Top 5 Things to Experience in Sri Lanka
Posted on July 18th, 2017


Sri Lanka is a jewel of an island off the southeast coast of India, boasting breath-taking beaches and dense jungles. With its sprawling ancient cities, towering temples and thriving wildlife, the landscape, culture and people weave a beautiful and heady tapestry that captivates visitors from all over the world.

Despite being just a quarter of the size of the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka is packed full of endless sights and experiences for the adventurous traveller. From the hot and unforgiving dry zone to lush and humid rainforests, here are five unmissable experiences:

The Cultural Triangle

Stretching from Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to Kandy, the Cultural Triangle envelopes some of the country’s most prolific and iconic sights. Like so many ancient civilisations, the rich history of this region tells dramatic tales of glorious Sinhalese Kings, the rise of cities and their subsequent fall to invaders.


This ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site was the thriving capital of Sri Lanka for more than a thousand years. The horizon is dotted with imposing stupas (or dagobas), domelike structures with striking spires, often housing Buddhist relics. You can choose to spend your time visiting the city’s ruins, temples and religious sites, or opt for one of the country’s most impressive feats of ancient engineering: the twin baths of Kuttam Pokuna.


Another of Sri Lanka’s historic capital cities, Polonnaruwa is full of well-preserved ruins which echo the architectural abilities of the ancient world. The city’s history is rich in stories of colourful kings, none perhaps greater than King Parakrambahu, whose statue you can visit. The ruins are also a magnet for wildlife, such as the curious toque macaque, one of the more common species of monkey to inhabit the area.


Translated as Lion Rock, Sigiriya is a vast ancient rock fortress thought to have been founded by King Kasyapa in the 5th century AD. The outer walls of the rock fortress were once covered in vibrant frescoes, which can still be seen in certain areas. While you are there, don’t miss the lion gate and the gardens, which have been identified as some of the oldest landscaping in the world.

Aukana Buddha Statue

Located just outside of Avukana, this forty-foot-tall statue of Buddha is shrouded in legend and myth. According to one story, a master artist built the statue in a competition against his student, who built a similar statue nearby. To this day, the statue is a site of religious pilgrimage and a popular spot for tourists.

Dambulla Cave Temple

These caves are among some of the most unusual religious sites in the world. Comprised of five chambers, the cavernous monastery has been home to monks for thousands of years. Here you can see impressive cave paintings, as well as hundreds of statues representing Buddha and various Hindu deities.

Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth

The city of Kandy, tucked between lush and verdant hills, is the cultural and physical centre of Sri Lanka. It offers a popular mix of ancient attractions and modern luxury, boasting some of the country’s most sophisticated restaurants and hotels.

The Temple of the Tooth, situated within the city, is one of Sri Lanka’s most important sacred sites. As well as being located in the former royal palace grounds, the temple also houses the tooth of the Buddha (hence its name) and has become a significant pilgrimage site. The stunning botanical gardens at Peradeniya, close to Kandy, are also some of the finest in the subcontinent.


Beyond the charming monkeys of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s national parks and forests are the best place to experience the country’s impressive wildlife. Yala National Park is the island’s most popular reserve and is located along the southeast coast. The park is particularly popular with bird watchers, and many rare species can be observed in their natural habitat. Yala is also home to the Sri Lankan elephant, fishing cat, leopard and sloth bear.

A lesser-known but equally beautiful park is Gal Oya, where you can see water buffalo, mugger crocodile, and more than 150 species of bird. Alternatively, the more adventurous traveller might want to visit the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka’s only remaining untouched rainforest region.


Galle is a major coastal city in the south of Sri Lanka, offering an exotic mix of the old and the new. Here you can witness the dying art of stilt fishing, amble along meandering streets and explore bustling markets. Colonised by the Portuguese and then the Dutch, examples of the city’s charming Dutch architecture can still be found at colonial Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site which has a fascinating history of its own.

Tea Country and the Bogawantalawa Valley

Among the misty emerald hills of the Bogawantalawa Valley, you will find some of the world’s best teas grown in picturesque plantations. Tea was introduced to Sri Lanka as a crop during British rule, and is now a booming industry and key part of the island’s economy. You can tour tea factories, sample fresh brews and learn a little more about the history of tea in Sri Lanka during your visit. Beyond the culinary delights, the region’s lush vegetation, rolling hills and cascading waterfalls make for awe-inspiring train journeys and unforgettable hikes.

Melissa Hirst writes on behalf of Pettitts.

One Response to “Top 5 Things to Experience in Sri Lanka”

  1. Nimal Says:

    My foreign friends are truly delighted to be in our country to enjoy the beauty of our country and the kind hospitality of our people but not happy with our careless driving and miss use of roads and other facilities by the politicians and other privileged people
    We are truly thankful for the last rulers for introducing the best infrastructure the picture above shows, our well groomed tea estates.

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