A Guide to Holidays in Sri Lanka (When to Visit, Places to Visit and more)
Are you planning a holiday in Sri Lanka this year? This guide will help you plan out your holiday. Whether you are an American, British, European, Middle Eastern, Asian, Australian or African, this travel guide has a lot in store for you. Places to visit in Sri Lanka, when to visit, getting around, food and drinks, and other important information is presented to you in this unique and interesting travel guide.
Places to Visit in Sri Lanka
Explore Holidays in Sri Lanka with these best places to visit carefully selected by our experts.
Best Beaches to Visit
Popular Breathtaking Sri Lanka Beaches
Sri Lanka boasts of an absolutely breathtaking coast line. Below is a list of some of the most amazing beaches to visit during your holiday in Sri Lanka, categorized by region for your convenience.
Detailed look in to some of the amazing Beaches to Visit
Galle is a charming town with glamorous boutique hotels and colonial style streets containing a combination of shops and cafes. Unawatuna is a town just ahead of Galle and both these towns are mandatory places to visit in Sri Lanka as they advertise amazing beaches with clear waters and dashing waves; ideal for water sports. Along the southern coast, popular beaches are found in Hikkaduwa and Mirissa. Activities at these spots include snorkeling and exploring the beautiful reefs, jet skiing, kite surfing, and other water sports.
Pasikudah is a recently discovered beach in the eastern coastline of Sri Lanka. After the end of the civil war, this area opened up to travelers who come for holidays in Sri Lanka and is now a well developing Sri Lanka tourist attraction. Being one of the safest in the country for swimming, Pasikudah beach boasts white sands, clear waters and stunning views of the Indian Ocean. Trincomalee is also a town situated in the eastern coastline which is home to beautiful beaches and a natural harbor.
Negombo is a friendly town on the western coast where vacationers often go when in search for places to go in Sri Lanka for a beach holiday. With hotels to suit every pocket, Negombo town is very close to the International Airport.
The Casuarina beach in Jaffna is one of the best in the peninsula. This in another beach that remains unexplored during the times of war, and is recently becoming a popular Sri Lankan tourist attraction. White sands and clear waters, this beach is a must visit if you want a glimpse of the Indian border!
Read more about Sri Lanka Beaches.
Related Sri Lanka Beach Itineraries :
Places to Visit in Amazing Green Hill Country
Brief Overview in these Popular Hill Country Locations
These astonishing hill country locations in Sri Lanka are a must visit during your holiday in Sri Lanka. If you had to pick a few from these, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Ella would top the list. The island’s hill country destinations are a whole new world in itself abundant with green mountains, beautiful estates of tea and cascading waterfalls.
The tourist industry often refers to Nuwara Eliya as “Little England”. This is because the ambience has an English country village feeling to it. As you drive uphill to the town of Nuwara Eliya during your holiday in Sri Lanka, you will see some of the most luscious tea plantations on either side. Along the way, you will also come across some spectacular waterfalls that plunge over cliffs, straight into the valleys that lay in between green mountain ranges.
Ella is a charming little village where recent development is taking place to expose its modest charms. The biggest Sri Lankan tourist attraction in this small village is the awesome view through the slight cleft in the hills. This is known as the Ella Gap, which is one of the finest views in the island.
While Kandy is the capital of the hill country, it is also the cultural hub. The city is home to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and with it comes a vibrant range of traditional arts, crafts and religious display.
Related Links to Kandy :
- Kandy Itinerary
- Best Places to Visit in Kandy
- Best Time to Visit in Kandy
- Things to do in Kandy
- Kandy Perahera
- Top 5 Places to Visit in Kandy during Kandy Perahera
- 5 Interesting Facts about Kandy Perahera
Historic Places to See in Sri Lanka
Popular Historic Attractions
These are amongst the eight UNESCO inscribed sites in Sri Lanka and if you are a history/culture lover, these should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Quick look in to these Historic Places in Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura & Polonnaruwa
Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are part of Sri Lanka’s ancient kingdoms hence you will see a lot of ruins from the periods when the Kings ruled the island.
Sigiriya & Dambulla
Sigiriya is an ancient castle also built by one of the Kings. The uniqueness here is that it was built on top of a rock and includes a Lion Gate, beautiful frescos, and a Mirror Wall on the route to the palace. Dambulla boasts of the largest and most well kept cave temple complex in the country.
In Kandy, we have the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which holds the tooth relic of Lord Buddha. This Temple is built inside a Royal Palace which is also still preserved and has much to see on your holiday to Sri Lanka.
In Galle, along with the astonishing coast line, you can visit the Galle Dutch Fort which has been preserved since the rule of the Portuguese.
Wildlife & Adventure Spots
Explore Holidays in Sri Lanka with these popular Wildlife & Adventure Spots
Wildlife & Adventure holiday lovers can enjoy a range of Wildlife & Adventure activities in Sri Lanka.
- Sinharaja Forest
- Adam’s Peak
- Knuckles Mountain Range
Here is a quick look in to these best holiday hotspots in detail
Anuradhapura – Jeep Safari at Wilpattu National Park, Minneriya National Park
To indulge in the wildlife, base yourself in Anuradhapura for a night or two during your holiday in Sri Lanka. From here you can visit two neighboring national parks: Wilpattu and Minneriya. Wilpattu National Park is one of the oldest in Sri Lanka and has an abundance of natural lakes all around the park (about 60 lakes). Being one of the largest National Parks in the country, it is widely known for its leopard population. So if you want to see leopard life, this park should be ideal.
Minneriya National Park is a more recent wildlife sanctuary, declared so with the purpose of preserving the wildlife around this area. Birds and elephants are what this park is popularly known for due to it being a dry zone and not receiving much rainfall.
Yala – Wildlife Camping
Another place to visit in Sri Lanka is the popular Yala National Park, which is the second largest in the country. It is home to a range of wildlife species including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Many visit this park to experience camping amongst this wide range of wildlife.
Sinharaja Forest – Visit to a Bio-diverse National Park
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is an internationally recognized biodiversity Sri Lanka tourist attraction. Although small in area, it treasures a variety of trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. Due to heavy rainfall in this area, spotting wildlife in this rainforest is less common than the other national parks in the dry zone.
Sigiriya & Adam’s Peak – Rock Climbing
While Sigiriya and Adam’s Peak are both a similar activity, the difference lies in its respective history as well as the height of both climbs. Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress on which King Kasyapa built his palace. Getting to the top of this rock is a mere 200m climb while the Adam’s Peak climb is a whopping 2243m! As for history, Adam’s Peak is believed to be the footprint of Buddha (by Buddhists) / Lord Shiva (by Hindu’s) / Adam (by Christians and Muslims).
Knuckles Mountain Range – Trekking
The Knuckles Mountain Range gets its name from the view of clenched knuckles that it gives when seen from certain angles. Located in at the center of the island, it is known for its unique variety of flora and fauna. Trekking is a common activity on this mountain range.
Kithulgala – White Water Rafting
Kithulgala is an extreme wet zone and is ideal for white water rafting. With the Kelani River running through this town, it experiences two monsoons a year. Hence the river always has plenty of water for the rafting lovers planning a holiday in Sri Lanka.
Ideal Honeymoon Locations
Did you know that Sri Lanka is a popular place for honeymoon?
The island nation of Sri Lanka offers couples the best honeymoon experience in Sri Lanka.
- Nuwara Eliaya
A brief overview in to Holidays in Sri Lanka
While each of these locations has their own serene beauty, the Sri Lanka tourism has developed amazing resorts in these towns. Staying at these luxurious resorts, while indulging in the beauty of the country, makes Sri Lanka a perfect spot for newly married couples to holiday in Sri Lanka.
Family Tours of Sri Lanka
Why not consider Holidays in Sri Lanka coupled with a Family Tour?
Sri Lanka is not just for history/culture lovers, adventure lovers, and honeymooners. The island also has fun for the entire family!
- Nuwara Eliya
Quick look in to Family Holidays in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is not just for history/culture lovers, adventure lovers, and honeymooners. The island also has fun for the entire family! If you are planning a trip with your family, places to visit in Sri Lanka could include the friendly town of Negombo and Mirissa to experience the lovely beaches. In addition to that, a visit to the “Lions Rock” (Sigiriya) would be a fun rock climbing adventure that you and your kids could attempt. In Kandy you can introduce some Lankan tradition and history to your family.
Nuwara Eliya will be loved by all as it has an abundance of panoramic sceneries along with cascading waterfalls in which your kids would love to bathe. Camping with the wildlife in Yala will be another fun adventure for your family. Colombo of course is a must visit in Sri Lanka to experience the hustle bustle of Lankan life and for a lot of shopping for you and your family.
When is the Best time for Holidays in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is a year round holiday destination for tourists. You just have to keep in mind which part of the island you wish to visit in any particular month when planning your holiday in Sri Lanka.
The pearl of the Indian Ocean lies just beneath the equator in the South East of Asia and hence experiences tropical weather throughout the year. This means that the sun will shine almost every day of the year. In coastal and low land areas, daytime temperatures range from 26 – 30 Degrees Celsius and in the hill country, these temperatures drop with altitude to about 14 – 22 Degrees Celsius. Humidity levels reach 90% in the Southwestern coast while the rest of the country experiences 70-80% humidity.
Apart from that, Sri Lanka experiences two monsoons every year. Places to visit in Sri Lanka during this period will have to be thought about before you plan your trip. However, the rains have reduced significantly over the past few years and have become very unpredictable due to global warming. Even if the day does start out with rain, it is highly unlikely that the rain will last all day. In fact there are many periods where it only rains towards the late evening/night and the sun shines bright during the day.
Authentic Lankan Food
If you are in a smaller town during your holiday in Sri Lanka, exploring the town could be done best on foot. For larger towns, buses, trains, three wheelers and private taxis are available for getting around.
- Three Wheelers
Buses are the cheapest mode of public transport for travelling within towns and around the country. There are bus routes that will take you to every popular area within a town and to almost any village, town and city within the country.
The rail route is a less frequent, yet budget friendly mode of public transport if you are on a cheap Sri Lankan holiday. In fact, on certain routes such as hill country destinations, train is a good choice of transport as you get to see the beautiful sceneries on the way.
Three wheelers, also known as tuk-tuks, auto rickshaws or bajajs, can be seen on every nook and corner of the island. Confirm your fare before you get in, and make use of your bargaining skills when fixing this amount. As a general rule, a three wheeler should not cost you more than Rs. 50-60 per kilometer.
Most tuk-tuks now have meters installed which automatically calculates the fare so the chances of you getting ripped off by the driver are slim. If communication is difficult, choose a tuk-tuk that has a meter. Some keen tuk-tuk drivers may offer to take you to all the places to visit in Sri Lanka and tourist do take that option. But it is a slow and rather uncomfortable ride so it is totally up to you to decide.
For short distances, taking a non-meter three wheeler from outside a hotel, mall or popular restaurant will cost you more. So walk a few meters ahead and grab a better tuk-tuk deal.
Cars and vans are also available upon an online request or with a phone call request. These taxis have meters installed and your fare will be calculated according to distance travelled. This option is slightly costlier, yet more comfortable than three wheelers.
Private Tour Operators
If you have come for a holiday in Sri Lanka, several private tour operators are available to arrange transport for you. These vehicles often come with a driver cum guide for your convenience.
Explore Sri Lanka Tour Packages.
Food & Drink
Authentic Lankan Food
During your Sri Lankan holiday, you have to indulge in the local cuisine. This usually includes a plate full rice (the staple ration) and curry. The flavors you can taste in this dish include curry leaves, cinnamon, garlic, chilies and coconut milk. In addition to this, Lankan food includes several more dishes such as:
- String Hoppers
- Kottu Rotti
Don’t be surprised if Sri Lankan cuisine sends shivers of spiciness throughout your body. Tourists on holiday in Sri Lanka are often taken by surprise at how hot the dishes are. Keep this in mind and always ask for ‘medium spicy’ dishes.
Sri Lankans say flavors and textures of local cuisine cannot be enjoyed unless you eat with your fingers. There’s always a first to everything so don’t be afraid to try it out.
Other Food Varieties
Since the Sri Lankan population consists of a variety of cultures, a wide range of cuisines are available for dining throughout the island.
Sri Lankan Chinese restaurants are said to have the best Chinese food in all of Asia; even better than China itself! There are numerous Chinese restaurants where mouthwatering Chinese dishes can be found in a variety of meats.
Whether you are looking for Idly, Dosai and other South Indian dishes or you are looking for Kebabs, Naans and other North Indian dishes while on your holiday to Sri Lanka, you will definitely find a suitable spot in Sri Lanka. There are several pure veg and pure non-veg Indian restaurants in Sri Lanka to suit your taste buds.
Nasi-Goreng is a popular Indonesian dish served at many Chinese and Indian based restaurants. This dish is more like fried rice with spices, meat and/or seafood, and is topped with an egg.
Fish and other seafood are often preferred by most Sri Lankans instead of chicken, beef or mutton. There are many seafood specialty restaurants that have opened up recently in and around Colombo that are worth trying out if you are a seafood lover.
Desserts & Sweats
Since Curd (yogurt from buffalo milk) and Kitul (sweet syrup) is a signature Lankan dessert. Wattalappam and Kiribath are other traditional Sri Lankan desserts. Apart from that you will find ice creams, faluda, cakes, brownies, puddings and all other variety of international desserts.
Bananas, pineapples and papaws are available all year round. Mango, avocado, jackfruit, durian, strawberry, rambutan and mangosteen are seasonal fruits. Besides that, Sri Lanka has imported fruits ranging from apples to oranges and kiwis to guavas and many more in between.
Be it soft drinks, tea, coffee, mocktails, cocktails, you name it, we have it. Coconut water, also known as thambili, is a traditional Lankan drink that you definitely should not miss!
Sri Lanka is home to several accommodation options
When researching accommodation for your holiday in Sri Lanka, you will come across a wide variety, ranging from rented rooms within homes of families to luxurious five star boutique hotels and resorts.
- Hotels, holiday apartments, villas and bungalows available to suit every budget
- Hotels and resorts available at every place to visit in Sri Lanka
- Themed hotels such as eco friendly, Ayurvedic, etc to give you a unique experience and enhance your holiday in Sri Lanka
Being the commercial capital of the country, Colombo is the busiest city in all of Sri Lanka. As for places to stay in Colombo, there are plenty. In the heart of Colombo you will find a variety of hotels including the the following.
Cinnamon lakeside, Galle Face Hotel, Hilton, Galadari and Taj Samudra to name a few. All these hotels have easy access to transport, shopping malls, restaurants, business complexes, entertainment complexes and many other Sri Lankan tourist attractions.
- Cinnamon lakeside
- Galle Face Hotel
- Taj Samudra
Hotels by the beach
When we talk about a beach holiday in Sri Lanka, Galle is the first city that comes to mind. About 150kms from Colombo, Galle has a bunch of relaxing five star hotels such as The Fortress, Jetwing Lighthouse. For exclusive boutique hotels by the beach, Galle Fort Hotel would be an ideal option.
Along the southern coast, several three to five star hotels are available in towns like
- Mirissa: Riverside Cabanas, Paradise Beach Club
- Hikkaduwa: Chaaya Tranz, Citrus Hikkaduwa, Lavanga Resort & Spa
- Bentota: Avani, Bentota Beach
- Beruwala: Cinnamon Bay, Eden Resort & Spa
- Wadduwa: Haridra Resort & Spa, Blue Waters
The recently developing eastern coast also has some exquisite luxury hotels such as Maalu Maalu Resort, Uga Bay and Amaya Beach in Pasikudah.
Hotels amidst the Serene Greens
Staying amongst the mountainous climate and the breathtaking greenery is an absolute pleasure. To enhance your experience, Sri Lanka tourism has a wide range of hotels and resorts for tourists to stay in.
The iconic Buddhist treasure in Kandy makes it a popular location for a one or two night stopover during your holiday in Sri Lanka. Chaaya Citadel, Queens Hotel, Hotel Hill Top are a few recommended hotels in Kandy.
The relaxing weather and atmosphere in Nuwara Eliya are added perks of spending a night or two in this charming town. Heritance Tea Factory is a cozy luxury hotel amidst the luscious tea estates. Grand Hotel, Jetwing St. Andrews and Amaya Langdale are a few other luxury hotels in Nuwara Eliya.
Hotels amidst the Wildlife
You will have a chance to explore the unique wildlife while on your holiday to Sri Lanka. Located close to a few of the most well known National Parks are hotels such as Elephant Corridor Hotel, Cinnamon Lodge Habarana, Chaaya Wild Yala and Jetwing Yala. Luxury camping sites are also available for those who want more of an adventurous holiday.
Sri Lanka tourism also comprises of Ayurveda specialty hotels that offer a mix of Indian and Sri Lankan Ayurveda systems. Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions, Aida Ayurveda and Siddhalepa Ayurveda are a few four and five star ayurveda resorts for those in need of rejuvenating their mind and body.
Find out more about Hotels in Sri Lanka.
Good to Know
In this section we will look in to some of the important points to make Sri Lanka Holidays an enjoyable experience.
Few things to consider :
- Make sure you have a good Itinerary ready to cover the best places to visit in Sri Lanka
- Check about Sri Lanka visa requirements as a tourist
- Get professional help if required from a qualified and well experience tour operator
If you are planning a holiday in Sri Lanka, a tourist visa will be applicable for you. These visas are issued to genuine tourists visiting Sri Lanka for sightseeing, relaxation, excursions or a short visit to relatives.
You can apply for visas:
- At the Sri Lankan immigration office of your respective country
- On arrival at the Bandaranayke International Airport
Bandaranayke International Airport and Mattala Rajapakse International Airport are the two International Airports in Sri Lanka. BIA is the first and older airport of the two and is located in the town of Katunayake, approximately 32kms from Colombo. MRIA is located in Mattala, closer to the southern coast of the Island.
Whichever airport you arrive at, taxi services are available for you to get to your first destination on your holiday to Sri Lanka.
When entering the country, you are allowed a maximum of:
- 1.5 liters of spirits
- 2 bottles of wine
- Perfume and souvenirs that do not exceed US$ 250 in value
Personal equipment such as laptops and cameras has to be declared at customs and should be taken away when leaving the country.
You are strictly prohibited to import drugs without a prescription and pornography of any form. This is a criminal offence.
Internet facilities are available at most hotels, restaurants, cafes, malls and other public places. If you need a connection on the go, mobile network providers will assist you with a suitable data package throughout the duration of your holiday in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) is the standard currency used and has a conversion rate of approximately LKR140.00 for USD 1.00. Currency exchange services are available Islandwide for tourists to convert currencies as and how required. Currency notes are available in the amounts 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 20.
Mobile Phone Usage & Availability for Tourists
Several mobile network providers are available with service outlets at the airport itself where you can choose a suitable prepaid mobile and data package for yourself during your holiday in Sri Lanka. All you have to do is submit a copy of your passport and you are eligible to purchase a mobile connection under your name.
Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning views of this vastly photogenic Island. While the locals love to be photographed and often expect something in return for being on camera, there are certain photography restrictions when it comes to religious places to visit in Sri Lanka. Inside temples and other religious shrines, it is best to keep your camera aside so as to cause no offence to anyone.
Sri Lankans are very friendly and helpful overall. They like to shake hands when they meet friends or even during new introductions. Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism are the religions practiced in this country, hence the population is very culture friendly. Keep in mind that when you visit any of these religious shrines, covering your head and wearing decent clothing is a must.
Traveling with Kids
Sri Lanka tourist attractions and hotels are absolutely family friendly and have arrangements made for children at every site. Hotels and restaurants have kid friendly meals and appropriate wash rooms to ensure hygiene and cleanliness. As for places to go in Sri Lanka with kids, the southwestern coastline of astonishing beaches, the breathtaking hill country and extravagant tea plantations, as well as adventurous activities like rafting and camping would be ideal.
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