12 Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka to Rise Up in the Cloud Nine

Ravan made Swarna-Lanka his fabled kingdom. The Venetian merchant Marco Polo got enticed with the captivating beauty of Sri Lanka in the 13th century. Dutch, Portuguese, and Britishers colonized Ceylon, the ancient name of Sri Lanka. Ever wondered what made all of them get carried away with the beauty of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka?

I guess; they all knew that heaven would be under their feet and above their heads at the best Sri Lanka tourist places. Supposedly, the cloud-piercing mountains, tea swathed hillsides, turbulent greenery, truckloads of diverse wildlife, flamboyant beaches, and amiable hospitality might be the key factors of the Ceylon boom in ancient times.

12 Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka (With Best Time to Visit and Photos)

The idea of exploring the 12 best places to visit in Sri Lanka is extra beguiling because this South Asian island country offers 30 days tourist visas to Indians.

Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka Famous For
Colombo Melting pot of culture, history, and modern amenities
Hikkaduwa Beach Its image of a year-round surfing destination
Sigiriya One of the best examples of ancient urban planning and the 8 Wonder of the World
Nuwara Eliya The younger sibling of England with the extra lushness
Dambulla Its cave temples are treasure trove of Sinhalese Buddhist art
Arugam Bay It is one of the most engaging east coast resorts known for surfing
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage The home of orphaned baby elephants
Yala National Park Its highest concentration of leopards in the world in their natural habitat
Mirissa One of the best whale watching destinations in Sri Lanka
Kandy The scenic train rides that will make you forget Europe
Adam’s Peak It is the holy site revered by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims
Galle One of the best examples of fortified cities and crowned as heritage site by UNESCO because of the Dutch built Galle Fort

1. Colombo in the Western Province

Start your trip in jewel shaped island nation with a visit to the bustling capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka because it is famous for its rich colonial heritage, shopping centers, stylish eateries, and beautiful art galleries. Located on the island’s west coast, couples, family travelers, and backpacks can experience the fullest even on tight budgets.

Romance seekers will have a gala time at Beira Lake. Leisure travelers can pamper themselves with Ayurvedic massage at the southern outskirts of Colombo. Family travelers must not miss the chance of going on an open deck bus tour either in the morning, evening, or night. Those who are with friends can take time to explore the underworld world at the certified diving sites at Colombo, including Chief Dragon, Pecheur Breton and T. Sierra.

  • Best Time to Visit: All the year-round but avoid monsoon if possible
  • Ideal Duration: 3 days (approx.)

2. Hikkaduwa Beach: Galle District in Southern Province

How about combining the active nightlife after mind-boggling watersports like boogie-boarding, snorkeling, scuba diving in the crystal clear waters of the Hikkaduwa Beach? This is one of the best places on the South coast of Sri Lanka and is a paradisiacal watersport to visit from November to March if you are a beach bum.

Hikkaduwa Beach in Galle is one of the famous places in Sri Lanka for July and August travel because of the 5 days Hikkaduwa Beach Festival in the presence of international DJs.

Lots of restaurants, bars, beach shacks, and plush resorts are dotted on the shoreline of the Hikkaduwa Beach, which beacons water sports enthusiasts, romance seekers, and family tourists to hit this place.

The cherry on the cake will be when you will be swimming with the giant turtles and other marine creatures in the shallow protected regions.

  • Best Time to Visit: Except June to August to avoid sun tanning

3. Sigiriya: Matale District in Central Province

Your trip to Sri Lanka will not be considered complete if you miss exploring the iconic attraction of Sri Lanka Tourism. As per the written manuscripts, Sigiriya belongs to King Kasyapa’s capital, with his palace at the very top of the rock. On the other hand, a few historians claim that the plateau’s top was the site of Ravana’s majestic Lanka, and he crafted his palace with solid gold and Kubera around 50 centuries ago! If you believe in places that tell stories and places with stories, Sigiriya is one of the best places in Sri Lanka’s Central Plains.

You can reach the top of this ancient rock fortress by climbing around 1,200+ (approx.) stairs in three phases. The route starts from the garden at the base of the rock fortress, where there are many caves to explore! One needs around 3 hours (approx.) with halts to reach the top of the Sigiriya. You will be checked for the ticket midway during the hike.

UNESCO has billed Sigiriya in its tentative list of heritage sites in 8th position, and you must explore this Heritage Site of Sri Lanka because it proudly sits in the middle of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, including Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura.

On the boulder tops during your hike, we suggest you hike with locals guides to understand the terraced gardens and cave temples. Also, you pass through the highly polished stone wall, which has a legend that the King used to admire himself as he walked by.

  • Best Time to Visit Sigiriya Rock: June to August and December to April
  • Time Taken to Climb Sigiriya: 30 – 45 minutes (approx.)
  • Time Taken to Get Back Down: 20 Minutes
  • Climb Timings: 7 AM to 5 PM
  • Entry Fee: 100 LKR for domestic tourists, 30 USD for foreigner tourists, and 15 USD for SAARC country citizens

4. Nuwara Eliya: Central Province of Sri Lanka

Feel like you are vacationing in the mini version of England without actually going there. Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka is the extension of the beauty of Munnar, Coorg, Ooty, Wayanad, and Darjeeling because it is the tea capital of Sri Lanka. Suppress all your stress with a hot piping cup of Dilmah chai from the colonial-style accommodation in the middle of the tea plantations. Dilmah, the world’s famous tea brand, originated from Sri Lanka, which is enough to measure the hype of this cool climate place in Sri Lanka.

Located in the central province of Sri Lanka at an elevation of 6,199 feet (1,889 meters) above sea level, Nuwara Eliya is one of the best romantic places to visit in Sri Lanka for couples due to its cool climate, like in the Munnar. However, what is icing to the cake at this tea capital of Sri Lanka is the scenic train rides that run to Kandy.

The Battered Victorian Railway Engines crawl up into the hill country through undulating tea estates, and you must stand at the open doorways and watch the sweeping views of the manicured greenery. All you just need to do is keep a tight grip on the handrails while soaking the breathtaking lushness.

  • Ideal Duration: 3 days (approx.) because Nuwara Eliya has waterfalls, lakes, and cozy restaurants to explore.
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring Season to attend Sinhalese–Tamil new year in April
  • Train Travel Cost from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy: ₹60 onwards (approx.) for one way commute
  • What Else Not to Miss: Trek to Horton Plains National Park, paddle boating in Gregory Lake.
  • Best Restaurants: De Silva Food Centre, Grand Thai, Milano Restaurant

5. Dambulla: Matale District in Central Province

In the fertile valley of Matale district of Sri Lanka, Dambulla is located, which is famous for its 5 cave temples that are a treasure trove of Sinhalese Buddhist Architecture. Dambulla is one of the most impressive places to see in Sri Lanka with family where several elements of Buddhism in Sri Lanka could be traced.

Here there is a Pidurangala Rock where you will enjoy the staircase hike to enjoy the commanding views of the Lion’s Rock. A hot air balloon ride in Dambulla at Kandalama Lake is a great chance for couples to exchange promises amidst the heights overlooking Sri Lanka’s top cultural and heritage attractions like a bird.

You can also go to Minneriya National Park near Dambulla for wildlife safaris. And if you are lucky and ICC events are going on, don’t miss celebrating the evening at the live-action at Dambulla International Cricket Stadium.

  • Ideal Duration: 3 days (approx.)
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring Season to attend Sinhalese–Tamil new year in April
  • Best Hotels: Jetwing Lake, Freedom Village, New Peacock Resort

Check out our Sri Lanka tour packages for Families.

6. Arugam Bay: Ampara District in South Eastern Province

This destination on the East Coast of Sri Lanka doesn’t meet demand and introduction from the surfing fraternity because Arugam Bay is the surfing paradise of Sri Lanka for newbies and novice surfers. There are many great bays around the area, and the lagoon safari in Arugam Bay is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka for couples.

There are beachfront restaurants in Arugam Bay, Ayurveda resorts for relaxation, and spotting the wildlife at Yala National Park next to it constitutes the best experiences of vacationing in Arugam Bay.

  • Ideal Duration: 3 days (approx.)
  • Best Time to Visit: April to October when waves are great for surfing enthusiasts
  • Best Hotels: The Blue Wave Hotel, Aprota Villas Arugambay, Whiskey Point

7. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage: Kegalle District of Sabaragamuwa Province

Watch the largest herd of captivating elephants in the world at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. It is one of the best tourist places to visit in Sri Lanka with kids where they can cuddle and feed friendly elephants. At Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, these giant creatures take a bath in the River and watching them getting pampered with the tourists is one of the best experiences to cherish in Sri Lanka.

  • Ideal Duration: 5-7 hours (approx.)
  • Opening Timings: 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM, every day

8. Yala National Park: Hambantota District in Southern Province

Put on your binoculars, charge your cameras because Yala National Park in Sri Lanka in the southeastern corner of Sri Lanka has the highest degree of leopards in the world. Yala National Park is, without doubt, one of the best places to see wildlife in Sri Lanka for couples, families.

One must spend their half-day at Yala National Park to witness the other flora and fauna flourishing in the park. The park remains closed for maintenance from September to October first week.

You must hire a guide to understand the zones in the park because a few of the drivers speak less frequent English. Did we mention you can stay in cocooned-shaped tented logs and inhale the raw wildlife experience?

  • Jeep Safari Timings: 6 AM to 2 PM (subject to change)
  • Jeep Safari Cost: ₹ 3,500 (approx.) per person depending on the schedule of the safari
  • Ideal Duration: 4-5 hours (approx.)
  • Best Time to Visit: December to April
  • Best Hotels Near Yala National Park: Jetwing Yala, Mahoora Tented Camps

9. Mirissa: Matara District in Southern Province

Is your soul itching to spot a whale on an adventure trip to Sri Lanka? If yes, then lock in your accommodations at Mirissa in Southern Sri Lanka Province. This beach town of Sri Lanka could be considered an extension of South Goa with an extra layer of tranquility and secludedness. You can watch the pink sunset at the beach shacks after surfing or scuba diving in the pearl blue waters.

  • Ideal Duration: 3-4 days (approx.)
  • Best Time to Visit: November to March, October to April
  • Best Places to Eat: Nomad Cafe, Little Tuna, Wood Space
  • Best Hotels: Mirissa Gate Resort, Mirissa Hills, Sithnara Ayurveda Resort

10. Kandy: Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

Backpacking through Sri Lanka and missing Kandy in your itinerary is a sin because biodiverse rainforests and tea plantations embrace the beauty of this hill station snuggled at an elevation of 500 m (approx.). The unique Temple of Tooth is the highlight of Kandy tourism which is supposedly known to house the tooth of the Buddha.

However, UNESCO has decreased Kandy, a heritage site, back around two decades because Sri Lanka Tourism considers Kandy the cultural capital of the teardrop-shaped nation.

Couples will love a romantic stroll at the shimmering Kandy Lake in the night. Behold the roaring sound of the Hulu River Waterfall cascading from the height of 75 m (approx.) if you want to enjoy some time amidst the cooling drizzles.

We forget to mention that the Kandy to Ella train ride is a rewarding train journey that takes you through the narrow tunnels and lush green tea plantations. Kandy is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka in July or August because the Esala Poya Perahera is Sri Lanka’s most extravagant festival at its full hype.

  • Ideal Duration: 2-3 days (approx.)
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring Season to attend Sinhalese–Tamil new year in April
  • Train Travel Cost from Kandy to Ella: ₹60 onwards (approx.) for one way commute

11. Adam’s Peak: Ratnapura Nuwara Eliya District in Central Highlands

Nestled in the hill country on the southwestern edge, Adam’s Peak is a soaring summit and is one of the famous religious places in Sri Lanka. One needs to ascend to the top of the peak as this peak holds spiritual significance for Buddhism, Hindu, and Muslims. Buddhists believe that the footprint-shaped mark at the summit is where Budda’s footprint is positioned, and Hindus claim it as Shiva’s, along with Muslims who claim it came from Adam.

At an elevation of 2,243 m (7358 ft) sea level, Adam’s Peak is Sri Lanka’s fifth-highest peak, and the trek takes you through the lush green tea estate. It is best to start the trek at night to reach the summit till dawn. You must commence your ascend shortly after 2:30 am (approx.) to reach the summit till sunrise.

At such a staggering elevation, the views of the valleys from the summit will be reading. Don’t worry about safety as it is a night trek because you will find several like-minded travelers in groups, and there are little tea shops that remain open for tourists. Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka is a hiker’s paradise for sure, but it is not for the first time trekkers as the trek is a little daunting, but fun frolic moments are guaranteed!

  • Base Point and End Point of Climb: At the end far of Dalhousie Village
  • Time Taken to Climb Adam’s Peak: 4 hours (approx.) with multiple halts
  • Time Taken to Descent from Adam’s Peak: 2 hours 30 minutes (approx.)
  • Trek Distance to Adam’s Peak Summit: 7 kilometers (approx.) as there are around 5,500 steps
  • Best Time to Climb Adam’s Peak: Pilgrimage season between December and March

12. Galle: Southern Province of Sri Lanka

Lace up your sneakers and drive around 2.5 hours (approx.) to Galle from Colombo via the country’s first modern superhighways. Galle, famous for its 17th century Galle Fort built by dutch colonists, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This fortified city has plush resorts and hotels influenced by the Dutch style of architecture. If you are looking to enjoy some good time in Sri Lanka with your near or dear ones, Galle is a modern town bestowed with charming eateries, trinkets, shops and art galleries to explore.

Although the largest remaining European building is Sea Fort, Gale Fort is the major pull of tourism in Galle. Apart from it, couples will love to laze around the secluded beaches in Galle, including Pitiwella Beach, Jungle Beach, Unawatuna Beach and Mihiripenna Beach. Family travelers would love taking a day trip to National Museum Galle and excursions to the Sea Turtle Hatchery. A visit to the Galle in late January or early February will be an icing to the cake because Galle Literary Festival attracts locals and like-minded tourists.

  • Ideal Duration: 3 days (approx.)
  • Best Time to Visit: March on alternative year to attend Galle/Jaffna Music Festival
    Best Places to Eat: Cannon Gale Fort, The Shack Beach Cafe, The Bungalow’s Restaurant
    Best Hotels: Amari Galle Sri Lanka, Tamarind Hill, Jetwing Lighthouse

Opt for our exclusive Sri Lanka Honeymoon Packages.

What Else is Beguiling About Sri Lanka Tourism

Sri Lanka has the highest literacy rate, with 92% in the whole of Asia. So communication would hardly be a barrier when you are on Sri Lanka vacation. In addition, Tamil Migrants from Southern India have retained a vibrant, unique Hindu culture in the North of Sri Lanka.

With 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites under its belts, Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island nation by size, not by the encounters. You will gain larger than life experiences no matter which province in Sri Lanka you will drift.

Sri Lanka sits just above the equator, and there is always a balmy tropical climate along the coastline. While the hilly areas of Sri Lanka remain cool throughout the year compared to the coastal provinces or districts. The average daytime temperature in Sri Lanka, irrespective of the season, hovers around 26–30°C (approx.). While the high altitude regions like Kandy and Ella have cool climates hovering between 18–22°C (approx.).

The most affordable way of traveling around Sri Lanka is train travel and tuk-tuks. The former rewards you with the beguiling experiences in the hills as you traverse through the lush green tea estates and witness the hearth robbing greenery on the wheels at your comfort. While Tuk Tuk rides are particularly cheaper in cities like Colombo.

Tell Me More About Tourism in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a coastline of around 1,304 kilometers (approx.), and its topographic features vary when you move towards its central province to the verdant highlands of the hill country. The central highland compromises lush greenery where the endemic flora and fauna flourish.

Follow the temple etiquette and respect the traditional and cultural beliefs of the locals in Sri Lanka. Always remain respectful to the locals while interacting. If you want to go offbeat on a Sri Lanka trip, plan an itinerary to the Northern Province to roam at the golden beaches, remote temples, and colonial port towns.

The main monsoon in Sri Lanka, called Southwest or Yala monsoon, hits the southwest coasts first and the hill country regions from April/May to September. The wettest time to go to Sri Lanka is from April to June and is suggested to the budget-friendly tourists.

The Northeast monsoon, also called Maha monsoon, marks its presence on the east coast from November to March, and the wettest time on the same is from October to November.

Famous Food in Sri Lanka What to Shop from Sri Lanka
Kottu Roti Batiks
Hopper Buddha Figurine
Vadai Lacquerware
Lamprais Tea and spice
Popular Festivals & Events in Sri Lanka Festival Month
Duruthu Poya Buddhist Festival January
Thai Pongal Hindu Festival January
Medin Poya Buddhist Festival March
Sinhalese and Tamil New Year April
Vap Poya October

Check out our Sri Lanka tour packages available from major cities in India:

Related Posts:

Reasons to Choose Sri Lanka as your Travel Destination

Akshay Negi

Akshay Negi is the raddest writer at heart and passionate word nerd by choice. He became a writer the way other people become monks and nuns. Akshay has got a pair of eagle eyes. His approach geeks out on studying the personas of the human mind.