Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka

From the vast tea plantations of its center to the open-air museum of its northern heart, Sri Lanka boasts a treasure trove of worthy places to visit.

Witness the Glory of the Kingdom in Myriad Temples

The epic history of Sri Lanka dates back to the days of antiquity when some of the oldest civilizations in the world embellished the pearl-shaped island with legendary monuments. Today, they constitute the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, offering a glimpse into the narrative of the land. The legendary Anuradhapura is the place to begin a journey into the past. It huddles magnificent dagobas and worship sites. Each conveys the sacred stories of the Buddha. Only a few miles away, Mount Ritigala is the embodiment of this religious heritage. It soars to the sky with the ruins of one of the chief monasteries on the island: Ancient Ritigala Monastery. For a more outspoken blend of nature and history, head to Polonnaruwa. The rock temple alone will sweep you off your feet.

Relish Sri Lanka’s Untouched Wilderness

Beyond the laurels of its ancient kingdoms, Sri Lanka boasts a natural heritage so precious that beckoning national parks are a dime a dozen on its land. Wilpattu is the ultimate destination for adventure junkies, offering a day filled with boundless wildlife sightings. Jeep safaris around its unique natural lakes are the highlight activity. An important center for ecotourism, it homes a population of the astonishing leopard. You will find countless other species on its exhilarating trails all across the park. But if your adventurous taste buds are not satisfied, there is always Minneriya. It is the number one elephant reserve in the country. You will lose yourself in the realm of these sympathetic wild creatures as they carry on their daily activities. This is among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka to get a taste of its matchless biodiversity.

Discover the Eco-Tourism Hideouts in Central Sri Lanka

No visit to Sri Lanka is complete without a refreshing trip to its Central Plains, where emerald tea plantations stretch into the countryside as far as the eye can see. And with myriad places offering a peek into its raw culture, it is a place to be savored, not rushed. Pay a visit to a tea factory to witness the delicate process of Ceylon Tea production. Trek across the plantations and observe the farmers on the job, while the countryside delivers exquisite views for the ultimate photographic experience. The cultural hub of Kandy is the best place to launch for your rural visits. While you are there, don’t forget to see the sumptuous Temple of the Tooth. It is one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka.

Must-See Sights in Sri Lanka

Here is everything you need to know about the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.


Anuradhapura is the capital city of North Central Province and the capital of Anuradhapura District. The city is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world.

Why You Should Visit:

Discover the ancient ruins and rich history of Sri Lanka’s first capital city, Anuradhapura, a must-visit destination for history buffs and cultural enthusiasts.

Don’t Miss:

-Explore the sacred Bodhi Tree, believed to be the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world, and soak up the spiritual atmosphere of the site.

-Visit the Ruwanwelisaya, a massive stupa that is considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka.

-Discover the majestic Abhayagiri Monastery, a sprawling complex that once housed thousands of monks and was one of the largest monasteries in the world.

Keep in Mind:

-Respect local customs and traditions, especially when visiting temples and religious sites.

-Wear modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.

-Take precautions against mosquitoes and other insects, as Anuradhapura is known for its humid climate and wildlife.

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Wilpattu National Park has earned its name ‘Land of Lakes’ due to the serene bodies of water that cover the vast park. The park is home to large populations of wild animals.

Why You Should Visit:

Embark on an unforgettable safari adventure in Wilpattu National Park, home to Sri Lanka’s largest concentration of leopards and an abundance of other wildlife.

Don’t Miss:

-Embark on a thrilling safari and spot Sri Lanka’s iconic wildlife, including leopards, elephants, sloth bears, and a variety of bird species.

-Visit the Kudiramalai Point Lighthouse and enjoy panoramic views of the coast and surrounding wilderness.

-Take a leisurely walk through the Wilpattu National Park and enjoy the stunning landscapes, from pristine lakes to dense forests.

Keep in Mind:

-Keep a safe distance from wild animals and do not feed them.

-Follow the rules of the national park and do not litter.

-Be prepared for a bumpy ride on the safari jeep, as the terrain can be rough and uneven.

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Nestled in the UNESCO World Heritage Site are five Buddhist temples that make the site a cave monastery. It has been a pilgrimage site for more than 20 centuries.

Why You Should Visit:

Explore the stunning cave temples of Dambulla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a testament to Sri Lanka’s rich Buddhist heritage.

Don’t Miss:

-Marvel at the intricate cave paintings and sculptures that adorn the walls and ceilings of the Dambulla Cave Temple.

-Take a hike up the nearby Sigiriya Rock Fortress and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

-Visit the Ironwood Forest, a unique ecosystem that is home to rare bird species and other wildlife.

Keep in Mind:

-Bring comfortable shoes, as you will need to climb steep steps to reach the temple.

-Respect the Buddhist culture and customs, such as removing your shoes before entering the temple.

-Take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the temple.

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One of the chief cities of the kingdom of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa is home to an impressive collection of archeological remains that are now prized as a World Heritage Site.

Why You Should Visit:

Step back in time and marvel at the well-preserved ruins of Polonnaruwa, the second capital city of ancient Sri Lanka, and witness the country’s artistic and architectural achievements.

Don’t Miss:

-Explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa by bike or on foot and marvel at the well-preserved ruins of temples, palaces, and other important structures.

-Visit the Royal Palace and Audience Hall and learn about the fascinating history of the kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

-Take a relaxing stroll through the Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum and admire the collection of artifacts and exhibits.

Keep in Mind:

-Wear a hat and sunscreen, as the ancient city can be hot and sunny.

-Take a guided tour to learn about the history and significance of the ruins.

-Be mindful of the monkeys and other wildlife in the area.

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Minneriya is a wilderness playground valued for its exquisite flora and fauna. This is the place for elephant sightings, as the sacred creatures migrate to feed and mate.

Why You Should Visit:

Witness the annual elephant gathering in Minneriya National Park, an incredible natural phenomenon that draws in herds of elephants from across the region.

Don’t Miss:

-Witness the majestic elephant gathering, a natural phenomenon that occurs annually between July and September.

-Take a guided safari through the Minneriya National Park and spot a variety of wildlife, including leopards, crocodiles, and sloth bears.

-Visit the ancient Ritigala Monastery and explore the fascinating ruins of this important religious site.

Keep in Mind:

-Visit during the dry season (June to September) to see the famous elephant gathering.

-Book a safari jeep in advance to avoid disappointment.

-Respect the animals and their habitat by following the rules of the national park.

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best places to visit in Sri Lanka


Kandy is a refreshing city set amidst the tea plantations of central Sri Lanka. Kand Lake anchors its heart and several Buddhist sanctuaries pepper it.

Why You Should Visit:

Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Kandy, a city steeped in history and surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery, including the iconic Temple of the Tooth.

Don’t Miss:

-Attend a traditional Kandyan dance performance and enjoy the vibrant music, colorful costumes, and graceful movements of the dancers.

-Visit the Temple of the Tooth and see the sacred relic of the Buddha’s tooth, an important religious artifact for Buddhists around the world.

-Take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens and admire the diverse collection of plants and trees from around the world.

Keep in Mind:

-Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic and witness the daily ritual of the offering of flowers and incense.

-Attend a cultural dance performance to experience the traditional music and dance of Sri Lanka.

-Take a stroll around Kandy Lake and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

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Sigiriya Rock Fortress is one of the most staggering sights in Sri Lanka, rising 180 meters above the ground. Its religious significance dates back to the 3rd century BC.

Why You Should Visit:

Climb to the top of the iconic Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most breathtaking historical and archaeological sites in Sri Lanka.

Don’t Miss:

-Climb to the top of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and marvel at the stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

-Explore the beautiful water gardens that surround the base of the rock and see the intricate irrigation system that was used to maintain them.

-Visit the Sigiriya Museum and learn about the fascinating history and archeology of the site.

Keep in Mind:

-Wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water for the steep climb to the top of the rock.

-Take your time and admire the stunning frescoes and ancient ruins along the way.

-Learn about the fascinating history and legends surrounding the fortress.

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Colombo is a cosmopolitan gateway to the wonders of Sri Lanka. It boasts a rich colonial heritage and is a melting pot of races, religions, and cultures.

Why You Should Visit:

Experience the vibrant energy of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city, with its diverse culture, delicious cuisine, and bustling markets, all waiting to be explored.

Don’t Miss:

-Visit the Gangaramaya Temple, one of the most iconic and famous temples in Colombo, and a must-visit for anyone interested in Buddhist culture and history.

-Explore the Pettah Market, a vibrant and bustling market where you can find just about anything

-Take a stroll along Galle Face Green, a popular promenade and park that runs along the coast of Colombo. It’s a great place to relax and take in the sea breeze while enjoying a panoramic view of the Indian Ocean.

Keep in Mind:

-Be aware of your surroundings and avoid unlit areas at night.

-Visit the National Museum to learn about the history and culture of Sri Lanka.

-Sample the local cuisine and explore the vibrant street markets.

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Sri Lanka FAQ

What are the safety precautions to take when visiting Sri Lanka?

While Sri Lanka is generally a safe country to visit, it’s always wise to take basic safety precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, avoiding political gatherings, taking care of your belongings, using licensed transportation, respecting local customs, following the advice of your tour guide, being cautious when using public transportation, staying up-to-date on current events, taking precautions against mosquito-borne diseases, and knowing emergency numbers.

How long should I stay in Sri Lanka?

The length of your stay in Sri Lanka really depends on your travel goals and interests. If you’re interested in exploring the cultural and historical sites, hiking, and visiting national parks, a stay of 10-14 days would be ideal. If you’re more interested in relaxation and beach activities, then 5-7 days would be enough to explore some of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. Keep in mind that Sri Lanka is a small country, so it’s easy to travel around and see many different sites in a relatively short amount of time. Ultimately, the length of your stay should depend on what you want to see and do while in Sri Lanka.

What are the cultural and historical sites to visit in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has a rich cultural and historical heritage, with many fascinating sites to visit. Some of the most popular cultural and historical sites in Sri Lanka include the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the Dambulla Cave Temple, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, and the Polonnaruwa ancient city. These sites offer visitors a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s ancient past, with impressive architecture, stunning artwork, and a deep sense of history and tradition. Additionally, there are many smaller temples, museums, and historical sites throughout the country that are well worth a visit for those interested in Sri Lanka’s culture and history.

What are the best scenic train rides to take in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka offers several scenic train rides that are renowned for their breathtaking views of the countryside, tea plantations, and mountains. Some of the best train rides in Sri Lanka include the Colombo to Kandy route, the Kandy to Ella route, the Colombo to Badulla route, the Nanu Oya to Ella route, and the Badulla to Haputale route. These train rides are a unique and memorable way to experience the natural beauty of Sri Lanka, and are a must-try for anyone visiting the country.

What are the best waterfalls to see in Ella?

Some of the best waterfalls to see in Ella include Ravana Falls, Dunhinda Falls, Diyaluma Falls, Bambaragama Falls, and Ravana Ella Falls. Each of these waterfalls offers visitors a unique and memorable experience, with stunning scenery and peaceful surroundings. Whether you’re a nature lover, a photographer, or just looking for a relaxing spot to unwind, these waterfalls are definitely worth a visit while in Ella.

What are the best temples to visit in Anuradhapura?

Anuradhapura is a city in Sri Lanka that is famous for its ancient temples and ruins. Some of the best temples to visit in Anuradhapura include the Sri Maha Bodhi Temple, Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, Thuparamaya Temple, Isurumuniya Temple, and Abhayagiri Stupa. These temples are significant historical and cultural landmarks that offer visitors a glimpse into the rich history and traditions of Sri Lanka. Visiting these temples is a must-do for anyone interested in exploring the ancient cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.

What are the best tea plantations to visit in Nuwara Eliya?

Nuwara Eliya is a town in Sri Lanka that is renowned for its tea plantations, which produce some of the best tea in the world. Some of the best tea plantations to visit in Nuwara Eliya include Pedro Tea Estate, Bluefield Tea Gardens, Mackwoods Labookellie Tea Centre, Damro Labookellie Tea Centre, and Amba Tea Estate. These tea plantations offer visitors the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of tea production in Sri Lanka, as well as to enjoy the scenic beauty of the region. A visit to these tea plantations is a must-do for anyone who loves tea or is interested in the history and culture of Sri Lanka.

What are the top cultural and historical sites to visit in Kandy?

Kandy is a city in Sri Lanka that is home to several cultural and historical landmarks. These include the Temple of the Tooth, Royal Palace of Kandy, Kandy Lake, Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue, and Udawatta Kele Sanctuary. A visit to these sites offers visitors the opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of Sri Lanka, as well as to appreciate the impressive architecture and artistic achievements of the ancient Sri Lankan civilization. With its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, Kandy is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Sri Lanka.

What are the best things to do in Colombo?

Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, offers visitors a variety of activities and attractions to explore. From visiting beautiful temples and museums, to shopping at bustling markets and relaxing in scenic parks, there is something for everyone in Colombo. A visit to Gangaramaya Temple, National Museum of Colombo, Pettah Market, Galle Face Green, and Independence Memorial Hall are some of the best things to do in Colombo. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just want to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery, Colombo is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Sri Lanka.

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