From a surfers’ paradise to ancient ruins, here’s our top 10 things to do in this incredible country:
(..in no particular order)
1. The Ancient city of Sigiriya
This ancient fortress built into a giant rock seems like something that couldn’t possibly exist, which is why it’s often referred to as the eight wonder of the world. You can climb up through the fortress to the top, but we’d recommend waking up early to climb Pidurangala rock (opposite sigiriya) first to watch the sun rise over this amazing fortress.
These ancient ruins are incredible and so different to anything we’ve seen before. Located only an hour away from Sigiriya, once you arrive you can rent bicycles and ride around the ancient city. Pro-tip; don’t arrive in the mid-day sun like we did…it gets hot!
3. Surf Camp
We spent a few days at Sion Surf camp in Ahangama, which was one of the highlights of our trip. Hours and hours of surfing (and lessons) each day followed by yoga, beers and BBQs in paradise. There are plenty of others to choose from throughout the Ahangama/Midigama/Weligama areas of the south coast which also sounded amazing. The area has some of the best beach breaks to for beginners as well as incredible reef breaks for those who are more experienced.
Sri Lanka has a range of incredible Safaris for you to choose from, where you’ll be able to see some of the most incredible wild animals, including; Sri Lankan Elephants, Crocodiles, Leopards, Sloth Bears, Peacocks (..so many Peacocks), Eagles, Flamingos and a lot of others.
We did the 4 hour morning safari at Udawalawe which was perfect. You get to watch the sun rise over the park on the drive in, you see so much of the park and then you’re done by the time it starts to get uncomfortably hot.
5. Ella Rock
This lesser known trek might have been our favourite in Sri Lanka. After following the train tracks to the bottom of the mountain you’ll find that the route is tough to follow and you’ll often feel like you’re not on a trail at all, with no one else around as you climb over rocks and through forests. The journey itself is stunning but once you reach the peak you’ll be standing at a cliffs edge overlooking some of the most stunning views you’ll ever see.
Ella itself is a lovely town, so make sure you stay for at least a couple of days.
If you’re planning on taking on the trek, make sure you check out our guide to climbing Ella Rock
6. Hiriketiya – Surfers’ paradise
This little known bay was the highlight of Sri Lanka for us. As well as having incredible waves for surfers of all levels, the beach itself is stunning. There are just a handful of Sri Lankan beach bars/restaurants along with a few boutique ones.
7. Feeding wild sea turtles
This was a truly unbelievable experience. There’s a spot on Hikkiduwa beach where huge wild sea turtles swim to the shore every morning to eat seaweed straight from the hands of locals and tourists. We woke up at around 6am and were pretty much the only ones there with these amazing animals.
While you’re in Hikkiduwa make sure you also visit the sea turtle rescue center. The incredible people who run this place look after injured turtles and look after eggs until they hatch, before allowing the babies to gain some strength and then releasing them into the wild.
8. Adam’s Peak / Sri Pada
The trail up this incredible sacred mountain is a challenge that’s perfectly rewarded, as you watch the sun rise over the mountains and clouds from the temple at the top. You’ll also meet so many lovely Sri Lankan families on their pilgrimage to the top, and be surrounded by monkeys swinging through the trees in the morning sun, on the way down.
9. Arugam Bay
This small town on the west coast of the country is regarded as the best surf spot in the country, with surfers visiting from all over the world. If you’re not into surfing then it’s also a great place to relax and live life in the slow lane.
This is the one place on our list that we didn’t actually make it to as we were there before the surf season kicked off, and it’s a little out of the way.
Final Reason(s) to visit Sri Lanka – The food is incredible and the people are amazing
We mostly lived on Kothu and Sri Lankan Curries. Both dishes are so unbelievably good and varied so much from place to place.
Kothu isn’t the most photogenic food but the flavour is incredible. It’s made with shredded roti and a varying combination of spices, vegetables, egg and meat, served with a side of Sri Lankan chilli flakes or paste.
When you order ‘Sri Lankan curry’ you often won’t know exactly what you’re going to get.. The dish will arrive with a pile of rice and a selection of anywhere from 3 to 10 delicious curries.
Even the street-food snacks you’ll find locals selling on the trains are to die for.
As for the people.. We must have spent about two thirds of our time staying in homestays throughout Sri Lanka, and some of our best memories of the trip are from the time spent with the amazing families that ran them. They were all so kind and caring and couldn’t do enough for us, but the best part was learning about their lives and culture.
Thanks for reading! We put this list together to make it easier for people to plan a trip to Sri Lanka, so if there’s anything you’d like to add please put it in the comments… and if you think this page is useful please share!
Check out our full guide and route here: Sri Lanka Travel Guide – One Month Route & Budget