Sri Lanka may look pretty small on the map, but it packs in a lot of great things to do. Whether it's the gorgeous beaches of the south, stunning hill country in the centre or the culture of the north, Sri Lanka has something for everyone. It's turning up on more and more people's must visit list and it's easy to see why.
This post is for inspiration on what to do in Sri Lanka, if you'd like to see how these areas all fit together, we've made the perfect two week Sri lanka itinerary with all the details.
Places to visit and things to do in Sri Lanka
So when planning your trip, check out our recommendations for the best places to visit and things to do before you make your itinerary. We'll start with the most famous part of Sri Lanka: The Hill Country.
The Hill Country
Nine Arch Bridge - Ella
Views don't get much better than the Nine Arch Bridge just outside of Ella, where you see the picturesque railway line intersect this lush, green part of the country.
Not just for train spotters, this huge bridge over the tea fields below is so picturesque that it has become an Instagram favourite.
The other things we love about the bridge is that there are so many different viewpoints to take it in, including the perfectly placed cafe on the hill (the family that run it are the nicest people, buy a juice or a coffee and have a chat, we stayed for over an hour).
Make sure you go early to avoid the crowds and check out our guide to the best viewpoints before you go.
Lipton's Seat at Sunrise
Sunrises don't get much better than the ones at Lipton Seat and this huge plantation is one of the best places to go if you want to walk through some of the beautiful tea fields. Lipton Seat is situated at the top of a hill in the middle of the huge Dambatenne Estate.
To make the early start easier you can get a delicious home made roti and cup of tea at the hut just by the stairs at the viewpoint - it was delish!
Taking in the view with a hot cuppa is the perfect start to the day and one of our favourite things to do in Haputale.
The Kandy to Ella Train
Another popular Instagram spot in Sri Lanka is the Kandy to Ella Train. Arguably one of the most picturesque in the world, this train journey takes you deep into the hill country, wowing you with unbelievable views of the tea plantations and huge valleys at every turn.
It is something you must do on a trip to Sri Lanka and has the benefit of also getting you between the main tourist towns.
However, it can get incredibly popular so check out our guide to the Kandy to Ella Train to get the most out of the journey.
The stunning Diyaluma Falls is something you definitely shouldn't miss, offering natural infinity pools on top of one of the highest waterfalls in Sri Lanka.
Whilst the walk to the top of Diyaliuma Falls is pretty tiring (and difficult to find), it is well worth it for the views and a dip in these pools.
There are few places we've ever been to quite like it.
Little Adam's Peak
Hiking up to the top of Little Adam's Peak is one of our favourite things to do in Ella and is the best place to be at the start or end of the day.
The hike up isn't too strenuous (it takes 20-30 minutes) and the views from the top are some of the best in Ella.
It's unlikely you'll have it to yourself, but there is plenty of space for everyone!
Pedro Tea Plantation
A trip to Nuwara Eliya is a trip to one of the highest places in Sri Lanka and you'll be greeted with endless tea plantations!
One of our favourites was Pedro that offers a factory tour and a picturesque view over their tea plantation. We enjoyed wandering through the plantation more than the tour, but if you want to learn more about the tea making process, then do both.
It was one of our favourite places to visit in Nuwara Eliya and was only a short trip from the centre of the town.
The Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
Ever wanted to see one of Buddha's teeth? Well no we hadn't thought about it either but when in Kandy it is the thing to do.
Don't go expecting to see the tooth itself but if you go for the evening ceremony then you'll have the chance to see the golden casket.
It's quite an event and you will be part of a large crowd of locals, it was actually the taking part in a local custom that made it for us. It was definitely the best thing to do in Kandy.
Places to visit in Sri Lanka -The South Coast
The Palm Tree Rope Swings
The palm tree rope swings of the south coast have become incredibly popular, with the most famous being at Dalawella Beach, one of the best things to do near Unawatuna.
When you get a glimpse of the location, you can see why they were inspired to put a swing here as the combination of palm trees, beautiful beach and a sunset location make it just about perfect.
There are also swings at Mihiripenna beach and two at Dikwella, all of which have picturesque locations without the crowds. If you're thinking of checking them out, check out our guide on the palm tree rope swings of Sri Lanka.
Hiriketiya Beach is our favourite beach in Sri Lanka for its picture perfect setting and intimate feel.
Set in a curved bay, Hiriketiya is fringed by palm trees all the way round, giving a feeling of seclusion from the outside world.
It is set down a one kilometre dirt track from the main road, reducing the noise and crowds. There are also some nice hotels and restaurants in the area, all with a laid back vibe. You can find more detail on what to do in the area in this post.
A Yala Safari is a must-do for anyone visiting Sri Lanka. Not only is this park abundant in wildlife, but it is one of the best places in the world to see a wild leopard.
As well as leopards, you have the chance to get up close to wild elephants, monkeys, mongooses, crocs, thousands of birds and - if you're lucky - sloth bears.
Whilst we only saw a fleeting glimpse of a leopard, we were lucky enough to spend over 15 minutes with an adult sloth bear.
Before visiting the south coast we weren't sure if we were going to visit Galle as we much prefer countryside to cities. Luckily we did and we found it to be a place well worth visiting.
The fort area is a complete change from the rest of Sri Lanka with quiet cobblestone streets that have retained their European Colonial feel.
The walls of the fort are a great place to be at sunset, followed by a meal in one of the many great restaurants. You can do this on its own or as a day trip from Unawatuna.
Sunset at Coconut Tree Hill
One of our favourite viewpoints on the south coast has to be the coconut tree hill in Mirissa.
At the eastern end of Mirissa Beach is an otherwise bare hill that is covered in palm trees, with a great view over the ocean.
After a day chilling at the beach, it is one of the things you have to do when visiting Mirissa.
Places to visit in Sri Lanka - Sigiriya
It's hard to miss Lion Rock when you get to the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka as it soars above this flat landscape. Geologists believe it is a hardened magma plug that remained after the volcano eroded.
There are ruins of the old city on the ground, or what archaeologists believe are meditation platforms on top of the rock to explore.
You can also visit the museum that's near the entrance. It is a hefty $30 to get in to the site, but it is to Sri Lanka what Angkor Wat is to Cambodia so well worth adding to your places to visit in Sri Lanka.
The Elephant Gathering, Kaudulla National Park
The elephant gathering at Kaudulla National Park may be one of the best wildlife experiences we've ever had.
Between July and August hundreds of endangered Asian Elephants gather in Kaudulla or Minneriya National Park (or both).
You can organise a jeep safari from Sigiriya for a few hours to witness this incredible spectacle. Check with locals when you arrive as to where the most elephants are currently situated.
If you want to see Lion Rock and Sigiriya from the best view point, then get up early and hike up Pidurangala Rock for sunrise. It's a lot cheaper than Lion Rock (at just $3) and will give you a great view with fewer people around at the coolest time of day.
If you're wandering when is the best time to make this trip, here's why we think June is the best time to visit Sri Lanka.
If this is your first time to Sri Lanka, then you may want to check out these tips before you go.
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Are you planning a trip to Sri Lanka? Have you been and think we missed somewhere great to visit? Let us know in the comments below.
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