What to see and do in Sri Lanka? Our 10 essentials

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Alejandra Rangel


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When you travel to Sri Lanka, there are some must-see attractions that you should not miss while visiting the country. Monuments, landscapes, activities, some are unique and it would be a shame to miss them.

So in order not to miss out on the most beautiful places in the country, to also help you choose what to see during your stay, Here are our 10 essential activities, to do absolutely, during your trip to Sri Lanka.

Immerse yourself in Sri Lankan history in the Cultural Triangle

This step is very clearly a must to do during your visit to Sri Lanka! The Cultural Triangle is a region, located in the center of the country, where you can learn about the history of the island as well as the importance of Buddhism for the Sinhalese.

This region is made up of several cities:

  • Anuradhapura and its giant dagobas : ancient capital of Sri Lanka, this place is sacred to Buddhists. The unmissable temple to visit is that of the Bodhi tree.
  • Sigiriya and the lion rock : this place of interest is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful sites in Sri Lanka. The view is breathtaking and its history is fascinating. You can also observe the rock from Pidurangala, just opposite, but we really recommend that you visit this ancient royal city.
  • Polonnuruwa and its ruins : also former Sri Lankan capital, the site is full of ruins in very good condition. You can easily look back hundreds of years. The place is preserved in a green setting, which makes the visit very pleasant. 
  • Dambulla and its caves : you will visit a temple made up of several rooms, dug directly into a huge rock. The statues are very well preserved, as well as the paintings. The view is also splendid, which does not spoil anything in this essential place to discover in Sri Lanka.
Must see place: Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Take a walk in the Kandy Botanical Garden

The Kandy Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful places in Asia. There you will find an incredible number of orchids, but above all trees and plants. This place, bordered by a river, is very frequented by young couples who hold hands (but strictly forbidden to smooch, under penalty of seeing the furious guard disembark!).

It is a very interesting place to interact with Sri Lankan youth.

Kandy Botanical Garden, Sri Lanka

Meet the tea pickers

In the mountainous region of Sri Lanka, you can discover the tea plantations. We advise you to stop during your walk to take the time to meet the pickers. These Tamil workers are adorable and love to share their craft with travelers. You should know that their working conditions are very difficult for a meager salary, so if they give you time, do not hesitate to slip them a little note, out of sight of the supervisor. Indeed, the time she devotes to you is less picking time, therefore less money (they are paid by the weight harvested.).

You can pick the tea leaves with them, carry their bag (if they agree of course) and discuss their lifestyle with them. However, we advise you not to linger for a long time so as not to disturb them too much.

For the record, these women are generally very fond of chocolate, so don't hesitate to share it with her if you have some in your bag.

Must-see in Sri Lanka: meet the tea pickers

Bask on the beaches of the south coast

The southern beaches are ideal for "chilling", enjoy your vacation by being in front of the ocean. You can swim easily between December and March, but watch out for waves and currents! These can sometimes be dangerous, check with the locals before getting wet.

The stretches of sand are magnificent and on some beaches, such as Unakuruwa or Medaketiya, you can easily witness scenes of local life, such as the hauling of fishing nets.

The most beautiful places in the south of Sri Lanka

Go on a safari in a national park

Sri Lanka is full of national parks where you can observe animals in total freedom. No zoo, no animal orphanages that are not, just animals that live their lives while being protected from hunters.

To go on a safari, you will take a Jeep, which we advise you to share with other visitors, as this will allow you to reduce costs and noise pollution for wildlife.

The most beautiful national parks in Sri Lanka are Yala block 1 where families of leopards are hiding (even if the place is a victim of its success in high season), Uda Walawe, Minneriya (famous for seeing elephants) and Wilpattu.

Go on a safari in Sri Lanka

Go see the fort of Galle

The fort of Galle is a small historic center, very well preserved from colonial times. You will see European-style buildings, Portuguese patios, Dutch ramparts, English cars. Galle is a compendium of recent Sri Lankan history.

Inside the fort, it is very pleasant to walk around and discover the small shops offering local crafts. The lighthouse is the emblem of this place to visit.

To do: visit Galle, Sri Lanka

Learn to cook with the locals

Sri Lankan cuisine is very different from our western cuisine! Very spicy, you can easily learn how to make a Sinhalese rice and curry or a Tamil pittu. Indeed, these 2 cultures are different and their cuisine too! So in the north and east, you will taste Tamil cuisine (close to Indian cuisine) and elsewhere in the country, Sinhalese cuisine.

Doing a cooking class in Sri Lanka is a moment of exchange, of sharing with the locals. You go to the market and then you learn the traditions of the local cuisine from your host. Even if of course, the best part of this activity remains the final tasting of what you have prepared with love!

Cooking Class in Sri Lanka

Soak up the Tamil culture in Jaffna

The Jaffna Peninsula has recently been opened to travelers. Bruised by civil war, this region is very interesting to discover both for its Hindu culture and for its landscapes. We advise you to go to Point Pedro, the northernmost place of the island, to admire the sunset.

Also, in Jaffna, do not miss visit the Hindu temple "Nallur kovil". If you go there before closing or at the opening, you will discover the rising or setting ceremonies of the main deity of the temple.

Visit Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Watch the stilt fishermen in Weligama

In the south of Sri Lanka, you can observe a traditional fishing technique, on a stilt. Men camp on stakes in the ocean and wait for the fish to bite. These scenes of life are magnificent, however today few are those which are still authentic. Indeed, it is more interesting for fishermen to be paid to be photographed by travelers fishing, rather than actually fishing ...

Therefore, if you want to photograph this scene, you will have to put your hand in your pocket!

The famous stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka

Snorkel at Pigeon Island

On the east coast, across from Nilaveli / Trincomalee, is Pigeon Island. This national park is an ideal place for snorkelling and discovering the underwater beauties.

Black tip sharks, turtles or multicolored fish, you have something to marvel at. However be careful, avoid this place between July 15 and August 20… During the high season, it is quickly crowded with tourists, not always respectful of places and visitors!

Snorkeling in Sri Lanka

The essentials of Sri Lanka

You now have in your pocket the 10 visible essentials to do in Sri Lanka. They can easily be complemented with the 10 unusual activities that we also offer. You now have all the keys to make your trip to Sri Lanka unforgettable!
So what are the activities that appeal the most to you on your trip?

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