Sri Lanka is a tiny island country located in the Indian Ocean in South Asia. Sri Lanka is known as the place where the original soul of Buddhism is still thriving. During our eight day stay, we did a bit of everything whilst staying out of the super touristy spots for most of our trip. Whether you’re looking for a place to be one with nature, meditate, learn about the countries culture, relax on the beach, hike, or do something adventurous – Sri Lanka has it all and then some. Here are my top ten favorite things we experienced whilst visiting the gem of the Indian Ocean.
10. Visit Ravana Falls in Ella
Ravana Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Sri Lanka, located in Ella. If you’re lucky enough to pass this beautiful waterfall, stop and take a few photos. Pictures are free and worth the few extra minutes.
9. Visit a local village
When we were in Sigiriya, we paid 3000 Rupees to take a boat across one of the lakes to a nearby local village where they cooked for us. We had the opportunity to crack the coconut open and peel the inside of the coconut out with one of their tools. They cooked us coconut sambal from scratch which was arguably one of the best meals we ate while in Sri Lanka. The locals were very welcoming and kind, I think they enjoyed making the food for us as much as we enjoyed eating it.
8. Hike Rose Quartz Mountain
Here’s something you don’t see on many lists of places to visit in Sri Lanka. Rose Quartz Mountain is a hidden gem located in The National Ironwood Forest in Dambulla. The mountain range is made of pink and violet quartz deposits. It takes about thirty minutes to get to the mountain range, as you’ll have to walk through the forest to get there. Make sure you wear some good shoes, pack snacks, water and bring insect repellent!
7. Spend some time at Hikkaduwa Beach
Hikkaduwa Beach is a place I’d wish we’d spent more time at but unfortunately we only had eight days. Hikkaduwa is a small town located in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. The water is clear, there were sea turtles in the water, lots of places to snorkel and dive, and perfect for those who love to surf. Hikkaduwa was the most touristy spot we’d visited so they can be a little pricy but overall, the beach was beautiful and relaxing.
6. Visit a Tea Plantantion in Nuwara Eliya
Tea production is one of Sri Lanka’s main sources of foreign exchange and contributes a large sum to the economy of Sri Lanka. If you’re looking for something more relaxing, learning about tea production and drinking a glass of tea is the perfect excursion for you. We visited Damro Tea in Nuwara Eliya, they provide free tours and their tea is delicious.
5. Go on a safari in Yala National Park
Yala National Park is known as Sri Lanka’s most famous wildlife park. The safari consists of sitting in a Jeep and roaming around the park looking for wildlife. We saw a few elephants, wild bor, a selection of birds, crocodiles, and buffalo. Next time we want to see a leopard! The park has bathrooms inside, don’t worry you won’t have to pop a squat with nature!
4. Visit Dambulla Cave Temple
We visited a lot of temples over the course of our visit but there was nothing quite like the Dambulla Cave Temple. The temple is also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, it’s the largest and best preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. The temple is 364 steps up and composed of five caves. Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered before you enter and be prepared to take your shoes off because it is a sacred place.
3. Hike Sigiriya Rock
Out of all the hikes we did, this one was by far my favorite. Sigiriya Rock is known as the eighth wonder of the world, formed by magma from an extinct volcano and 200m higher than the surrounding jungles. Sigiriya Rock, or Lion’s Rock is 1200 steps up to the top where you can explore the feet of the lion, the remains of a palace, gardens, or just see an amazing view. We did some yoga at the top, listened to our breathe and focused on the mountains and really just took in the breathtaking view.
2. Take the Train from Kandy to Ella
If you do anything whilst visiting Sri Lanka, make sure you do this! The iconic train ride from Kandy to Ella, we actually hopped on in Nuwara Eliya and paid 4000 Rupees to sit where the luggage goes so we could hang out the doors and walk around. The scenery is beautiful and the train ride itself was very smooth. My recommendation is to bring a few beers, sit back and enjoy the scenery.
1. Watch the Sunrise at Adam’s Peak
My favorite thing we did was hike to Adam’s Peak. We woke up at 130am on New Years Day to hike to the top of Adam’s Peak. It’s 5,800 steps up from the entrance and a good walk just to get to that. We made sure to bring lots of water and snacks, there were plenty of places to take breaks on the way up if you don’t want to bring a bag though. The hike is challenging, you’re walking up stairs and your elevation level is increasing. Mentally and physically, it was a lot but watching the sun rise at 530 and knowing we made it to the top was so rewarding for us. On the way down, the sun is out so you get to experience all of the nature you didn’t have the chance to see on the way up.
Overall, a vacation to Sri Lanka won’t disappoint. The country is tiny yet filled with so many unique experiences for every type of traveler. I recommend using Sri Lanka Round Tour by Papa Priyantha, he organized the basis of our entire trip and he was an amazing help. If you plan on traveling to more than one area, hire a personal driver rather than using taxi’s and Tuk-Tuk’s to get around. We hired a personal driver through Papa for the eight days we were there and it was well worth the money.
So there you have it, my top ten things to do whilst visiting Sri Lanka. We avoided most of the “tourist” attractions and worked our way through the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was beautiful and filled with a ton of cultural history, if you have any recommendations please leave them in the comments below! Until my next post, Inshalla.