri Lanka, the fort was built by the Dutch during the colonial period. A charming and colossal structure, the Old Dutch Fort is one of the best-preserved sea forts in the entire South Asian region. It is also a famous place and can be found in any Sri Lankan tourism guide.

Whether you are a history buff, an architecture enthusiast or a nature lover, this place is a haven for you. Its rich history dates back to the 16th century and is one of the architectural wonders. As you visit the fort and explore it, you will feel you are transported back in time. 

Apart from its rich history, the view from the top of the fort, which overlooks the sea is absolutely surreal. The cool breeze and the scenic view act like a soothing balm to your mind and fill your heart with a perpetual feeling of bliss!

  • Colombo, the capital city

The capital of the island nation, Colombo, is among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka for more than one reason. A bustling city, Colombo is sure to charm you with its beauty at first sight. It has a truly unique vibe, which is a combination of modern innovation and old-world charm. 

There are many places to visit in the city, from museums to temples, and you can cover all the places by booking a private cab or tuk-tuk. 

So, if you are here in the city during a tournament, you can book your tickets and watch your favourite team and players live at the iconic R Premadasa Stadium. The Sri Lankans love their cricket and are very passionate about the game. And, watching a game here is an experience worth having!

  • Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Also known as Lion Rock, this is a remarkable archaeological site in the central part of the country and an important aspect of Sri Lankan tourism. It is a massive column of rock nearly 200 meters high, on top of which lies an ancient fortress built by King Kasyapa in the 5th century. The site is famous for its frescoes, which are similar to those found in the Ajanta Caves of India. 

Sigiriya is also known for its mirror wall, originally polished so thoroughly that the king could see his reflection. The gardens of Sigiriya, which include water gardens, boulder gardens, and terraced gardens, are among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. The combination of history, art, and engineering makes Sigiriya one of the most important places to visit in Sri Lanka.

  • Yala National Park

This is a wildlife sanctuary in southeastern Sri Lanka, renowned for its high density of leopards. It is one of Sri Lanka’s tourist places that is known across the globe. It covers an area of 978.8 square kilometres and is divided into five blocks. The park's diverse ecosystems, including moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi-deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, wetlands, and sandy beaches, provide habitats for a wide range of animals. 

In addition to leopards, Yala is home to elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species. The park is also known for its conservation efforts, particularly for leopards and elephants. Visitors can explore Yala through safari tours, which offer the chance to observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

  • Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is a part of almost every Sri Lankan travel guide. It is often referred to as ‘Little England,’ and is a picturesque town in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Known for its cool climate, it is a popular retreat for both locals and tourists. The town is surrounded by rolling hills covered in tea plantations, and the British colonial influence is evident in its architecture, with Tudor-style hotels and well-kept gardens. 

Key attractions include the Victoria Park, Hakgala Botanical Gardens, and Gregory Lake. Nuwara Eliya is also a base for exploring Horton Plains National Park and the famous World's End cliff. The town's tea factories offer tours and tastings, providing insight into the production of Ceylon tea.

  • Adam's Peak (Sri Pada)

Adam's Peak, or Sri Pada, is a conical mountain located in central Sri Lanka. It is a sacred site for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, each associating the mountain with different religious significance. The peak is famous for the ‘sacred footprint’ near the summit, believed to be that of the Buddha by Buddhists, Shiva by Hindus, Adam by Muslims, and St. Thomas by Christians.

Climbing the mountain is a popular pilgrimage, especially during the pilgrimage season from December to May. The ascent involves a strenuous climb up thousands of steps, but the panoramic views from the top at sunrise are a rewarding experience.

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Best things to do in Sri Lanka

Shaped like a teardrop, Sri Lanka is one of the precious and stunning gems studded on the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka’s tourist places offer a plethora of fun, adventure and romantic activities, which makes it one of the best places in the world to enjoy an exotic holiday. No matter the type of traveller you are, you would surely find more than one thing to do in the country.

Here are our suggestions for the best things to do in Sri Lanka

  • Visit one of the many turtle hatcheries near the beaches of Bentota. Here you can see the tiny turtles that are just one day old and watch them make their way to the sea. 
  • Sri Lanka is known to offer ayurvedic massages. So, while you are in the country make sure to visit one of the ayurvedic spas and get a relaxing massage to rejuvenate your senses. 
  • Seek the blessing of Goddess Sita at the Seetha Amman Temple. As per the legends, it the place where the king of Sri Lanka, Ravana held the goddess captive. Located amidst a scenic landscape on top of a forested hill, the place is an epitome of serenity and one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lanka is a green paradise. And, amidst the tall trees, you can find plenty of tea gardens and estates that sprawl over several acres of land. Take a stroll around the tea gardens and soak in the surreal atmosphere while relishing the sweet scent of tea in the air.  

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

You can visit Sri Lanka any time of the year. The best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on the region you plan to explore, as the island experiences two monsoon seasons affecting different parts of the country at different times.

  • West and South Coasts and Hill Country (including Colombo, Galle, and Nuwara Eliya)

The best time to visit is from December to March, when the weather is dry and sunny, with temperatures ranging from 22°C to 30°C. Even according to many Sri Lankan tourist guides, December to April is the best time to visit the island nation. 

  • East Coast (including Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Arugam Bay): 

The ideal time to visit is from April to September, during the dry season, with temperatures averaging between 25°C and 33°C. During this period, the weather is dry and sunny, perfect for beach activities and water sports.

  • Cultural Triangle (including Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya): 

The best time is from January to April and from July to September, when the weather is dry and pleasant for exploring the ancient ruins and monuments.  

Best places to stay in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s travel guide is incomplete without stay options. As a popular tourist destination, Sri Lanka has amazing accommodation facilities throughout the country. Depending on your budget and needs, you can find a perfect place to stay. 

If you are visiting Sri Lanka with your family, you can book your stay at Mount Lavinia Resort in Sri Lanka with Club Mahindra. It is one of the most premium resorts in Colombo. A Club Mahindra affiliate property, the resort boasts premium amenities, spacious rooms and world-class services that are sure to make your holiday unforgettable. 

In summary, Sri Lanka is not just a destination but a multi-sensory experience that offers an alluring blend of natural beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality. From its pristine beaches to misty hilltops, from its ancient temples to its bustling markets, places to visit in Sri Lanka. Whether you're a thrill-seeker, a culture vulture, or simply in search of serenity, this island nation has something for everyone. 

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About Club Mahindra

Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd. (MHRIL), a part of Leisure and Hospitality sector of the Mahindra Group, offers quality family holidays primarily through vacation ownership memberships and brings to the industry values such as reliability, trust and customer satisfaction. Started in 1996, the company's flagship brand ‘Club Mahindra’, today has over 250,000 members , who can holiday at 100+ resorts in India and abroad.

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