devil mask sri lanka

Top 10 Things To Do in Sri Lanka

This special island off the coast of India is a country unlike any other that I have ever experienced. It is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travelers worldwide, due to all the fantastic things to do in Sri Lanka. I was completely blown away by it’s beauty and the genuine kindness of it’s people. That is a rarity these days. The Sri Lankan people are extremely warm hearted and welcoming. I felt totally safe throughout my 3 week journey and thoroughly enjoyed the wonders Sri Lanka boasts. From incredible food, historical sites, temples, and epic beaches, to beautiful hikes, national parks and Ayurvedic treatments – this place has it all!

Here’s my Top 10 list of things to do in Sri Lanka:


sri lanka

1. Visit Colombo

Sri Lanka’s capital city is a vibrant melting pot of food, historical sights and local hustle and bustle. Even if you’re not a real city person I recommend spending a day or two here to begin your trip. This should be one of your first things to do in Sri Lanka. Must-see stops include the Gangaramaya Temple, Independence Square and Colombo’s variety of top dining experiences. Read more here:

Exploring Colombo – Things To Do

Best Restaurants in Colombo


            Independence square colombo                gangaramaya temple sri lanka buddha


2. Enjoy Sri Lanka’s Beaches

All along the coastline of the island are beautiful beaches to suit everyone. Beaches such as Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Mirissa can be found along the West and Southern coast. These beaches are more commercial, where tourism is growing very quickly and not necessarily in the best way. Here you will find resort style accommodation as well as backpackers and guesthouses. Also plenty of restaurants and bars if you enjoy more of a night life.

Arugam Bay is known for it’s surf location and laid back surroundings. Beaches along the North Eastern coast are much quieter and less populated. I recommend these if you’re looking for a tranquil getaway. Beaches along the West coast are generally rather polluted due to being so close to the coast of India. An unfortunate problem but a reality.

Best Beaches in Sri Lanka


            mirissa beach sri lanka                pigeon island sri lanka


3. Explore Ella and it’s surroundings

The quaint and tranquil town of Ella, nestled between rolling hills of tea plantations, is a must visit on your journey to the Highlands.  This is really the heart of authentic Sri Lanka. Ella offers a variety of breath taking hiking trails, a cave temple and waterfalls. Take a tour of a tea factory, or learn some authentic Sri Lankan cooking. You can find various types of accommodation; from luxury – 98 Acres Resort and Spa, to small guest houses and private home stays.

Top Activities – Ella, Sri Lanka

Learn To Cook Sri Lankan Food


            tea plantation sri lanka                Little Adam's Peak Ella Sri Lanka


4. Discover Sri Lanka’s Historical sites

With 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites spread across the country, it’s no wonder why Sri Lanka is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. The Sigiryia Lion Rock Fortress, ancient ruins of  the Polonnaruwa Kingdom and Cave Temple of Dambulla are popular sights worth visiting. The Sinharaja Forest and Central Highlands offer fantastic hiking. The historic colonial town of Galle is found in the South Western coast of the island, 119 km from Colombo, and has a very quiant “old town”. The city of Kandy, in the heart of the island is another popular place to visit. It holds the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, housing what is believed to be the tooth relic of the Buddha.


            sigiriya rock - things to do in sri lanka                polonnaruwa - things to do in sri lanka


5. Take a Hike

The Highlands area, in the heart of Sri Lanka offer many breath taking hiking trails. There is something very special about hiking through these jungles and tea fields, immersing yourself in the authentic and raw culture of the country. Adam’s Peak in Nuwara Eliya is a popular pilgrimage taken on by hundreds of people every year. A hike that starts in the middle of the night to ensure an impressive sunrise at the summit, it really is worth all those steps!

Hiking Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka


            adam's peak sri lanka                adam's peak sri lanka


Other popular hikes include Little Adam’s Peak in Ella. This is an easy and peaceful trail through the tea fields of Ella, up to the top offering incredible views over the rolling hills. Horton Plains has several beautiful hiking trails through the Highlands and the Sinharaja Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight also popular among hikers. Pidurangala, adjacent to the well known and Sigirya Rock, offers fantastic sunsets and spectacular views of Sigiriya. It is a less well known hike but a great way to escape the crowds of Sigiryia. However, if you have the time it is definitely worth doing both of these.


adams peak sri lanka


6. Take a Train Ride

There are several train routes throughout Sri Lanka. Popular routes are between Colombo, Kandy, Ella and Nuwara Eliya. I highly recommend taking the slow train between Ella and either Hatton or Kandy.  Hatton will take you close to Dalhousie, near Adam’s Peak. It was a magical experience and the scenery is just breathtaking! This was one of my favourite things to do in Sri Lanka.

Take The Scenic Train – Ella to Hatton


            slow train ella sri lanka                tea plantations sri lanka


7. Indulge in Sri Lanka’s Incredible Cuisine

This is a must on your list of things to do in Sri lanka. I cannot rave enough about the local cuisine! Who would have thought that curry could become so addictive! What I really love is that all the curry dishes (and there are many) are all slightly different wherever you go. Sri Lanka’s staple dish “Rice and Curry” – not “Curry and Rice” is more than just one dish. It’s a whole platter of different dishes, normally around 8, each filled with incredible flavours. The Dhal was probably my favourite, as were the coconut pancakes which make a delicious breakfast. Stick to the local cuisine. The quality of Western food there is rather poor and will be more expensive.

Best Restaurants in Colombo


            food sri lanka                devilled fish sri lanka


8. Treat Yourself to an Ayurvedic Massage

Now this, is something really special. Ayurveda is an alternative medicine system in the Indian culture. It uses diet, herbal treatment and yogic breathing to regain balance in our bodily systems. There are a variety of treatments and medicines you will come across on your trip through Sri Lanka. From massage therapy and herbal medicines to full-blown Ayurvedic Retreats for a real cleanse.


devil mask sri lanka


I went for a fantastic treatment at Isiwara Paura Ayurveda Lodge near Sigiriya. The package included an amazing full body massage, oil dripping treatment and invigorating herbal sauna. All for just LKR 8000 – a little over $50! The treatments make your body feel extremely light and relaxed and your skin feels amazing. Definitely one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka to pamper yourself.

The oil dripping, or Shirodhara, is a treatment where warm oil (or other liquids depending on the treatment) are poured over the head from the top of the forehead, for an extended period of time. The sensation and warmth of the oil sends tingles throughout your whole body, it’s incredible. The treatment is followed by the best head massage of your life! Prepare to get messy and oily, I recommend wearing old clothes for afterwards as you can’t shower for at least an hour.

By the way, it is common in Sri Lanka for men to give full body massages to women, and when I say full body I mean buttocks and breasts! They will usually ask what you are comfortable with. It is part of the treatment and is kept professional but if you’re not comfortable with that then just let them know. Also, it is common for the men to give “happy endings”. It is an obligation if they are asked so by a female client!

9. Go on Safari

This is one of the most popular things to do in Sri Lanka. Elephants, leopard and many bird species are among the top sights when on safari. A wide range of National Parks, nature reserves, safari lodges and camps have been established throughout the country. For leopard spotting visit Yala National Park in the Southeast. It has the highest population density of leopards in the world! For elephant spotting, Udawalawe, south of the central mountains and Minneriya in the North Central Province are good options.

elephants sri lanka


10. Experience the Negombo Fish Market

This isn’t always at the top of people’s list of things to do in Sri Lanka but I think if you have the time it’s worth a visit. It’s an hour drive North of Colombo and just 20 mins from the airport, so it makes for an interesting last stop. I say last because I think if you make this your first stop it will be a shock to the system if not used to 3rd world countries.

It’s a very local scene in a busy little town, and maybe smelly fish markets are not for everyone. However, if you can enjoy and appreciate the local lifestyle of the country you’ve chosen to visit and if fish doesn’t gross you out then give it a try. It’s a photographer’s playground.

It’s quite busy and entertaining – watching people buying and selling, gutting fish, hauling in their catches. What really blew me away was the endless scene of salted fish being laid out to dry in the heat of the day. Salted and dried fish are delicacies in Sri Lanka. Each and every fish gets laid out by hand on hessian sacks, across large areas the size of sports fields, and turned painstakingly one by one until they have dried out.

Negombo Fish Market, Sri Lanka


            Negombo fish market Sri Lanka                Negombo fish market Sri Lanka


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