Sri Lanka has a variety of towns and villages to explore. From bustling cities with vibrant nightlife to quiet villages with picturesque landscapes, every town and village in Sri Lanka has its own charm and atmosphere.
Here are the top 17 must-see places to visit on your trip through Sri Lanka:
Nestled in the hills of the central highlands is Kandy, the cultural heart of Sri Lanka. It is known for its rich history and religious significance, being the site of the sacred Temple of the Tooth, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world.
- Temple of the Tooth – an impressive temple that houses the sacred tooth of Buddha.
- Kandy Lake – an artificial lake in the heart of the city
- Peradeniya Botanical Garden – a paradise for plant lovers
- traditional Kandy dances – a fascinating display of art and culture.
2. Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya, known as the “City of Light” and “Little England,” is a charming mountain village known for its cooler temperatures, beautiful gardens and endless tea plantations. The breathtaking scenery and colonial architecture add a special charm to the town.
- Horton Plains National Park – a breathtaking plateau with unique flora and fauna
- Lake Gregory – a picturesque lake ideal for boat trips
- Tea factory tours – an opportunity to experience the process of tea production first hand.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Anuradhapura is a window into Sri Lanka’s rich history. With the ruins of ancient royal palaces and impressive stupas, this city is a paradise for history buffs.
- Sacred Bodhi tree – the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world.
- Ruins of ancient royal palaces and dagobas (stupas) – evidence of the city’s glorious past.
As the economic center and capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo offers a vibrant mix of old and new. Between skyscrapers and bustling streets, there are still traces of colonial heritage to be found in the city’s architecture and culture.
- Galle Face Green – a seaside promenade perfect for a relaxing evening stroll.
- National Museum – home to an impressive collection of artifacts
- Beira Lake – a tranquil spot in the middle of the city
- Pettah Market – a lively market offering everything from spices to textiles.
Galle, a city that offers a fascinating blend of European architecture and South Asian tradition, is a historical gem. The famous Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see for any visitor.
- Galle Fort – an excellently preserved colonial fort with charming alleys
- Dutch Reformed Church – a historic building with fascinating architecture
- National Maritime Museum – offers a glimpse into the maritime history of Sri Lanka.
Ella is a small, quiet mountain village surrounded by the beautiful green hills of the highlands. With its hiking trails and breathtaking viewpoints, Ella is a paradise for nature lovers.
- Ella Gap – a breathtaking viewpoint offering panoramic views of the valleys, tea plantations and mountainsNine Arches Bridge – an impressive colonial railroad bridge.
- Little Adam’s Peak – an easy hike that leads to spectacular views.
Trincomalee, a town on the east coast of Sri Lanka, is known for its pristine beaches and fascinating dive sites. With its rich coral reefs and diverse marine life, Trincomalee is a perfect destination for water lovers.
- Koneswaram Temple – a Hindu temple with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean
- Pigeon Island National Park – a paradise for snorkelers and divers
- Whale Watching – a chance to see humpback and blue whales in their natural environment.
Jaffna, the northernmost city in Sri Lanka, offers visitors a glimpse into the country’s rich Tamil culture and history. The city is known for its unique culinary offerings and fascinating historical sites.
- Jaffna Fort – a historical fort with an impressive view.
- Nallur Kandaswamy Temple – an important Hindu temple known for its magnificent ceremonies
- Local cuisine – try the unique dishes like Jaffna Crab Curry.
Dambulla, known for its golden cave temple complex, is a must for any cultural traveler. The town also provides a good base for visiting the nearby Sigiriya Rock.
- Dambulla Cave Temple – an impressive temple complex with Buddhist murals and statues;
- Sigiriya Rock – a massive rock formation with the ruins of an ancient fortress at the top.
- Elephant Safari – the opportunity to observe elephants in their natural environment.
One of Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals, Polonnaruwa offers an impressive collection of well-preserved ruins and historical sites. Part of Sri Lanka’s “Cultural Triangle,” the city reflects the country’s glorious past.
- Gal Vihara – an impressive rock temple with four giant Buddha statues.
- King Parakramabahu Statue – a tribute to the king who led the city to its heyday
- Parakrama Samudraya – a huge artificial lake showing the amazing irrigation techniques of ancient Sri Lanka.
Negombo, a charming coastal town near Bandaranaike International Airport, is famous for its long sandy beaches and historic Dutch fort. With numerous water sports and a vibrant fishing community, Negombo is an ideal place to immerse yourself in local life.
- Dutch Fort – a historical monument from the colonial era
- Negombo beach – a popular place for relaxation and water sports
- Fish market – a lively scene of daily life.
Yala National Park, although not a traditional urban center, is an absolute must for nature lovers. Known for its high density of leopards, the park also offers a variety of other wildlife and stunning scenery.
- Leopard sightings – one of the best places in the world to see leopards in the wild
- Bird watching – home to over 200 species of birds.
- Safari tours – guided tours of the park to experience the diverse wildlife.
Bentota, a popular beach destination on Sri Lanka’s west coast, offers a wealth of water sports. It is also known for the Brief Garden, a beautifully landscaped garden, and its turtle conservation projects.
- Water sports – a variety of activities such as jet skiing, windsurfing and diving.
- Brief Garden – a landscaped garden designed by an artist.
- Turtle Conservation Projects – insights into efforts to conserve endangered sea turtles.
14. Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay, located on the east coast of Sri Lanka, is a paradise for surfers. It is not only a hotspot for international surfers, but also offers a breathtaking natural landscape and the possibility to observe wildlife in the nearby Kumana National Park.
- Surfing – one of the best surfing destinations in Asia
- Kumana National Park – home to elephants, leopards and a variety of bird species.
- Yoga and meditation – numerous retreats for spiritual relaxation.
Mirissa, a small town in the south of Sri Lanka, is known for its stunning beaches and as one of the best places in the world for blue whale watching. With its picturesque sunsets and laid-back lifestyle, Mirissa is the ideal place to relax.
- Whale watching – a chance to see the majestic blue whales in their natural environment.
- Mirissa Beach – a picturesque place to relax and surf; Coconut Tree Hill – a famous lookout point with magnificent views of the ocean.
Hikkaduwa, another popular beach destination, is known for its coral reefs, perfect for snorkeling and diving. The town is also home to a turtle hatchery that works to protect these fascinating creatures.
- Snorkeling and diving – explore the colorful coral reefs.
- Turtle hatchery – learn about the protection of sea turtles
- Beach parties – Hikkaduwa is known for its vibrant nightlife.
Unawatuna, with its beautiful crescent-shaped beach and stunning coral reef, is a true paradise for sunbathers and snorkelers. The town also offers a number of yoga retreats and is known for its relaxed atmosphere.
- Unawatuna beach – ideal for sunbathing and swimming.
- Snorkeling – explore the rich marine life of the coral reef.
- Yoga retreats – perfect for a refreshing and relaxing getaway.
Sri Lanka is truly a treasure for any traveler, with its rich variety of experiences ranging from historical sites and cultural discoveries to breathtaking natural landscapes and adventure activities. The 17 cities and towns featured offer a comprehensive overview of what this fascinating country has to offer. Plan your trip now and be enchanted by the unique beauty and charm of Sri Lanka.