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Sri Lanka is full of surprises. This beautiful country is home to an endless number of amazing things to do, from ancient temples and wildlife sanctuaries to luxury spas. I bet you’ve heard about the beautiful beaches, the amazing food, and its rich history.
After spending 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, I can say that I’ve done some incredible things like a safari in Udawalawe National Park, riding the most epic train ride & I tried to stand on a surfboard but what are my favorite experiences?
In this article, I will share the 19 best things to do in Sri Lanka that will make your experience more fun and interesting!
Flights to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an island the size of Ireland, Costa Rica, or The Netherlands and it’s located in the Indian Ocean at the Southern tip of India. If you are planning to visit this majestic country full of adventure, you’ll probably need to find a flight to its capital and largest city, Colombo (CMB)
Flights to Sri Lanka are mostly cheap and affordable depending on the country of departure, although I recommend also having a look for flights to the Maldives as they are just a few inches away on the map. Well, that’s what I did after 3 weeks in Sri Lanka.
I flew from Amsterdam to Colombo and paid about € 450 for a one-way ticket with Qatar Airways, which is a bit more expensive because of the one-way ticket. However, I wanted to have the freedom to choose my next destination at a later point as I was traveling around the world.
Best time to visit Sri Lanka
Before you go to Sri Lanka it’s always a good idea to check the weather and the best time to visit Sri Lanka. Luckily, Sri Lanka is one of those destinations that you can visit any time of the year. As long as you know which month to travel were in Sri Lanka.
In a nutshell, the best time to visit the west coast, south coast, and hill country is from December to March, while the best weather on the east coast is from April/May to September.
The southwest monsoon (May-August) or also known as the Yala monsoon: affects the southwest of the island including the Hill Country
The northeast monsoon (December – February) or also known as the Maha monsoon: affects the north and east of the island
The best hotels in Sri Lanka
Very handy to know is where to stay in Sri Lanka when you are planning some of the things to do in Sri Lanka from my article. During this trip, I stayed in some incredible places that made the journey across this amazing country even better.
Sleeping in a safari tent or staying a night in a local guest house are all part of the travel experience, so here are some of my recommendations for the best hotels in Sri Lanka.
Sleeping in a beautiful location surrounded by rice fields, palm trees, and wildlife.
Rice Rice Villas is the perfect gateway for a safari in Yala National Park and to relax after a busy day of traveling.
Kottawata Village is probably one of the best places to stay in Sri Lanka when you are planning to join a safari in Udawalawe National Park.
A beautiful resort with all types of rooms, from budget to luxury and great prices.
The Hide Out in Ella will make your experience in Sri Lanka complete.
A perfect accommodation to relax before taking the train from Ella to Kandy or to explore the beautiful area around Ella.
The best things to do in Sri Lanka
Go to a local market
There are many local markets in Sri Lanka but my favorite market was the one in Unawatuna, where you can buy amazing local food & handmade souvenirs. However, almost every popular town has a village market. These are the perfect places to go if you’re looking for cheap fashion, local food, or even handmade items.
The local markets are mostly open very early in the morning, so perfect to visit after watching the sunrise. But be careful with pickpockets!
Stroll around in Galle
Sri Lanka’s culture makes you feel like you’re in the past. One of the best ways to experience this is to go around Galle. This old Dutch town has a lot of history and will make you feel like time stopped when you walk through its streets and alleys.
There are plenty of cool spots where you can take some really nice pictures of this historic place. Like the famous Clock Tower which is one of the most famous symbols of Galle, or even the main street that’s full of shops and cafes.
A guided cycling tour and discover the best of Galle
Eat 10 curries for $12 in Galle
Looking for the best Sri Lankan food? This is one of the most famous spots in Galle. Lucky Fort is a very popular family-owned restaurant, with a small terrace and a cozy atmosphere.
Lucky Mama also gives amazing cooking classes, So, if you visit this place, make sure to try the 10 curries or learn how to make them yourself. It costs only 12 dollars, and it includes 10 curries with rice & papadum. Yummy!
Swing at Dalawella Beach
I bet you didn’t know that there’s a beach where you can swing and enjoy your drink at the same time. The only downside is that it’s located in Unawatuna, so it will take some time to get there. But I promise you this place is worth it!
You’ll be able to seat on swings while drinking some amazing coconut water or even beer. You can also play volleyball or even take some really cool pictures of yourself swinging with the sunset in the background. Sounds, like an amazing Sunday, doesn’t it?
Join A Yoga Class
Yoga might be not for everyone, but this is perfect if you’re looking for a way to relax and feel even better after your trip. There are plenty of yoga classes in Sri Lanka, so if you want to try it out, just ask any local person or hotel staff where the best places are.
Don’t forget to say “Namaste!” when leaving!
Take Some Amazing Photos At Coconut Tree Hill
Located on top of a small mountain, Coconut Tree Hill is the perfect place to go if you want to grab some amazing photos. The best time and weather would be around sunrise or sunset, so make sure you bring your tripod. The climb can be difficult, so make sure you wear some proper shoes. But the view is absolutely worth it!
Relax At The Beach Of Mirissa
Mirissa is located in the southern part of Sri Lanka, and it’s becoming more and more famous among travelers. You have to be careful with the sea, though, because it can get pretty wild sometimes.
But if you manage to reach this place on time, you’ll enjoy its cool beaches and amazing traditional villages. There are plenty of shady spots where you can relax for some hours or go swimming. Or even better, why not try snorkeling? It’s absolutely beautiful!
Walkthrough The Ocean To Parrot Rock
Parrot Rock is located in Mirissa and is connected to the beach with a small sandbar. It has an amazing view over the beaches of Mirissa and it’s a perfect spot to take some beautiful pictures.
To get there walk along the beach of Mirrissa and when the sea level is low enough you can walk through the water to Parrot Rock. You can climb up this rock if you want! Just be careful with your footing, though, because this place gets slippery.
Take Surf Lessons At Weligama Beach
Between Unawatuna and Mirissa, you’ll find Weligama. It’s a perfect place to go if you’re looking for some exotic beaches and amazing surfing conditions. There are plenty of schools where you can take lessons in Weligama or even in Mirissa too.
You’ll get to learn the basics of surfing in just one hour, so don’t you think it’s worth trying? You can even ask them for some other activities too. I promise there won’t be any sharks around here.
I joined surf lessons with the Freedom Surf School and the teachers are amazing, making fun while we are practicing and after almost one hour, I was able to stand on my board, If 2 seconds count 🙂
BOOK: A surf lesson with Freedom Surf School for less than US$ 10
Witness The Giant Sea Turtles Nesting At Rekawa Beach
An amazing spot on my trip was Tangalle, where I stayed at the Sea Sound Cabana on Tangalle Beach. This was the perfect location to visit Rekawa Beach. This is one of Sri Lanka’s most protected beaches, and it’s also where you can find almost 50% of the country’s giant sea turtles.
The experience is awesome! At night, we walked along the beach and witnessed some giant sea turtles laying their eggs. As they are so tired we even had to help them to get back into the ocean. The feeling when you see all these amazing creatures crawling through the sand is something unforgettable!
Go On A Morning Safari In Udawalawe National Park
If you want to spot animals and take some amazing photos, then this national park is perfect for you. You’ll be able to see elephants and many other wild animals just by going there in the morning. And if you are lucky, you might spot some leopards.
I already did some amazing safaris in Africa before but have never seen such huge herds of elephants as during the safari in Udawalawe National Park. If you wanna join a safari in Udawalawe National Park, I highly recommend contacting Rice Rice Villas or booking directly with Beyond Escapes.
BOOK: Book here your safari in Udawalawe National Park with Beyond Escapes
READ ALSO: The Best 14-day Namibia self-drive itinerary
Try To Spot A Leopard during a safari In Yala National Park
Located in the south of Sri Lanka, this National Park is perfect for anyone who loves animals and nature. It’s really hard to spot leopards as they are mostly hidden in the lush green jungle but you might come across herds of elephants or other wild animals that live in Yala National Park
So, if you want to take some cool photos join a safari in Yala National Park during sunrise when it’s less crowded and when the nocturnal animals are still hunting. The amazing tour of Beyond Escapes found the best spots during the safari in Yala National park and I was lucky to see some leopards.
Run Over Nine Arches Bridge
One of the most famous bridges in Sri Lanka. Located near Habarana, this bridge is perfect for anyone who loves adventure. You can cross the bridge by walking or watch the train passing by from different angles. The Bridge is surrounded by beautiful green scenery and a unique location for taking photos.
I promise you it will be worth it! So, what are you waiting for?
Hike Up Little Adam’s Peak
Located in Nuwara Eliya, this small mountain is perfect for anyone who loves nature, hiking, and amazing views. A pretty nice walk brings you through the tea plantations and along the ridge of the mountain.
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can always go on an organized tour. But I recommend doing it yourself as it’s an easy hike and you can spend as much time as you want at the top.
Take The Most Scenic Train Ride From Ella To Kandy
One of the most epic train rides in the world is definitely the train ride from Kandy to Ella which goes through the country’s most unique landscapes where you can have beautiful panoramic views.
Book tickets in advance for the 2nd Class to have the best experience, buy some snacks, charge your camera and enjoy the ride.
Visit A Tea Plantation Of Nuwara Eliya
This one is perfect if you want to relax and enjoy a really cool tour of Sri Lanka. You can visit a tea plantation, do a little walk around the town and even have a cup of amazing Ceylon Tea.
Nuwara Eliya also offers great views over mountains including Little Adam’s Peak. So, if you’re planning on doing both, I recommend visiting during summertime when it’s less crowded!
Visit The Diyaluma Falls
Located near Hatton, this waterfall is perfect for anyone who loves taking photos. It’s the second-highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and definitely worth the visit.
Join a tour to reach the top of the waterfall where you can swim in the rock pools and have an amazing view over the landscape.
I was not able to join a tour due to the heavy rain and the Sri Lankan New year, however, this waterfall is definitely one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka
Hike Up Pidurangala Rock
Located near Sigiriya Rock, this national park is perfect for those who want to take some cool photos of themselves on top of a mountain. Don’t forget to bring some water because it can get really hot up there. Also, you might want to go on a guided tour, so you don’t get lost or anything like that.
Just remember that it’s not as big as Adams Peak, so the hike might be easier than expected… But don’t worry, you’ll get an amazing photo at the end!
Go On An Afternoon Safari In Minneriya National Park
Located near Kandy, this national park is perfect for those who want to spot some elephants. However, if you want a different experience from Yala National Park, definitely try going on an afternoon safari here.
The good thing about Minneriya is that it’s less crowded so you’ll have more chance of spotting them. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars because it can get really hard to see them sometimes… But don’t worry, once you see one elephant, it will be worth all the effort!
Sri Lanka is definitely a country worth visiting, and whether you are traveling on your around this beautiful country with a backpack or exploring the cultural sites with private transport, you’ll find amazing things to do in Sri Lanka.
It’s a perfect destination for a backpacking trip because it offers amazing nature, good food, and is easy to travel with public transport however its amazing beaches make it the ultimate destination for surfing or just relaxing.
Plan the best things to do in Sri Lanka with my favorite travel apps
To plan my adventures, I use these FREE websites and apps as they provide the best information, the best deals, and they are user-friendly.
- Skyscanner – Flight deals
- Booking.com – Hotels and accommodation
- TourRadar – Group trips
- TripAdvisor – Reviews and activities
- HostelWorld – Hostels
- GetYourGuide – Activities and excursions
- RentalCars – Car rental
- Omio – Transport
- iVisa – Travel documents
- Wise – Money transfer
- InsuredNomads – Travel Insurance
PICTURES AND EDITING
All the pictures on this page are made and owned by me. If you are interested in some pictures to use for your magazine, website, blog, or any other purpose, just send me an email and we’ll figure it out.
Do you like the edits? My Presets will be online soon so you can edit your pictures in just one click!
The camera gear I used for this trip
I never go out without my camera and many people ask me which gear I use. So to make it quite easy, I listed all the gear I used for this trip below.
Most of the time, I travel with the Sony A7III and the Sony 24-105mm/f4 as my primary lens but depending on the location, I change to another setup. However, I love the Tamron 17-28 to shoot in the big cities.