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Must visit places for tourists in Sri Lanka

Updated on February 10, 2013

Must see places for tourists in Sri Lanka including world heritage sites , golden beaches , wildlife parks and historic places

Sri Lanka is fast becoming a top tourist destination and there are lots of great places for tourists to see in Sri Lanka. The places to see depends on your interest but below mentioned ones are few of the most visited places in Sri Lanka. It is always advisable to contact your travel guide before visiting these places because there are different activities available during different times. One good example of this is the Kandy Perahera which is once a year. Visiting Kandy during this festival is a great experience. The places mentioned below are the places where most of my friends in Europe and US like to visit.

Fresco arts found in Sigiriya Rock walls
Fresco arts found in Sigiriya Rock walls

Top five places to visit in Sri Lanka

these places are frequently visited by the tourists


One of the seven world heritage site in Sri Lanka , To my knowledge Sigiriya is the most visited site in Sri Lanka. Its a fortress build on top of an 350M high rock and the surrounding gardens and the irrigation system is considered an great feet during the time Sigiriya was built. It is also world renowned for its frescoes which are found in some part of the rock walls. Another big reason why Sigiriya is so popular is that it is one day visit from Colombo, the main business city of the country , so for a one day getaway Sigiriya is great destination.

Ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Pollonnaruwa

Sri Lanka is country which has recorded history that goes back to 2500 years. Ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Pollonnaruwa are considered the first two capitals of Sri Lanka in the days when the country was ruled by the kings. There are many historical sites you can visit in both those cities and remains of old castles and temples are all around the city. You can visit famous Dagobas like Ruwan Weli Seya , Abhayagiriya , visit famous temples and admire the wonderful carvings and the statues of Lord Buddha , check out the painting that dates back thousands of years etc. There are museums if you want to grasp the history of the place before you go on looking at various places. Because of the vast amount of things you can see in both cities it is highly recommended that you hire a guide when you are visiting Anuradhapura and Pollonnaruwa , otherwise you might miss an important place.

Sacred city of Kandy and the surrounding temples

Temple of tooth relic or "Dhalada maligawa" as it is known in Sinhalese holds a teeth of Lord Buddha and is a sacred destination for Buddhists all over the world. The temple is a majestic building wild Gold painted roofs hug walls with elephant carvings and beautiful paintings and carving inside the temple. There are guide books and video guides available for you if you are interested in a guided tour. Although Kandy is famous for Temple of the tooth relic there are many other temples and ancient places for you to visit in the surrounding area. Ambakka temple is famous for its wooden carving with every wooden supporting bar of the temple having an unique carving. Then there's the Gadaladeniya temple with its stone carving and old letters. Another popular tourist destination on the way to Kandy is the Pinnawela Elephant orphanage where you can see Elephants in semi wild life environment. Another great place to visit while you are in Kandy is the botanical gardens in Peradeniya where you can see beautiful floras and lots of rare plants.

Galle Fort

Galle fort was originally built by the Portuguese but it was the dutch who modified it and made it the impressive fort it is today. It was built mainly to control the cinnamon trade but later on it served as a fortress to hold off invasions. Inside the Galle fort you can find few of the most preserved building from the colonial era with the beautiful churches inside the city being the prime examples. You can still see the remains of the old guns , fortifications and the canals dug to make Galle fort and impregnable fortress. One of the favorite things among locals is to go for a stroll in the fort walls during the evening and enjoy an ice cream or something a bit spicier.

Yala National Park

Yala national park is the most famous national park in Sri Lanka and it is definitely the one most visited by the tourists. Watching animals in there natural habitat is one of the main reasons tourists come to Sri Lanka and in that regards Yala is the best because of the wide variety of animals you can see in Yala. Deer , Wild boar , Crocodiles , Peacocks , Buffaloes can be easily spotter. Leopard , Elephant and the bear are a bit hard to spot and it largely depends on the skill of your guide as well.

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka Travel Guide: The Only Guide Book You'll Ever Need

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Country Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Country Travel Guide)

If you want to travel around Sri Lanka with all the confidence of a local then this is a must have guide. All the best restaurants, quality but affordable lodging places, best places to visit, best ways to travel and how to avoid tourists traps. I have traveled all over Sri Lanka and this guide has helped me immensely when making dining and lodging decisions. When it comes to details about main tourist towns nothing comes close to this guide.

Yapahuwa Lion
Yapahuwa Lion

Other places to visit and see in Sri Lanka

For a small Island the amount of things to see in Sri Lanka is almost limitless. Below I will list down few of the places according to different categories. Whether you are interested in visiting historic sites , want to enjoy the sun while having a dip in the sea , want to watch the wildlife or just want to spend a relaxing holiday Sri Lanka got them all covered for you.

Historical places to see in Sri Lanka

With a recorded history of more than 2500 years there are plenty of ancient sites for you to see in Sri Lanka. The most famous ones are the Sigiriya , ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Pollonnaruwa and sacred city of Kandy which are mentioned above and which are also world heritage sites. Below are few other such places you should consider visiting if you are interested in visiting ancient sites in Sri Lanka.

  • Dambulla rock temple
  • Dambulla rock temple is another world heritage site that is situated very closely to Sigiriya. It is a temple made by carving the stone and even some of the statues of Buddha are carved using the same rock. The walls are covered with paintings and there is a large statues of Lord Buddha that is build recently. Unlike Sigiriya this is not a steep climb making it a quick trip.
  • Somawathie Dagoba near Trincomalee
  • Yapahuwa Old Fortress and the temple complex

Beaches in Sri Lanka

Being an island one things that Sri Lanka have in abandon are lovely beaches with pure white sand and clear blue waters. Sunbathing and sea bathing are two of the top tourists attractions in Sri Lanka and because of the end of the thirty year old civil war the isolated beaches in the eastern part of the island is also now accessible to the public. It is possible to sunbath and sea bath in almost any part of the island and there are hotels and lodges to accommodate people in most places as well. But below are few of the most popular ones.

  • Mount Lavinia Beach
  • The beach closest to Colombo it is just a 15 minutes drive from the main city of Colombo. Mount Lavinia hotel is the most famous of the hotels around but there are many other hotels around making a convenient place to enjoy the sun without going far away from the main city , ideal location for business travelers.
  • Beruwela/Benthota beach area
  • Another popular sun bathing destination close to Colombo but which has a lot more hotels for you to choose from and more private beaches away from the crowds
  • Nilaweli beach area
  • A beach in the eastern coast which was opened to public recently because of the end of the civil war. Considered as one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia with plenty of activities including whale watching and snorkeling.

Those are few of the lovely beaches available for you in Sri Lanka , for a more detailed information check out beaches in Sri Lanka

Wildlife watching in Sri Lanka

Preservation of wild life was a top priority of the government especially because of the rise of the tourism industry. As I mentioned above Yala National park is the most famous national part but there are plenty more places to watch animals in the natural habitat.

  • Udawalawe national park
  • There is a huge population of Elephant making it one of the best places to closely watch elephants.
  • Vilpattu national park
  • This park was closed to the public until very recently because of the war. But it has reopened again , but this is not as full as wild animals as the Yala and other national parks.
  • Wasgamuwa nature reserve
  • Another great place to watch elephants close up and bit notorious for elephant attacks as well.

There are plenty more national parks and forest reserves in Sri Lanka and they are spread throughout the country so you want have trouble finding one.

Sri Lanka , a small Miracle

A video made by government promoting tourism in Sri Lanka

Visited any of the above places ? Share your thoughts about the place in the comments section

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    Post Comment

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 

      4 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I would have LOVED this lens more, if you included more photo's.

      Photo's speak a thousand words !

      Let me know if you updated it please

      Cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • jayavi profile image


      5 years ago

      Nice LENS about Sri lanka.

    • Sky Breeze profile image

      May Matthew 

      5 years ago

      I like Kandy for the plantations and hiking, and Unawatuna for its beaches best. Sri Lanka is definitely worth visiting.

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 

      6 years ago

      Sri Lanka seems to be having beautiful historical sites worth visiting.

    • ProfessionalSol profile image


      6 years ago

      Am seriously looking forward to visiting Sri Lanka. I am looking to go after summer! Thank you for the great information.

    • lankanwriter profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @vincente lm: I hope you visited the Pinnawela Elephant orphanage, Most tourists absolutely love the place

    • vincente lm profile image

      vincente lm 

      6 years ago

      All most all of these places are on our list. We have arrived now in Kandy after 2 days in Colombo and are loving Sri Lanka so far. Our 3 month here will be incredible!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hey check out my blog entry about places to see in sri lanka â¦

      and for more info on what to do and where to go and my experiences of sri lanka, will be updated regularly, i have a wealth of info and pics to share!

      Also visit for videos from sri lanka and for photos of sri lanka!


    • Phillyfreeze profile image

      Ronald Tucker 

      6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Splendid lens on beautiful Sri Lanka whose very name evokes visions of natural splendor. A long and rich history to remind us of the natural wonders and diverse cultural experences to be had when visitng this gem.

      Marvelous photo gallery and video that captures a small portion of the magnificence of beautiful Sri Lanka.

    • whoisbid lm profile image

      whoisbid lm 

      7 years ago

      Sri Lanka is a beautiful place

    • ravi551854 profile image


      7 years ago

      I have not visited shri lanka but try to make my trip in future


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