“Undoubtedly the finest island of its size in all the world.”
That’s how Marco Polo, one of the most famous European explorers to travel to Asia in the middle ages, described Sri Lanka. It’s not hard, once you’ve visited this incredible country, to see why millions of globetrotters who have followed in his footsteps since agree wholeheartedly with him.
Sitting barely 100 miles north of the equator, this tropical paradise has a fascinating history and enthralling culture. Explore its unique and rich history, watch wild elephants stroll by, or lounge on picturesque beaches whilst staying in some of the must-visit hotels in Sri Lanka. This little island really does have something for everyone.
Here, we look at some of the best things to see and do while you are visiting the country.
If you’re looking for somewhere packed with artists, writers, and other creatives from around the globe, Galle is where you want to be. Old Dutch colonial buildings sit against a bold, tropical background making it a quirky town to pay a visit to. There are no shortages of chic hotels, boutique shops, and street cafes selling all sorts of delicious treats.
While you are there, visit the beautiful Galle lighthouse. Framed by palm-trees and one of the most Instagrammable locations you could imagine, the lighthouse built in 1848 stands on the walls of Galle Fort and back when it was a working lighthouse, would guide the safe passage of ships into Galle Harbour.
Thought to be one of the last, pristine mangrove forests in Sri Lanka, The Madu Ganga is a complex coastal wetland ecosystem consisting of rivers, lakes, mangroves, and islands. The estuary is home to over 300 species of plants and 250 species of vertebrate animals, making it a must-visit destination for those who want to get back to nature at it’s very most beautiful.
While you are there, try your hand at scuba diving and see the wonders of the sea from below!
Sitting just three miles from the centre of Galle, and 60 miles from Colombo, the coastal town of Unawatuna is famous far and wide for its incredible beaches and coral formation, and it is no surprise that it is a bit of a tourist draw. Head down to Jungle Beach if you are a fan of snorkelling, as it is said to have some of the best underwater views in the area. Because of its sheltered bay, strong underwater currents are something you will not need to worry about.
While you are there, take in the beauty of the Unawatuna Japanese Peace Pagoda and the Ancient Buddhist temple Yatagala Raja Maha Viharaya.
Dambulla itself is not somewhere you would necessarily want to stay thanks to the heavy commercial traffic heading to the wholesale markets, but is well worth visiting for a day. However, it is the perfect base for exploring the Cultural Triangle, which, includes Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
While you are there, head to the caves. This intricate and simply breathtaking cave system sits about 160m above the road and contains around 150 stunning Buddha statues and paintings, as well as some of Sri Lanka’s most famous and evocative religious art. You are also treated to pretty amazing views of Sigiriya and the surrounding countryside.
Known as ‘Little England’, this little plateau town is surrounded by mountains. It is full of British colonial buildings like the Queen’s Cottage and the General’s House as well as many natural beauties, like waterfalls, hills, tea plantations, and the towering Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. If you enjoy a good cup of tea, this is the place to go – it is one of many tea plantation areas in Sri Lanka, but it is regarded as the most important spot for tea production in the country. While you are there, pay a visit to the Ramboda falls. This stunning waterfall is a sight to behold, although it can be tricky to get to if you have mobility issues.t
Last, but not least by any means, is the small, beachside village of Mirissa. Lie back in a hammock under the sun or float in the clear, turquoise water of the beautiful hideaway beaches, and head into the main centre on the nights, when it comes alive with a thriving nightlife scene.
While you are there, visit Coconut Island. It’s a fabulous place to catch a sunrise or sunset although you do need to watch out for the falling coconuts on your head!