Where were you the last time you fell in love with that special someone? Or the time you decided this love would last your lifetime - and there was nothing better than travel with that person to a magical place? Such questions require a little magic to answer.
Fortunately, Sri Lanka exists: for thousands of years, travellers from around the world, from cultures near and far, have spoken about the island’s endless capacity to create awe.
Awe is an Eden-like garden that serves as a background for your love. Awe is a culture older than most western civilizations, inviting you to walk its stage while serenading the one who makes you, you. Awe is floating on crystal blue water, sun baking your back, while the two of you reminiscence about anything, everything and nothing.
What is love but another word for awe? And what is Sri Lanka but a living, breathing embodiment of awe.
Galle Fort Hotel - Galle
Uga Bay by Uga Escapes - Passikudah
Ulagalla by Uga Escapes - Anuradhapura
Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge - Madulkelle
Kandy House - Kandy
Jetwing St. Andrews - Nuwara Eliya
AVANI Bentota Resort & Spa - Bentota
Big Game Camps - Yala
Saman Villas - Bentota
AVANI Kalutara Resort - Kalutara
The Rainforest Ecolodge - Deniyaya
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ratnapura, the city at the foot of Adam’s Peak, is also a hidden gem - quite literally! This city’s name when literally translated means ‘City of Gems’, and is the focal point of Sri Lanka’s gem trade. Naturally, this entails that there be the presence of a Gem Museum - and for those who love jewellery, you will not be disappointed. The museum is a good repository of information around the extraction and polishing of precious stones. While in the city, why not go shopping for gems?
Galle Dutch Fort & Galle Harbour
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galle Fort has an ancient history. The first known mention of Galle is from 125-150 C.E., when it was a large trading hub in the ancient spice trade. The fort as is stands now traces its history back to 1541, built by the Portuguese. In 1640, the Dutch captured Galle fort, and the large stone fortifications were added. Galle fort has been completely re-vamped in recent years, and now hosts a plethora of shops, restaurants, bed & breakfasts, churches, galleries, and museums. This quaint part of the larger Galle town is a delightful walk through the history of Galle, as well as an experience of modern Sri Lanka. Each year, the fort hosts the Galle Literary Festival, with local and international authors alike. With its sunny weather, eclectic ambience, and artistic heritage, Galle Fort is a must-see for any visitor.
Galle Harbour is one of the oldest natural harbours in Sri Lanka, and is still a favourite among the international yacht societies who recognize Galle Harbour as one of the world’s best attractions for yachting. Inside the Galle Fort, the Maritime Archaeology Museum charts the history of the harbour and lays out the current preservation activities for the harbour and the many sunken treasures that have accumulated at the bottom over the centuries. Visitors are encouraged to visit the museum, to see how the layout of the harbour has changed over time, and then take a walk to the harbour, to appreciate the long history Galle has had with international trade.
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.