17 beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka

Photo by Fredrik Helliesen

There are many beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka, which travellers are sure to relish.

What makes Sri Lanka a top travel destination in Asia is this tropical island’s diverse landscapes and spectacular biodiversity.

There is more to Sri Lanka than the phenomenal beaches and world-renowned beach resorts and hotels.

No visit to Sri Lanka is complete without a visit to these beautiful places.

Here are some top spots to visit in Sri Lanka.

(Each video below is a playlist containing multiple videos, click the next button in the video player to skip ahead)

1. Pigeon Island National Park

The waters surrounding this tiny island off the coast of Sri Lanka’s mainland are teeming with colourful tropical fish and turtles, also generally harmless small reef sharks too. Pigeon Island National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s two marine national parks and more than 300 species of reef fish have been observed here. Pigeon Island is made up of two small islands that consists of rock pools and light foliage, making it a wonderful place to explore after snorkelling.

2. Haputale

Travel deep into the island’s interior, climbing over 1400 metres above sea level, to the cool climes of Sri Lanka’s hill country for spectacular mountain views and a taste of Sri Lanka’s colonial past. Get there by rail from Colombo to experience what many say is the most beautiful train ride in Asia. There is much to do in this region — do visit Adisham Bungalow, take in the picturesque hiking trails and try a guided tour of a tea estate.

3. Unawatuna

Unawatuna is a small coastal town that is popular with tourists for its jungle beaches and for turtle conservation. It’s not unusual to find a friendly turtle swimming alongside beach goers in shallow waters, and the turtle conservatories found in the area allow visitors to release baby turtles to the ocean. Several shipwrecks and vibrant coral reefs exist in the calm waters off the coast of Unawatuna, making it a popular destination for scuba, snorkelling and water sports enthusiasts too.

4. Horton Plains National Park

Hike to Baker’s Falls and then to World’s End, where spectacular views await visitors. Pack a lunch to enjoy a picnic next to a bubbling natural spring and swim at the base of Baker’s Falls after lunch.

5. Galle Fort

Best explored on foot, this 15th century fort built by European colonisers is today a quaint community of stores and homes of long-time residents, with structures within the fort retaining colonial architecture to this day.

6. Bambarakanda Falls

Sri Lanka has hundreds of waterfalls but Bambarakanda Falls, at a height of over 240 metres, is the island nation’s tallest. It is surrounded by a stunning pine forest through which travellers hike to the top of the falls.

7. Bentota

Bentota is home to secluded beaches, despite being a tourist hot spot. Luxurious beach resorts at affordable rates, serving excellent cuisine and delivering top-notch service, has made the area popular with European tourists since the 1970s. A river that meets the sea and a natural lagoon nearby has naturally-sculpted idyllic coastal lines along Bentota.

8. Barberyn Lighthouse

A short boat right from the golden-sand beaches of Beruwala is Barberyn Island, where this lighthouse is located. The boat ride to the stunning island is described by first time visitors as a memorable experience.

9. Minneriya National Park

Herds of elephants gather around the water reservoir at Minneriya National Park, making it one of the best places to watch these amazing giants in their natural habitat. The park is also home to an array of bird species, leopards, crocodiles and other interesting wildlife.

10. Nine Arch Bridge

Travel enthusiasts from around the world visit the city of Ella for photographs of this iconic Sri Lankan landmark known as the ‘bridge in the sky’. Built in 1921, the Nine Arches Bridge is surrounded by breath-taking scenery; the train travels through a palm-fringed tropical jungle, high up in the misty mountains.

11. Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Nothing portrays the ingenuity and brilliance of ancient Sri Lankans more than this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a fifth-century king’s palace and fortress built on top of a rock that stands over 600 feet tall.

12. Mirissa

A rural town by the sea, located in Sri Lanka’s southern-most tip, Mirissa is home to a stunning bay and scenic beaches. Visitors love Mirissa for the perfect waves for easy surfing, lovely coast lines and gorgeous beach resorts and whale watching. Many species of whales and dolphins are found in Sri Lanka’s waters, with boat tours for every budget available.

13. Adam’s Peak

Near the summit of a 2243 metre mountain lies what Sri Lankans of different faiths believe is the imprint of a human foot, which Buddhists consider to be the footprint of Buddha, and in Hindu tradition it is thought to be the footprint of Shiva, while some Christians and Muslims believe it to be Adam’s. The climb to the peak is an enriching cultural experience, with many photo opportunities on the way to the top. At sunrise, a unique natural phenomenon can be witnessed, as the rising sun creates a triangular, pyramid-like shadow of Adam’s Peak in the surrounding clouds.

14. Yala National Park

Yala National Park offers perhaps the best safari experience outside of Africa. The park has diverse landscapes and is home to the highest concentration of leopards in the world. Sloth bears, elephants, crocodiles, dear, wild boar, buffalo, monkeys and a multitude of bird and reptile species can also be found here.

15. Ravana Falls

Ravana Falls is said to be currently the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka. A nearby cave, which the island’s archaeological department says has been used by humans dating back to 25,000 years, is a must-visit when in the area.

16. Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya

More than 4000 plant species, with an internationally-renowned collection of orchids, are found at the delightfully landscaped Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, which is a city close to Kandy. Established formally in 1843, the botanical garden is over 175 years old and receives over two-million visitors annually.

17. Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is popular amongst surfers and has several top surf breaks. It’s also the perfect location for novice surfers to learn the art of surfing, with many establishments offering surf lessons. It’s today a destination that has become popular amongst non-surfers too for scenic beaches and calm waters for the casual swimmer.

© Island Life