11 Most Unusual Things to Do in Sri Lanka

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Yana Spencer-Sokirzhinskaya

Sri Lanka has a huge amount to offer visitors in search of unique encounters, ranging from breathtakingly scenic routes, ancient sites with rich history, stunning wildlife, spectacular festivals and a huge variety of outdoor activities. At the end of a hectic day touring the country, you can savor the deliciously spicy cuisine, relax with rejuvenating Ayurveda spa, or simply soak up a scintillating sunset.

1. Private Half-Day Colombo City Tour

Historical Landmark

Explore the rich history and vibrant culture of Colombo on this half-day private tour. Visit key landmarks such as the Old Parliament building, Vihara Buddhist Temple, and St. Lucia’s Cathedral. Enjoy the flexibility of a personalized itinerary tailored to your interests, with a private guide providing insights into the city’s unique heritage. This tour includes convenient private transportation to and from your hotel, ensuring a comfortable and exclusive experience for you and your party.

2. Take a train ride in the hill country

Forest, Natural Feature

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The most unforgettable and scenic way to travel around Sri Lanka is no doubt by railway. The train trip through the hill country (taking in must-see destinations of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Hatton) is one of the most beautiful in the world . The rail network was originally built by the British to transport tea, and opens a window to the cultural, historic and scenic sides of Sri Lanka. Passing deep green tea plantations, remote villages and mountain paths, the train journey from Kandy up into the highest corners of the hills often stands out as an experience to treasure forever.

3. Climb Sigiriya Lion Rock

Ruins, Architectural Landmark

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Built 1600 years ago, the UNESCO World heritage site Sigiriya is an outstanding example of ancient Sri Lankan art and architecture. Probably the most well-known Sri Lankan monument, it attracts tourists and locals alike, who early each morning tackle the 60–90 minute climb to the top. Reach the Sky Palace (on top of 200-meter-tall rock), stopping on the way to take in the gorgeous gardens and frescoes, then continue on to the summit and be astonished by the panoramic view.

Watch “The Gathering” at Minneriya National Park

Believed to be the largest gathering of elephants at any one time in Asia, Minneriya’s nature event takes place every July–October. The dry season means decreased water supplies for mammals, so they come from far and wide to drink from the Minneriya reservoir. Enjoy watching elephants play, drink and munch on fresh green grass. Over 300 of them head to Minneriya from all over the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

4. Full day Safari - Yala National Park

Historical Landmark

Embark on a thrilling safari adventure in Yala National Park to spot the elusive leopard, along with elephants, buffalo, snakes, sloths, jackals, and more. With the expertise of a guide, explore the diverse wildlife of Sri Lanka. Enjoy a local Sri Lankan breakfast and lunch during your journey, and experience the park from the comfort of a luxury safari jeep. This tour offers an immersive and exciting wildlife experience.

Surf at Arugam Bay

If you are into surfing, Arugam Bay is the place to visit on this paradise island. The bay’s waves are ideal for both complete beginners and experienced surfers. Don’t miss the picture-perfect Peanut Farm beach, which is a surfing hot-spot, as well as Panama Point, dotted with colourful fishing boats.

5. Southern Sri Lanka Sightseeing Day Trip From Colombo & Negombo

Historical Landmark

Explore the highlights of Sri Lanka’s South Coast on this comprehensive tour. Visit Galle’s colonial Dutch Fort, stroll along its ramparts, and wander the cobblestone pathways. Discover traditional mask-making at Ambalangoda, enjoy a scenic boat ride on Maduganga River, and visit a Turtle Hatchery. The tour also includes a visit to the serene Japanese Peace Pagoda.

Snorkel at Pigeon Island National Park

An idyllic location, Pigeon Island is situated to the north of Trincomalee, and is one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in Sri Lanka. The National Park’s name comes from the rock pigeon which has colonized it, and you can spot them by climbing up the rocks on the nature trail. But the real treat for visitors is the chance to snorkel right off the beach and spot scores of tropical fish amid dazzling coral.

Kandy Carnival, Esala Perahera, Sri Lanka

Experience the Kandy Esala Perahera

As darkness falls, the streets of Kandy jostle with spectators eager to catch a glimpse one of the most spectacular processions in the world. The Esala Perahera (also known as the The Festival of the Tooth) takes place every July or August (depending on the Full Moon Poya Day). This awe-inspiring event includes hundreds of whip crackers, flag bearers, fire-dancers, Kandyan drummers, and elephants in bejewelled capes. After the grand finale, the event ends with the ritual water cutting ceremony in the river, and Sri Lankans believe that this water is sacred and dispels evil.

Indulge yourself with an Ayurvedic treatment

Full-on activities and hot, humid weather can take their toll. Fortunately, weary travellers can call on Sri Lanka’s famous Ayurveda to help them recuperate. Yoga, meditation, herbal baths, dietary advice and massage are all essential parts of Ayurveda – one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems, based on the ancient wisdom of good living. One of the most famous Ayurvedic treatments is shirodhara, which involves pouring warm herbal oil in a thin, steady stream directly onto the ‘third eye’ area of the forehead. To further purify the mind and body, you can choose from a wide variety of massages, including full body oil, powder or hot poultice.

6. Galle Full-Day Tour

Historical Landmark

Discover the southwest coast of Sri Lanka on this day trip from Colombo, led by an expert driver-guide. Visit the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery to see endangered turtles, capture photos of Weligama’s stilt fishermen, and explore the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort with its colonial architecture. Learn about the impact of the 2004 tsunami at the Talwatte Tsunami Photo Museum. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and unwind at Bentota Beach before returning to Colombo.

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