15 Must See Attractions to Add to Your Sri Lanka Itinerary

Nov 17, 2021 | Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Group Tours, Sri Lanka, Travel Tips

If you are like us and super excited to travel as soon as possible in 2022, the beautiful country of Sri Lanka is most likely the place for you. It will be one of the first countries operating for us here at One Life Adventures as they have already begun accepting tourists from some countries. This tropical destination lies just 30 kilometres south-east of India sitting in the Indian ocean. Sri Lanka obtained independence in 1948 after 150 years of British control, and has since become a renowned tourist destination. Beautiful beaches, fantastic wildlife, and unending tea plantations are all well-known features of this country. In this blog post, we’ll go through 15 must see sites in Sri Lanka that you should have on your itinerary for 2022!

 

1. Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Rock is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist destinations and a must-see. It was formerly the royal palace of King Kassapa, one of Sri Lanka’s ancient rulers, and is now one of eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country. Sigiriya Rock, which rises above the lush green trees below and is known as Lion Rock, is home to Sri Lanka’s oldest surviving palace. This is because of the colossal lion statue that used to greet guests at the entryway. The lion’s paws, which may now be found at the bottom of Sigiriya rock, are all that remains of the statue.

Prepare for a strenuous hike up to the pinnacle of this historic fortification. The climb to the top is over 1200 stairs, and while it sounds exhausting (and it is), the views from the top are well worth it. Wearing lightweight clothing, comfortable shoes, and bringing lots of water are just a few of our top ideas for making your travel a little simpler. Sunscreen is also a requirement up here, as the scorching Sri Lankan sun will be beating down on you the entire time you’re walking, especially once you reach the summit.

During our 12 day Sri Lanka tour, we start hiking up Sigiriya Rock quite early in the morning. The views from the summit are breathtaking, so don’t forget to bring your camera. We’ll show you antique wall murals and a mirror wall with sanskrit markings, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Why don’t you join us for this magical adventure?

an aerial photo of sigiriya rock in sri lanka

2. Dambulla Caves

Dambulla Caves are around 30 minutes from the world-famous Sigiriya Rock and two hours from Kandy. This religious site has the largest cave complex in Sri Lanka, as well as the best preservation. It is a UNESCO world heritage site that is made up of five caves, each with its own set of statues.

This Buddhist complex has been a pilgrimage attraction for over 2,000 years and is officially known as the ‘Golden Temple of Dambulla.’ Over 150 Buddha sculptures and several murals may be seen within these caverns. Maharaja Vihara Lena is the name of the cave that is the largest (or the Cave of the Great Kings). This is due to the presence of statues of two ancient Sri Lankan monarchs, Nissankamalla and Valagambahu.

One thing we’ll remind you of is to bring your water bottle! There are quite a few steps to the summit, and the humidity of Sri Lanka will make you sweat if you don’t stay hydrated. However, keep an eye out for monkeys who could try to steal it!

 reclining buddha statue in dambulla caves in sri lanka

3. Udawalawe National Park

A safari in Udawalawe National Park is a necessity for anybody that loves animals. This national park was founded in 1972 and has since grown in popularity among travelers. The main reason for this is that it is one of the top national parks in Sri Lanka for viewing Sri Lankan elephants. This is due to the presence of the Udawalawe reservoir, which attracts elephants, especially during the dry season. Leopards, jackals, sambar deer, water buffalo, and crocodiles are some of the other animals you might observe. That’s why Udawalawe National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list, especially animal lovers!

There are several different companies that offer safaris in Udawalawe National Park, but do your homework first. Some tour companies practice unethical practices, such as crowding around the animals to offer tourists a better view. However, because this is harmful to the local animals, it’s a good idea to check reviews before choosing a company. If you don’t want to worry about which company to choose, why not join us on our 12 day Sri Lanka tour. We’ll take care of everything, and you’ll even be able to go glamping only 45 minutes outside of the national park. You can watch our youtube video about glamping in Udawalawe National Park to see how cool the accommodation is!

elephants gathering at a watering hole in udawalawe national park in sri lanka

4. Coconut Tree Hill in Mirissa

Coconut Tree Hill is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular Instagram destinations. It is an outcropping of palm trees at the edge of the water, just past Mirissa beach. This location is stunning, and it’s the ideal spot for watching the sunset (or sunrise if you’re an early riser). If you’re a photographer, we recommend going early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as this site is very busy in the afternoon and at sunset.

You might even see a turtle pop its head up and surf the waves if you’re lucky. Take your time here to relax and take in the scenery, since watching these lovely creatures surface is a very spectacular experience. Coconut Tree Hill is, in our opinion, one of the nicest sites to visit in Sri Lanka and should not be missed!

an aerial photo of coconut tree hill in Mirissa

5. Mirissa Beach

Mirissa Beach is one of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful beaches, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to relax here on your vacation! This beach offers something for everyone, whether you just want to relax with your towel, try your hand at surfing, or go snorkelling. If you wish to go surfing, go to the western part of the beach, where the waves can reach rather large and the beach is more peaceful. If you enjoy snorkeling, we propose going to Parrot Rock, where you will be able to witness a variety of colorful fish!

There are plenty of wonderful dining options on the beach as well, ranging from tasty Sri Lankan curries to a wide variety of western cuisine if you’re looking for a taste of home. Restaurants prefer to light lights and lanterns when the sun sets, making this the ideal time to get a bite to eat! Mirissa beach, unlike many others in Sri Lanka, does not appear to be overcrowded and has a very calm ambiance, making it an ideal destination.

mirissa beach in sri lanka

6. Nine Arches Bridge

If you’re planning any future travels to this beautiful nation, the Nine Arches Bridge should surely be on your itinerary! This bridge is one of the nicest places to visit in Sri Lanka, and you can see it from a variety of vantage points. The Ella Highland Bridge is surrounded by lush green forest and tea plantations and is located in the mountain town of Ella.

Between Ella and Demodara train stations lies the Nine Arches Bridge, which rises at a remarkable 30 meters high. Trains pass over this bridge at various times throughout the day, providing you with an excellent opportunity to get some spectacular images. If you’re unsure about the train schedule, ask the owner of your lodging. While you wait, there are plenty of things to do in the area surrounding the bridge, including a cafe.

 aerial view of train passing over nine arches bridge in ella, sri lanka

7. Temple of the Tooth

The Temple of the Tooth is a Buddhist shrine in Kandy that houses Sri Lanka’s most precious relic. A tooth of the Lord Buddha himself is kept in a tightly guarded room within the temple, so you can imagine how sacred this site is. You won’t be able to see the tooth because it is stored in a gold coffin, but you will be allowed to visit the room at particular times of the day.

It’s important to dress respectfully when visiting this magnificent site, so make sure your legs and shoulders are covered. The complex can get rather crowded because it is a famous tourist and worship destination, however there are additional sites to explore within the complex if the main temple is too crowded. There are various additional museums to visit here, as well as a view of the King’s palace (which is not open to the public).

 temple of the tooth in kandy sri lanka

8. Ella Rock

Ella Rock is one of Sri Lanka’s best viewpoints, but the hike up isn’t easy. For this hike, there is no obvious trail or markers, and the paths seem to go here, there, and everywhere. Some of the signage has even been modified to point in the wrong direction so that locals can find you if you get lost and make money by driving you to the summit. Check with your hostel management beforehand to ensure you’re on the proper track, or simply follow folks up there if they’re heading that way!

There are a few distinct sights that you should see after you reach the summit. The first one has a small hut with great juice and smoothies, which are ideal after a sweaty climb. If you walk to the left of the cabin, you’ll come across two more viewpoints with breathtaking views. The walk is roughly 10 kilometres round the way, so wear appropriate shoes and bring lots of drinks and snacks.

When visiting Ella Rock, we recommend going early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the temperature is at its lowest. It’s a long trek up, but it’s well worth it!

 

9. Adams Peak

Adams Peak is the place to go if you’re looking for a hiking trip. Adams Peak, at 2243 meters, may seem intimidating, but the views from the top will be well worth your time and effort. This mountain, also known as Sri Pada, is a popular pilgrimage destination for a number of reasons. Adams Peak is thought to be the site of Adam’s exile to the Garden of Eden, as well as the site of Buddha’s final step on earth before entering Nirvana. This makes Adams Peak significant to many different religions, and around 20,000 pilgrims ascended Adams Peak each year before the pandemic. It’s not easy being the 5th tallest mountain in Sri Lanka!

There are several routes to get to Adams Peak, but they all need a decent level of fitness. The most common route begins in Hatton, which is also the route taken by the majority of pilgrims. This route is shorter than the others, but it is extremely steep, and it takes around 3 hours to reach the summit. There are, however, numerous rest stops along the road, including smaller temples and cottages selling tea and food. That makes the journey a lot easier!

 

10. Whale watching in Mirissa

Although this is technically not a ‘site,’ but rather an activity, we couldn’t leave it off the list! You have a rather good chance of spotting the world’s largest animal, the blue whale, if you visit Sri Lanka between November and April. Between those months, Sri Lanka’s whale-watching season begins, with a 90 percent chance of encountering one of these remarkable creatures. It’s important to remember, though, that these are wild creatures, and while sightings are likely, they’re not guaranteed.

Other whale species pass through this section of the ocean as well, so it’s not just blue whales you’ll see off the coast of Mirissa. These seas are frequently visited by sperm whales, fin whales, pilot whales, Bryde’s whales, and even killer whales. Bottlenose and spinner dolphins frequently swim beside you, putting on a show for you, and if you’re lucky, you may spot some turtles or even a whale shark!

If you travel with us during whale-watching season, we will take you on an ethical and enjoyable whale-watching excursion! You’ll get to spend the day out on the water looking for whales while also eating some delicious grilled cuisine. Who could possibly want anything more?

a whale’s tail fin coming out of the water in mirissa, sri lanka

11. Hikkaduwa beach

Hikkaduwa is one of the best spots to watch turtles in Sri Lanka and who doesn’t want to see turtles? Swimming with sea turtles is a dream come true for many people, and Sri Lanka is undoubtedly one of the best places to do it.

There are a handful of things to keep in mind when visiting Hikkaduwa. These turtles spend almost the entire year here, so it’s crucial to treat them with respect. They are frequently seen near the shore seeking for seaweed, so keep your distance and respect their space. Another crucial point is to avoid touching them! Because they are wild animals, they should never be poked, prodded, or grabbed. If you go further out into the water from the shore, you’ll often see additional turtles swimming about. Because most people prefer to stay by the beach, this will provide you with a more tranquil encounter with the turtles.

We visit Hikkaduwa during our 12-day Sri Lanka tour to view these magnificent sea turtles. There is a specific section of the beach where these turtles are most frequently seen, giving you the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.

hikkaduwa beach in sri lanka

12. Pidurangala Rock – The Buddhist monastery of Pidurangala

We’ve already discussed how spectacular Sigiriya Rock is, but the view from the top of Pidurangala is unsurpassed! One of our favorite things to do in Sri Lanka is to watch the sunset from the top of this massive rock. It’s an unforgettable experience. Depending on your fitness level, the hike to the top normally takes 30-45 minutes. The trek up can be challenging at times, and there is a short piece of rock climbing at the end, but it is well worth the effort. When you reach the summit, you’ll be treated to a spectacular view of Sigiriya Rock in the distance, so bring your camera!

The remains of the Royal Cave temple, as well as the massive reclining Buddha that rests within, may be seen on the route up. King Kashyapa is claimed to have built the temple while constructing the old fortification that sits atop Sigiriya Rock. The monks who had been displaced during the construction of Sigiriya were relocated to this temple. It’s the ideal spot to recover your breath after a long trek!

We’ll trek up this amazing Rock together, and I’ll show you the breathtaking view from the summit. If you want to learn more, check out our  Youtube video of a sunset hike up Pidurangala Rock!

13. Galle Fort

Galle is Sri Lanka’s fourth largest city, but a portion of it distinguishes it from Colombo and Negombo. As you travel through the city, you will come upon the historic Dutch Quarter, known as Galle Fort, which is positioned directly on the coast. This district, which was first developed by the Portuguese in the 16th century, is Sri Lanka’s best surviving colonial town. The fort was then seized by the Dutch in the 17th century, who fortified the area until it was captured by the British. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Sri Lanka’s most renowned tourist attractions.

It will feel as if you have traveled back in time as you enter Galle Fort from the city of Galle. The Galle clock tower, the Groote Kerk, and, of course, the famed Galle lighthouse are among the most popular tourist attractions. This lighthouse has gone viral on Instagram and is a favorite destination for aspiring photographers. You’ll want to set out a few hours to wander and take in the sights in this delightful town. You might even catch a glimpse of marine turtles swimming underneath the fort walls if you’re lucky!

Galle fort is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka and is a must for your trip! During our Sri Lanka tour we’ll go to this wonderful place and show you the greatest places to visit.

Galle Fort Lighthouse

14. Little Adams Peak

Little Adams Peak is located in Ella and provides breathtaking views to those who choose to hike to the summit. Little Adams Peak is not to be mistaken with Adams Peak, which has a much longer and more difficult hike. Despite the number of stairs, it is one of Ella’s most accessible walks. The route begins on a prominent road, making it simple to locate, and there are numerous signposts along the way.

The trek takes about an hour and passes through lush tea plantations on its way to the top. The surrounding panorama will astound you once you reach the summit, so allow yourself some additional time to take it all in. If you get up early enough to catch the dawn on Little Adam’s Peak, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Similarly, the sunset is beautiful, but you’ll have a lot more company. The views from the summit are breathtaking at any time of day, but if you go in the afternoon, be aware of the heat. On your way down, you can stop at 98 acres resort if you’re hungry or thirsty.

little adams peak in ella, sri lanka

15. Take a ride on the famous Train

We understand that a train isn’t technically a travel activity, but we couldn’t leave this one off the list. As it runs through lush tea plantations and misty mountains, Sri Lanka’s legendary train journey is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. The railway journey begins in Colombo, but the Ella to Kandy segment is the most well-known (or vice versa). This section of the train travel takes about 6-7 hours and is the ideal time to unwind, so bring plenty of snacks. If you want to cross the famed Nine Arch Bridge, you should begin your journey in Kandy and purchase a ticket to Badulla station, which is one of the train stations just past Ella.

Tickets can be purchased online or at a train station, however it is recommended that you purchase them in advance. This train excursion is one of the most popular things to do in Sri Lanka, and tickets might sell out quickly, especially if you want to travel first class. However, with the windows open, the carriage humming with people, and the chance to walk around, 2nd class is usually a better experience. This is an experience not to be missed, regardless of the ticket class you purchase.

These are just a few of the fantastic spots to see in Sri Lanka. This country has something for everyone, whether you enjoy wildlife, relaxing by the beach, or wanting a daring adventure. We’ve gone over 15 of the best spots to add to your Sri Lanka itinerary throughout this blog post, but it’s safe to say that we haven’t even begun to explore what this country has to offer. This country is the ideal tropical vacation spot that won’t break the wallet. In Sri Lanka, public transportation is available across the country, making travel simple and inexpensive. The accommodation is also inexpensive, and the food is even less so! Is there any other reason to come to Sri Lanka?

Why not join us in experiencing this amazing country together if you’ve already fallen in love with the sound of Sri Lanka? Take a look at our 12 day Sri Lanka tour and let us show you the magic of this beautiful destination which is expected to be open again in January 2022!

Feeling inspired to save for your next adventure? Check out our other trips here! Don’t forget to be on the lookout for our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on our Facebook and Instagram pages!

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