Sri Lanka is a wonderful island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean. Recently I had the huge pleasure to do my first trip to Sri Lanka and explored several amazing places to visit in Sri Lanka. The country mainly impressed me with its stunning nature and incredibly friendly locals. Furthermore, I always felt completely safe and would recommend Sri Lanka to everybody that is interested in exploring more of the world. No matter if you are an adventurer or prefer a relaxed beach holiday, Sri Lanka has it all.
But let’s not waste too much time and head straight into it, here are my favorite places to see in Sri Lanka – from the perspective of a first time visitor.
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Great places to visit in Sri Lanka
Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress and probably the most famous tourist site in all of Sri Lanka. And honestly, I understand why! Not only is Sigiriya absolutely stunning to look at (check out the pictures below!) but it also has a rich history and is a really unique location that you can’t find anywhere else.
The site was originally selected by King Kashyapa as his new capital. He then built a place on top of the rock and decorated it with frescoes that you can still see nowadays. Due to its significance, Sigiriya Rock is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Overall, Sigiriya is definitely one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, and you shouldn’t miss it!
Wilpattu National Park
Do you love safaris and animals? Then this place is for you! Wilpattu National Park is one of the biggest national parks in the country and home to a huge variety of wild animals and fauna. On a lucky day, you can see Leopards, Elephants, tons of different birds, monkeys and other wild animals roaming around.
I absolutely loved my Safari in Wilpattu National Park and can highly recommend to check it out during your trip to Sri Lanka.
Kalpitiya, located in the North West of Sri Lanka is an upcoming tourist destination with 2 amazing opportunities for tourists: Kitesurfing and Dolphin Watching.
While I don’t do kitesurfing, we saw hundreds of them enjoying the perfect conditions, which make Kalpitiya one of the best places on earth to do kitesurfing – there are also many options to learn it.
We instead went for the dolphin watching, which was absolutely incredible! We saw hundreds of wild dolphins swimming around our boat and even had the huge luck to spot a whale, which was something I will never forget!
Riverston was probably my favorite place to visit in Sri Lanka – since it matches perfectly with what I love most: Incredible nature and authentic experiences. Even though Riverston is an absolutely stunning region with mountains, UNESCO protected cloud forests, waterfalls, and lovely local villages, it is not one of the most frequently visited areas of the country (yet!).
During our day in Riverston, we explored the cloud forests, were swimming in a waterfall and had a lunch in a local village. For me, that was a perfect travel day – and I already want to go back to Riverston to see more! For me, Riverston is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Kandy is a location that you will find on almost every Sri Lanka Itinerary, and there are many reasons for it. Located in central Sri Lanka and surrounded by mountains it is picturesque and has a nice atmosphere.
The main attractions of Kandy are the Temple of the Tooth (& other Buddhist sites) and Bogambara Lake, which is perfect for a stroll with your travel buddies or family.
This place is something else. While mainly famous for its tea plantations (definitely check them out!) the town itself seems like an old British town in the middle of Sri Lankan nature. And guess what? It is absolutely incredible!
You can find a combination of historical sites in the town itself, as well as plenty of natural beauty around the town. For me, Nuwara Eliya was one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka.
Due to its elevation of over 1’800 meters above sea level, the temperatures are also chill and it is a popular destination to escape the heat.
Since Sri Lanka is an island there also has to be another beach location in the list of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, right? Mirissa fits this description perfectly and is honestly a beautiful place.
Mirissa is a good combination of beautiful beaches and “Instagram worthy” spots and a great offer of restaurants and accommodations. Since many tourists find their way there, it is definitely not a secret spot, but you will find a wide variety of food and places to go out. A great location for both families and solo travelers.
My highlight was Mirissa Beach, which looks absolutely stunning. Definitely plan a stop in Mirissa during your Sri Lanka travels.
Colombo is the capital city and most likely the place where you will start your journey. While Colombo might not be the most exciting destination in Sri Lanka, it is definitely worth exploring!
The city has a long history and was influenced by different empires, including the Portuguese, Dutch and British. This reflects the city’s architecture and makes it interesting to see. I recommend spending at least half of a day in Colombo to see some of the most famous buildings and, if you have time, visit one of the museums.
Anuradhapura is one of the most important cities in Sri Lanka – and home to well-preserved ruins of the Sinhala civilization. In Anuradhapura, you can find ancient ruins, historical and religious sites and much more. You could probably walk around the ancient city for hours and always see new details and explore something you didn’t see yet.
The most important site is the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, which is a sacred fig tree. This place is incredibly sacred for every Buddhist – and is said to be one of the oldest trees on earth.
If you are interested in history and/or religious sites, Anuradhapura is definitely one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka for you!
Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home
This place has a special place in my heart. Seeing little orphan elephants in the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home was of course super cute and an amazing experience. But what makes it even better is that you are supporting a great cause: The elephants here are getting reintegrated into wildlife – which is just incredible.
While you are able to see the super cute baby elephants running around and getting fed, you can only do so from a big distance, to keep the interaction of these wild animals with humans to a minimum.
For more information, check out their official website.
Let’s get to the last place you should visit in Sri Lanka: Galle! This coastal city features impressive architecture such as the Galle Fort and a lighthouse – which is super picturesque. Galle was occupied by different empires (just like Colombo!) and therefore has a huge mix of architecture and vibes.
I recommend checking out Galle on your trip since it is a cute place with some interesting things to do and generally a really relaxing atmosphere to spend some time.
How to get to Sri Lanka?
The easiest and most common way to get to Sri Lanka is by airplane to Colombo, which is the capital and biggest city of the country. From there, you can easily get to all the places listed in this blog post. To search for the best flights, I recommend using Skyscanner.
Best time to visit Sri Lanka?
The best time to visit Sri Lanka is probably from October to March (generally) since it is the driest season of the year. For the central hill areas (Kandy, Nuwara Eliya) March is the recommended time since it generally has the best weather and temperatures. That being said, Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination all year round and it also depends on what you are planning to do there!