Today we present top 10 tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. These are our subjective choices selected basing on our experience. They are presented in no particular order.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
These are actually 2 similar attractions next to each other: Elephant Orphanage and Foundation. In the Orphanage you can see more elephants but there is less interaction. The popular part of the visit is to watch elephants by bathing in the nearby river, which happens 2 times a day.
In the Foundation you have more contact with elephants – you can feed them or scratch their bellies while they are taking bath. You can also have a short ride on elephant’s back – it does no harm to elephants as long as appropriate chairs are used.
Highlands and Tea Plantations
Have you heard about the famous Ceylon tea? Well, it is Sri Lanka that was known until 1972 as Ceylon, so it is the home of tea. Most of tea plantation are in the Highlands area, in the middle of the island. The best way to travel across this region is a public train, which climbs up and down the hills covered in tea bushes:
It is worth visitng one of the tea factories, where you will learn how the tea leafs are harvested and processed.
This 200m high Sigiriya rock can bee seen from far away. In the past on its top was a palace, where one of the kings lived with his wives. Currently it’s open for tourists, who can climb to the mountain top. The entire trip lasts 2-4h, depending how fit you are.
On your way up you will pass old wall paintings. It is not sure whether they present king’s wives or some goddesses.
On the island with such rich flora there must be a wide variety of fauna, right? And so it is on Sri Lanmka. There are multiple national parks, where you can spot elephants, buffalos, leopards, monkeys, birds and many more.
We visited the Minneriya National Park, which is known for its large herds of elephants.
- Entrance fee to all national parks is the same and it is around 25$
Many sea turtles are born on Sri Lanka beaches. Female turtles crawl out from the ocean at night when they are ready to lay eggs. They dig a deep hole where the eggs can be safe until the baby turtles are ready to get out. Although turtles travel on large distances females always come back to the same beach they were born at to lay their eggs.
You can watch these turtles by laying eggs with qualified guides from the Rekawa Turtle Watch. They only use red torches, because turtles can’t see the red light. You can’t really see much, but you feel very close to the nature. Almost a mystique experience!
- You have to be very patient, as waiting for a turtle to come out from the ocean may take several hours. There is nothing to do at the waiting point, so it may be borring for some, especially children.
Sri Lanka offers not only plenty of natural treasures but also rich cultural & historical experience. To learn more about these you can visit one of archeological centers. 2 most popular are ruins in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
Ruins in Anuradhapura are spread across several not directly connected areas. To travel between those you need a car or a bicycle.
Ruins in Polonnaruwa are all in one place and the recommend way of visiting it is by bike. It’s an entire ancient city with temples, palaces and more. There is also a sculpture of 4 giant Buddhas carved directly in a single granite rock. If you only want to visit one site with ruins we recommend this one.
- Entrance fee for both is the same, around 25$
- Renting a bike costs around 3$
Intense vegetation allows farming almost everything. On Sri Lanka there are multiple spice farms, where different spices and medicines are produced. They usually have a spice gardens open for tourist, who would like to learn about different plants. It’s very interesting to see how eucalyptus, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom or cacao look like before they are processed.
In the garden you will get a free tour and optionally a health check by a professional doctor. Then you will be guided to a shop, where you can by some of the spices or medicines.
- The tour is free but the guide expects tips.
Beaches in the south
South of Sri Lanka is known for its beautiful beaches. They are sandy and surrounded with palm trees. It’s a very good place to relax at the end of your trip after all the sightseeing.
Our favorite was Mirissa Beach, where there are not that many tourists and you can still observe local fishermen by evening fishing using traditional methods:
Fans of water sports will not be disappointed. Sri Lanka is known for its excellent surfing conditions. For beginners we recommend Weligama bay. Waves there are quite small, but long and smooth. This is perfect for learning surfing. There are multiple schools were you can get some first lessons and rent boards. You can also try its easier version i.e. body-boarding.
- 2.5h long surfing lesson for beginners costs 20$. After this you will be ready to continue practicing on your own. Renting a board costs 2$/h.
Kitesurfing in Kalpitiya
Kalpitiya lagoon offers perfect conditions for kiteboarders at each level. More about kitesurfing in Kalpitiya in our next blog post.
Here is our short video presenting most of the described attractions:
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