The 7 Best Places To Visit In Sri Lanka
The ultimate guide of the 7 best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a country that totally caught us by surprise with its beauty and made us fall in love in a heartbeat. Choosing which are the 7 best places to visit in Sri Lanka was not an easy task as you can imagine! We selected these locations to make sure you add them to your itinerary, for an unforgettable trip.
Sri Lanka offers a wide mix of landscapes, from hills to thick jungle and some key historical landmarks to visit. Our favourite places in Sri Lanka are a places that have either left us in awe of the immense natural beauty or have taught us something about the people and the culture. Read on to discover the 7 best places to visit in this incredible country.
Sigiriya Lion Rock
Emerging from the silent and lush jungle, this astonishing rock formation is more than just a rock. The history of Sigiriya is quite extraordinary and looking at it from afar is easy to understand why in Sri Lanka is called the 8th wonder of the world. At the top of this 200 meters high rock King Kasyapa built his castle, of which we can still admire frescos and ruins. Later on, Lion Rock became home of a Buddhist monastery. At the entrance of the steep staircase that takes you up, two gigantic lion’s claws welcome you and give the iconic name to the site.
Worth a visit are also the grounds surrounding the sacred rock, which can be discovered by foot or by bicycle. Water filled canals, lily pads and monkeys jumping from branch to branch make this area a real zen garden. To enjoy a view of Sigiriya rock from afar, make sure to climb also Pidurangala, its sister rock. Read everything you need to know about visiting Sigiriya in this article.
Where to sleep in Sigiriya
Only a ten minutes tuk tuk ride from Lion Rock, Sigiriya Gate Resort is the perfect place where to spend a night or two when you visit the area. This comfortable homestay is run by a lovely local family which will spoil you with a wonderful breakfast when you come back from your sunrise adventures.
For a more upmarket accommodation, Back of Beyond Pidurangala offers beautiful, eco-friendly accommodation in an unrivalled location.
When dreaming of a perfect beach, we have always imagined something like Hiriketiya. Needless to say that when we discovered this perfect, half-moon shaped bay, we fell in love immediately. On the golden send that leads to the turquoise water surf shops alternate with small restaurants and bar, offering the prime spot to watch unforgettable sunsets. The little village feels like a community, where everyone knows each other, and locals coexist peacefully with a small community of Australians who have relocated and opened few hotels and restaurants. We spent four nights in Hiriketiya but we could have stayed months, surfing, sipping on passion fruit cocktails at sundowners and just generally loving life. Read our article on Hiriketiya to find out all the best restaurants and cafes.
Where to sleep in Hiriketiya
Our time in Hiriketiya was made very special by the lovely family who’s homestay we stayed at. Mission House is the family house of Dulanjan, his mum and dad and two sisters. They built three guest rooms with private bathroom, decorated in modern style, with all the comforts you need. In the morning his mum will offer you the most delicious milky tea and if you need to arrange a scooter or do your laundry they will take care of everything. A real home away from home.
If you prefer to stay in an hotel, we recommend Salt House. Just few meters from the beach, with private pool, a restaurant and a yoga shala. Wonderful interior design and relaxed atmosphere.
Galle Fort is a the best example of colonial history in Sri Lanka. A fortified old city founded by Portuguese colonists in the 16th century. The old town is surrounded by stone walls facing the sea, expanded later on by the Dutch, which encircle car-free streets with architecture reflecting Portuguese, Dutch and British rule. Without a doubt our favourite city in Sri Lanka, extremely charming and unique. Galle offers some of the best and most beautiful hotels, restaurants and cafes in Sri Lanka, that take you back in time with their colonial style.
Where to sleep in Galle
To immerse yourself in the colonial charm book your stay at Galle Fort Hotel. Awarded the Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Distinction by UNESCO in 2007, this beautiful hotel was once a mansion that has been transformed in one of the best accommodations in Galle.
For a cheaper but equally beautiful option, we recommend Kikili House. A colourfully decorated hotel, with a whole lot of charm and comfort.
Kandy to Ella train ride
One of the most beautiful train rides in the world and probably in your life. Seven hours of pure delight crossing half of the country on your way South, through rolling green hills dotted by tea plantations. To live this experience at its best, make sure to book a second or third class ticket, as this is where all the action happens. You will be able to dangle your feet out of the door or peak out to let the fresh hillside breeze caress your face while the train is riding. Vendors pass by selling delicious local snacks and milky tea and most likely you will find a group of friends playing some music to kill time. The Kandy to Ella train ride was one of our highlights in Sri Lanka, so make sure to add it to your itinerary and find all the information you need to plan this trip in this article: Kandy to Ella Train Ride: Everything you need to know.
Nine Arch Bridge in Ella
Set within a thick forest, the clean and elegant structure of the Nine Arch bridge beams in the sunlight. One the best preserved examples of colonial-era railway construction in the country, built in 1921 by a local architect and the British, still very much in use today. The bridge is quite a site per se, but it becomes a magical scene out of a movie when the blue train crosses it and it instantly looks as if you were in a Harry Potter movie! If you have the guts you can even stand on the edge of the bridge, to admire the view of the surrounding jungle from the top. Read our destination article on Ella and this article on where to go to take the best photographs of the bridge.
Where to stay in Ella
Waking up in the hills of Ella was a wonderful experience. The mist would slowly lift in the early morning and reveal the incredible view of the rolling hills, the bridge and the train passing by. It felt as if we were in a painting at times. For a top of a hill, very local experience, we recommend to stay at Guest Inn Avendra. A one room homestay run by a lovely family, where we had our best dinner while in Sri Lanka (make sure to ask for the mango curry!).
If you prefer to stay closer to the bring, we recommend Ella Rohamton Hotel.
Arugam Bay is one of the most famous destination in Sri Lanka attracting surfers from all over the world, but even if you can’t stand on a board, you will fall in love with this slice of paradise. Golden beaches, perfect waves, palm trees and loads of hip bars and restaurants. The crowd is international and laid back, making it the perfect places where to spend a week surfing, chilling and making friends. Rent a scooter or a tuk tuk and a surfboard to catch some of the best waves in Asia. Worth exploring is also the backcountry, with its rice fields, green bush and elephants roaming freely in their natural habitat. Read our destination article on Arugam Bay and this blog post on the best restaurants in Arugam Bay.
Where to sleep in Arugam Bay
Green Ocean Bay is a mid range hotel recently opened, just off the main road where all the restaurants are and five minutes from the beach. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and you can rent surf boards are scooters.
For a more upmarket option we recommend the eco-luxury hotel Jetwing Surf, which offers beautiful cabanas nested in nature.
Yala National Park
A trip to Sri Lanka would not be complete without visiting one the many national parks the country offers. We visited Yala National Park, on the South coast, and had some exciting encounters with animals while exploring a beautiful and protected part of Sri Lanka. Yala National Park is home to 44 different types of mammals, 215 species of birds and numerous other animals, which with luck, you will be able to see during a game drive. Our favourite moment was watching a family a elephants with a tiny calf drinking and splashing around by a watering hole.
Where to sleep by Yala National Park
Jetwing Yala is located close to the entrance of the park, by the beach, offering beautiful views of the ocean. This eco-luxury resort, nested between the bushes, blends perfectly with nature, offering a perfect stay while respecting its surroundings. With a pool, a bar and three restaurants, you will find everything you need within the property.
Are you planning a trip to Sri Lanka? If you have any question or need more recommendations please drop us a message below. We wish you an unforgettable time in Sri Lanka!