Sri Lanka is a beautiful island located off the south eastern tip of India. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean it has a diverse and scenic landscape. There are rainforest regions full of wildlife, tea plantations located on hillsides and dry, flat plains.
It also has a long and fascinating history which has embraced a wide range of cultural and religious influences. As a result, Sri Lanka is known for its spectacular ancient ruins including fortresses, palaces and Buddhist temples.
If you’re thinking of taking a holiday to Sri Lanka have a look below at six of the best reasons to visit.
Superb beaches to relax on and exciting watersports to try
There are beaches to be found along most of Sri Lanka’s coastline which gives you plenty to choose from on your holiday.
If you’re looking for a stretch with lots of things to do one fantastic option is Hikkaduwa Beach. There are boat trips to see wild dolphins and whales and it’s an excellent base for snorkelling and diving. There are several laid-back beachside restaurants to look out for too – perfect for a fresh seafood lunch.
For something quieter there’s the sandy expanse of Bentota Beach which is a popular haunt of the surfing crowd. You’ll find windsurfing, water-skiing, canoeing and kayaking available, so it’s ideal for all types of watersports fans.
If romantic strolls and spectacular sunsets are your idea of perfect, you’ll love Ahungalla Beach. This is a tranquil palm-fringed haven with plenty of space to find your own perfect spot.
Fascinating culture and six UNESCO World Heritage sites to explore
Sri Lanka is a cultural treasure chest with sites ranging from ruins dating back thousands of years to 1800’s Dutch and British colonial buildings. Among these amazing places are six UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- Sacred city of Anuradhapura – This was the centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is still a sacred site in the Buddhist faith and surrounded by over 40 square kilometres of monasteries.
- Golden temple of Dambulla – This Buddhist temple complex is located in an ancient cave. There are over 153 carved Buddha statues, an enormous dome shaped dagoba and stunning paintings of gods and goddesses.
- Ancient city of Polonnaruwa – Around eight centuries ago this was the commercial and religious centre of Sri Lanka with a hub of temples and administration buildings. It was also a royal capital so there are ruins of a palace, great hall and swimming pool.
- Ancient city of Sigiriya – Built on top of a huge rock which towers 200 metres above the surrounding area, the exact history of this site is still being revealed by archaeologists. There’s evidence of humans going back 5,000 years as well as ruins of a 5th-century palace, fortress and gardens.
- Sacred city of Kandy – This is a sacred Buddhist site which dates back over 2,500 years. It has pristine terraces, exquisite wall paintings, carvings and statues. It’s also the location of the Temple of the Tooth Relic which contains the sacred tooth of the Buddha.
- Old town of Galle and its fortifications – Built by the Portuguese in the 16th century this well-preserved fort was later expanded by the Dutch. It’s one of the best examples of European fortifications in South East Asia with an interesting mix of European and South Asian styles.
Colourful festivals to experience throughout the year
Sri Lanka has absorbed several cultural and religious traditions including Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian. So there’s a really diverse range of festivals and celebrations throughout the year. Sri Lankans really know how to add some exotic creative flair so they’re definitely worth seeking out. We’ve listed just a few to give you a taster:
- Full Moon Day – In Sri Lanka every Full Moon Day is a public holiday and known as Poya. The most important is in the month of May, called Vesak Poya, which commemorates the Buddha’s life. This yearly pageant features illuminated pictures of the Buddha’s life.
- Kandy Esala Perahera festival – Held at the end of July and lasting ten days, this festival consists of a lively nightly procession with drummers, dancers, acrobats and elephants. The focus of the procession is a figure riding a horse decked out in ornate decorations who is carrying the sacred tooth of the Buddha.
- There are also several Hindu festivals which are celebrated in joyful and colourful ways including the Vel festival in July which celebrates the God Skanda and the Kataragama festival which includes sacred fire-walkers.
Fantastic destination for Ayurvedic spas and pampering treatments
It could be said that Sri Lanka has been a centre of refreshment for the mind, body and soul for around 2,000 years now. So it’s not surprising that you’ll find some world-class spas here. You can take in a pampering treatment to help you completely refresh and rejuvenate.
One superb option you could try is the Eden Resort and Spa which is located on the west coast in the Beruwela region. It has stylish rooms with four poster beds and two excellent restaurants, two bars and regular live music. You can take time out to relax in their luxurious spa which features a tranquil rock pool area where you can linger and unwind.
Nature reserves and scenic landscapes ideal for walking and hiking
If you love to wander along winding trails and hike in lush hills and valleys you’ll find plenty of interesting places to explore in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankans really appreciate their scenic landscape and wildlife, so there are several national parks, animal sanctuaries and reserves where you can experience pristine natural beauty. Yala National Park is one of the biggest and lies in the southeast of the island. This is an important centre for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, leopards and aquatic birds.
During the 1880s a whole network of railways, bridges and trails leading into huge tea plantations were built. You can take train rides that give you spectacular views of the landscape and cultivated areas where tea is still grown. Some of the original trails exist too, providing excellent hiking journeys along scenic coastal cliffs and across lush slopes.
Amazing biodiversity with lots of wildlife to see
The desire to conserve and protect wildlife is deeply ingrained in Sri Lankan society. This stems from the island’s first Buddhist king who established a wildlife sanctuary in the 3rd-century BC. This is part of the reason why Sri Lanka has such a high level of biodiversity and it continues to work hard to maintain this.
On a holiday to Sri Lanka you could get to see 171 different species of reptile, 91 types of mammals, and 106 different types of frogs. So if you enjoy spotting wild creatures including iconic ones like elephants, leopards, porcupines and monkeys, Sri Lanka could be your ideal destination.
Inspired to book yourself a break? Browse our range of holiday deals to Sri Lanka and start planning your dream holiday to this exciting destination.