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Sri Lanka was famously described by Marco Polo as one of the finest islands in the world. It has a history that dates back thousands of years and, although it’s small, there is so much history, nature and beauty to see in this country. Explore its beaches, jungles, tea plantations, temples, and much more from our list of the most beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Visit the well-preserved colonial city of Galle, on the southwest coast, for a relaxing city break. This town is full of charming Dutch-era villas and seaside views. Plan to see the Galle Fort (a Dutch fort that’s recognised as the largest remaining European-built sea fort in Asia), which is now a World Heritage Site. Other highlights include the natural harbour, St Mary’s Cathedral, and Galle International Stadium, which is widely regarded as one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world.
This town, on the southwest coast, has magnificent beaches, luxury hotels and plenty of untouched beauty. Spend a day soaking in the sun at Bentota Beach, visit the nearby Kosgoda turtle hatchery or find peace in the Galapatha Rajamaha Viharaya Buddhist temple. Bentota is a tourist hotspot, so you’ll also be able to get stuck into activities like helicopter rides and water sports.
This large city is known as the Sacred City of Kandy for its significance to Buddhists. Many travel to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, within the royal palace complex that was built in the 4th century, as it holds Buddha’s tooth – although you can’t actually see it. Elsewhere, Kandy is surrounded by the central highland mountains and is the place to go to get a taste of Sinhalese culture – especially if you can visit during the Esala Perahera festival in the summer.
Nuwara Eliya is a plateau town surrounded by mountains. It is also known as ‘Little England’ for its old British colonial buildings, like the Queen’s Cottage and the General’s House. The area holds many natural beauties, like waterfalls, hills, tea plantations and the towering Pidurutalagala, which is the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is one of many tea plantation areas in Sri Lanka, but it is regarded as the most important spot for tea production in the country – don’t forget to try a cup on your visit.
Arugam Bay, on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, is a remote town that attracts surfers from around the world. Brush up on your skills at one of the bay’s schools, like Pappy’s Surf School and Amigo Surf school, before heading out to the swell on Main Point. When not at the beach, visit the town’s historic temples or the nearby Kumana National Park.
Fancy hanging out in a hammock under the sun? Make your way to the beachside village of Mirissa on Sri Lanka’s south coast, where sandy bays are what it’s best-known for. The area’s namesake beach is particularly popular, from which you can head out on a dolphin- and whale-watching boat trip between May and November. Coconut Tree Hill is also a must-visit destination to watch the sunrise.
Sadie Whitelocks contributed additional reporting to this article.