Sri Lanka is renowned for its flourishing range of diverse Flora and Fauna spread throughout the island. Long has the country been a hotspot nestling majestic forests and exotic jungles, animal sanctuaries and parks, biological endemism and a myriad of natural habitats. At Whittalls, we have meticulously designed tours to give you the finest experiences of nature and wildlife, exploring habitats that will leave you spellbound. Trust in Whittalls to take you on an exotic ride to witness nature’s extraordinary realm in all its glory.
Boulder Garden - Kalawana
Flameback Eco Lodge - Wirawila
Wild Coast Tented Lodge - Yala
Cinnamon Wild - Yala
EKHO Safari Tissa Hotel - Weligatta
Uga Bay by Uga Escapes - Passikudah
Jetwing Blue - Negombo
Anantaya Resort and Spa - Passikuda
Gal Oya Lodge - Gal Oya
Sigiriya Water Garden - Sigiriya
The highlands of Sri Lanka’s Central Province are Eden-like in its pristine quality. Mountains puncture clouds in the distance and forests seem to encircle eons-old secrets. Horton Plains is one such secret - 30 miles south of Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains’ surrounding forests and Peak Wilderness Sanctuary constitute some of the island’s most ecologically-significant heritage. Here, proto-Lankan civilizations from the Stone Age of the Balangoda culture (Homo sapiens balangodensis) settled in the lowlands (around an altitude of 700m), but frequently ventured higher to mine for valuable minerals. Visitors today can view evidence of this at 1800m altitudes.
Visitors have a range of experiential options - hiking, camping or accommodations at one of three bungalows in Ginihiraya, Mahaeliya and Dometry. Start your experience by taking a walk through the plains and reach World’s End, a cliff that plunges about 800m into what looks like tiny toy-towns. Exercise caution when approaching the cliff. The walking path loops to another location within the park to Baker’s Falls. For the true outdoors type, a camping in the designated camping grounds is highly recommended.
The tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka is a 240m (709ft) can be accessed from the hill town havens that are Haputale or Kalupahana and is ...
The tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka is a 240m (709ft) can be accessed from the hill town havens that are Haputale or Kalupahana and is best visited during the months of March and April.
Badulla is among the larger cities in Sri Lanka’s famed hill country. Though it isn’t a traditional tourist spot, Badulla does provide easy access to ...
Badulla is among the larger cities in Sri Lanka’s famed hill country. Though it isn’t a traditional tourist spot, Badulla does provide easy access to a large number of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful waterfalls. One such is Dunhinda Falls. Situated about 5km away from Badulla town, the falls is named after the misty ambience it creates (Dun means mist in Sinhala).
The falls measures approximately 64 metres and is a beautiful sight on sunny days.
Situated close to St. Clair’s Falls, Devon Falls is a 97m tiered water fall. Named after an English coffee planter named Devon - supposedly because his plantation was close by - Devon Falls is today the sight of the self-proclaimed The World’s Largest Tea Shop: the Mlesna Tea Centre. From this Scottish-inspired bungalow, visitors can admire the magnificent scenery while shopping for premium tea. The falls is situated on the A7 leading to Nuwara Eliya.
Everyone loves the sight and smells of a rampaging waterfall - seen from a safe distance, they are magnificent examples of the many dramas nature stages ...
Everyone loves the sight and smells of a rampaging waterfall - seen from a safe distance, they are magnificent examples of the many dramas nature stages in front of us. Ramboda Falls may qualify among Sri Lanka’s prettiest as two tributaries combine to form a lovely Y-shape at the base.
To reach the falls, visitors will have to approach Ramboda Pass from the A5 Highway in the Pussellawa area near Nuwara Eliya. The Ramboda Falls roughly 100m in height, and ranks as the 11th tallest in Sri Lanka - therefore, depending on the weather and availability of local guides, it is possible to hike to a vantage point that gives visitors a better view of the spill.
Kanniya Water Springs have a history that is lost in the mists of time, but visitors today can still experience the ritualistic draw that brought - ...
Kanniya Water Springs
Kanniya Water Springs have a history that is lost in the mists of time, but visitors today can still experience the ritualistic draw that brought - and continues to bring - thousands to experience a sense of cleansing. Located near the incredible natural harbour Trincomalee, Kanniya Water Springs is a short half-day excursion. Those visiting are encouraged to go early and to take a change of clothing.
A narrow, but crucial plot of land that connects mainland Sri Lanka to the northern peninsula, Elephant Pass is also home to Sri Lanka’s largest ...
A narrow, but crucial plot of land that connects mainland Sri Lanka to the northern peninsula, Elephant Pass is also home to Sri Lanka’s largest salt field. The name comes to modern parlance from the mists of the past: between the 3rd Century BCE and the 19th century AD, this strip of land was used to herd elephants on their way to India. Today, it is home to war monuments, military bases and by large wading birds that are attracted to the white sandy shores.
Elephant Pass is a brief stopover on the way to the Jaffna Peninsula.
Even if this is a visitor’s first time in Sri Lanka, there is a likelihood he has seen the Kitugala Bridge before; it was here, ...
Even if this is a visitor’s first time in Sri Lanka, there is a likelihood he has seen the Kitugala Bridge before; it was here, the director David Lean filmed his WWII epic The Bridge on the River Kwai. Visitors in the Kitulgala area for white-water sports can use a guide to take them to the bridge, which is a kilometre inside this forest town.
One of the most archaeologically important sites in Sri Lanka, the Belilena is a large cave that houses evidence of pre-historic civilization from as early as 30,000 years ago. This anthropological delight requires effort to get there, however; situated deep inside the Kitulgala jungles, the trek is slightly challenging, and requires protective clothing from insects and leeches. But the sight of the cave is truly worth the endeavour to get there.
Inside, you’ll find examples of ancient tools and even a few skeletal remains.
A truly distinctive looking waterfall, Bopath Ella is named after the leaf of the sacred Bo Tree whose shape it seemingly takes. The falls has ...
Bopath Ella Falls
A truly distinctive looking waterfall, Bopath Ella is named after the leaf of the sacred Bo Tree whose shape it seemingly takes. The falls has been mentioned in written and oral folk lore, as well as in history texts - Gods, Goddesses, Royalty have all flocked here to experience its supposedly healing waters.
The Bopath Ella Falls is closest from Ratnapura, Sri Lanka’s gem capital.
One of the oldest bird sanctuaries in Sri Lanka, the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is home to around 150 species of birds. Visitors going to Kalametiya ...
Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary
One of the oldest bird sanctuaries in Sri Lanka, the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is home to around 150 species of birds. Visitors going to Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary can enjoy bird watching via a boat safari, hike through jungle paths, and climb rocks - a truly tactile experience that isn’t typical of most safaris that ask you to stay inside a vehicle at all times.
Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is located in the deep south, after the southern resort town of Tangalle.
The Southern Coastal Belt of Sri Lanka is renowned for its incredible beaches, and abundant marine life that venture close to these shores. One of ...
Hikkaduwa National Park
The Southern Coastal Belt of Sri Lanka is renowned for its incredible beaches, and abundant marine life that venture close to these shores. One of the best ways of experiencing the rich marine bio-diversity is via Hikkaduwa National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s three national marine parks.
Visitors to Hikkaduwa travel to its National Park for scuba diving among the coral reefs, and for an opportunity to interact with marine life from a safe distance.
At 220 m (720 ft) in height, Diyaluma is among the most picturesque and inviting. Located in Kosalanda, close to Badulla, Diyaluma is derived from ...
At 220 m (720 ft) in height, Diyaluma is among the most picturesque and inviting. Located in Kosalanda, close to Badulla, Diyaluma is derived from the Sinhala phrase Diya Haluma or ‘liquid light’. What an apt name for this gorgeous natural wonder. With the help of a guide, visitors can traverse up the steep rocks to reach the top of the fall. The trek up is incredible as Diyaluma treats its visitors to natural infinity pools along the way - each with an outstanding view. This is best experienced during the dry season in March and April as the rocks leading to the ledge are known to be very slippery.
Gregory Lake is a renowned man-made reservoir in the midst of Nuwara Eliya, the jewel of Sri Lanka’s hill country crown. Built in 1873, Lake Gregory is today an aesthetic delight - with its lush fields of green and cows grazing around it - it seems like something out of Middle Earth’s The Shire, but don’t be fooled; the waters are directed into a tunnel that hosts a hydro power station which in turn supplies electricity to the town to this day.
Mahaweli River, literally meaning the Great Sandy River, is at 335 km (208 miles) the longest river in Sri Lanka. From its beginnings in the ...
Mahaweli River, literally meaning the Great Sandy River, is at 335 km (208 miles) the longest river in Sri Lanka. From its beginnings in the little hamlet of Polwathura near Nuwara Eliya before joining the Hatton Oya and Kotmale Oya, the Mahaweli covers about one fifth of all Sri Lanka until it drains at the Bay of Bengal in the eastern coast near Trincomalee. The bay's connection to the Mahaweli, along with the many submarine canyons along its seaboard, is among the many reasons why Trincomalee is considered one of the world's great natural harbours.
The Mahaweli's journey from humble beginnings to epic meeting with the Indian Ocean is a journey is providing ecological and economic benefits to man and beast. The river is dammed in several places, including at the Victoria Dam, in order to provide for farm irrigational needs as well production of Sri Lanka's hydro-power electricity. Further, the Mahaweli is also the source of water for elephants and feeding grounds for large water birds migrating from colder climates.
Known as ‘Little Niagara’, St. Clair’s Falls is located close to Nuwara Eliya and often one of the most idyllic, picture postcard-perfect landscapes in Sri ...
St. Clair's Falls
Known as ‘Little Niagara’, St. Clair’s Falls is located close to Nuwara Eliya and often one of the most idyllic, picture postcard-perfect landscapes in Sri Lanka. The falls gets its name as a large pool runs through the St. Clair’s Estate, and is made up of two falls - Maha Ella (The Greater Fall), which is approximately 80m in height, and Kuda Ella - and is easily sighted from the road leading to Talawakele from Hatton, both in the greater Nuwara Eliya district. There’s a viewing point from which visitors can safely view this magnificent Water Fall.
Thoppigala, literally translated means ‘hat shaped rock’, is a bio-diversity hotspot that has enjoyed a renewed interest since being reopened in the last decade. From ...
Thoppigala, literally translated means ‘hat shaped rock’, is a bio-diversity hotspot that has enjoyed a renewed interest since being reopened in the last decade. From the peak, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the surroundings, which are achingly beautiful.
One of the jewels of Sri Lanka’s eastern coast, Trincomalee has long been sought after by navies around the world. This deep natural harbour is ...
One of the jewels of Sri Lanka’s eastern coast, Trincomalee has long been sought after by navies around the world. This deep natural harbour is one of the world’s largest and is characterized by terraced highlands, two headlands, and an entrance channel that is 500m wide.
Visitors to Trincomalee find themselves drawn to the harbour and the harbour’s beautiful surroundings - within short walk is the famous Koneswaram Temple; perched on a cliff, the temple is overflowing with architectural, archaeological and mythological history. From the temple, one can view the entire city of Trincomalee, its harbour and the magnificent Indian Ocean.
Located in the midst of the magnificent Knuckles Mountain Range, Riverstone Mountain is a nature-lover’s dream come true. The mountain itself is home to cloud ...
Located in the midst of the magnificent Knuckles Mountain Range, Riverstone Mountain is a nature-lover’s dream come true. The mountain itself is home to cloud forests that are ideal for all-day hikes while the areas surrounding the mountains offer other spectacular experiences. Chief among the attractions are the waterfalls Sera Ella, Rathinda Waterfalls, Pathana Falls, and the mythical Meemure Village. From Meemure, locals have attempted to scale Lakegala, a large rock that gives the village its character.
Riverstone is best accessed through the Kandy - the World Heritage city, via Hunnasgiriya.
Off the coast of Sri Lanka’s northern peninsula, Delft Island is among the lesser-known attractions in the island that has, since 2009, become an essential stopover for visitors to Sri Lanka. This tiny island is home to a small population of people, a string of wild horses, and a window into Sri Lanka’s colonial past.
The Delft Island Fort was built by the Portuguese before the Dutch fortified it using limestone and coral. The area is mostly ruins but a visit is still recommended for those visiting the Jaffna peninsula.
While visiting this islet, be prepared for the sight of the amazing wild ponies galloping free in the open arid plains of the island.
Visitors must use the Sri Lankan Navy-operated ferry to visit the island.
Located inside the southern town of Matara, the Matara Star Fort was constructed by Dutch in 1765 and was originally called Redoute Van Eck. Built ...
Matara Star Fort
Located inside the southern town of Matara, the Matara Star Fort was constructed by Dutch in 1765 and was originally called Redoute Van Eck. Built in the shape of a six point star, the fort was built to resist attacks from the mainland Kandyan kingdom. The outer wall is 7.5 m high (25 ft) and is surrounded by a deep moat that is 6 m wide and 3 m deep. Once the Dutch lost control of the island to the British, the latter converted into an administrative office, a role it played well into the 1960s, at which point it was briefly converted into a library. Today it is home to a museum that showcases the history of Matara.
This mythical mountain, another supposed remnant from The Ramayana, offers Galle’s most panoramic view. The Rumassala Kanda (Kanda is Sinhala for Mountain or Hill) is ...
This mythical mountain, another supposed remnant from The Ramayana, offers Galle’s most panoramic view. The Rumassala Kanda (Kanda is Sinhala for Mountain or Hill) is home to a variety of bird and plant life, as well as an important cultural and religious hub.
The Ridiyagama Safari Park is Sri Lanka’s first safari park, and was open to the public in 2016. This 500 acre property close to Sri ...
Ridiyagama Safari Park
The Ridiyagama Safari Park is Sri Lanka’s first safari park, and was open to the public in 2016. This 500 acre property close to Sri Lanka’s southern coastal belt is divided into six zones, segregating carnivores and herbivores, and includes Sri Lanka’s only dedicated African Lion Zone.
It is accessible from Sri Lanka’s southern coastal belt with the closest city being Hambantota.
Located in Tangalle, an important coastal outpost for the Dutch keen to protect their strategic interests from other European colonial powers, this fort is unique ...
Tangalle Dutch Fort
Located in Tangalle, an important coastal outpost for the Dutch keen to protect their strategic interests from other European colonial powers, this fort is unique in that it lacks ramparts like most Dutch-built forts of the time. Today, the fort is used mostly as a prison by the Department of Prisons.
The seas off Sri Lanka’s southern coast are teeming with life - whales and dolphins attract large number of tourists who are interested in getting up close to these magnificent aquatic mammals. But it is another marine resident who ventures closest to the shore, waddling in the sandy beaches to perform an aeon-old ritual: laying their eggs. Marine biologists haven’t quite figured out why turtles come to these specific coastal areas to lay their eggs, but laymen - both residents and tourists - continue being hypnotised by this biological act.
Much of Sri Lanka’s coastal beach resorts are now home to turtle hatcheries. Whether you are in Kosgoda, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna or Mirissa, you can watch these tiny little miracles hatching from their eggs before making their way, instinctively, to the sea. It is a wondrous sight to behold, and one every visitor to Sri Lanka’s southern coastal belt has to experience.
Bundala National Park
Arguably one of the most important parks in Sri Lanka - especially when it concerns diversity of bird life - the Bundala National Park is a beautiful expanse of forest that migratory birds fleeing from winter weather, briefly, call home. It is why UNESCO has declared this area a Biosphere Reserve.
Accessed from the southern coastal city of Hambantota, the Bundala National Park is characterized by five lagoons and dry-zone temperatures that extend between May and September. This landscape is a hive of activity during this period as birds - both resident and migratory - bask in the warm weather. The attention of visitors will surely be drawn to the large flocks of Greater Flamingos - standing almost five feet in height, their incandescent pink plumage glowing in the bright sun, is a sight that is for sore eyes.
The Bundala National Park is in Sri Lanka’s south eastern parts and is accessible from the Southern Coastal Belt.
Another one of Sri Lanka’s lesser known national parks, Lunugamvehera is renowned for being home to a variety of migratory birds, its layered vegetation, and ...
Lunugamvehera National Park
Another one of Sri Lanka’s lesser known national parks, Lunugamvehera is renowned for being home to a variety of migratory birds, its layered vegetation, and for being the corridor that elephants use to cross from Yala National Park to Udawalawe National Park.
Commonly sighted fauna at this 58 acre national park include the Sri Lankan elephant, buffalo, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Mugger Crocodiles, Grey Heron, Asian Openbill, and the Spot-Billed Pelican; while the arid landscape, meanwhile, is home to numerous grass species, and large trees including Teak and Eucalyptus.
The park is located in the South West part of Sri Lanka, and can be accessed from the Southern Coastal belt via Hambantota.
Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara
This is an ancient rock temple that has been deemed an archaeological site by the government towards the end of the 20th century. Located in the southern province, the Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara can be reached from either Tangalle or Dickwella and is a 200 m (673 ft) high natural rock that is surrounded by four other rocks. Its resemblance to Sigiriya inspired a loving nick name Punchi Sigiriya (or little Sigiriya).
The temples layout has five sub-divisions, each serving a different purpose. The lower levels comprise the museum, lower temple while the upper decks house a stunning array of murals (hence its comparison to the Sigiriya rock).
It isn’t surprising that Sri Lanka, upon first sight, comes across as something out of a fairytale - much of the island is referenced throughout the ...
Ravana Falls and Caves
It isn’t surprising that Sri Lanka, upon first sight, comes across as something out of a fairytale - much of the island is referenced throughout the Ramayana, the ancient text that speaks of the God Ram’s quest to free his wife from Ravana. The latter, myth tells us, was a Lankan demigod king who had styled the island to his vision.
The modern hill town resort of Ella - like much of Sri Lanka’s hill country - carries a lot of this Ramayana/Ravana heritage to this day. A short drive from Ella is Ravana Falls - it is a majestic site for those who stop from their journeys to bask in its cool surroundings. Closer to Ella are the Mythical Ravana caves. Visiting the site requires a hike to get to the entrance of the cave - travellers should wear appropriate hiking clothing as the final bits of the climb require some degree of fitness.
Ever savoured a cup of Pure Ceylon Tea and wondered whence it came from? Scattered across Sri Lanka’s misty-top mountains, lies the answer in the form of tea estates. These tea estates are popular stopovers for tourists eager to know how their favourite brew was made. The most renowned tea estates to visit are Handunugoda Tea Estate, where the guides will be happy to explain the types of tea leaves, the history of the plantation sector in Sri Lanka, among other notable factoids. It is highly recommended that visitors to such tea estates try a cup or two along with a slice of home-made chocolate cake - simply divine.
Hakgala Botanical Gardens
The Hakgala Botanical Gardens are a stone’s throw away from Nuwara Eliya - arguably the most beautiful, idyllic hill town in the country – and is home to a wide variety of botanical species from around the world. The park’s history dates back to the early 19th century when it was constructed by the British. Local folklore also tells that it was in the surrounding areas that the Ramayana’s most incendiary incident took place - it was here Ravana had imprisoned Sita. Therefore, moulded as it is by myth, history and science, Hakgala offers something for everyone.
The cooler temperature of this mountain town is ideal refuge from the scorching temperatures of Sri Lanka’s dry zone and beaches. Here over 10,000 species of flora are displayed, including a wide range of orchids and roses.
Knuckles Mountain Range
The British, upon viewing this distinctive range of mountains, likened it to a clenched fist; the peaks looked like the knuckles of this fist. The locals called it Dumbara Kanduvetiya or ‘The Mist-Laden Mountain Range’. The Knuckles is home to 34% of Sri Lanka’s endemic trees, shrubs and herbs - and found nowhere else in the island. The range is, therefore, of great scientific value in addition to its ecological importance and its aesthetic beauty.
When trekking the range, visitors can experience rapid weather changes, and brushes with exotic wildlife.
The Knuckles range can be explored via Kandy, the hill country capital.
Close to the World Heritage city of Kandy, the Hanthana Mountain Range is a favourite among Sri Lanka’s mountaineering and hiking communities. It is a ...
Hanthana Mountain Range
Close to the World Heritage city of Kandy, the Hanthana Mountain Range is a favourite among Sri Lanka’s mountaineering and hiking communities. It is a protected area, coming under the National Environment Act, and climbers - even relatively inexperienced ones - can climb to the top of the highest peak, Uura Kanda, and experience a panoramic view of the Sri Lanka’s hill country capital.
Udawattakele Forest Reserve
For centuries, this forest reserve was the pleasure garden of Sri Lankan Royalty, but today Udawattakele Forest Reserve is an ecological marvel that attracts tourists and biologists alike. The forest is found on a ridge above The Temple of the Sacred Tooth and is home to a variety of flora and fauna. Its cocoon-like ambience is among the many reasons that Udawattakele continues to be a place of quiet refuge for meditating monks.
Avifauna that can be viewed at this forest reserve include Common Hill Mynah, the rare Three-Toed Kingfisher, Blue-winged Leafbird, and the Emerald Dove; while the non-winged include Indian boar, the Indian Giant Flying Squirrel, and the Greater False Vampire Bat.
The forest was then subject to British colonial control, the impact of which can be seen in walking pathways named after eminent personalities of the time: Lady Horton, Lady Gordon, Gregory Path, and Russell path are among the remnants that hint at Sri Lanka’s past as a British colony.
Batticaloa Dutch Fort
One of the smaller forts in Sri Lanka, the Batticaloa Dutch Fort was originally built by the Portuguese in 1628 but was captured by the Dutch just 10 years later. Because of Batticaloa’s location in a lagoon, the fort was constructed to primarily be a lookout. After Independence, the Batticaloa Dutch Fort became the offices for the District Secretariat in Batticaloa, though there has been talk of converting the fort into a museum. The imposing structure sits right at the end of the bustling shopping area of town, and just next to the Mahatma Gandhi Park.
Pidurangala is the lesser-known cousin of Sigiriya Rock Fortress. While the latter is steeped in history and beguiling art, Pidurangala is a more strenuous climb that is sure to attract enthusiastic climbers. The rock is only a few kilometres from Sigiriya and it isn’t unusual for visitors to catch the sunrise from atop Pidurangala before they climb the stairs of Sigiriya.
There is a rock temple during the ascent, hinting at the generations that have walked these very paths countless times.
Pidurangala, like Sigiriya, can be accessed from Dambulla and most cities within the Cultural Triangle.
Another paradise for bird-watching, Anawilundawa is unique in that the park owes its existence to three different eco-systems crashing into one another - zoological residents of ...
Another paradise for bird-watching, Anawilundawa is unique in that the park owes its existence to three different eco-systems crashing into one another - zoological residents of the coast, mangroves and freshwater lakes all call this ecological wonder, home.
Located between Chillaw and Puttalam, the Anawilundawa is among the best kept secrets among Sri Lankan bird-watchers. In here, visitors are likely to see exotic birds - endemic, resident and migratory - as well as larger mammals including the Slender Loris Fishing Cat, and the Indian Otter.
The park can be accessed from Colombo via Chillaw.
Gal Oya National Park
Some have likened it to a fantasy world, but Gal Oya, we assure you, is very much real. Located close to Ampara, the Gal Oya National Park attracts visitors wanting to experience an unspoilt natural wonderland. The park is characterized by its three mountains, and the year-round gathering of wild elephants that roam around its surroundings.
The park is also a window into Sri Lanka’s past - the Dighavapi stupa found in the park was built in the 2nd century BCE, and is believed to have been where The Buddha meditated during his visit to Sri Lanka.
Located in the Ampara district, and once known as Yala East National Park, Kumana National Park is an ornithological wonder. Avifauna species that can be ...
Kumana National Park
Located in the Ampara district, and once known as Yala East National Park, Kumana National Park is an ornithological wonder. Avifauna species that can be seen here include the rare black-necked stork, painted storks, spoonbills, herons, egrets, and countless cormorants - well close to 200 distinct species - spread over the 80,000 acres of the park make this Sri Lanka’s favoured destination for bird-watching. In addition, large numbers of migratory birds also use the park as a temporary home.
The park is also a site of historical interest as rock inscriptions going back to the 3rd BCE can be seen. Access to Kumana National Park is through Panama ((not to be confused with the Central American nation) but visitors in the Southern Coastal Belt can also access the park through Hambantota.
One of two national marine parks in Sri Lanka, Pigeon Island is a gateway to an underwater kingdom. Visitors coming to Pigeon Island via Trincomalee ...
Pigeon Island National Park
One of two national marine parks in Sri Lanka, Pigeon Island is a gateway to an underwater kingdom. Visitors coming to Pigeon Island via Trincomalee will have a chance to snorkel with a variety of marine life including turtles, sharks and other reef fish float around humans as pigeons circle above - a more idyllic sun-kissed, post card perfect moment will be hard to come by.
The park is made up of two islands, Large Pigeon Island and Small Pigeon Island, which can be explored in their own right.
The waters off Sri Lanka’s southern and south-western coast is feeding ground for dolphins and whales - and is a must-see for visitors who are enthralled ...
Marine Mammal Watching
The waters off Sri Lanka’s southern and south-western coast is feeding ground for dolphins and whales - and is a must-see for visitors who are enthralled by nature. These parts of the Indian Ocean are best explored via Sri Lanka’s southern coastal belt, especially Mirissa, Kalpitiya, Weligama and Trincomalee. Boat tour operators are available for day-time excursions into the sea.
Located within the Hurulu Forest Reserve, the Hurulu Eco Park offers visitors jeep safaris within the park. The park is home to a number of ...
Hurulu Eco Park
Located within the Hurulu Forest Reserve, the Hurulu Eco Park offers visitors jeep safaris within the park. The park is home to a number of species endemic to Sri Lanka including elephants, leopards, rusty-spotted cats, Sri Lankan jungle fowl, and the Indian star tortoise. The park can be accessed via its nearest city, the World Heritage site Anuradhapura
Spanning the Matale and Polonnaruwa districts, the Wasgamuwa National Park is home to abundant wildlife and endemic plants. Wasgamuwa, roughly translated, means ‘sloth bear woods’, ...
Wasgamuwa National Park
Spanning the Matale and Polonnaruwa districts, the Wasgamuwa National Park is home to abundant wildlife and endemic plants. Wasgamuwa, roughly translated, means ‘sloth bear woods’, and is characterized by a topography that is fairly flat, with the highest elevation of 500m at the Sudu Kanda Hill. This flat landscape, combined with two rivers acting as borders - the Mahaweli Ganga is the park’s eastern border while and Amban Ganga in the western border - makes this an ideal camping ground: camping sites scattered across the park give visitors an opportunity to experience the park’s grandeur up close.
Of the fauna, the park is host to many an endemic species including the purple-faced langur and the toque macaque; the park’s namesake, the sloth bear, meanwhile, is a rare sight.
The park can be accessed from several more popular tourist attractions including world heritage sites such as Kandy and Polonnaruwa.
Once upon a time it was among many ancient, man-made reservoirs, the Kaudulla National Park has since become a veritable eco-system for a variety of ...
Kaudulla National Park
Once upon a time it was among many ancient, man-made reservoirs, the Kaudulla National Park has since become a veritable eco-system for a variety of plants and animals. The area is now an Important Bird Area (IBA), attracting well over 160 distinct species including large water birds such as spot-billed pelicans and lesser adjutants.
The park can be accessed from Colombo via Polonnaruwa.
Minneriya National Park
There’s a place here where elephants gather in hundreds, attracted to the plentiful grasslands that grow on the surface of an ancient man-made reservoir - it is a sight from a postcard. Surely this can’t be a regular occurrence in these parts? But it is. For Minneriya National Park - built around 300 AD - has become a feeding ground just for the large but also the small, the winged, the scaled, and those living under water: over 20 species of mammals, 9 varieties of amphibians, 25 reptiles, 26 fish and over 70 species of butterfly are drawn to this man-made miracle.
The park is situated in the country’s dry zone, in the North Central Province, and can be accessed Colombo via the Habarana - Polonnaruwa Road. Visitors must obtain a permit in order to access the park.
Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu is a national park that borders Sri Lanka’s north western borders, and is best known for its collection of natural lakes - nearly 60 lakes form ecological clusters that sustain a number of species of flora and fauna. Its topographical landmarks include three distinct types of vegetation - salt grass bordering the beach, monsoon scrub, and a thick canopy of dense monsoon forests as you venture further inland.
Hiding in this vegetation and arid landscape is the most renowned resident in this park: the secretive leopard. But Wilpattu is also home to a large collection of migratory and endemic birds, and reptiles including the mugger crocodile and the Indian python.
Accessing Wilpattu is from Colombo via Negombo, Chilaw and Puttalam. You’ll require a permit to access the park.
‘The Swamp of Royal Treasures’, Muthurajawela is a marsh that begins in southern region of the Negombo and measures around 7500 acres, earning a reputation ...
Muthurajawela Wet Lands
‘The Swamp of Royal Treasures’, Muthurajawela is a marsh that begins in southern region of the Negombo and measures around 7500 acres, earning a reputation as the country’s largest saline coastal peat bog. It is an area of astonishing bio-diversity and is one of the 12 priority wetlands in Sri Lanka, granted sanctuary status by the government of Sri Lanka. Muthurajawela is home to 192 distinct botanical species as well as 209 species of fauna.
Visiting Muthurajawela requires being accompanied by staff at the office in order to ensure that visitors don’t unintentionally harm eco-systems that are dependent on the marsh.
The marsh can be reached via Negombo Road. A two-hour boat tour with the guide is recommended.
Elephant Transit Home
The transit home for orphaned elephant calves was set up with the intention of rehabilitating and releasing them back into the wild. Dozens of elephants have been looked after and released back into the wild once they were deemed strong enough to survive. Visitors to the Elephant Transit Home can enrol themselves on a Foster Parent Scheme, set up by the Wildlife Conservation Department, which would enable them to name the elephant and be present at the time of its release into the wild.
Udawalawe National Park
Home to an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna - 94 species of plants, 21 fish, 12 amphibians, 33 reptiles, and 43 mammals - Udawalawe National Park is a scenic sanctuary, and one of the most popular destination in the country for wildlife-viewing. Spread over 120 square miles, the Udawalawe National Park was set up in 1972 to provide sanctuary for animals that had been displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir. Today it attracts countless visitors hoping to catch glimpses of iconic Sri Lankan mammals including leopards and elephants, but also Asian Water Monitors, the crested serpent-eagle and axis deer.
The park can be reached from Colombo via Ratnapura, and usually takes a four hour drive.
Yala National Park
Located in the south eastern part of the island, with one border acting as a shoreline to the Indian Ocean, the Yala National Park is a zoological treasure chest that attracts thousands of visitors every year. The park sprawls two provinces and administrative districts - the Monaragala District in the Uva Province and the Hambantota district in the Southern Province - but accessible via an entrance between Tissamaharama and Kirinda.
Yala National Park is home to an astonishing range of wildlife. From the ornithological - including migrants such as Lesser Whistling Duck, Garganey, Cormorants, Grey Heron, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Openbill, and Painted Stork among others - to the mammals large and small - including leopards and elephants - as well as Herpetological delights in the form of the Sri Lankan krait, Boulenger's keelback, Sri Lankan flying snake, painted-lip lizard, Wiegmann's agama, and Bahir's fan-throated lizard.
Visitors are required to have a permit and a guide to explore the park while those wanting to stay in one of the five bungalows and camping options will need to make reservations in Colombo.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
No animal in Sri Lanka is as loved, as essential to the country’s psyche, as crucial in moulding its culture, and as essential to carving the landscape for the benefit of its entire people as the mighty elephant. These great creatures have faced many challenges as a result of deforestation - thus the necessity for a sanctuary dedicated to safeguarding elephants.
Pinnawala was established in 1975 and has since then become a focal point among tourists and locals alike. Over 90 elephants spanning three generations can be seen playing, eating and bathing. Find a guide who will explain to visitors how a herd’s complex social structures work - it is well worth the insight into how these magnificent creatures live.
Pinnawala can be accessed by travelling approximately 7km on Rambukkana Road via the Colombo - Kandy road.
The center opens at 8:30AM and closes at 6:00PM daily. Bottle feeding is at 9:15AM, 1.15pm & 5pm and bathing times at the river is at 10:00AM and 2:00PM. The bathing hours are followed up by the feeding hour at the main center of the orphanage.
Demodara Nine Arches Bridge
World War I was raging away in Europe and steel was of utmost importance to the British’s war efforts. Meanwhile, their Indian Ocean colony had plans for expanding its railway systems, including building access through the island’s dense mountains and tropical forests. A bridge had been planned over Demodara, a sleepy outpost, and its close neighbour Ella. How does one build a bridge without metal and steel? The locals switched to concrete, rock and cement. Today, the nine arches span 91 m, reaching a height of 24 metres. One of the little joys of approaching the bridge is to time your arrival with a training passing over the bridge - beautiful and timeless, you’ll be sharing the same feeling locals have had viewing the same scene countless times.
Galle Face Promenade
Colombo’s western oceanfront is spectacularly opened up close to its commercial hub. This promenade is about a half a kilometre in length and 12 acres in size, and is the most popular public park in Colombo. On any given evening, the park is filled with Colombo residents, tourists and school kids from outside the city taking a walk, breathing in the fresh ocean air, and helping themselves to the assortment of food and drinks being sold there. Early mornings are a great time for a jog from one end to another while night time is a good for trying out hot, fresh street food. Some visitors do go swimming though it isn’t recommended as some parts the water contain strong currents.
Colombo’s most scenic location, next to the Galle Face promenade, is Viharamahadevi. Named after the mother of the legendary King Dutugemunu, but also called ‘Victoria ...
Colombo’s most scenic location, next to the Galle Face promenade, is Viharamahadevi. Named after the mother of the legendary King Dutugemunu, but also called ‘Victoria Park’ by the British colonial rulers, it is a respite from Colombo’s metropolis mayhem. It’s located in the centre of the city’s most prominent neighbourhood, Cinnamon Gardens, and is in front of the City Municipal Council building.
The park is home to an open air theater, children’s playground and amusement park while grazing elephants and ponies (kids can hire a ride on a pony around the park) provide a unique Lankan flavour to the ambience.
Designed and donated by the wealthy Sri Lankan entrepreneur Charles Henry de Soysa to the city of Colombo during British Rule, it has since become the city’s favourite place to spend a lazy weekend. On such days, families come for picnics, students come to study in peace, while others jog and exercise.
Royal Botanical Gardens
Located in the city of Peradeniya, the Botanical Gardens was conceptualized and created by the British and officially commissioned in 1821. The garden is a treasure trove of botanical delights with over 4000 species of plants spread across 147 acres of land. It is located near the Mahaweli River which runs parallel to the gardens’ boundary.
Species of plants that visitors can marvel at include a wide array of orchids, medicinal plants, spices and palm trees. The garden has an avenue system that allows for easy planning of explorations; these include River Drive, Cook’s Pine Avenue, Palmyra Palm Avenue, Cabbage Avenue, Double Coconut Avenue, and Royal Palm Avenue. Some plants exude historical value - the Cannonball Tree was planted by King George V and Queen Mary in 1901.
Ella Rock is a more challenging, steeper climb in comparison to Little Adam’s Peak. It requires a guide though it is possible to find the walking path that will let you scale the peak. The path is within Ella town limits and requires climbers to follow a rail track for a distance. The final climb is somewhat strenuous but completely worth it.
At the peak, one can view a panoramic view of the Ella’s magnificent surroundings - entire mountain ranges, cloud forests, towns, and even the southern coast – and laze around. The peak is spacious enough to have a tiny Buddhist shrine that looms over tester slope of the rock.
Little Adam’s Peak
When in Ella, a climb up the welcoming Little Adam’s Peak is highly recommended. A kilometre or so down Passara Road in Ella, the little hill is a fairly easy-moderate climb - even for inexperienced hikers. When climbing, visitors will walk past tea estates or indeed have a bird’s eye view of tea estates and plantations across the area. On a good day, the view will stretch all the way to the southern coast. At the peak, there’s a charming lone tree, under which visitors often have a morning picnic while watching the sunrise.
The northernmost tip of Sri Lanka, the town of Point Pedro is a tranquil beach area, where on clear days it is said that India can be seen from the sandy beaches. Point Pedro has historically been an important shipping and trading town, with a harbour used by ancient traders, the Dutch, and then the British. The Point Pedro Lighthouse is a famous site, and easily accessed from Munai Beach. The waters along Point Pedro’s beach are generally calmer than most beaches in Sri Lanka, making this an ideal place for a swim and the clear, sandy beach is an attractive place for families to have a day out.
Visitors to Point Pedro will see the effects of the long history of trade and travel, with both Vallipuram Hindu temple and the St. Lourdes church sitting in close proximity to each other. Driving from Point Pedro to Valvettiurai is a gorgeous, scenic drive along the northern coast, and regarded as one of the most beautiful drives in Sri Lanka.
A small, unassuming town in the Jaffna District, Nilavarai’s Bottomless Well is a hidden gem. Quite literally the colour of topaz, the Bottomless Well is ...
Nilavarai Bottomless Well
A small, unassuming town in the Jaffna District, Nilavarai’s Bottomless Well is a hidden gem. Quite literally the colour of topaz, the Bottomless Well is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. The well structure itself is chipped and crumbly, but the water inside is fresh, crisp, and clear. Locals use this well as a recreational spot and are welcoming of the visitors who come to enjoy the well.
One of legends surrounding this well is that it was created when Rama and Sita (the main characters of the Hindu mythic story, the Ramayana), where travelling back to India from Sri Lanka, Sita was overcome by thirst. Rama shot an arrow into the ground and this well appeared. The locals love discussing their mysterious well with visitors, telling them about the various dives and experiments people have done over the years to ascertain the depth of the well. There are many legends about the well so be prepared for tall tales from locals – listen courteously and you’re in for a yarn. Whatever the story, legend, or truth may be, the Nilavarai Bottomless Well is worth a visit.
Sinharaja (meaning Lion King) is a vast sprawling rainforest that covers Ratnapura, Galle and Matara. Its World Heritage Status is well-earned as it is home to a number of endemic species, both flora and fauna. Its thick foliage has meant that it retains much of the bio-diversity that made the British name it as a Crown Property under the Wasteland Ordinance in 1840. Despite its relative inaccessibility, especially in comparison to Yala and Udawalawe National Parks, has meant that visitors planning to visit have to use two routes to access the forest. One such way is through Deniyaya via Galle while the other is through Kalawana via Ratnapura – there are circuit bungalows at both ends. Hiring a tracker is recommended.
In 477 BCE, King Kashyapa, having usurped the throne, was fearful of an attack on Anuradhapura by the rightful heir Moggallana. His solution towers today, a few kilometres from Dambulla. The rock fortress Sigiriya is among Sri Lanka’s most iconic travel sites. At its pomp, Sigiriya – originally referred to as Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock – was King Kashyapa’s home for 18 years until 495 when his army was defeated. During those 18 years, King Kashyapa transformed the fortress into a gallery as well as a garden – the inside walls adorned with intricately painted frescoes while the Royal Gardens around the complex hint at an engineering ingenuity that must have astounded the ancient world.
Today, the site attracts large numbers of visitors, both local and foreign, eager to view the frescoes, wander among the landscaped gardens, and take in the view from the top of the fortress. All three will aspects of Sigiriya will astound the first time visitor.
A city whose history stretches back to the 1st century BCE, Dambulla is home to the stunning cave temples that are situated under an overhanging cave. Three of these caves – called Devarajalena (Cave of the Divine King), Maharajalena (Cave of the Great Kings), Maha Aluth Viharaya (Great New Monastery) – contain statues of The Buddha, Gods Saman and Vishnu, and Kings Vatta Gamini and Nissanka Malla. Attracting thousands of devotees, the Dambulla Rock Temple has been restored and lit following World Heritage Status. Dambulla’s attractions can stretch from the historic to the prehistoric as a visit to the Ibbankatuwa Megalithic Burial Site will demonstrate. The site is dated between 750 and 400 BCE, which approximates to the Early Iron Age of Sri Lanka, and shows the existence of a civilization prior to the entry of Buddhism.
A short drive away is the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
Though it is a modern city today, ask residents and they'll point you towards sites that reveal Anuradhapura's age - ancient and stately, it seems to reach out from the past, offering visitors a beguiling glimpse into some of Sri Lanka's earliest recorded history. Nowhere is this more tangible than at the Abhayagiri vihāra, an imposing monastic complex that was the first location to safeguard the Sacred Relic of the Tooth of the Buddha - before moving to the current location in Kandy's Temple of the Tooth. Its namesake museum hosts a large collection of artefacts that include jewellery, states, pottery, plates and other items that were part of the daily lives of kings, courtesans, priests and ordinary citizens during the Anuradhapura Kingdom between 377 BCE – 1017 AD. As a constant target of invasions, the city miraculously withstood armies for centuries before finally falling in 1017. With its fall came the rise of Polonnaruwa.
Martin Wickramasinghe is one of Sir Lanka’s most well-known authors and considered the father of modern Sinhala literature. His books delved into the lives of ...
Martin Wickramasinghe Museum
Martin Wickramasinghe is one of Sir Lanka’s most well-known authors and considered the father of modern Sinhala literature. His books delved into the lives of real Sri Lankans, exploring their everyday lives, folk-lore, and culture. His novels have gained worldwide acclaim and have been translated in many different languages. So it is only fitting that Wickramasinghe’s childhood home should be turned into a museum detailing the folk traditions and culture of the region.
The museum is made up of the restored childhood home of Martin Wickramasinghe, including some of the original furniture and personal effects. In addition, there is the Hall of Life, which details Wickramasinghe’s life and work through photos, letter, and manuscripts. From there, visitors can walk through the Museum of Folk Culture, where a collection of cultural, theatrical, and religious artefacts are on display, bringing Wickramasinghe’s words to life. In addition, this museum houses folk technology that contributed to the agricultural communities in the region. The final section of the museum is the garden, a large 7 acre sprawl that visitors are encouraged to explore, relax, and picnic in.
Lankathilake Gadaladeniya and Embekke Temples
Kandy is the home to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, but there are many impressive temples in and around Kandy. Just 10 km outside Kandy, visitors can find the Lankathilake, Gadaladeniya, and Embekke Temples in close proximity to each other. These temples were all built under the Kandyan Kings in the 14th century and provide three very distinct examples of Buddhist architecture and design from that era.
Lankathilake Temple was designed by the South Indian architect Sathapati Rayar, based on Polonnaruwa era design, mixed with Dravidian and Indo Chinese elements. The temple’s image room is one of the most notable buildings, having been designed as a 4 storey mansion, only 3 storeys exist today. Nevertheless, the building and the outstanding design makes Lankathilake Temple a must see for any visitor.
Gadaladeniya Temple just 3km from Lankathilake Temple and is one of the largest rock temples in Sri Lanka. The main temple is built almost entirely of sculpted granite, in a traditionally South Indian style, and sits atop a huge rock slab. The main temple also houses a 2.5m tall statue of the seated Buddha. The temple has been home to some of Sri Lankan most celebrated Buddhist scholar monks, and it was handed over to the notable Buddhist monk Weliwita Sri Saranankara Thero in the 18th century. This intricate stone temple provides visitors with an insight into the way Southern Indian art and architecture influenced Sri Lankan design.
Embekka Temple is one of the most unique temples in Sri Lanka. The predominant materials used for building and decoration is wood, and there are architectural, engineering, and decorative elements unseen anywhere else. Visitors will see intricately carved pillars, as well as decoration in the roof rafters. The truly spectacular element is the roof structure, which does not have a central beam, but uses a giant catch-pin as the central roof engineering. This particular feat of carpentry is the only example of this kind in Sri Lanka.
These three temples, while built in the same era, are completely unique and are worth a visit while exploring the temples and spiritual design of Kandy.
Sri Lanka has long been famous for its plethora of spices. Ancient traders came from other parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe to trade for cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, and cardamom. So it comes as no surprise that the many Spice Gardens in Sri Lanka still have a pull for visitors from all over the world.
Some of the famous Spice Gardens in Sri Lanka are the Euphoria Spice Garden in Matale, the New Ranweli Spice Garden in Kandy, and the Ella Spice Garden in Ella. Visitors walk through lush, jungle-like, gardens, seeing and smelling the spice plants. Guides explain how each spice is grown and harvested, giving visitors an inside look into just how much care and effort go into the spices that end up in food, medicine, and beauty products. Some of the Spice Gardens have restaurants, where visitors can taste luxuriously spiced meals. At every Spice Garden, though, visitors have the opportunity to purchase the spices grown and harvested in the garden itself, allowing visitors to take a bit of the experience home with them. The various Spice Gardens in Sri Lanka each have their own unique styles, but they are all informative, calming, and a full sensory experience.
Just 16km from Sigiriya Rock, visitors can immerse themselves in a truly Sri Lankan experience by visiting Hiriwadunna Village. The village allows visitors a peek ...
Just 16km from Sigiriya Rock, visitors can immerse themselves in a truly Sri Lankan experience by visiting Hiriwadunna Village. The village allows visitors a peek into agrarian life in Sri Lanka’s agrarian communities. A guide will take visitors on a trek through forests that lead to the small village of about 2,500 people. Visitors will meet locals going about their daily activities, and get a chance to talk to them about their farms and crops, and learn more about the predominantly barter system that the village uses. From there, a catamaran ‘taxi’ takes visitors through a lake filled with floating lily pads, with a view of Sigiriya rock in the distance. On the other side awaits fresh thambili, or coconut water to greet visitors. Here visitors will have a real home cooked lunch by one of the local farmers, and learn more about how they live with the elephants in the area, and what they do if an elephant threatens to destroy their much needed crops.
The village trek is finished by a ride through the fields on a traditional bullock cart. Visitors can see the farmers in action, as well as the children playing in the fields. Without any gimmicks, this is a true experience of a functioning Sri Lankan village with real people who live this daily life. There are no gift shops, and no cafes. It is truly a spectacular look into the lives of Sri Lankan Villagers.
This ancient Hindu temple is located in Mannar, overlooking the ocean. Scholars disagree on the exact origin of the temple, but the earliest known record of the temple is from the 6th century B.C.E. Throughout its long history, the temple has been destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again. In the late 19th century, archaeological digs found some of the original Shiva Linga (representation of the Lord Shiva) and Hindu idols, which spurred local Hindus to advocate for the rebuilding of the temple on that site. The current temple was built in 1903, and since then the archaeological and historical discoveries about the area have shone even more light on the ancient significance of the temple.
In modern times, the temple has built a nearby water tank, and has a pond, both of which are of religious significance to the thousands of pilgrims that come to Ketheeswaram each year. Hindu temples close in the afternoon, so visitors are encouraged to go in the morning or evening, to have a fully immersive experience.
Located just 1.2km northeast of Mannar Town, in Pallimunai, this Baobab Tree is thought to have been planted by Arabic traders around 700 years ...
700 Year Old Baobab Tree
Located just 1.2km northeast of Mannar Town, in Pallimunai, this Baobab Tree is thought to have been planted by Arabic traders around 700 years ago. When traders from North Africa and Middle East brought camels to Sri Lanka, they also brought the Baobab Trees to feed them. While camels are no longer present in Sri Lanka, the baobab trees are, though in small amount around Mannar, Jaffna, and Puttalam. These large trees are sometimes called “Elephant Trees” because of the resemblance of the bark to elephant skin.
Despite not being native to the country, the baobab tree has become an essential part of the biodiversity in Mannar, where the bulk of Sri Lankan baobab trees grow. It is well worth a visit, when in Mannar, to see this huge and historical landmark.
Adam’s Peak is undoubtedly one of Sri Lanka’s most popular destinations. The large mountain is only 32 km southwest of Hatton, and 40 km northeast of Ratnapura, and is well worth adding to any Sri Lankan itinerary. This site draws thousands of tourists a year from all over the world, as well as local pilgrims, for the giant footprint shaped mark at the top. Buddhists believe it to be the footprint of Lord Buddha, Muslims and Christians believe it to be Adam (hence the name), and Hindus consider it to be the mark of Lord Shiva. In addition to those who make the journey for religious reasons, many trekkers make the journey throughout the night to watch the spectacular sunrise from the summit.
Adam’s Peak has multiple trails to the top, most of them are made up of stone steps, with lights to help with the trek, and small shops and roadside eateries to break up the 5-7 hour total trek. This is a trek that anyone can do, and visitors will see small kids and elderly adults on the paths as well.
Just 5 km from beautiful Nuwara Eliya, is Sita Eliya, a place shrouded in and mythology. According to the Hindu epic, Ramayana, Sita was a ...
Just 5 km from beautiful Nuwara Eliya, is Sita Eliya, a place shrouded in and mythology. According to the Hindu epic, Ramayana, Sita was a beautiful Indian princess, married to Rama, who was tricked and captured by the demon-king Ravana of Lanka. Ravana brought Sita to Sri Lanka and imprisoned her in the Ashoka forests. Sita Eliya is thought to be the exact location where Sita was held. The idyllic and remote landscape provides the perfect backdrop for this legend. The foot-print looking depressions nearby give even more credence to the story, as legend has it that those are the footprints of the monkey-god Hanuman, who helped Rama find his beloved Sita. Visitors offer flowers to the nearby stream, in remembrance of Sita’s eternal devotion to her husband, and her daily prayers for him to save her. Nearby lies the Sita Amman Kovil, the only temple dedicated to Sita in the world. In addition, a small shrine to Lord Hanuman sits nearby, a reminder of the great lengths Lord Hanuman went through to help Rama in his quest.
Being one of the largest cities in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, Trincomalee has a coastal belt of its own that, while not the most secluded, ...
Being one of the largest cities in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, Trincomalee has a coastal belt of its own that, while not the most secluded, is still charming in its own right. The beach is easily accessible from Trincomalee town and is renowned for its white sand and blue waters.
In the mornings, it is a great place to catch the sunrise from while listening to the city wake up in the background. In the evening, it is a social gathering of the local folk that will surely charm visitors.
The kite surfing capital of Sri Lanka is a storied place. Known in ancient times as Arasadi (the place of the Bo Tree) then Kalputti before its current moniker of Kalpitiya, this beach resort town was a favourite among colonial powers too. Dutch-era fort and church, and a Portuguese-era church bear testament to the town’s timeless appeal.
Today it attracts visitors from all over the world intent on surfing or kite-surfing. The season times sync with the island’s monsoon seasons – the south-west monsoon opens the summer kite-surfing season between May and October while the North-east monsoon creates a window between December and February.
The town is also another gateway into the miracle of marine life – from Kalpitiya, visitors can hire boats to go whale or dolphin watching, an opportunity that every tourist in Sri Lanka has to grab.
Being a very popular holiday destination, Kalpitiya now attracts hotels and accommodation options of all sorts, from rustic, beach-front properties to luxury hotels that offer stunning views and a touch of class.
Passikudah meaning Green Algae Beach in Tamil is among the calmest and most inviting beaches in Sri Lanka. With one of the lengthiest stretches of shallow reef, the adventurous have ventured a couple of kilometres into the sea, with the water level barely going over chest level.
Sunrise with the glowing ball juxtaposed against this calm blue sheet of water is a truly spectacular site that should be experienced by all who visit Sri Lanka. Due to its rural roots, the accommodation options aren’t the widest but they are universally clean, comfortable and hygienic.
Among Sri Lanka’s most scenic beaches, Marble Beach in Trincomalee is a cloud-soft, white sand beach that will bedazzle with its clear blues. Start early ...
Among Sri Lanka’s most scenic beaches, Marble Beach in Trincomalee is a cloud-soft, white sand beach that will bedazzle with its clear blues. Start early and watch the sun rise from behind the ocean horizon, a truly beautiful occasion at the right of the year. One can laze around on the beach, and swim in the calm waters undisturbed by anyone – save for the occasional passing ship in the distance.
The shoreline too is interesting with a nest-like forest covering the beach, providing a natural buffer from the outside world. A truly lucky traveller can laze around in the crystal blue waters, fish swimming around her, and – were she to turn around and look at the forest – see peacocks swaggering while monkeys play on the trees.
A number of accommodation options are available including chalets built and maintained by the Sri Lankan Air Force – clean and comfortable, visitors should go stay here for the incredible views of the ocean.
Arugam Bay is Sri Lanka’s surf capital, but so much more. Walk up Elephant Rock, found in its namesake bay, and enjoy a panoramic view of the entire locale. From here, you’ll see the many hotels and surfing schools that have sprung up since 2005. During high season, you’ll discover why Arugam Bay has gained a reputation as one of the world’s best surfing destinations - it is why companies such as Red Bull have chosen to stage their extreme surfing competitions here.
Travellers who are looking for something beyond the surfing will find the village’s culture and heritage a charming escape from the waves. A lagoon safari, for instance, is a must; local fishermen will take travellers on 2-hour long safaris into the lagoons Kottukal or Urani where you can spot crocodiles, elephants and various bird life.
Easily the most well-known beach in Sri Lanka’s northern coastal belt, Casuarina Beach is named after the lining of Casuarina Trees. Very popular on weekends, ...
Easily the most well-known beach in Sri Lanka’s northern coastal belt, Casuarina Beach is named after the lining of Casuarina Trees. Very popular on weekends, it is best experienced early on a weekday. Alternatively, visitors can pay the local fisherman to take you out to the fairly shallow waters - about 2-3 km away from shore - for a more secluded swim in the waters between Sri Lanka’s northern most point and India’s southernmost coast.
A fishing village at heart, Weligama is now also beach resort that attracts surfers, especially beginner-intermediate level, who want to acclimatize with more temperate waves before moving on to the more demanding Arugam Bay.
Weligama or Sandy Village couldn’t be more apt for surfers and beach-lovers in general. This idyllic village’s transformation began when one of the country’s oldest surfing schools, and one of its few ISA-certified surf instructors, started operating. Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa were becoming popular among tourists but they weren’t exactly inviting to novices. Weligama soon filled that hole. Today, partly in thanks to Weligama’s inviting waves, surfing as a sport shows signs of increasing in popularity - even among locals.
Unawatuna (or Una as the locals call it) was the primary beneficiary of increased tourist visits to Hikkaduwa and Galle. For decades it was a ...
Unawatuna (or Una as the locals call it) was the primary beneficiary of increased tourist visits to Hikkaduwa and Galle. For decades it was a tiny outpost, popular among divers and marine biologists, but has expanded since mid-2005 as one of the most exciting beach towns in the country. The beach is narrow, but lined with hotels offering accommodations, views of the ocean, and signature menus. The lagoon is calm and inviting, and seeing people float around languidly under the sun is a common sight.
The Unawatuna beach is also a gateway to the oceans: boat-rides from here will take you up close and personal with dolphins and whales as they eat, play and lunge out of the water.
During season time, Unawatuna doesn’t sleep. This is among Sri Lanka’s favourite nightlife spots with EDM festivals being very popular among tourists and locals.
The first of the Big 3 Beach resorts, Hikkaduwa (lovingly called Hikka by the locals) was a tiny sea-front village that became a favourite among surfers in the late 90s and early 2000s. Today, it offers accommodation, both high-end and budget, along its coastline. Depending on where travellers choose to stay, generally they’d have access to the respective property’s beach front. Some hotels offer private beaches while others are a lot more relaxed.
Around Hikkaduwa, visitors have access to charming arts and crafts marketplace that offer a variety of locally-sourced handicrafts and garments for sale.
The season time; from November to April offers the best time for water-sports and exploratory activities such as surfing and diving.
Sighting Beruwela’s beaches lets travellers know that the Sri Lanka’s incredible southern coastal belt is starting. This town of gem merchants is home to high-end ...
Sighting Beruwela’s beaches lets travellers know that the Sri Lanka’s incredible southern coastal belt is starting. This town of gem merchants is home to high-end hotels that dot the coast. The beach themselves are renowned for their pristine white beaches and crystal blue waters. Other attractions within the area include the Beruwela Harbour which, for a nominal fee, you can explore on foot; more adventurous tourists can take a short boat ride to the lighthouse, situated on a tiny island, and enjoy a panoramic view of the coast.
Bentota is the grand old dame of Sri Lankan beach resorts. Colonial powers from the Portuguese to the British came upon its picturesque beach, especially ...
Bentota is the grand old dame of Sri Lankan beach resorts. Colonial powers from the Portuguese to the British came upon its picturesque beach, especially the post-card-perfect coconut trees and white sand, and were left mesmerized. Today, that heritage can be seen in the Bentota Beach Hotel – once a fort, it was converted into a Dutch rest house before the British, yearning for relief from the cold weather in their homeland, built a resort.
The beach itself hasn’t lost its beauty despite plenty of subsequent development happening around it, and has now become one of the country’s prime venues for water sports; diving, snorkelling, jet-skiing, water-skiing, and deep-sea fishing are just some of the options available for tourists.
Another one of the larger towns in the Southern coastal belt of Sri Lanka, Matara’s beaches are unique in that the proximity to the Garanduwa Lagoon opens up a whole new range of experiences for the curious traveller. The lagoon’s name is a nod to its past when crocodiles had roamed the lagoon - today it is safe for beach-dwellers to explore the lagoon using its walking paths, and observe an incredible bio-diversity of insects, plants, birds, and marine life. Observable species include birds such as woolly-necked storks, Indian pond heron, Ceylon blue magpies, Ceylon green pigeon, and purple coot; while trees include breadfruit and its wild cousins Kirala (sometimes referred to as the Mangrove Apple), Kadol, and Bael fruit.
Closer to the coast, the beaches of Matara also offer an alternative departure spot for whale and dolphin watching.
Mirissa is quaint little sea-side village that has transformed in the last decade into a beach resort that is famous for whale and dolphin-watching, water sports, and its thumping Electronic Dance Music-infused nightlife. It isn’t for everyone, but those who have ventured past the better-known Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa beaches know that Mirissa’s beaches offers signature experiences that can’t be found elsewhere.
The clean beach means that, in addition to swimming and surfing, other water sports are also available to experience. Snorkelling opens a whole new marine world for travellers wanting to experience swimming with turtles and other marine life. In addition, the view of the corals and the delicate eco-systems that they give rise to is sure to bestow a burning need to do whatever possible to protect them for future generations.
Mirissa is also home to some secret beaches – ask the locals and they’ll be happy to guide you to the locations of these less-known beaches. They are secret mostly because they are relatively inaccessible, but those who manage to find these beaches will be rewarded with relative solitude and pristine beach.
Located about 196km from Colombo, Tangalle is a beach town that is fast becoming a favourite among tourists, especially the up-market kind. The beaches around Tangalle, located in Madaketiya and Goyambokka, are renowned for their white sandy beaches that are relatively unspoilt. Half an hour away, Rakawa Lagoon is also popular for its calm swimming spots as well as turtle watching. The Turtle Conservation Project allows tourists to learn more about these fascinating creatures and their millennia-old relationship to Sri Lanka’s southern shores.
The locals have also started diving schools for those interested in seeing what lies under the sapphire-blue ocean surface, and has fast become one of the most popular activities among tourists heading to the Sri Lanka’s southern beaches.
While Galle is best known for its charming fort, it boasts beaches that have a character all their own. Here, visitors can see fishermen return from their pre-dawn excursions into the ocean in search of the freshest fish. This fish is then sold immediately at the beach itself, making it a prime location for restaurateurs, chefs and general foodies who demand the very best seafood; whether it is fish, crab or prawns that catch your fancy, you’ll find choice selections at this fish market.
In addition, some fishermen engage in the time-honoured art of stilt fishing; climbing a high stilt planted in the water, a fisherman sits on his slit with his fishing rod and waits for his catch. This activity usually takes place during sunrise or sunset, making it an ideal time to catch an Instagram-worthy photo or two.
Galle is also a natural harbour, and is the only Sri Lankan port-of-call that services pleasure yachts.
Medirigiriya is a tiny hamlet off the World Heritage city of Polonnaruwa and is best known for its imposing Medirigiriya Vatadage, an ancient temple that ...
Medirigiriya is a tiny hamlet off the World Heritage city of Polonnaruwa and is best known for its imposing Medirigiriya Vatadage, an ancient temple that still stands today. This architectural masterpiece is almost two millennia old and was, at its pomp, much admired by ancient visitors from around the world.
The town and the Medirigiriya Vatadage can be reached from the closest city, the World Heritage site Polonnaruwa.