The ancient humans of Palaeolithic age are in for a shock if they re-visit their former home, the stunning Island country of Indian Ocean. Ceylon or Sri Lanka is a beautiful country in South Asia, separated from Indian subcontinent by Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait. A lot has changed, including the name, in its 3000 year old journey from ancient civilizations to the present Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is increasingly becoming popular tourist destination. If you are planning a holiday to this country then you should not miss these top Must-visit Places in Sri Lanka.
From Buddhism to Christianity and Hinduism to Islam, Lanka is a multicultural, multi-ethnic country with rich architecture, stunning natural habitats and gorgeous beaches. We bring you the top 10 must-visit attractions of Sri Lanka to soak in all the culture and beauty this place offers. So hop on to your flying carpet and explore the Lanka-land with us.
1) Ancient City of Sigiriya
The bold and brilliant ancient rock fortress, Sigiriya is located in the central province of Sri Lanka on a massive plateau. Staged between ancient caves and stunning views, a rocky structure soars towards the ruins of ancient civilization. With the perfect blend of nature and ancient architecture, it has been a famous party site for archaeologists all over the world. They even discovered evidence of Mesolithic settlements near the fortress, dating back to 5000 years. Credit for the ancient civilization, short-lived on top of the rocky structure is given to King Kassapa and was later used as a Buddhist Monastery.
The city of ruins is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1982 and we couldn’t agree more. An ancient citadel from 5th century, lush gardens, the famous mirror wall, stunning frescoes, ruins of the palace located on the flat top of the rock and the stunning Lion Gate. Climb your way to the top and enjoy the enigmatic view that envelopes the entire city. Plan your trip with us and travel hassle free, visit Sigiriya tour.
Timings: 7am- 7pm
2) Galle Dutch Fort
Another awardee of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle fort is situated on the south-west coast of Sri Lanka. Originally established by the Portuguese in 16th century, it encountered strategic fortification by the Dutch during 17th century. Today, it signifies the bond between European architecture and South Asian culture. This beloved site in Sri Lanka is the perfect memoir of the colonial history of Ceylon. The fort area in Galle consists of museum, stunning villas, souvenir shops, cafes and bookstores. Best way to experience this artwork is to drop all your luggage, hop into something comfortable and stroll along the streets of the fort.
In the fort area you run into beautiful colonial style buildings, Meera mosque and National Maritime Museum. And if your insightful journey halts for the growling stomach, there are several good options to enjoy a fine meal. Visit Galle Fort Guide for more information.
Location: Church street, Bay of Galle, Sri Lanka, 80000
Apart from the glorious cultural history, Sri Lanka is famous for its golden beaches and crystal clear water. One such heaven, located on the south coast of Sri Lanka is Mirissa. A small town at an elevation of 13 ft, is as jazzy as it sounds. Beautiful beaches with lush green surroundings, euphoric nightlife and best spot for watching island’s famous dolphins and whales. You can choose from different tour companies operating on the beach itself and go whale watching. There is no doubt why this beach is one of the top tourist spots. You can rent a board and ride the waves of Mirissa or go for snorkelling near the reef. Beach is filled with shacks offering delicious food and their sea-food platter cannot be missed, at all! Visit Mirissa for more on surfing and popular attractions.
Location: Mirissa town, Matara district of Southern Province, Sri Lanka
4) Yala National Park
Wildlife of Sri Lanka is widely popular among tourists and nature enthusiasts across the globe. Yala National Park is the best example of that. Bordering the Indian Ocean in Southern province, it’s the most popular national park in Sri Lanka. Yala Park is a wildlife sanctuary that works extensively towards the protection of Sri Lankan elephants, leopards and endangered aquatic birds.
The 979 sq km of area covered by the park is brimming with wetlands, forests, lagoons and stunning flora- fauna. Wild elephants are proud inhabitants of this park and you’re likely to spot them roaming around the park, enjoying their time. More than 100 species of birds, crocodiles, buffaloes, sloth bears and wild boars reside in the park. You can book safari tours and experience the best of nature in Sri Lanka. Read about the adventures of Park at Yala Sri Lanka.
Location: Hambantota, Sri Lanka
Timings: 6am- 6pm
5) Temple of the Tooth
Temple of the sacred Tooth relic is the most revered Buddhist Temple in Kandy, Sri Lanka. UNESCO declared the temple as a World Heritage Site for its contribution to Buddhism in Ceylon. Situated in the Royal Complex, it hosts the most important relic in Buddhism, Tooth of Buddha. It was believed that whoever holds the relic, govern the Kingdom. This played an important role in the fight for power of Kandyan Kingdom. Relic is kept inside a sacred box called stupa in the upper floor of the temple, in a room called Vadahitina Maligawa. This room open to devotees during prayers and festivals.
Several small temples, shrines and museums are present inside the temples complex. You can indulge in the history and beauty of Kandy architecture or calm your senses with soothing meditation. Visit their official website Sri Dalada Maligawa for more information.
For more amazing places in Kandy, visit our trip planners at Kandy attractions.
Location: Sri Dalada Veediya, Kandy, Sri Lanka 20000
6) Nuwara Eliya
The Little England of Ceylon or stunning heaven of Sri Lanka is surrounded by mountains and breath-taking landscape. Tea production in Sri Lanka dates back to colonial period. Nuwara Eliya, known for its temperate and cool climate was the perfect location for tea plantation. At an elevation of 1890 meters, it provides a stunning view of Pidurutalagala, tallest peak of the island. This hill city is the perfect base for few days of peaceful freedom. You can kick-start your trip in Nuwara at one of the colonial style Royal hotel, play some golf, explore tea estates and factories or trek your way to the Single Tree Mountain for a bird-eye view of the entire town of Nuwara Eliya. We recommend Bluefield Tea Garden and Heritance Tea Factory for the best tea estate experience.
Victoria Park is another beautiful location in the center of the town. You can spot various species of birds flying across the park. There are several waterfalls perched between the mountains with picturesque views. A boat ride in the Gregory Lake is the perfect end to many adventures Nuwara Eliya offers. If you have time, visit the Horton Plains National Park and hike towards World’s end! Plan your heavenly experience with us and travel hassle free, visit Nuwara Eliya Tour.
7) Diyaluma Falls
Alexandra Stoddard once said, ‘ When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go’ . We couldn’t agree with her more. Diyaluma Falls is a stunning waterfall, dropping from a height of 720 ft, making it second highest in Sri Lanka. It is located 6 km from Koslanda village. There are two options for trekking towards Diyaluma. You can start from Makaldenya Junction at Poonagala road and trek downwards to Diyaluma upper falls or start from Koslanda village and work your way upwards to Diyaluma. You encounter multiple water falls and natural pools on your Trek towards the main point of fall. A heavenly dip in the cool water is strictly advised. Instagram-worthy pictures and unforgettable views are your souvenirs from this place.
Location: Colombo- Badulla Highway, Koslanda, Sri Lanka
Timings: Sun rise to Sun set
8) Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada)
Adam’s peak is a tall triangular mountain that sits in the central province of Sri Lanka. Touching the sky with a height of 7,359 ft, it is known for the Sri Pada. Also called Sacred Footprint, it is a small rock formation near the summit. In Buddhism, it symbolises with the footprint of Buddha. Hindu tradition illustrates it with Lord Shiva whereas Islam and Christianity with Adam or Saint Thomas. For more than 1000 years, spiritual seekers have boarded the pilgrimage to this sacred mountain.
Pilgrimage season kick-starts on Poya day in December and continues till May where it ends with Vesak festival. You can walk your way towards the peak through one of the 6 trail options available. Visit Adam’s Peak for more information.
Location: Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka
9) Dambulla Cave Temple
Another popular UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Dambulla Cave Temple or the Golden Temple of Dambulla. More than 150 Buddha statues and paintings depicting the life of Gautam Buddha flourish the well-preserved cave. There are statues of Sri Lankan kings, Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism and ancient inscriptions on the walls of the cave. Another interesting fact about the caves is the discovery of human skeletons buried near the cave, dating back to 3000 years. Archaeologists assumed, pre-historic locals regarded these caves as their home.
Five caves, sitting on top of a 160 metres high rock constitute the Dambulla cave temple. You encounter intricate artwork and stunning pictures covering the walls of the temple. Its historical and cultural significance makes it a must-see pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka. Organise your trip with us at Dambulla Temple tour.
Location: Kandy- Jaffna highway, Dambulla, Sri Lanka
Timings: 7am- 7pm
Bentota is a stunning coastal town located in Galle district. Justifying to the golden beach theory of Sri Lanka, it’s the perfect sea view getaway from the ever complicated journey of life. Never-ending stretch of golden sand with swaying palm tress and soothing breeze is the essential detox every traveler needs. You can explore Brief gardens, house and garden of Bevis Bawa who developed this place or visit a turtle hatchery and release few days old, cute turtles into the ocean. Windsurfing and sailing are very popular in the area and you can hire equipment locally and explore the ocean like a pirate.
The colorful country of Sri Lanka is the land of adventure and beauty. Visiting once is never enough. Share some of your favorite places in Sri Lanka with us and spread the love for this culturally diverse island with fellow travelers. Read more about our favorite Lanka spots at Ultimate Guide to Sri Lanka.