Top things to do in Sri Lanka blog. Listing 10 of our favorite things to do in Sri Lanka!
We spent two weeks in Sri Lanka en-route to Europe. And, while we did like Sri Lanka we didn’t love it. Let me explain why – there’s been some serious hype surrounding Sri Lanka, on Instagram all you have to do is search #SriLanka and you’ll be inundated with images of yellow sand beaches, turquoise oceans and colorful cities. Update: since the terror attacks in Colombo on Easter 2019, tourism to the country has taken a massive hit.
Every travel influencer and their mother seems to have visited Sri Lanka of late, and so as a result the world wide web is chocka-block with articles waxing lyrical about Sri Lanka. The truth is we believed the hype, were overly excited by it, and so expected too much from Sri Lanka and were left feeling a little underwhelmed.
Would we visit Sri Lanka again?
Yes, we probably would but we would do it a little differently. For us, Sri Lanka is one of those countries that you will really enjoy if you have money, and we were on a tight budget considering we still had two months of travel ahead of us. Honestly, it was a lot more expensive than we expected. There’s some gorgeous hotels on the island but they are pricey, expect to pay up to about $100 a night for a nice hotel. As you may have heard, we didn’t have much luck with Sri Lanka’s famous train journeys. So, if we were to return, we would be inclined to pay for private transfers the majority of the time. An exception to this rule is the Kandy to Ella journey, which truly is gorgeous.
Anyways, despite our mixed view on Sri Lanka I urge you to go and see it for yourself – it is beautifully colorful with epic beaches and friendly locals. And who knows it may turn out to be one of your favorite places in the world.
Without further ado, here are our top suggestions of things to do in Sri Lanka.
The famous train journey from Kandy to Ella
This trip for us didn’t go quite as we planned it. We booked a first class ticket after our sweaty/ packed like sardines experience on a second class carriage from Colombo to Kandy a few days before. We showed up to the train station bright and early and took our comfy seats in the air-con carriage. When, 30 minutes after we were scheduled to depart there was still no sign of movement I got up to see what the delay was. Turns out the engine was broken. Queue lots of panicked workers running back and forth trying to fix it. Alas, after two hours it was determined it couldn’t be fixed and so we had to wait on an incoming train from Colombo to take its engine. We eventually departed about four hours late.
Oh well, the journey to Ella was as gorgeous as predicted and we took lots of photos. However, be warned one silly girl dropped her phone while hanging out the doorway to take photos and we were told by a local that a couple of people have fallen out trying to take the perfect photo. They were unhurt thankfully.
Relax on Rekawa beach
Instead of choosing the crowded beaches of Tangalle or Mirissa we suggest spending your lazy days on Rekawa beach. Particularly, the gorgeous Seven Turtles Resort – the beach here is pretty much deserted save for a few local fishermen and through the months of October to April you may be lucky enough to witness baby turtles hatch.
There are so many gorgeous beaches in Sri Lanka, you could easily spend a month or more exploring them all.
Visit the Halpewatte tea factory in Ella
This was unsurprisingly Paul’s favourite activity of the trip, being an englishman he LOVES his tea. It was fascinating to see tea processing up close, plus we got a behind-the-scenes look at the factory at work. We got to try all different types of teas and the tasting room has epic views of the valley. We could have sat there all day sipping our tea (fruit tea only for me) and admiring the view. You can find more information here
See Sri Lankan elephants in the wild
Udawalawe National Park was my number one reason for visiting Sri Lanka . I’m beyond obsessed with elephants and I’ve never seen one in the wild, that was until Udawalawe, where we saw not one but 30 elephants and even a teeny-tiny baby that was just one month old. Udawalawe is home to over 250 Sri Lankan elephants and is the third most visted national park in Sri Lanka behind Yala National Park and Minneriya.
Udawalawe absolutely lived up to its hype, seeing these gorgeous animals in their natural habitat was one of the best moments of my life to date. You can read more about Udawalawe here
Get lost in the cute & colourful streets of Galle
Galle is a fortified city built by the Portuguese and many of its buildings show the influence of Portuguese architectural style on Sri Lankan traditions. It is certainly a unique place and so inherently different to other cities in Sri Lanka. Galle is a UNESCO heritage site and if you’re to add any city in Sri Lanka to your itinerary it must be Galle.
Walk along the famous Nine Arches bridge in Ella
Surrounded by lush green jungle, the famed Nine Arches bridge is truly a sight for sore eyes and well worth the uneven, sometimes steep hike there. There was a swarm of deadly bees terrorising tourists on the tracks below so we didn’t quite make it all the way across the bridge for obvious reasons. Oh and Paul got bitten by a leech. Anyways, we got some great photos but missed the train coming across the bridge which would have made for an incredible snap.
Spot some ‘photogenic’ local fishermen
Sri Lanka is famed for its stilt fishermen (I’m sure you’ve seen the photos on Instagram/ Pinterest and the likes), unfortunately, we didn’t get to witness this on our trip but we did see these guys catching fish in the middle of Udawalawe National Park and this epic example of team work on Rekawa beach. Anyways, supposedly the stilt fishermen is a scam – read more here
Photograph Galle’s gorgeous lighthouse
Not only is Galle famous for its gorgeous lighthouse, there are lots of things to keep you busy in Galle. Including golden sand beaches, shopping & excellent restaurants.
Relax on your hotel balcony and watch the sunset
We spent the majority of our time in Negombo watching the sunset from our hotel balcony. And honestly, of our entire two-week trip we watched the sunset every night as they are so spectacular in Sri Lanka.
Best area’s to watch the sunset in Sri Lanka
- Adam’s Peak in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
- Arugam Bay on the east coast
- Sigriya Rock – also known as Lion’s Rock
- Galle Fort, Galle
Do we regret visiting Sri Lanka?
No, not a single bit. It is a beautiful country I will give it that, but our one mistake was believing the instagram hype before we’d even stepped foot in the country. We sure won’t be doing that again. If you do visit Sri Lanka – take it for what it is, enjoy the madness and forget about getting that insta-perfect shot. Although we did get some pretty pictures eh?!
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