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Top 6 Things to Do in Sri Lanka

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Beach view in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

The top six things to do in Sri Lanka will introduce you to diverse cultures in historic cities, untouched wilderness, and beautiful beaches on which to 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.

  1. 1. Explore the Glorious and Curious Temples
  2. 2. Climb to the Towering Summit of Sigiriya
  3. 3. Discover Nuwara Eliya’s History of Tea
  4. 4. Spot Rare and Magnificent Wildlife at National Parks
  5. 5. Indulge in Sensational Sri Lankan Seafood
  6. 6. Soak Up Sunshine on Sensational Beaches
  7. Experience the Top Things to Do in Sri Lanka

1. Explore the Glorious and Curious Temples

Golden Temple in Sri Lanka

Golden Temple, Sri Lanka

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 artifacts, statues, and sculptures to admire.

You can also explore other temples, including the immaculately preserved Dambulla Royal Cave Temple and Buduruwagala Raja Maha Viharaya, with its colossal Buddhist images.

Best Temples to Visit: Gangaramaya Temple • Naguleswaram Temple • Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic • Dambulla Royal Cave Temple • Buduruwagala Raja Maha Viharaya

2. Climb to the Towering Summit of Sigiriya

World's end Horton plains in Sri Lanka

World's end Horton plains in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya is Sri Lanka’s famous ancient rock fortress, with steep 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 who fortified the rocky stronghold.

You can also visit 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

3. Discover Nuwara Eliya’s History of Tea

Tea plantations in Sri Lanka

Tea plantations in Sri Lanka

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 become 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

4. Spot Rare and Magnificent Wildlife at National Parks

Panthera pardus at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

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 in immense numbers through the forested national parks to refreshing riverines. You can see them from the comfort of a 4x4 vehicle or cross the tranquil waterways by boat to view them from a unique perspective.

In the forests, keep your eyes peeled for Sri Lankan leopards and the country’s unique national bird, the Sri Lankan junglefowl, as well as 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

5. Indulge in Sensational Sri Lankan Seafood

Sri Lankan Seafood lobsters dish

Sri Lankan cuisine

Sri Lanka is home to some of the best seafood in the world. Fishermen gather at piers in the Laccadive Sea, then cruise around the ocean to catch crustaceans and 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 why chefs 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

6. Soak Up Sunshine on Sensational Beaches

Sunny Mirissa Beach in Sri Lanka

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

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 the days you spend discovering the history and culture of Sri Lanka or the wondrous wilderness, you can relax on the breathtaking shores of Nilaveli, Kalkudah, and beyond. Many beaches boast thatched bars where you can enjoy 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 wooden boats, or watch 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

Experience the Top Things to Do in Sri Lanka

Tea plantations valley in Sri Lanka

Tea plantations, Sri Lanka

Whether you want to spend summer days on Sri Lankan beaches enjoying seaside scenery and delicious seafood or explore the spiritual histories of temples, the top six things to do in Sri Lanka can help you decide on the best experiences for you.

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 else.

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