Planning to visit Sri Lanka? You’re gonna love it! Formerly called “Ceylan”, Sri Lanka means “the island to get happiness”. We used to call it “the pearl of the Indian ocean”. Sri Lanka is a wonderful country where you can enjoy wonderful beaches, eat delicious food and admire Hindu and Buddhist temples. Sri Lanka is also known for its production of tea and its spices. What to do in Sri Lanka? Here’s a list of the most beautiful places in Sri Lanka, then I’ll share Sri Lanka travel tips!
Places to visit in Sri Lanka
Located southwest of the island, Galle was occupied by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. You can feel it when watching the architecture of the city. Galle is mostly known for its fort. Also take some time to have a walk in the old town, relax along the beach and don’t miss St. Mary’s cathedral. I wrote an article about my visit to Galle. Click here to find your accommodation.
You cannot visit Sri Lanka, and not go to Sigiriya! It used to be the throne of kings a long time ago, but it’s now one of the main Sri Lanka tourist places! You have to climb this huge rock in order to enjoy a wonderful 360-degrees view! I wrote a detailed article about Sigiriya.
Located in the center of Sri Lanka, Kandy is the former capital of Sri Lanka. Kandy is mostly known for its temple of the sacred toth relic, one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in the world. They say it houses a relic of the tooth of the Buddha himself! In Kandy, you also have to see the wonderful botanical garden. Have a walk along Kandy lake and visit the National Museum of Kandy. I wrote an article about my visit to Kandy. Click here to find your accommodation.
If you like history, culture, etc. You have to go to Polonnaruwa! It has to be part of your Sri Lanka itinerary! Head there to admire this important ancient city ruin site, which is very well preserved. There are gardens, palaces and temples. At the time traders mingled with worshippers in the many temples.
Don’t miss the royal palace, the Quadrangle and the Gal Vihara temple. For your information there are numerous macaques there. It’s better to rent a bike to get around. Click here to find your accommodation.
Adam’s Peak is one of the most famous places in Sri Lanka, but you have to be in shape! Indeed, the goal is to climb Adam’s Peak during the night and get on top to admire a breathtaking sunrise. Climbing Adam’s Peak tales from 2 to 4 hours and it’s 2,243 meters (7350ft.) above sea level. But the view is worth it! Once you’re on top, you’ll see a rock with a footprint-shaped indentation. Some people say it’s the footprint of Buddha.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Wanna see leopards! Head there! It’s home to one of the highest densities of leopard in the world. There are also elephants, birds, monkeys, crocodiles, buffalos… There are also Buddhist temples and sanctuaries. It’s $25 to get in, and a jeep with a driver costs 6,000 LKR ($30).
Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka. This is probably where you’ll start your visit to Sri Lanka. Colombo offers a mix of old and new, either regarding culture, architecture or even the food. Don’t miss the Gangamaraya temple, admire the Independence Memorial Hall and visit the National Museum of Colombo. I wrote an article about my visit to Colombo. Click here to find your accommodation.
Nuwara Eliya is probably one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. You’ll find there many natural beauties such as waterfalls, hills and tea plantations. This is one of the most important tea producing spot in the country! Nuwara Eliya is called Little England because of its British colonial buildings. Head to Gregory lake, the bazaar, Laxapana a famous waterfall and Pidurutalagala, the highest mountain of Sri Lanka. Here’s a list of places to visit in Nuwara Eliya. Click here to find your accommodation.
Mirissa is a beach in the south of Sri Lanka. It’s one of the best beaches to visit in Sri Lanka. Relax on a hammock, sip a cocktail and enjoy the beach! Mirissa is known for whale-watching boat trips. It’s not my thing but many people enjoy it. Coconut Tree Hill is the perfect spot to admire a sunrise. Numerous locals are fishermen, you’ll probably see some of them. Beach, palm trees, great food… What more could you ask? Click here to find your accommodation.
Anuradhapura is also a former Sri Lanka capital. It’s one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Anuradhapura is known for its Bodhi tree, a sacred tree which is also a pilgrimage site attracting thousands of people every year. You can visit the well-preserved ruins of the city: temples, palaces, monuments… Click here to find your accommodation.
Udawalawe National Park
If you want to see elephants, go to Udawalawe National Park! There are about 700 of them in the park! There are other animals: birds, leopards, buffaloes, monkeys, deers… To visit the park, it’s better to book in advance because it can be packed sometimes! Here’s a full Udawalawe National Park guide.
It’s one of the most beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka. You can enjoy numerous activities there: diving, speed boat, etc. There are many surfers in Arugam Bay. It’s a place known for yoga, meditation… There are also several temples in the area and the famous Kumana National Park. Arugam Bay is perfect if you want to relax for a few days! Click here to find your accommodation.
Go to Dambulla and admire its very well-preserved Dambulla Cave Temple. You’ll see more than 150 statues of Buddha there. The architecture is unique, you can’t miss it! It’s the largest cave complex in all of Sri Lanka. It’s made of five different temples. The view of Dambulla from the temple is stunning! Click here to find your accommodation.
Ella is a charming little town of Sri Lanka. There are tea plantations, many guesthouses, great food and the locals are friendly! Go see Nine Arches Bridge, the most famous bridge of Sri Lanka. Admire Ravana Falls, a famous waterfall in the region. You can also climb Ella Rock or even Little Adam’s Peak! I wrote a detailed article about my visit to Ella. Click here to find your accommodation.
Located in the north of Colombo, Bentota Beach is another beautiful beach of Sri Lanka You can go on a boat cruise, on a helicopter ride or enjoy water sports (surfing, sailing, snorkeling…). There’s a turtle hatchery, a place that rescues turtles or their eggs and protects them and reinserts them in their natural environment. There are also numerous bars and clubs to party in Bentota! Click here to find your accommodation.
These were the best places to visit in Sri Lanka! Now here are a few Sri Lanka travel tips!
Sri Lanka travel budget
- Accommodation is not expensive in Sri Lanka, but the prices are higher than in the neighboring countries. It’s about 2,000 LKR ($10) per night to stay in a hostel dorm. You’ll pay around 5,000-8,000 LKR ($25-40) for a night in a mid-range hotel. If you prefer to stay in a luxury hotel, one night costs around 10,000 LKR ($50). Click here to find your accommodation.
- Food is not expensive either. Street food (rice and curry mostly) costs about 200-400 LKR ($1-2). A meal at the restaurant costs around 1,200 LKR ($6). A meal un a high-end restaurant costs about 2,500 LKR ($12). You’ll pay around 400 LKR ($2) for a beer.
- Regarding transportation, a tuktuk ride in the city costs around 60 LKR ($0.30) per kilometer if you’re good at haggling. To get around in the country, the bus is the cheapest option. You’ll never pay more than 400 LKR ($2) for a ride in the island. Prices are more or less the same for train rides. If needed, you can rent a car, you’ll pay around 6,000 LKR ($30) per day.
- Regarding activities, there are prices for the locals and prices for tourists. That’s how it is… In the cities, entrance fee at the museums is about 500-1,000 LKR ($2.50-5). To get in national parks, Sigiriya, etc. You’ll pay around 5,000 LKR ($25).
Basically, if you’re traveling on a budget, you can get by with $35 per day. Otherwise you’ll spend about $70+ per day. You can also check out this guide explaining the cost of travel in Sri Lanka. As you can see, Sri Lanka is a cheap place to travel on a budget.
How to get around in Sri Lanka
In cities, walking or getting a tuktuk are the best ways to get around. If needed there’s Uber and PickMe, a Uber for tuktuk! To get around in the country, there’s nothing better than the bus. You can also take the train (especially for the ride between Ella and Kandy). Finally, you can rent a car.
Best time to visit Sri Lanka
It will depend on where you want to go in Sri Lanka. There are two monsoons in Sri Lanka, and they’re not affecting the same areas. Basically if you’re visiting the west and south coasts, it’s best to go to Sri Lanka from December to March. However if you’re going to the east coast and the north, it’s best to go there from April/May September.
Visa policy of Sri Lanka
If you’re an European citizen or coming from a Western country, you don’t need a visa to get to Sri Lanka. However, you need to ask for a free ETA. Click here to get it. You’ll be able to stay up to 30 days in Sri Lanka.
Safety in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a very safe country. It’s one of the best places to solo travel. There was a terrorist attack in April 2019 but it’s very rare and it doesn’t target tourists. The locals are mostly quiet and friendly. Some tuktuk drivers will inflate the prices but that’s it. Just be careful if you drive, driving can be crazy there.
If you get in the water, currents can be seriously strong. Drownings are common. Don’t forget to get travel insurance. It will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations. Click here to get one.
Packing list for Sri Lanka
I’m not gonna list all the things to pack for Sri Lanka. I don’t know how long you’re gonna stay there, where you’re going in Sri Lanka, what you’re going to do and when you’ll visit. Take all the necessary clothes, toiletries, and also:
- hand sanitizer
- combination locks
- a money belt
- a security cable lock
- a travel plug adapter
- a stainless steel water bottle
- a lifestraw (a water bottle with a purifier)
- a menstrual cup (for the ladies)
Here’s a full list of travel accessories, which can be useful!
What to eat in Sri Lanka
There are so many dishes to try in Sri Lanka! First off, you won’t escape from rice and curry. Try kottu roti, the most popular street food of the country. It’s shredded roti with vegetables and spices on a hotplate. Hopper is a breakfast dish. It’s a bowl-shaped pancake made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk, with an egg. Its variation is string hoppers with noodles.
That’s it! You have all the information needed to visit Sri Lanka! Everything will go smoothly thanks to this Sri Lanka travel guide!
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- Always use a VPN when traveling. I use ExpressVPN and I love it. Here’s why use a VPN when traveling.