The capital of Sri Lanka – the largest city and main port of Sri Lanka. Colombo’s long and rich history as a port on the ancient east-west trading routes (ruled successively by the Portuguese, Dutch and British) is reflected in its spicy cuisine, inspiring architecture, impressive colonial buildings and bustling shopping malls. Present day Colombo remains a vibrant, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural city with a beautiful combination of old and new, making it an ideal place to begin a journey through Sri Lanka. Described as having “the lazy charm of the bygone era combined with the zest and energy of a modern day city” - Colombo is guaranteed to delight the senses. Tourist attractions are too many to list, but popular choices include the Gangaramaya Temple (one of the most important temples in Colombo) or a day at the Zoological Gardens at Dehiwala Zoo. A visit to Colombo will leave you thirsty for more of beautiful Sri Lanka! Show More
A major city in Sri Lanka and the capital of the North Central Province – gained recognition as ‘a great city’ following the arrival of a cutting from the Bodhi Tree (‘tree of enlightenment’), the Buddha’s fig tree, in the 3rd century BC. Now a city filled with picturesque ruins and stunning scenery, the sacred city of Anuradhapura does not disappoint. When visiting Anuradhapura, the problem is not finding things to see but rather the time to see them all! Featuring eight major palaces, the sacred Bodhi tree and numerous monuments and monasteries, Anuradhapura is a magnet for tourists seeking beautiful, rich culture, and draws many Buddhist pilgrims from far and wide. An absolute must when visiting beautiful Sri Lanka!
Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, Polonnaruwa is the islands second largest kingdom; to date, the ancient city remains one of the best planned Archaeological sites nation-wide. You’ll even spot the tranquil beauty of Polonnaruwa in Duran Duran’s music video “Save a Prayer” from 1982.
Once the second capital of Sri Lanka (following the destruction of Anuradhapura), Polonnaruwa is home to the monumental ruins of the stunning garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century. Other places of interest include The Lankathilaka Temple and a colossal statue of Buddha made from stone. This fascinating city transports you to a time of glorious kingdoms and grand civilizations; it’s rich and unique history still resonating from its ruins.
In the twelfth century the famous explorer Marco Polo wrote that Sri Lanka was the finest island in the whole world; centuries later it remains a popular tourist destination, being named as the best valued destination for holidays in 2012. You’ll find the beautiful city of Kandy located in the centre of Sri Lanka – a city that is generally recognized as the island nation’s cultural capital. Kandy is surrounded by stunning tropical rain forest hill country on both sides, where you’ll find exotic animals such as monkeys roaming the wild. Its cool climate and name for great shopping make Kandy a great place to experience Sri Lankan culture and cuisine while surrounded by a magical natural environment. Major tourist attractions such as the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage and the Tooth Temple can all be found within a short drive of Kandy.
Locals refer to Sigiriya as the Eighth Wonder of the World, and once there in person it’s easy to see why. The ancient palace and fortress complex is one of the most valuable historical monuments of Sri Lanka, with great archaeological importance. It is perhaps the most visited tourist destination of Sri Lanka.
Located in the heart of the island, Sigiriya rock plateau stands an incredible 200 metres higher than the surrounding jungle, astonishing visitors with the harmonious contrast of nature and human imagination. 370 meters above sea level, between the towns of Dambulla and Habarane, Sigiriya is impressive and awe-inspiring for all who visit.
This little gem can be found 11 km north-east of Anuradhapura on the road to Trincomalee. It was here that Buddhism originated in Sri Lanka, after the King Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura met Mahinda, son of the great Indian Buddhist Emperor Asoka. This historically great event makes Mihintale a place of much spiritual significance to Buddhists in Sri Lanka and is celebrated annually on the Poson full moon night – generally in the month of June. Attractions include the wide stairway, made of 1840 ancient granite slabs, creating a majestic climb of the hill for a breathtaking view. Numerous carvings, some of which are considered the greatest in the country, can be found scattered around the beautiful site of Mihintale.
A gorgeous little town (and another World Heritage city), Galle is more than an atmospheric piece of time-warped island history – this magical town is the most perfectly preserved colonial town in Sri Lanka. A great example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, Galle (also known as the Dutch fort) displays the seamless interaction between the European architectural styles and South Asian traditions – truly a sight worth seeing. Galle is a historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument – and some 400+ years later it maintains a cared-for appearance. Popular places to visit while in Galle include the Dutch Reformed Church, the 1939 Galle Lighthouse, the Buddhist temple built at the site of Portuguese Roman Catholic church and the old Dutch government house. You’ll love this pleasant stroll through Sri Lankan history.
With a population of only a few hundred, Arugam bay is a little slice of heaven and home to a famed point break that many consider the best surf spot in the country. Like some magical place on a postcard, this picturesque little town has everything along a single road which runs alongside the coast, with stunning beach houses and restaurants, and numerous activities in the surrounding hinterland. Arugam bay is the town at “the end of the road” – literally. If you’re looking for laid-back rural living with an adventurous atmosphere, Arugam Bay won’t disappoint. Fast on its way to becoming a major tourist attraction, we recommend you visit here while it’s still the original, under-stated hidden treasure it is!
A cute little town located on the south coast of Sri Lanka and home to the reputed second best surfing spot nation-wide, Hikkaduwa is also home of the Hikkaduwa Coral Sanctuary where they have approximately 70 different types of multi-coloured corals. A vibrant night-life combined with its warm beaches make it a popular tourist destination. Hikkaduwa also featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s T.V show ‘No Reservations’. First discovered by delighted tourists in the 1960’s, tourism in Hikkaduwa has blossomed and now offers a range of exciting activities such as; snorkelling/diving, glass bottom boat tours, and visiting temples. For diving enthusiasts – there are more than four shipwrecks to explore in these waters! A delightful taste of culture and a real Sri Lankan tourist feeling – Hikkaduwa is the place to be.
120 km from Colombo and a mere 4 km south of Galle lies one of the safest beaches in Sri Lanka – famous for both its beautiful beaches and captivating corals. Among the resorts along the western coast, Unawatuna is considered one of the quietest – making it a delightful place to enjoy its tropical beauty in peace. According to a Ramayanaya epic story, Unawatuna was created from a piece of earth of Himalaya – regardless of its creation; common opinion among locals and tourists alike is that its pristine beaches and peaceful clear waters are just the beginning. Scuba diving and snorkelling gear can be rented from any of the beachfront shops for those keen to see more of beautiful Unawatuna beach. All of these features plus more make Unawatuna beach a wonderful place to spend your next holiday.
Positioned on the south coast of Sri Lanka, Mirissa is the largest fishing port (known for its tuna, mullet, snapper and butterfish) on the south coast, as well as one of the islands main whale and dolphin watching locations. It is in the seas of Mirissa that you’ll see whales (blue whale, Bryde’s whale, sperm whale, killer whale and pilot whale) and a few types of dolphins (bottle nosed, striped and spinner dolphins) – guaranteed to be an experience you won’t forget. While there are many who offer ocean trips, it’s advisable you choose someone who is certified. Other water sports activities include sailing, fishing, coastal cruises, river trips, sea kayaking, snorkelling and boating, with a scattering of guest houses and cafes. Mirissa is widely popular among tourists and offers an adventurous holiday experience like no other.
Considered a very sacred place by the Tamil and Sinhalese, both Trincomalee and its surroundings have both Hindu and Buddhist sites (sacred to Hindu’s and Buddhist’s) of great historical importance. One of the major tourist attractions includes Trincomalee’s hot springs – there are a total of seven hot springs of Kanniya, located just 4 km’s from Trincomalee. These hot springs of Kanniya have a history that spans over 1000 years - the use of these springs for bathing however is under strict control. Trincomalee also boasts a record as being the fifth largest, and one of the finest, natural deep-water harbors in the world. Trincomalee is also a popular tourist destination for whale watching, and other activities including visiting the Trincomalee World War 2 Cemetery, the Pillaiyar Temple (a Hindu temple) and Fort Frederick. Trincomalee is an interesting and adventurous place to spend some time while enjoying beautiful Sri Lanka!
Yala National Park
Designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, Yala was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, and covers 979 square km’s. This makes it the second largest national park in Sri Lanka and the most visited, located about 300 km’s from Colombo. Best known for its variety of wild animals, Yala National Park plays a crucial role in the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, leopards and aquatic birds. Yala National Park is home to 215 different bird species (including 6 species native to Sri Lanka), and has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. The area surrounding Yala hosted several ancient civilisations, and two important pilgrim sites (Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara) are situated within the park. Each year some 400,000 pilgrims visit these sites.
A safari at Yala National Park is a great way to spend the day and spot majestic animals in the wild!
Udawala National Park
A small town located in the southern part of the Ratnapura District, this little town is the main entry point to the Udawalawe National Park.
Approximately 308 sq. km’s, Udawalawe National Park is an adventure the whole family will love. With water buffalo, water monitor lizards, sambar deer, monkeys and leopards roaming the park, Udawalawe delivers a true safari experience. Home to over 400 elephants (the main attraction at Udawalawe) it’s not unusual to see entire herds of adults and babies feeding or bathing, or even playing together in the water. Udawalawe National Park is also an exciting location for bird enthusiasts. Due to its location on the boundary of Sri Lanka’s wet and dry zone, there is stunning diversity in both flora and fauna. With a fascinating history and culture, the area surrounding the park offers an array of historical sites and natural wonders that delight even the most seasoned travellers.
Wilpattu National Park
Located approximately 180 km’s north of Colombo, the Wilpattu National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Sri Lanka. Boasting unique rainwater lakes and pools, the Wilpattu Park also protects elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, cobras, python’s, turtles and many bird species including the elegant large white egret and spoonbills. Another notable feature of this park is its butterfly population. Although it’s unlikely to match that of Yala National Park, the leopard density here is also remarkable. Take the journey for yourself and make memories that last a lifetime, Wilpattu is a must visit on your Sri Lankan holiday.
Bundala National Park
Although not as popular as the nearby Yala National Park, Bundala National Park has many wonders to be discovered. A fascinating maze of waterways, lagoons and dunes that glow in the evening sunset, Bundala is a wonderland that’s home to thousands of colourful birds; sheltering almost 200 different species. It’s also home for a small but visible population of elephants, and other wildlife such as civets, giant squirrels and lots of crocodiles. An experience that leaves visitors spellbound and enamoured, Bundala is a wonderful way to spend a day here in beautiful Sri Lanka.