Find a Travel Buddy in Sri Lanka

Travel to Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean, and discover unique wildlife and culture. This Southeast Asian paradise will leave you speechless on your next group trip.

Plan your next trip to Sri Lanka

Are you wondering where to start when it comes to the planning a trip to Sri Lanka? What to do? Where to visit? Who should you travel with? Keep reading to find the answer to your question and discover your next island gateway. 

Top 10 things to do in Sri Lanka

10. Explore Sigiriya 

This ancient rock fortress is also a former royal palace and one of the country’s most visited and well-known sights which usually attracts tourists and locals alike. The palace ruins are situated on top of the ginormous 200m rock which is filled with reservoirs and one of the oldest landscaped gardens.

9. Watch the sunrise in Adam’s peak

Little Adam's Peak is a popular, easy-to-do trip for visitors to Ella's tourism area. It's not to be mistaken with Adam's Peak, the sacred mountain near Hatton that requires a difficult 5000-step climb. Start your one-hour climb when it's still dark outside, so you don't miss the sunrise from the summit.

8. Are you a tea lover? Visit Hill Country’s Haputale Mountains

If you’re a tea lover, definitely travel to the Haputale Mountains, where Sir Thomas Lipton founded his tea empire. To see where it all started, arrange transportation to Lipton's Seat, Mr. Lipton's favorite site to relax and watch over his vast estate, and visit carefully terraced tea estates, watch pickers at work, and purchase your own samples to take home.

7. Take one of the most beautiful trains rides from Colombo

A rail journey is a must-do when it comes to Sri Lankan adventures. Take the Colombo to Ella train excursion, which also travels across the Instagram-famous Nine Arch Bridge, unforgettable mountain views, tea gardens, British colonial-era railway stops, and flowing water bodies. Be sure to reserve your tickets in advance since it is one of the most famous attractions in the country.

6. Island hop to the North

The handful of islands off Sri Lanka's northernmost coast is ideal for adventurous travelers wishing to head off the beaten path. The largest of these is sleepy Neduntivu (also known as 'Neduntheevu' and known to the Dutch as Delft), which is home to about 4,500 inhabitants and herds of wild horses.

5. Explore Kandy

This city was once the last capital of Sri Lanka’s ancient kings, it’s also Kandy is a favored retreat for colonial administrators looking to beat the heat. Make sure to visit Kandy's bustling temple complex, which houses the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Wars have erupted over this relic, which is thought to have once belonged to Buddha himself. Add your own petal offerings and votive candles to join the devout.

4. Visit the walled city of Galle 

The walled city of Galle, on the country's southernmost tip and bordered by ocean on three sides, was built by the Dutch in 1663 and is a must-see for any visitor to Sri Lanka. Dutch Colonial structures, historic mosques and cathedrals, museums, and a plethora of unique boutique cafés and eateries can all be found inside the fort. Outside, you'll be able to see some of Sri Lanka's most stunning beaches.

3. Learn the culture of Sri Lanka’s indigenous people 

Sri Lanka's indigenous people are known as the Vedda. Their numbers have fallen over the years due to migration, habitat destruction, and integration into the country's dominant Sinhala-Buddhist culture. Some Vedda families, now dispersed around the island in tiny numbers, continue to retain their native language, cuisines, and rituals in locations like Dambana, an indigenous village, and museum in the Maduru Oya National Park's southern section.

2. Cycle through the ruins of an ancient kingdom 

From 1070 to 1232, Polonnaruwa served as Sri Lanka's second capital, and the ruins of this ancient city are now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Arrive early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and to have the entire archaeological park to yourself. Weekends, school holidays, and full moons are the busiest times to visit the Polonnaruwa ruins.

1. Taste Sri Lanka’s Cinnamon 

Southern Sri Lanka produces some of the best cinnamon in the world, a lighter, sweeter kind than Indonesian and Vietnamese cinnamons. Visitors to Ganduwa Island in Koggala Lake, just south of Galle, can learn about the highly sought Ceylon cinnamon from generations of peelers who have spent their days peeling small layers of the tree's inner bark to generate cinnamon quills.

The most Instagrammable spots in Sri Lanka

Creating your next Instagram Instagram grid? Here are the top 5 picturesque spots in Sri Lanka

Unawatuna beach

Unawatuna is a significant Sri Lankan beach town located approximately 6 kilometers from Galle. This is one of Sri Lanka's Hot Spots, with photogenic palm-lined beaches and turquoise waters, making it ideal for sunset cocktails.

Nine arch bridge 

Another important landmark in Ella is the Nine Arch Bridge. It's a massive bridge made completely of bricks, with no steel insight. When there are no trains, you can climb up to the overlook for a wonderful view of the train rushing across the bridge, or simply walk into the middle of the bridge.

Pidurangala rock 

Pidurangala is the twin of Sigiriya, located very close to each other, which shows a magnificent view of the Sigiriya Rock. It used to be a Buddhist monastery, and some of the monks still live within the temples. The hike up to the top is not that difficult and do prepare a cover-up since you would have to pass a temple before starting the hike. Be sure to go very early in the morning to enjoy the spectacular view of sunrise above the clouds.

Avukana Buddha statue 

The Avukana Statue, which rises more than 40 feet tall, is located in Avukana Rajamaha Viharaya near Kekirawa, North Central Province. This ancient monument, which dates from the 5th century, was painstakingly carved out of a granite rock face and depicts the Abhayamudr hand position.

Diyaluma waterfall

There is a trail that leads to the top of Sri Lanka's second-highest waterfall. Another waterfall is Upper Diyaluma, which includes a few natural ponds with views of the mountains. If you go during a relatively dry season, don't forget to go to the edge pool and pose for a photo.

The ultimate 7-day itinerary to Sri Lanka

Day 1 - Colombo - Negombo 

After arriving in Colombo you can, head out for lunch or dinner and explore the local street food to sample the curries and other staples. Beira Lake is the perfect spot for sunset or to go boating.  You can also visit the majestic Gangaramaya temple and soak in all the spirituality of the Buddhists.

Another alternative is to, take a short cab ride north of Colombo to Negombo and begin your journey on the beach. Negombo's beach isn't the most popular beach in Sri Lanka, but it'll suffice for your first afternoon there.

Day 2 - Kandy

Sri Lanka is known for its stunning rail journeys and kind people. However, because trains can be very crowded, arrive at the station early to ensure your ticket or reserve a seat in advance.

The train journey to Kandy takes you out of Colombo and through lovely green meadows with palm trees before arriving in the central Sri Lankan hills. 

Kandy is a lovely little town with a lot of colonial influences. It is nestled between lush green hills and distant mountains.

If you have time, go to the Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue, which is located just outside of the city on a hill. It is a massive Buddha statue that overlooks the city.

Day 3 - 5  Ella 

The train is a distinctive blue that shines out against the lush foliage that covers the majority of the route. It meanders through the hills, some untamed, some carved out by tea plantations. Prepare to be astounded by how lush everything is.

The most beautiful tea fields can be found around Nuwara Eliya, one of the journey's stops. Many tourists stop here for a day or two to wander among the tea fields and sample Ceylon's best cup of tea.

If you want to do further exploration, there are a number of interesting attractions outside of Ella that are accessible by bus or taxi. The Diyaluma Waterfalls is one of them. After a short stroll through the forest, you'll arrive at the waterfall, which is actually made up of several tiered pools where you can swim and jump. Expect a stunning view and a revitalizing swim!

Day 6 - Weligama 

Weligama is home to a slew of artsy and comfy hostels that serve smoothie bowls and iced coffee, all within walking distance of the best beginner's surf location on the south coast.

If you opt to stay elsewhere, you won't go far wrong because the entire south coast is basically a stretch of magnificent white sand beaches with crystal clear waters and palm trees towering above. Mirissa, Midigama, Unawatuna, and Hiriketiya are also popular tourist destinations.

Day 7 - Weligama  

Enjoy the last bit of Weligama and take a surf lesson or 2 before departing to the airport by train, bus, or taxi while mentally preparing your next trip to this lush island paradise filled with magnetic beaches.

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

 December - April 

Temperature: During the dry season, the air temperature varies between 22°C and 32°C.

Weather: From December to April, the majority of the island country enjoys a lovely hot and dry environment. This is the finest time to visit Sri Lanka because of the abundance of sunshine, bright blue skies, and lush green scenery. As a result of the Maha Monsoon period, the East and North cities remain moist from October to January.

May - November 

Temperature: During the rainy season, the air temperature varies between 23°C and 31°C.

Weather: The monsoon season in Sri Lanka is unpredictable. The South-West monsoon wind blows during the months of May and June, bringing strong showers of fast rain to Colombo and Galle. The extended monsoon season begins in October and is characterized by heavy and sporadic rain. The North-East monsoon season, which affects parts of the country, is currently underway.

If you are in the country between November and April, definitely go on a whale-watching boat trip!

Hidden Gems in Sri Lanka

Udawatta Kele Sanctuary

Udawattakele Sanctuary is located just north of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. The woodland was designated for the Royal family and was used as a pleasure garden by the Kandyan kings. Udawattakele Sanctuary is home to three Buddhist forest monasteries and three cave homes for Buddhist monks, in addition to animals.

Biso Pokuna 

Biso Pokuna, which loosely translates to "Queen's Pond," is a strange archaeological ruin in the Sri Lankan village of Galabedda. This ground-level stone slab pool was formerly a feature of an old palace.

The sacred Bodhi tree 

The Sacred Fig or Bo Tree, also known as Sri Maha Bodhiya, is a 2300-year-old tree in the ancient city of Anuradhapura that is regarded as the oldest tree established by humans via natural seeding. It is a branch of the Bodhi Tree, where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

Gangaramaya (Vihara) 

Gangaramaya Temple is not just one of Sri Lanka's most beautiful but also one of its most well-known Buddhist temples. This temple has been standing for more than a century. The finely carved sculptures that line the walkways and doors leading into the main sanctum sanctorum are just breathtaking.

Nilambe 

Visit the serene Nilambe Buddhist Meditation Centre for a deeper understanding of Buddhist spirituality. Nilambe, located in the picturesque Hill Country uplands outside of Kandy, is the most foreigner-friendly of the region's meditation centers. 

 

How to get around Sri Lanka

Traveling in Sri Lanka is most commonly accomplished by hiring a car and driver, taking a taxi/tuk-tuk, or taking public transit such as trains and buses.

SLTB Bus:

Almost all of the SLTB buses are pretty old TATA vehicles that are normally painted red. These are frequently the oldest and slowest vehicles on the road, yet they can be slightly more comfortable than private buses.

Private Bus:

They're essentially the same as SLTB buses, they are usually huge, pretty old; the only difference is that private buses are normally painted white and adorned with the company's emblems. Some commercial companies run significantly speedier services, huge buses called "semi-express," "express," or "inter-city," which make fewer stops en route.

By Train:

The network is divided into three main lines: the coastline, which extends from Puttalam in the north to Weligama and Matara through Negombo, Colombo, Kalutara, Bentota, Beruwala, Aluthgama, Ambalangoda, Hikkaduwa, and Galle (with an extension as far as Kataragama is now largely complete). 

From Colombo to Kandy, the hill country line continues to Hatton (for Adam's Peak), Nanu Oya (for Nuwara Eliya), Haputale, Bandarawela, Ella, and Badulla. The northern line goes from Colombo to Jaffna, passing through Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, and Vavuniya.

This line has three further branches: one to Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa, another to Trincomalee, and a third to Madhu Road, Mannar, and Talaimannar.

By TukTuk

One of Sri Lanka's most recognizable depictions is the lines of rickshaws that ride the streets of every city, town, and village. Tuktuks, three-wheelers, and rickshaws are the most common forms of short-distance transit in Sri Lanka, primarily within towns, although they can also be useful for excursions and, in a pinch, long voyages if you become stranded or don't want to wait for a bus. The vehicles are mostly Bajaj rickshaws built in India, which are frequently adorned by their drivers with colorful fluorescent stickers, statuettes, plastic flowers, and other ornamental items.

What does it cost to travel to Sri Lanka?

Budget / Backpackers (Stay in hostels)

The cheapest fee for a private double room was LKR1,500 (US$10.40), while off-season rates for a double room range from LKR3,000-3,500 (US$21-25) in several of the seaside towns.

Mid - Budget (stay in cheaper hotels and BnBs) 

For budget hotels, it can be around LKR5,686- 8529.23 ($20-30) per night for a double or single bed.

Luxurious Budget (High-End Airbnbs and Hotels) 

In terms of higher-end lodging, there are several beautiful hotels with a pool and breakfast for LKR5,000-6,000 (US$35-41) during the low season, and truly nice hotels, such as the Cinnamon Hotels in Sri Lanka, frequently offer special prices starting at LKR7,000 (US$49) during the high season (expect this to double in the high season).

Cost of food 

A local favorite, kotthu, costs roughly LKR165–200 (US$1.15–1.40), whereas a chicken curry in a seaside town can cost up to LKR900 (US$6.25).

 Expect to pay between LKR200 and 300 (US$1.40–2.10) for local meals and LKR600 to 900 (US$4.15–6.25) for a tourist restaurant entrée. 

Breakfast normally costs between LKR500 and 700 (US$3.45 and $4.85) per person, including tea or coffee.

Must-try food in Sri Lanka

  • Kottu

Kottu is Sri Lanka's version of a hamburger, and it's everyone's go-to fast meal when they're desiring something fast and greasy. It's similar to fried rice, but instead of rice, it's prepared using godamba roti, a sort of roti (a flat, crispy bread).

  • Dhal curry

The most popular curry in Sri Lankan cuisine is parippu, or dhal curry, which is a staple in every restaurant or home. Masoor dhal (split red lentils) is washed before being cooked until tender combined with a variety of fresh ingredients, including onions, tomatoes, and fresh green chilies, are sautéed and combined with tempered spices such as cumin seeds, turmeric, fenugreek, mustard seeds, and curry leaves in a separate pan.

  • Pol Sambol (coconut relish)

A simple blend of finely grated coconut, red onions, dried whole chilies or chili powder, lime juice, salt, and fish from the Maldives makes pol sambol, also known as fresh coconut relish (if available). The components are diced or ground before being mixed together in a basin.

  • Sri Lankan crab 

Sri Lanka's lagoon crabs are world-famous for their luscious sweetmeat, and seafood plays an important role in the country's diet. The Ministry of Crab in Colombo, which consistently ranks among Asia's greatest restaurants, honors this renowned crustacean. The catch of the day is available in a variety of sizes, ranging from half a kilo to two-kilo crabs, and is prepared in time-honored techniques such as chili crab, pepper crab, and curry crab.

  • Sour fish curry 

Bambul thiyal, or sour fish curry, is one of the greatest dishes in Sri Lanka. Turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, and curry leaves are used to prepare solid fish cubes, which are usually tuna. Dried goraka, a tamarind-like superfruit that gives the meal its sour flavor, is the hidden ingredient.

  • Aluwa

Toasted rice flour, sugar syrup, ground cashew nuts, and spices like cardamom or cloves are combined in this traditional Sri Lankan treat, while some variations replace sugar with treacle (molasses) and cashews with mung beans or other types of nuts. This dessert is typically served on the Sinhalese New Year

Travel Tips for Sri Lanka

Here are 10 Things You Need to Pay Close Attention to: 

  1. Prepare Cash. Especially in smaller towns, restaurants, and hotels, because international credit cards do not work everywhere.  Look out for Sampath Bank, Commercial Bank, or People’s Bank branches if you need to withdraw cash as they are more likely to take international debit or credit cards. 
  2. Respect Religion and Culture.  The people of Sri Lanka are very particular and strict about a few traditions, among others, (1) take your shoes off when entering a temple and cover your legs and shoulders (2) Avoid touching Monk (3) do not mistreat Buddhist images, statutes or other artifacts (4) avoid mocking Buddha and do not take pictures with your back facing the Buddha. 
  3. Ask Permission. Be reminded to always ask for consent before taking photos of people, especially children, soldiers, or police officers and people during prayer at a temple. Sometimes, places such as museums require permits for pictures. So it's best to ask before taking a picture. 
  4. Avoid Tap Water. There is a growing number of water-related health problems in the country, so it is highly advised to not drink tap water.
  5. Be aware of Fare. In taking local rides such as Tuk Tuk, be sure to ask for a rate before getting into the vehicle. Beforehand, it is wise to ask around the city to understand the price range of Tuk Tuk rates. This is important for tourists to avoid being charged higher rates by drivers.
  6. Do not Compare. Talking with locals is highly encouraged to better understand Sri Lanka, however, avoid comparing the country to India. While both countries have some similarities, Sri Lanka and India is a different country with their own unique features. Thus, a comparison between the two is not the best topic to be discussed with locals. 
  7. Road Safety. Be careful when traversing busy Sri Lankan roads as there are many inconsiderate or rampant drivers and always look both ways before crossing. Additionally, always use a helmet if you are using a motorcycle for safety and avoid getting fined. 
  8. Do Behave. The country cherished and eased / laid-back flow of life and is still relatively modest. Thus,  Some Sri Lankan locals will frown upon loud inconsiderate people and an intense PDA. Furthermore, do mind your attire when visiting temples or walking around town. 
  9. Consider Traffic. Traveling from place to place can take a considerable amount of time as the road can sometimes be extremely busy. Thus, plan well ahead to avoid traffic jams and tardiness. 
  10. Pick up Phrases. The people in Sri Lanka are friendly and welcoming for you to try speaking their language. Feel free to learn some phrases and practice them with locals. This might be useful in unpredictable circumstances!

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