The top six things to do in Sri Lanka will introduce you to diverse cultural neighborhoods in historic cities, incredible slices of untouched wilderness, and beautiful beaches on which you can enjoy seaside scenery and seafood.
In Sri Lanka, temples illuminate a spiritual history that retains centuries of tradition. The culinary culture brings to life regional flavors you cannot find anywhere else in the world. There are silky-soft beaches on which to stroll, magnificent national parks to traverse, and historic tea plantations to visit.
You can experience all of this and more as you browse our list of the top six things to do in Sri Lanka for vacation inspiration.
Temples in Sri Lanka are colorful, cultural, and shrouded in history, and you can tour them in Colombo, Jaffna, Kandy, and rural regions.
The mix of modern architecture and historical spirituality in the Gangaramaya Temple, on the peaceful waters of Beira Lake, is inspiring. Naguleswaram Temple’s rainbow-colored facade will transport you to a fairytale world and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a symbolic site that shares the identity and culture of the Sinhalese people, with its artifacts, statues, and sculptures to admire.
You can also explore more unique temples of Sri Lanka, including the immaculately preserved Dambulla Royal Cave Temple and the colossal Buddhist images of Buduruwagala Raja Maha Viharaya.
Best Temples to Visit: Gangaramaya Temple • Naguleswaram Temple • Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic • Dambulla Royal Cave Temple • Buduruwagala Raja Maha Viharaya
Sigiriya is Sri Lanka’s famous ancient rock fortress, with steep umber surfaces that rise from the sweeping shamrock-colored canopy. Here, you can climb a long set of steps to the summit of Lion Rock Fortress.
Views from the peak of this remarkable geological phenomenon are breathtaking. You can peer over the edge of the precipice and gaze across a sea of green stretching towards the horizon. As you wander around the complex, guides will share stories about kings that fortified the rocky stronghold.
You can also meander to the frescoes on the western side of the rock to read centuries-old inscriptions and admire ancient art, en route to the beautiful terraced gardens in the shadows of Lion Rock Fortress.
Best Hiking Trails to Visit: Lion Rock Fortress steps • Adam’s Peak hike • Ella Rock trail • Sinharaja Forest Reserve walks • World’s End hike
Sri Lanka boasts a rich tea history and plantations paint the rural countryside surrounding Nuwara Eliya. On a trip to this immaculate city enveloped by greenery, you can get more acquainted with the country’s agricultural roots on tours of the tea plantations.
Tea empires grew from the fertile soils of the Haputale Mountains. They used the unique landscape and climate to control the production of exceptional Sri Lankan blends. You can also make your way to the lookout point of Lipton's Seat in the emerald hills of Poonagala.
Your tea tours can give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of Sri Lanka’s agricultural culture as you join local families to pluck tea leaves, look behind the curtain of the manufacturing process, and taste a selection of blends.
Best Tea Plantations to Visit: Pedro Tea Estate • Damro Labookellie Tea Estate • Dambatenne Tea Factory • Halpewatte Tea Factory • Blue Field Tea Factory
Sri Lankan wildlife is stunning and you can visit a selection of national parks during your trip to spot common, rare, and colorful animals and birds alongside knowledgeable guides.
Elephants roam freely in Sri Lanka, trundling through the forested national parks to refreshing riverines in immense numbers. You can see them from the comfort of a 4x4 vehicle or cross the tranquil waterways by boat to see them from a unique perspective.
As an island, elephants are the only massive mammals to see in Sri Lankan national parks. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for Sri Lankan leopards sneaking up on small creatures in the forests, the country’s fascinating and unique national bird, the Sri Lankan junglefowl, and the large Sri Lankan sambar deer.
Best National Parks to Visit: Yala National Park • Udawalawe National Park • Wilpattu National Park • Horton Plains National Park • Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sri Lanka is home to some of the best seafood in the world. Fishermen gather at piers in the Laccadive Sea and cruise around the ocean to catch crustaceans, cuttlefish, and harvest oysters.
The produce returns to Sri Lanka’s shores to be sold at markets peppering the fishing villages, transported to the cities, and prepared in restaurants famous for their seafood dishes. You can partake in the best seafood culinary tours in the world during your trip to Sri Lanka, paying particular attention to crab.
Sri Lankan crab curry is sweet and spicy, with a hint of coconut; crispy, hot-butter cuttlefish melts in your mouth, and Sri Lankan lobsters pack a flavorful punch. Each dish invites you to discover the reason chefs from around the world revere Sri Lankan seafood.
Best Dishes to Try: Jaffna crab curry • Claypot prawn curry • Hot-butter cuttlefish • Sri Lankan oysters • Fish ambul thiyal
Sri Lanka is quickly becoming a sought-after beach destination as powdery white-sands hug a coast lined with palm trees and sparkling seas are warm and inviting.
Between days that you spend discovering the history and culture of Sri Lanka or the wondrous wilderness, you can relax on the breathtaking shores of Nilaveli, Kalkudah, Kalkudah, and beyond. Many beaches also boast thatched bars where you can sip on decadent cocktails while you watch the world go by.
You can snorkel around the dazzling coral reefs that carpet the sea floor, cross the azure waters in charming wooden boats, or watch the whales from the shore during whale-watching season as you explore Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches.
Best Beaches to Visit: Nilaveli • Kalkudah • Kalkudah • Mirissa • Unawatuna
Whether you want to spend summer days on Sri Lankan beaches enjoying the seaside scenery and delicious seafood, or exploring the spiritual history of remarkable temples, the top six things to do in Sri Lanka can help you navigate the best experiences.
You can also browse our collection of Sri Lanka Tours to discover the possibilities for your vacation and customize an itinerary to include any of these essential experiences or something completely unique.