If you are thinking of your next vacation in some exotic country which offers endless tropical beaches, historical heritage sites thousands of years old, colonial-era heritage architecture, mouth-watering exotic food, amazing nightlife, beautiful tea gardens, stunning wildlife, and endless opportunities for adventure sports complete with yoga, meditation, and traditional medicine systems thousands of years old; and all of these diverse experiences packed in a very small geographical area, you must be thinking about Sri Lanka!! Explore the magical island nation through our tailor-made Sri Lanka Tours.
Sri Lanka is a country known for its diversity!! A country which is a popular tourist destination, yet not very crowded. Well-trodden by visitors for thousands of years, yet so much undiscovered in a true sense!!
The diversity and significance of the historical and natural heritage of Sri Lanka can be understood by the fact that it boasts of 8 UNESCO World Heritage Site, all in a geographical area of less than 66000 square kilometers.
Visit the south coasts of Sri Lanka to experience the ancient cities, forts, temples, and some of the best tropical beaches in the world to unwind and relax enjoying magical views of whales and dolphins.
The central highlands are the perfect place for adventure sports. Spend some time amidst endless tea gardens and admire the colonial-era architecture. Northern Sri Lanka provides you unexplored beaches along with its cultural diversity.
The Cultural triangle of the country provides you a glimpse of the real historical heart of the country , with some of the most stunning and well preserved ancient capitals and an interface with some of the best ancient urban planned cities.
The biggest attraction of Sri Lanka, however, is her most welcoming and smiling people!!
Explore and experience the beautiful tropical island of Sri Lanka situated in the Indian Ocean, near the southern tip of mainland India!!
Things to do in Sri Lanka
- White Water Rafting :
One of the best ways to explore the spectacular scenery that Sri Lanka offers and to admire the natural heritage of the country is through white water rafting in some of its high-speed rivers with frothy icy waters, rushing out of the high mountains of central highlands.
With more than 100 rivers, countless lagoons and swamps all in a very small geographical area, you cannot get more diverse experience of rafting or kayaking in any part of the world in such a small area.
You must try your rafting skills in Kelani, Sitawaka Ganga, Kotmale Ganga, and Kitulgala rivers- the most popular rivers among rafting enthusiasts.
- Trekking and hiking in Central Hills :
The central hills of Sri Lanka provide some of the best trekking opportunities in South Asia. Hiking through the hills gives you the opportunity to explore the unique culture and traditions of the island.
The Horton planes with the highest altitude of 2134 meters provide lush green vegetation with cool and misty surroundings. You must trek through the “World’s End” plateau with a stunning view of lowlands and under the shadow of the island‘s highest peak Mount Piduruthalagala, in the central hills.
The experience of trekking through the baker’s falls, the mesmerizing Knuckles Mountain Range, the holy hills of Adam’s Peak will provide you memories to be cherished for a lifetime.
You will encounter several cloud forests, pristine rivers, birds, and diverse flora and fauna during the treks in central hills, which are guaranteed to make your treks even more refreshing!!
- Spiritual and Wellness Tours:
Visit Sri Lanka to heal your mind, body, and soul through one of the most ancient and holistic medical systems in the world- ‘The Ayurveda’. Ayurveda has been practiced in Sri Lanka since time immemorial.
Ayurveda believes in a balanced combination of three vital forces within the body – Vata or wind, Pita or Fire, and Kapha or Earth. The treatment focuses on establishing this unique balance through herbal medicines, balanced food, and a balanced lifestyle.
The herbs and materials required in the preparation of medicines are procured from the natural surroundings and are customized and personalized for every individual.
Shirodhara and Swedhana are some other forms of therapies available, that rejuvenates your mind and body. You may like to try Ayurveda massages and herbal baths for destressing and complete detoxification.
The therapies are complemented by a balanced diet, yoga exercises, and meditation. You can avail of services of some well-known Ayurveda and wellness resorts and meditation centers in the country. Ayurveda and yoga tours in Sri Lanka are the perfect getaway for destressing and rejuvenation.
- Cultural Tours :
The travel to Sri Lanka is never complete without getting immersed in its rich cultural heritage of the island. The cultural history of the Sri Lankan societies goes back to more than 2500 years in the past. The multi-ethnic and multi-religious society of Sri Lanka expresses itself in some of the most colorful festivals in Asia.
Every full moon holds special religious and cultural significance and is called Poya, which is a public holiday and time for Buddhist religious festivities and observations. Special religious processions called Perdhera are held during the different full moon and are marked by the performances of acrobats, traditional dancers, drummers, and most striking beautifully decorated elephants.
However the most famous of all these Poya Pereheras is the Essala Perehera of Kandy. Essala Perehera lasts for more than 10 days and culminates on Esala Poya (Full moon of late July / Early August). Besides other attractions present in all pereheras, Essala perehera is marked by the opportunity to venerate the tooth relic of Buddha, which is carried on a decorated tusker during the procession.
- Heritage Tours:
The small island nation of Sri Lanka is renowned for its heritage and it holds tremendous history and heritage of historical significance within its small geographical limits. It boasts of eight World Heritage Sites within its borders, six of them being cultural heritage sites which are a testament to its glorious and continuous history of more than 2500 years.
The most significant of all the heritage sites are located within what is called the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, which encompasses the ancient capital cities of Anuradhapura. Polonnaruwa and Kandy.
The dry plains of inner Sri Lanka, which were the historical heartland of Sri Lankan culture and history, contain historical Buddhist sites and collection of stunning Buddhist art and architectural marvels, significant not only for Sri Lanka but for the entire Buddhist world.
With four of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this zone is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
The major attractions within the Cultural Triangle are the ruins of Anuradhapura, the most famous rock fortress of Sigiriya, the cave temples of Dambulla, the well-preserved heritage sites of Polonnaruwa, and the last ancient capital city of Kandy with its famous temple of the Tooth Relic.
You can see several of the most beautiful Buddha statues, Dagobas (dome-shaped structure), the ancient marvels of irrigation systems and frescoes with Buddhist themes.
One of the most important attractions in Anuradhapura is the “Bodhi Tree” which is perhaps one of the oldest living trees in the world and which has grown from the sapling directly from the tree of enlightenment of Buddha in Bodhgaya.
The Dutch Fort in Galle, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, still boasts of colonial heritage complete with original Dutch bungalows, a grid system of streets, and 14 massive Bastions.
Besides them, numerous heritage sites are scattered throughout the country from Jaffna to Galle, frequented by millions of tourists every year.
- Tea Country Tours:
The central hilly areas of Sri Lanka are home to the country’s unending tea plantations, which produces some of the best tea in the world.
The hilly and cooler climate of the area of tea country also boasts of numerous colonial-era Bungalows and architecture and is worth exploring on foot or mountain bike.
You need not just stop to admire the lush green terraced plantations, you can also enter a tea factory to have the first-hand experience of the blending and processing of tea. You may like to stay in one of the heritage colonial era Bungalow now converted into guest houses.
- Beach Vacations:
In the island nation of Sri Lanka, you are never too far away from sun-kissed beaches. Being an island nation and having a coastline of 1,340 km it has numerous beaches and several coastal towns, many of them are renowned all over the world, for their turquoise waters, mouth-watering seafood, and lively night lives.
Most of the popular beach destinations in Sri Lanka offer the option of several types of water-based sports and adventure activities.
The most popular among them are the beaches on the Southern Coast. Some of them are very popular among tourists from all over the world.
The most beautiful beaches which you must visit on the Southern Coast of the island are Unawatuna, Mirissa, Weligama, and Hikkaduwa famous for their nightlife as well as a plethora of options available for accommodation ranging from beachside cottages to most luxurious resorts and hotels.
Hikkaduwa, situated around 100 km from the capital city of Colombo is very popular among tourists for its coral reefs, surfing activities, and nightlife.
Beruwela and Bentota are famous for Ayurveda resorts and water sports like windsurfing, parasailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Mirissa is famous for Whale watching and Dolphin watching activities and here you can spot five different types of whales and four types of Dolphins in the open sea.
Weligama beach is famous for stilt fishermen, where local fishermen use a unique method of catching fish, called stilt fishing. Fishermen perch themselves on a pole with a crossbar, which is buried in the sea and is used to catch fish when the tide brings the fish in the area.
The beaches on the East coast offers less crowded beaches and many of them are surfing paradise. The most popular beaches of the Eastern Coast include Arugambay, Passikudah, Nilaveli, and Kaldudah. Passiikudah boasts of one of the longest stretches of shallow coastlines anywhere in the world.
The North Coast offers serene, virgin, and pristine beaches, many of them yet to be explored by mainstream tourism. The Casuarina beach on the north coast is famous for its shallow waters and safe swimming and is especially popular among families with kids.
- Wild Sri Lanka Tours :
Sri Lanka being a tropical island country boasts of immense biological diversity and is a designated ‘Biodiversity Hotspots’ in the world, listed by Conservation International. Sri Lanka also boasts of the highest biodiversity density in Asia, in spite of its small geographical area.
More than 30% of the landmass of the island is covered with forest which includes, 12 National Parks and 52 sanctuaries. The forests of Sri Lanka are home to 125 species of mammals (21 endemics) including the iconic species like Sri Lankan Leopard, elephant, sloth bear, wild buffalo, Sambur deer, spotted deer, mouse deer, and barking deer.
Besides the immense diversity of mammals, wild Sri Lanka also boasts of 223 species of birds (26 endemics), 185 species of reptiles (115 endemics), and 3210 species of flowering plants.
The most visited wildlife destination of the island country is Yala National Park, which is also the second-largest National Park in the country.
The National Park has very diverse types of habitats within its 979 square km of area. It has monsoon forests, grasslands, marshes, marine wetlands, and sandy beaches within this relatively small area. It also has one of the highest density of leopard population in Asia.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best specimens of tropical rainforest in Sri Lanka. Minneriya National Park and Udawalawe National Park are famous for their large herds of elephants and the diversity of avian species.
Uda Walawe offers a very different habitat of open scrubland near the hills of the Horton Plains. The National Park offers some amazing view in the backdrop of hills with sparse vegetation and large herds of elephants roaming through the National Park.
Wilpattu National Park is the largest national park in Sri Lanka and one of the oldest. It also has a healthy population of leopards, elephants, sloth bears, and wild buffaloes.
Major Attractions in Sri Lanka
Colombo is the administrative and financial capital of Sri Lanka with a long history and diverse cultural heritage. The commercial hub and largest city of Sri Lanka has a population of around 800,000 people, is densely populated, and has a mixed population of Sinhalese, Tamils, Moors, Burghers, and Malay people.
The history of Colombo is very old and the harbor city was known to traders from all over the ancient world for at least 2000 years. It was part of the ancient marine silk route and was used by Indian, Arab, Chinese, Roman, and Persian ships. It was frequented by traders from all across the ancient world for its valued gems and cinnamon.
Later on, it fell to Portuguese, Dutch, and British Colonialists and the British made it the capital of Sri Lanka in 1815.
The modern city of Colombo has still preserved the colonial heritage of the Portuguese, Dutch, and British eras. The influence of all these countries is present in the architecture of the city but the British influence is most evident, particularly in the area called Fort, the area famous for its business houses and high-end hotels.
Many of the colonial-era buildings have been beautifully restored and converted into guest houses, cafes, shops, and hotels. For food enthusiasts, Colombo offers plenty of options because of the intermingling of so many cuisines.
The major tourist attractions in Colombo are the Galle Face Green, the Pettah Market, Gangaramaya Temple, and Viharamadevi Park. You may also like to visit Mount Lavinia Beach, which is not too far from the city and is a popular beach destination. Another major attraction around Colombo is the Talangama Wetland.
Colombo is the gateway to Sri Lanka for most of the visitors and is also the perfect destination to do all last minute shopping of souvenirs.
Kandy was the last capital of the ancient King’s era of Sri Lanka and last stronghold of Sinhala Kingdom, during the period of 1469-1815 AD. The sacred city of Kandy was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
The beautiful, lakeside city is home to the ‘Temple of Tooth’, locally known as the ‘Dalada Maligawa’, the palace of the tooth relic. The Temple of Tooth is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for Buddhists all around the world.
The temple was originally a part of the royal palace but now only a small portion of the original palace remains, which now houses the National Museum. The National Museum of Kandy houses a rich collection of artifacts from both the Kandy Kingdom era and the British Colonial era.
The ‘Temple of Tooth’ is the last of a series of temples built for the tooth relic of Buddha and was finally brought here after several relocations of the capital city in the long history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Kandy is world-famous for ‘Esala Perahera’, the ten-day procession during the month of July/August based on the lunar calendar. Esala Perahera is one of the most important cultural festivals of the island nation marked by performances of local dancers, drummers, acrobats, and various other cultural events.
The most important attraction of the Esala Perahera (procession) is the “Tooth Relic of Buddha”, carried on a colorful and beautifully decorated tusker.
Kandy is one of the most significant cities in the island nation and the second largest of the cities after the capital city of Colombo. It is situated in the central province, on the Kandy plateau at an average height of 500 meters. The city is mostly hilly, green a lot cooler compared to other major cities of Sri Lanka. Another major attraction around the city is the Udawattekelle forest reserve in the heart of the city.
Nuwara Eliya is one of the major tourist destinations of Sri Lanka and is situated in the central highlands of the country at an altitude of around 6128 feet (1868 meters) above the sea level. The city is overlooked by ‘Pidurutalagala ‘, the tallest mountain peak in Sri Lanka.
It was founded by the English explorer Samuel Baker in 1846 and developed by the British planters and gradually converted into a health sanctuary for British civil servants. It is also called ‘Little England’ because of its colonial architecture and climate similar to the English countryside.
The city has still preserved the colonial heritage and many of the colonial bungalows have been converted into heritage resorts and shops. Nuwara Eliya is also famous for one of the finest 18 hole golf courses in the world.
The city is the epicentre of tea production in Sri Lanka since the introduction of tea in Sri Lanka in the 19th century. The hill country is famous for its acres and acres of tea gardens producing some of the best tea in the world. Many of the tea factories are open for tourists and also have tea sales outlets.
The city is a major birdwatching destination in the central highlands and also the base for visit to Horton Plains National Park. Other major attractions around the city are scenic Bakers Fall and the ‘World’s End’, a sheer cliff with a drop of around 1200 meters (4000 feet).
The best way to experience the hill country is a hike through the lush green hills or mountain biking through the breathtaking scenery and landscapes of the countryside.
Galle is one of the best examples of fortified cities built by the Portuguese and a major port city of Sri Lanka. The port of Galle was a major center of trade of precious gems and cinnamon for at least 2000 years.
Situated at the south end of the island nation, it’s one of the main tourism destinations in Sri Lanka and visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. The most popular tourist attraction of the city is Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Galle Fort is the largest surviving fortress built by European colonizers in Asia.
The fort was built by Portuguese colonizers in 1588 to protect themselves from native kingdoms of the north but was later captured by the Dutch in 1640.
The Galle fort was heavily fortified and strengthened by the Dutch, who improved the ramparts and the bastions of the fort. The fort once again changed hands when it was captured by British colonizers from the Dutch in 1796. The British preserved the fort and fortifications remained unchanged. The fort is still called Dutch fort by the local people.
The heritage of Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonizers are still very much alive and kicking in the city adding to color and richness in tourism experience.
The influence of Dutch heritage is most prominent in the city with its distinct Dutch architecture and numerous historical Dutch buildings surviving even after a lapse of more than 350 years, withstanding even the Asian Tsunami of 2004.
Visit Galle to experience and observe the marriage of European architecture with South Asian culture. You can enjoy a complete vacation in Galle and may like to visit the mesmerizing beach of Unawatuna, which is hardly 6kms from the city. Visit Galle for experiencing a rich heritage, beautiful beaches, and artistic colonial-era streets.
Dambulla houses the ‘Golden Temple of Dambulla’- the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in the country. Dambulla is located in the central part of Sri Lanka and has been a major Buddhist Pilgrimage center for more than 2200 years.
The cave temples of Dambulla were declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, and there are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding areas. Major temples are spread across 5 caves which contain statues and paintings depicting the life of Buddha.
The complex was already established as a major and largest monastery during the 3rd century BC to 1st Century BC, but it was converted from caves to cave temples during the 1st century BC. King Valagambahu of the Anuaradhpura era is credited with converting the caves into a temple complex during the 1st Century BC, as a thankful reward to the monks who protected him during his 15 years of exile here in the cave complex.
Several other kings of the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa era added to the temple in a significant way and the temple complex remained a major destination of pilgrimage till today. King Nissanka Malla of the Polonnaruwa era gilded the caves and thereby it got the name ‘The Golden Temple’ of Dambulla.
The rock which houses the caves towers 160 meters from the adjoining plains. There are more than 150 statues of Buddha in the cave temples and three statues of Sri Lankan kings.
The cave ceilings and the interior walls of the caves are covered with murals, in an area of more than 2100 square meters, depicting different life events of Buddha. Some of these frescoes are more than 2000 years old and many of them were painted and repainted during subsequent periods. The largest of the cave features a 14 meter long reclining Buddha statue, carved out of rock and glittering in gold.
Near the Dambulla cave complex, there is also an ancient prehistoric burial site at Ibbankatuwa, which is more than 2700 years old.
Sigiriya is one of the most iconic landmarks of Sri Lanka and is one of the most important tourist hubs of the island country. Sigiriya is an ancient architectural wonder and one of the 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress and with ruins of a palace complex at the top of the rock, rising around 200 meters above the surrounding plains. Besides the remains of the royal palace, ruins of ancient chambers, pools, and stairways can also be seen on the top of the rock.
According to ancient Sri Lankan chronicles, the rock fortress was developed during the reign of King Kassapa (477AD- 495 AD). He selected this site as his capital and built a palace on the top of the rock. It is one of the best-preserved examples of ancient Sri Lankan architecture, hydraulics, and urban planning.
This 5th-century rock fortress situated near Dambulla, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, is often called the 8th Wonder in the world.
The sides of the rock were decorated by colorful frescos, depicting beautiful pictures of women of his harem. The entrance of the rock fortress was built in the shape of a lion and the name of this fortress derives from that structure, ‘The Lion’ Rock’.
Only the massive paws of the lion survive today. The climb to the top is demanding with more than 1200 steps. On the way to the top, you can see the mirror wall, a highly polished rock face, which has been scratched with ancient graffiti by the visitors/ writers of that time.
Surrounding the rock fortress are pleasure gardens of King Kassapa and ruins of his ancient city complete with two moats and various pools.
Sigiriya and its royal palace were abandoned as the capital after the death of King Kassapa, only to be used as a Buddhist Monastery later till the end of 14th century AD. After the 14th century, there is no record of the rock fortress until 16th and 17th centuries when it was used as an outpost of the Kingdom of Kandy.
Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka dating from the 4th century BC. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the major tourist destinations in Sri Lanka.
The Kingdom of Anuradhapura, established in 380 BC by King Pandukabhaya, lasted for more than one thousand and five hundred years and Anuradhapura was ruled successively by 113 kings and 4 queens, over a period of more than 1500 years. Anuradhapura was abandoned as the capital city in 1073 AD when the capital was shifted to the city of Polonnaruwa by king Vijayabahu I.
Anuradhapura is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the island nation and the major center of Theravada Buddhism in the world for more than 2500 years.
It is a must-visit site in Sri Lanka because of the well preserved ancient ruins of the capital city, the Mahabodhi tree, and the spiritual experience that you can only get in Anuradhapura.
Anuradhapura is one of the most important destinations in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, located in the North Central Province of the country. It has always been one of the most important destinations of Buddhist Pilgrimage for the Buddhist World and was also home to Buddhaghosa, the famous Buddhist Philosopher and commentator of the 5th century.
The city developed around the Mahabodhi tree, which was the progeny of the original Bodhi tree of enlightenment. The sapling (cutting) from the Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained supreme enlightenment was brought to Sri Lanka in 288 BC, by princess Sangamitta, Daughter of Emperor Asoka of Magadha, India.
The sapling was planted on a high platform by the Sri Lankan king Devanampiya Tissa, and ever since that time, the Bodhi Tree is one of the most important places of pilgrimage for Buddhists all around the world.
Anuradhapura was a large capital city and the ruins of the city spread over an area of more than 40 square kilometers today with many of the Buddhist temples, Buddhist monasteries, palaces, and gardens from the Anuradhapura era having been restored, while others that could not be restored lies in ruins.
One of the major attractions of Anuradhapura is the Abayagiri Dagoba or Abyagiri Stupa, built by the king Valagamba in 1st century BC. It is over 235 feet in height ad around 310 feet in diameter. Abayagiri Dagoba was the original custodian of the ‘Tooth Relic of Buddha’ on the island.
Another important attraction in Anuradhapura is Ruwanweli Seya, the most famous Dagoba among all in Sri Lanka. Two quarts of Buddha’s relics are enshrined here, which is the largest collection of relics enshrined anywhere in the world. It was built by the King Dutugemunu of Sri Lanka in 140 BC. The Ruwanweli Seya Dagoba is a major destination of Buddhist Pilgrimage in Sri Lanka.
The Heritage tour of Sri Lanka can never be complete without visiting Polonnaruwa, the great ancient capital of Sri Lanka, after the decline of Anuradhapura.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Polonnaruwa today displays well preserved, ancient architectural and engineering marvel of the 11th to 13th centuries. Polonnaruwa, situated into the seep North Central plains is an important destination in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka.
The city of Polonnaruwa was declared the capital city of Sri Lanka by King Vijayabahu I, in 1070 after he recaptured the city from Chola Empire. The city remained a prominent center of power and culture of South Asia for the next two centuries.
The reign of Parakrambhau I was the golden period of Polonnaruwa when several Buddhist monasteries and monuments were built and engineering marvels for irrigation systems were constructed.
King Nissankamalla (1187-1196AD) of the Kalinga Dynasty also contributed significantly to the development of the capital city by building several prominent monuments that have withstood the test of the times till toady, showcasing the rich cultural and engineering heritage of the Polonnaruwa kingdom.
You must visit Polonnaruwa for its well-planned ancient city with beautifully preserved and restored ancient monasteries, stupas, stunning ancient palaces, beautiful gardens, and some of the most famous statues of Buddha.
One of the major highlights of the ancient city is the Gal Vihara, famous for its four large rock relief statues of Buddha in standing, meditating, and reclining positions. The 12th-century statues of Buddha were carved into the face of large granite rock.
The statues are well preserved and the intricate details make them some of the most beautiful ancient statues of Buddha anywhere in the world. Other attractions in the city are the royal palace, Council Chamber, the Lotus Bath, and the Gal Pota or the stone book.
The ancient city boasts of several religious monuments and royal buildings with the Royal Palace complex at the center. The major ancient Buddhist monasteries which you must visit are Jetavana monastery, Alahana Pirivena, Menik Vihara, and Rankot Vihara. The giant statue of King Parakrambahu I, the greatest king of Pollonnaurawa cannot be missed in the city.
Perhaps one of the most important heritage monuments in Sri Lanka is the Lankatilaka (Image House). The Image house of Lankatilaka built by the King Parakrambahu I was constructed using clay bricks. The existing walls are more than 55 feet in height, but it is used to be 125 feet by 66 feet when it was built with a height of more than 100 feet. The Lankatilaka houses a 42 feet image of Buddha.
Parakrama Samudra, a large lake built-in 1200 to ensure irrigation in the city, is another major tourist attraction in the city. There are several ancient canal systems in this ancient royal capital, including Elahera Canal, Minneriya Tank Kaudalla tank, and Giritale tank, signifying the ancient engineering feats of the country.
The capital city of Polonnaruwa was abandoned in the 14th century, and the seat of Sinhala Kingdom was moved to another ancient city of Dambadeniya, to protect the capital city from frequent invasions from kingdoms of South India.
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