Sri Lanka was described by Marco Polo as one of the finest islands in the world. Its history dates back thousands of years and – despite being relatively small – it has oodles of nature and beauty to admire. Itching to explore? For the country’s most beautiful sights, this is where to go in Sri Lanka.
Inspired to visit Sri Lanka but not sure where to start with planning your itinerary? Consider joining Culture Trip’s specially curated 12-day Sri Lanka adventure, led by our local insider.
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, as you can now go there with Culture Trip as part of our epic 12-day Sri Lanka adventure. Plan to see the Dutch-built Galle Fort – the largest remaining European-built sea fort in Asia and a World Heritage Site. Other highlights include the natural harbour, St Mary’s Cathedral, and Galle International Stadium, 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 such as helicopter rides and watersports.
This large city is known as the Sacred City of Kandy for its significance to Buddhists. Many travel to the Temple of the Tooth, within the fourth-century royal palace complex, as it’s said to hold Buddha’s tooth – although you can’t actually see it. Elsewhere, Kandy is surrounded by the central highland mountains and is the place to sample Sinhalese culture – especially if you visit during the Esala Perahera festival in summer. It also features as one of many wonderful destinations on Culture Trip’s specially curated small-group Sri Lanka tour.
Nuwara Eliya is a plateau town surrounded by mountains. It is also known as Little England for its British colonial buildings, such as the Queen’s Cottage and the General’s House. The area holds natural beauties, too, including waterfalls, hills, tea plantations, and Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is one of many tea plantation regions in Sri Lanka, but regarded as the most important tea producing spot in the country – try a cup on your visit.
Arugam Bay, on the southeast coast, is a remote town that attracts surfers from around the world. Brush up on your skills at one of the schools, such as Pappy’s Surf School or Amigo Surf, before heading out to the swell on Main Point. When not at the beach, visit the 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 the south coast, best known for its sandy bays. The 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.