34 Reasons Sri Lanka Should Be Your Next Travel Destination
A diverse country overflowing with culture and authentic opportunities for local travel experiences, Sri Lanka is a destination worth exploring while it's still relatively under the radar. With strong culinary tastes, ample wildlife encounters, and the ability to hike in the highland mountains in the morning and catch a surf on the beach in the afternoon, it can only be categorized as smorgasbord travel. Craving adventure? No problem. Looking for romance? Got it. Viewing elephants in the wild on your bucket list? Consider it checked.
The country can offer a lot in a short time, making it easier to fit in all the fantasy-worthy exploits. The best way to get into the nooks and crannies is with a local guide, staying small, and branching out to the countryside. And whether you're solo or with fellow travelers, choosing to embark on a well-designed tour can be your best bet. REI Adventures offers an immersive itinerary to get you the authenticity you desire in a safe and sustainable way, not to mention taking care of all of the planning details. With a plethora of things to explore, this is a place that appeals to travelers of all ages. Keep reading for 34 beauty-ridden reasons Sri Lanka should be next on your travel list.
The scenery in Sri Lanka makes a hard case for an early wake-up when sunrises look like this. Watch the early morning mist burn off as the sun makes its way up for the day. Who needs extra sleep when you've got a real-life postcard to see?
Mountain Infinity Pools
With or without the impromptu rainstorm, this infinity pool overlooking the tea country highlands is a refreshing relaxer after a day of hiking. Where can you take this mountainside edge dip? The Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge provides this pool-with-a-view experience and an obvious reason to swim as much as possible.
Exploring Ancient Ruins
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is a history-lover's playground and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's riddled with monument ruins, and you can wander the impressively intricate structures. If you plan to enter some of the temple areas, make sure to bring something to cover your shoulders and knees out of respect.
Touring Galle Fort
The historical port fishing city of Galle on the southern coast of Sri Lanka is like stepping back in time. It's one of the oldest surviving living forts in Southeast Asia. Browse the market with local artisan goods in the main square, or wander the cobblestone streets and pop into restaurants and shops. Walking the fort's wall will gift gorgeous views of both the city and the sea.
The beach is a huge draw, of course. Beautiful blue waters and a relaxed vibe with options for surfing or yoga are abundant in the south. Whether you're a pro or novice or you just want to relax in the ocean breeze, there's one thing for sure: the sea is calling your name.
You don't have to be an avid birdwatching enthusiast to appreciate the diverse bunch of feathered friends in Sri Lanka. This little guy stood out with his bright green feathers in Yala National Park. The green bee-eater is just one of numerous interesting birds you're likely to see. Pack your binoculars to get peepin'.
Ancient Kingdom Cities
Perhaps the cultural heart of the country, Kandy was the last kingdom in Sri Lanka and is home to the famous Temple of the Tooth. The deep-rooted history and concentration of ancient, sacred sites makes the time spent in the city a serious bang for your buck. Get swept up in the bustling energy, try some street food, and visit some temples to get a feel for Kandy's vibe.
Luxury glamping perched at the top of the highlands, surrounded by tea fields with your own deck overlooking impossibly picturesque beauty, is quite the way to wake up . . . and go to sleep. Stepping out onto your private patio as the sun rises above the clouds and villages below is a memory for the books.
Tea Plantation Hiking
Hiking through Campbell's Lane Forest Reserve on the edge of the Knuckle mountain range gifts a diverse trek complete with tea fields, forest, and even a waterfall overlook. If you depart directly from the Madulkelle Tea Estate with a guide, you may be lucky enough to have the resident pups accompany you, too.
Even if you're not a tea-lover, Sri Lanka may turn you into one. Or an appreciator, at the very least. In the land of tea, it's a must try. Visiting a tea factory, like Hatale Tea Estate, is a great way to learn about the history of the major export for the country, as well as observe the process and taste the many different kinds they produce. Make sure to take in a deep breath — it smells amazing.
Roadside Fruit Stands
When traveling through Sri Lanka, there are almost always snacks available. The roadside fruit stands are quick, cheap, and as fresh as it gets. With the hot weather, a king coconut or watermelon is just what the road trip ordered.
And they are cheeky. The mischievous monkeys of Sri Lanka are a constant comedy routine, but make sure to watch your back and your belongings. They may try to snag your goods, especially of the food kind. Maybe you'll even meet a monkey with a toupee for a dash of added humor, like this guy.
One of the most well-known sites in the country, Sigiriya (Lion's Rock) is a must see in person. To get to the top, you just need to climb a mere 1,217 steps. The comically impressive views from the top of the rock fortress are one gazillion percent worth it, though. Tip: embark on the trek to the top early in the morning to avoid the heat.
This isn't your average nature walk. Discover ruins and ancient trees, and embrace the fact that you are walking a sacred site; a forest monastery. The path leads to a relic tree with impressive, cartoon-like roots that you can walk through.
This is some of the best pineapple you'll ever eat, promise. The countryside is dotted with numerous pineapple and coconut plantations, so you'll have ample opportunities to try the fresh, local pineapple, as fruit is a key component of breakfast and dessert.
One of the main forms of transportation, riding in a tuk-tuk is a really fun experience. Each vehicle is decorated with its own personality, and it's an enjoyable, open-air, affordable way to get around. Taking a tuk-tuk tour through a small village outside of Colombo is an awesome way to learn about local life and industries like farming and weaving.
Rural Evening Walks
From Gal Oya Lodge, a nature walk takes you through serene landscape, with mountains, a lake, and numerous species of birds. These wonky trees add to the whole scene as you're greeted by the farmland cows and a stunning sun-tuck.
An idyllic cycle through countryside villages is a great way to pack in a lot of scenery while getting some exercise, too. The flat dirt paths skirting the river through local life is one of the highlights of visiting rural Sri Lanka. Stop for a riverside picnic, watch fishermen at work, and wave to local children.
In-Home Cooking Classes
It's clear that the cuisine is a solid reason for visiting Sri Lanka, and what better way to really immerse yourself in the culinary culture than through a cooking class . . . in someone's home! Cooking with local market produce, learning the methods and recipes, and then enjoying the fruit of your labor in a large meal is truly an unforgettable experience.
The king coconut, native to Sri Lanka, is fortified with vitamins and has a bit of a different taste than regular coconuts. They're available almost anywhere as you travel through the country: restaurants, beaches, roadside stands. They'll quench your thirst and taste good doing it.
This isn't a standard picnic by any means. Try a breakfast picnic on an island while taking a break from elephant spotting on a sunrise safari with fruit, quiche, granola, and delicious buffalo curd. You'll have to pinch yourself as it's the picnic dreams are made of.
The street food scene is legit in Sri Lanka, and wildly affordable to boot. Grabbing a snack on the go has never tasted so good. These spicy vegetable doughnuts (ulundu vadai) are the perfect marriage of savory and sweet. You just have to try them!
Ridiculous Spa Set-Ups
The spa scene in Sri Lanka is not only Instagram-worthy, but it also won't break the bank. Enjoy a relaxing massage to the soundtrack of nature in an open-air hut with views you'll have to blink twice to believe. File this one under top five reasons to go ASAP.
Beauty in the natural details is highly appreciated throughout the country. Being surrounded by these gorgeous flower bowls is relaxing by default. Each one is artfully crafted and unique in their colorful design.
They are everywhere, and they are SO cute. Local dogs roam around, and if you're lucky, you'll see some very, very tiny guys! All dogs, stray or not, are respected and often taken care of by communities. It's advised not to pet them, but you can ogle all you'd like.
Huge Food Spreads
Think a ginormous tapas spread. The traditional foods in Sri Lanka are usually presented in numerous dishes of various curries, salads, rices, and vegetables. They range in spice level, and it's an awesome way to try a variety of foods in one meal. Mix and match anything; you can't go wrong here!
Temple of the Tooth
Perhaps the most famous temple in Sri Lanka, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a must see. It's home to the relic tooth of Buddha, in the city of Kandy. Locals visit the temple before big life events (graduation, marriage, etc.) for blessings. There are three ceremonies a day, where offerings are made to Buddha, something worth timing your visit around to witness.
These are not your average breakfast pancakes, and for that we're grateful. (Nothing against regular pancakes.) These thin, crepe-like delights are rolled and stuffed with either a sweet coconut mixture (amazing) or diced, fresh tropical fruits (papaya, pineapple, etc.). Good luck having just one.
The "will travel for food mantra" is alive here. Local fare is big on curry, and it's delicious. Many are vegetarian-friendly, with jackfruit curry, dhal curry (lentils), and pumpkin curry. Other popular types include fish and chicken. But why pick one when you can try a bit of each? Fun fact: lunch is the main meal in Sri Lanka.
Another one for the food category (because, food), buffalo curd yogurt is a delectable start to the day. It's so good that it's also used for dessert. Drizzled with a little fresh honey, it's the perfect flavor marriage. Pair with a coconut roti, and you've got yourself a simple and tasty breakfast.
Yes, seriously. If you've ever dreamed of this kind of wildlife encounter, then Sri Lanka is the place to be. The opportunity to view elephants in their natural element abound here. The best way, of course, is to embark on an elephant safari where you have a solid chance of observing them. Head to Minneriya National Park for a Jeep safari or to Gal Oya National Park for a boat safari. Fun fact: there are over 8,000 wild elephants in Sri Lanka.
Browsing the local Kandy market is a fantastic way to get a feel for the city and culture and snag some goods! Purchase spices at reasonable prices to bring home (saffron, cinnamon, etc.) or for souvenirs, or just chat with the local stand owners. Since this is a true local market, you won't encounter too many tourists, giving you a genuine feel for everyday life in the city.
Palm Tree Swings
An epic palm tree swing could be reason enough to travel somewhere, and, well, this one nails it. Perched on the Dalawella Beach, the swing is run by a local homestay that puts the proceeds towards turtle rescue efforts. Get ready for the swing of a lifetime.