Sri Lanka is one of the best places I have ever visited. It is also called the pearl of the Indian ocean and for really good reason. If you are planning to visit Sri Lanka, you can have a huge bucket list. This country has simply everything from amazing nature, to historical sights. If you are interested in colonial places, you can find some of them here as well. It is simply gem for any travel enthusiast. But all in all: what should you do in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka bucket list
One of the biggest cities in Sri Lanka! Kandy is not the capital of this country. But if you are looking for a cultural place, you should visit Kandy. And what to see in Kandy? Well, there is a big Buddhist temple that is supposed to hold a relic of Budha. More specifically, there should be a buddhas tooth. Almost every evening there is this ritual where people would dance to the fire. Today it is more for tourists’ amazement, but it is still an interesting event to see.
In Kandy, you can also visit the viewpoint where you would be able to see the whole city from and a massive statue of Buddha. There is also a tea factory nearby. It is one that is not visited so very often so there is a chance that you would be there all by your self. Yey!
Other than that, there is always a walk around the stunning lake.
Unlike Kandy, Ella isn’t the most cultural place but it is a great place if you want to see some hills tea plantations. There is a lot of possible hikes around and all of them are stunning. Besides the views are to die for. Ella has a lot of tea factories all around it that you can visit. So if you are into drinking a lot of tea, this is a great place to find out what is the difference between black and green tea and how do they do that. When you hike your way to the factory, you can see some of the women who are picking healthy leaves that will later on become a tea.
Ella is simply a small cozy town ideal for some hikers and generally people who enjoy nature. And if you are a tea lover that is a great plus right there.
Yala national park
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I was talking about Ella as a great source of outdoor adventure but Yala national park is the whole other level. This national park is just filled with lagoons, wild forests, and all that is right next to the Indian ocean. The place is great for spotting a lot of wildlife. Birdwatchers will surely find a special bird species that they might not see before. If you are more interested in bigger animals, you can spot here leopard or crocodiles. It is also possible to see here herds of wild elephants enjoying fresh grass and trees.
If you coming to Yala, don’t forget to book a safari, where you can spot all of these animals in their natural habitat. It might not be the same as going on safari to Africa, but it is interesting as well. It is a very different landscape and besides that, you can see animals that you wouldn’t see anywhere else.
One of the most amazing hikes you can ever experience in Sri Lanka. Adams’s peak is in the southwestern part of Sri Lanka. The mountain is 2243 meters tall. Once you are on the top, there is a big Buddhist temple. Most people would hike there in the very early morning so they could see the sun rising over the valley. It is truly beautiful scenery to see, especially to watch how the mist goes away, and then you can see only the valley itself. It is a very popular hike and for very good reason. During the full moon, there is usually some Buddhist ritual when people stay there up all night and in the morning watch the sunrise again.
Certainly, one of the most popular beaches that there is. It is a gorgeous place to watch the sunset or just enjoy some beach time. There is a lot of palms all around and people who would sell you a young coconut for less than a dollar. Besides that, you can relax with some massages that are widely offered here. The sunset here is the ones to live for and the whole beach is just nice and clean. Is it touristy? Yes, it is. You probably won’t find here any locals except for the ones that will try to sell you something but it is still a beautiful place to see.
Whale watching in the south coast
One of the most popular things to do in south part of Sri Lanka is to go and watch gentle giants. They are quite often somewhere close to this place so there is a good chance that you will see them. A lot of boats are heading to the ocean from Mirissa so you can combine the relax at the sea and seeing some wildlife. Most companies have some sort of deal that if you don’t see the whale on your ride, you will be able to get one more whale watching on some of the following days. So it might be a little bit pricey but it is still a good deal and an opportunity to see whales in an environment where it is warm.
Sigiriya the Lion Rock
If you google Sri Lanka, this place is surely one of the first ones that you will see once you start looking at the images. It is a gorgeous place not too far from Kandy. The rock is an ancient fortress that dates back to 477 AD. The fortress is surrounded by beautiful gardens and wild forests. Sigiriya itself was supposed to be the capital of the king that founded it as a fortress which means that there is a lot of frescoes on it.
Since there are stairs all around the sight, you can just freely walk all around it and get the view from the top of the rock. The Lion Rock is one of the UNESCO heritage sights to see in Sri Lanka.
The train ride between Kandy and Ella
The most picturesque train ride you have ever been through. The train will go through tea plantages, around mountains, and tiny little villages. You will ride on very old and scenic bridges and between mountain. Make sure to have a blanket or jacket with you because especially in the mountains it will get very cold. But otherwise, just enjoy the ride. There will be people waving at you from the plantages and it is possible to hang around the exit doors of the train to get a proper insta picture. It is possibly one of the most beautiful rides that you can ever see. And because of that, it is also filled with people. So make sure to book your ticket even two days ahead at the train station, so you can enjoy it properly. There are several classes that you can ride with. But any of them will do.
It is not just a cave with nothing in it. Dambulla is a town approximately 75 kilometers away from Kandy. It might seem like just another ordinary town but there is one of the largest cave temple complexes in Sri Lanka. The paintings that you can see in these caves are dating back to the first century, so it is also one of the oldest complexes that you can probably see in Sri Lanka. The frescoes inside have been repainted several times during the centuries but it is still pretty impressive what you can see here. The caves should be definitely on the people’s bucket list for Sri Lanka. It is one of the most worthy attractions. Besides, once you are hiking up to the caves, you can see a lot of monkeys following you around. And there are still Buddhist monks meditating around the caves at certain times. So again – a very cultural experience.
The city is a great example of the colonialist history of Sri Lanka. You will get a great view on a sea and watch the local dutch fortress, that at this point is almost all gone. But you can still get to know here about what the Dutch people did here. Once you are at it, there is also a Galle fort which is currently used as a national maritime museum. In general, Galle has perhaps most museums that you can meet in Sri Lanka. Except for the national maritime museum, there is also a Galle national museum, that is all dedicated to Dutch conquerors in the 17th century.
Galle is generally just a great place for a day visit for anyone interested in history and would like to know more about the Dutchmen here in the 17th century. The history itself is interesting enough besides that, you can just get a great view of the old lighthouse and delightful sea. Word of advice: there is a beach in Galle, but it is mainly for locals, not to say, that you shouldn’t bathe there, but if you come in a bikini you will be closely stared at.
Visiting a tea plantation or tea factory
In Sri Lanka, there is tea everywhere and a very delicious one. So I’d recommend adding a visit to a tea plantation or tea factory on your bucket list for Sri Lanka. There are a lot of both plantations and factories all around Sri Lanka. You can find them in a lot of places, including big ones like Kandy. What I would recommend would be to visit the tea plantation and the factory in Ella.
Ella has a lot of mountains around it so you will get a great view on the rest of the plantations and the hills around. Besides the factory in Ella is one of the most popular ones to visit. You will get to know here everything about how to make black, green, and white tea and what is the main difference between them.
Back to the historical part of Sri Lanka. Polonnaruwa is a great place to visit if you are really into old civilization. This town in the northern part of Sri Lanka used to be the capital of Polonnaruwa kingdom. It is the second most ancient city in Sri Lanka. It has been standing here since the 10th century. So basically it is from the time when Buddhist civilizations were trying to conquer each other. And Polonnaruwa was attacked several times throughout history.
Currently, it is one of the gems in Asia. If you have visited the Angot Wat in Cambodia, this city is kind of similar to it. But it is not as widely visited as the Angor Wat is. Either way, it is still on world heritage and it is certainly worth a day trip.
Pinnawalla elephant orphanage
I know, I know, we all agreed that a lot of elephant orphanages are bad and unethical. But this is only if you ride the elephant in the orphanage. Pinnawalla never allows such a thing and treats these giants with the respect that they deserve. It is a little bit more like a zoo where they take good care of their animals.
Pinnawalla orphanage is located in the central region of Sri Lanka. Not too far from Kandy. It has beautiful surroundings, where you will truly feel like in a tropical jungle. You can visit it and just watch the whole day their new home where they are allowed to roam free without carrying tourists.
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Let’s have a look at completely different parts of Sri Lanka. One of the northeast towns you can visit. Jaffna is a town in the north part of Sri Lanka. Unlike others, there is not a lot about Buddhist history, but there are a lot of temples dedicated to Hinduism.
The city has a completely different vibe from all the Buddhist cities. There is one big Hindu temple that will make you feel like you are in India, that is not too far from there.
Jaffna also has its colonial fort from the 17th century that will offer you one of the most scenic views. If you are heading to this city, you should remember that it has the most vibrant markets.
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Let’s head back to the south part of Sri Lanka for a bit. And this time not necessary for the culture but mainly for nature. I talk a lot about hikes is Sri Lanka and that is of course also possible in Nuwara Eliya, but what is more important is the waterfall that you can check out here.
Nuwara Eliya is in the middle of the tea country with a lot of hills around and it is everything you hope for as a nature lover. Nature around is just stunning, you can visit a national park that is nearby and you can also see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sri Lanka.
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