Top 20 Things to Do in Sri Lanka

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1. Stunning Beaches

Sri Lanka Beaches

There are endless, golden-sandy ones, there are dainty ones with soft white sand, there are wind and wave shabby ones, and ones without a footstep for miles. Some have a slowly vibe and some have a lively party vibe, but whichever you choose, the beaches of Sri Lanka really are breathtaking.

2. Travelling by Train

Sri Lanka Beaches

Train travel in Sri Lanka is fun. Sometimes there’s no way to get a seat on the slow but oh-so-popular train to Ella, but with a prime standing-room only spot looking out at a rolling carpet of tea, who cares? Outside, the colorful silk saris of Tamil tea pickers stand out in the sea of green; inside, you may get a shy welcome via a smile.

3. Yala National Park

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Sri Lanka’s most visited and advantageous national park, home to birds, monkeys, crocodiles and elephants, as well as the island’s largest population of leopards.

4. Uda Walawe National Park

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This huge chunk of savannah grassland centered on the Uda Walawe reservoir is the closest Sri Lanka gets to East Africa. There are herds of sambar deer, crocodiles, masses of birds, and hundreds of elephants.

5. Rice and Curry

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Eat your way through this classic Sri Lankan feast, with its mouthwatering selection of contrasting dishes and flavors.

6. Anuradhapura

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Here, big bits of Sri Lanka’s cultural and religious heritage sprawl across 3 sq km. In the center is the world’s oldest tree, the Sri Maha Bodhi (more than two thousand years old). That it has been tended uninterrupted by recordkeeping guardians for all those centuries is enough for shivers down the spine. The surrounding fields of crumbling monasteries and enormous dagobas (stupas) attest to the city’s role as the seat of power in Sri Lanka for a thousand years.

7. Sigiriya Rock

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Built by an obsessed king in the 5th century, Sigiriya which is also called as the Lion Rock is an astonishing feat of engineering and construction. Ponds and little man-made rivulets put the water in these water gardens and offer a serene idyll amid the sweltering countryside. But look up and catch your jaw as you ponder this 370m rock that erupts out of the landscape. Etched with art and surmounted by ruins, Sigiriya is an awesome mystery, one that the wonderful new museum tries to dissect. The climb to the top is wearing, but the view from the top is all worth it.

8. Adam’s Peak

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One of Sri Lanka’s foremost pilgrimage sites, this soaring summit bears the revered impression of what is said to be the Buddha’s own footprint, and offers the island’s most magical and enigmatic views.

9. Kandy: Cultural Capital

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Kandy is the cultural capital of the island and home to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, said to contain a tooth of the Buddha himself. For the Sinhalese this is the holiest spot on the island, but for tourists Kandy offers more than just religious satisfaction: there’s a pleasing old quarter, a pretty central lake, a clutch of museums and, in the surrounding vicinity, some beautiful botanical gardens. In case you need further blessings from the gods, there’s also a series of fascinating ancient temples.

10. Galle Fort

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Man and nature have joined forces in Galle Fort to produce an architectural work of art. The Dutch built the streets and buildings, the Sri Lankans added the color and style, and then nature got busy covering it in a gentle layer of tropical vegetation, humidity and salty air. For visitors, it’s without doubt the number-one urban attraction in the country.

11. Surfing at Arugam Bay

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The heart of Sri Lanka’s nascent surf scene, the long right break at the southern end of Arugam Bay is considered Sri Lanka’s best. From April to September you’ll find surfers riding the waves; stragglers catch the random good days as late as November.

12. Ayurveda

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If you start to feel the burden of the centuries while in Sri Lanka, you might appreciate an irony while you feel the tensions melt out of your body in an Ayurvedic sauna: the design is more than 2500 years old. Ayurveda is an ancient practice and its devotees claim enormous benefits from its therapies and treatments. Herbs, spices, oils and more are used on and in the body to produce balance.

13. Whale-watching at Mirissa

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People once visited the beaches of southern Sri Lanka to laze under palm trees and maybe go and peer at a few little fish on a diving excursion. Then somebody realised that the deep blue was home to more than just a few little fish.

14. Horton Plains & World’s End

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The wild, windswept Horton Plains, high, high up in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country, are utterly unexpected in this country of tropical greens and blues, but they are far from unwelcome. You’ll need to wrap up warm (a morning frost isn’t uncommon) for the dawn hike across these bleak moorlands – it’s one of the most enjoyable walks in the country.

15. Sinharaja

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Unique region of pristine rain forest, home to towering trees, opulent orchids and rare endemic birds, lizards and amphibians.

16. Kandy Esala Perahera

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One of Asia’s most remarkable festivals, with huge processions of magnificently caparisoned elephants, ear-splitting troupes of Kandyan drummers and assorted dancers and acrobats.

17. Polonnaruwa’s Stunning Structures

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Arrayed around a vast grassy quadrangle like the chess pieces of giants, these intricately carved buildings and monuments offer a visitor-friendly briefing on what was the center of the kingdom some thousand years ago. Handy plaques are loaded with information, although you may find the buildings too extraordinary to switch your concentration to signage.

18. Visiting a Tea Plantation

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Sri Lankan tea is now famous across the world, and visiting a tea estate and seeing how the world’s favorite cuppa is produced is absolutely fascinating.

19. Dambulla

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These five magical cave temples are a treasure box of Sri Lankan Buddhist art, sumptuously decorated with a fascinating array of statues, shrines and the country’s finest collection of murals.

20. Shopping in Colombo

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Part of the magic of Colombo – yes, you read that right, is going on a retail binge. Colombo has a growing collection of modish boutiques and stores where you can shop all day.