Located off the southern tip of India, the island of Sri Lanka is becoming a growing hotspot for tourists. Commonly referred to as the island of spice, it’s a big exporter of spices and perfect place to try some hot cuisine. When it comes to attractions the sight as everything from beaches to scenic wildlife to a rich cultural history. Whether you want a calm beach holiday or a backpacking adventure, Sri Lanka can offer the experience you’re after. Here are just a few reasons to jet off to this vibrant island.
Climb to the top of Sigiriya
One of Sri Lanka’s main attractions is the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya. Located on top of a towering 200m column of rock, this fortress was originally set up King Kasyapa some 1700 years ago as his new capital. The fortress later became a Buddhist monastery, before being abandoned in the 14th Century. The ruins are now preserved by World Heritage and attract many tourists every year. It’s a great place for soaking up impressive views of Sri Lanka, whilst also gaining a knowledge of the country’s history.
Hike to the top of Adam’s Peak
Adam’s Peak is a sacred pilgrimage spot for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike and is another must-see attraction. Like Sigiriya, it does involve a long climb to the top – the mountain stands a mighty 2243 metres and has a peak accessible via multiple trails. A footprint mark can be found at the top, which according to local legend is said to be the footprint of Buddha (in Christianity and Islam it is the footprint of Adam).
See the ruins of Polonnaruwa
The Ancient city of Polonnaruwa is another sight worth visiting Sri Lanka for. The ruins date back to the 11th Century and are some of the more well preserved ancient ruins in South Asia. Polonnaruwa is also a great spot to see monkeys. These animals can be found all over Sri Lanka, but are a particularly common sight here. Many of the artefacts that originally sat in the ruins can now be found in Columbo’s National Museum.
Visit the Temple of the Tooth
Located in Kandy, this Buddhist temple is very large and houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. It’s best to visit in July and August when the annual festival of the tooth takes place. This involves a huge procession of elephants and hundreds of performers doing various fire dances. The elephants are decorated in lights and fabrics, with one elephant carrying the sacred tooth relic.
Tour the tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya
Sri Lanka is renowned for being a major tea exporter. The countries most extensive tea plantations can be found in Nuwara Eliya, built into the hillside like vineyards. It’s worth taking a tour of the area by tuk tuk allowing you to visit each of the tea plantations and try the tea. Compared to the rest of Sri Lanka, the climate of Nuwara Eliya is cool due its height in the mountains making it a welcome break from the rest of the island’s blazing heat. The area is also renowned for its scenic waterfalls.
Laze on the beach at Unawatuna
Sri Lanka has a number of beaches around its coast. One of the major tourist beaches is Unawatuna. Its palm lined beaches are perfect for catching some rays, whilst its coral reef is also a great hotspot for diving enthusiasts. Unawatuna is also a popular turtle nesting ground and contains a sanctuary for some of the island’s more rare turtles. The historic city of Galle is also 6km away, renowned for its Portuguese architecture having once been the home to Portuguese colonials. Companies such as Kuoni often advertise affordable holidays to this area where you can stay in a luxury hotel.
Combine with a trip to the Maldives
The beautiful Maldives aren’t far off the coast of Sri Lanka and can be combined into a trip. These islands are known for their exotic beaches, blue lagoons and impressive reefs. Many companies such as TripADeal organise tours that include both Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It’s possible to catch a plane from Colombo to the Maldives and make your own journey if you want to create your own itinerary.
Visit an elephant sanctuary
One of the Sri Lanka’s most treasured animals is the Asian elephant. There are many elephant sanctuaries across the country, the most popular being the Pinnawala orphanage. There are a huge number of elephants at this sanctuary – visit at the right time and you can watch them bathing in the river. The sanctuary has a number of baby elephants, which you can watch getting fed. There are a number of sanctuaries in the area that are open to volunteers, allowing you to get up and close with these majestic beasts.
Spot wild animals in Yala National Park
Sri Lanka’s most visited national park is the ideal place to spot animals in the wild. Some of the most exotic animals in this park include water buffalo, leopards, elephants, sloths and crocodiles. The park is made up of 140km squared making it the second largest national park in the country. Opening hours to the park are 5:30am to 6:30pm and there are a number of tour operators that can take you around the park.