Top Travel Destinations in Sri Lanka
Haven't been to Sri Lanka yet? Why not travel to somewhere different for your next trip and explore the pearl of the Indian Ocean for an exciting trip like no other! I was in Sri Lanka for almost two months for a volunteering project last summer, and visited many towns all over the beautiful country during my off days. Travelling around the country is quite convenient and easy, with numerous transport options to choose, from trains, buses and mini taxis that are known as 'tuk-tuks'. Here are my top five travel destinations in Sri Lanka that you should absolutely visit.
I did the trip to Arugam Bay during my final week in Sri Lanka, and it turned out to be my most favourite destination. I fell in love with its laid-back atmosphere, delicious food and the stunning sunset. It is also home to a popular point break that all surfers deem as the top surf spot. Located at the Eastern Province of the country, if you travel all the way here without trying to catch some waves, your trip would not be complete. The surf spots that many flock to are Whiskey Point, Peanut Farm and the Main Point. I would highly recommend the first two for beginners. To get to these tucked away beach spots, you will need a tuk-tuk which will take about 15 to 25 minutes from Arugam Bay, and costing 500Rp for one way. Do remember to bring along some food there as there are no shops there selling meals. There was only a small shop selling coconut and snacks, as well as a surf rental shop. While you are here, you should also absolutely stay and watch the stunning sunset. I had a chance to visit all three surf points, and tried my luck in surfing at Whiskey Point. Surfing lessons there are affordable, costing only USD20 for an hour. I completed my trip there with one of the most amazing and unforgettable sunset. This incredible and striking destination should not be missed, even for non-surfers.
Lush greenery, hipster hangout spots and cool weather would be the three phrases I'd use to describe Ella. Located 200 kilometers east of Colombo, this small and charming destination is a famed go-to town for many tourists. It also has the most beautiful and popular train ride journey, and if you manage to get a window seat in the train I promise you it will be the most memorable train ride of your life. I arrived here at night and it was a cooling respite from the heat and smoke in congested Colombo. The top three things to do that I would recommend are visiting the Nine Arch Bridge, Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. The Nine Arch Bridge is an easy walk along the rails and through dark tunnels – definitely a fun experience for a city girl like me. Be sure to check the timing of the train and catch one passing through the bridge, together with many other curious travellers there. Afterwards, get a nice drink up the hills at the Nine Arch Café, where you can expect endless field views and rolling mountains. If you are up for a hiking adventure, you should climb Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. Both are relatively easy climbs, nevertheless be prepared for a stunning view at the top. These activities are free and I did not pay for any guide to bring me to these places.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle is another city that you cannot miss. This historic city is such a delight to discover by foot. The seaside town down the south coast of Sri Lanka has majestic mansions, museums, religious sites as well as buildings with architecture displaying Portuguese, Dutch and British influences. As you walk through the fortified old city to the coast, you will also discover the Galle Lighthouse. There are also many quaint cafes and charming little shops dotted all around the town for you to explore. Personally I found the prices a little steep compared to all the other towns that I have visited. If you are on a tight schedule, this destination can be covered as a day trip from Colombo, with numerous buses and trains passing by here. My fellow backpackers and I stayed one night here to try out all the delicious food that Galle has to offer. If you have the time, I would recommend volunteering at a turtle station here, and learn about saving this endangered species.
Also on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Kandy is another top travel destination of Sri Lanka. Known as the home for sacred Buddhist sites, this cultural city is popular with tourists and locals alike. Since I was here in August, my friends and I managed to watch an annual procession known as the Esala Perahera. We also went on a mini tuk-tuk tour around the city where we visited the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa), tea plantations to understand how tea is made, and even a gem factory. Since it is located in central Sri Lanka, day trips to Dambulla and Horton Plains National Park are also possible. With so many things to do here, I would recommend at least two nights in this scenic city.
Affectionately known as Trinco, this major resort port city covers a range of exciting activities. It took me a long night train ride to reach here, but I was blown away by its natural beauty and friendly people. My highly recommended activities to do here includes scuba diving, chasing sunsets, whale watching, water sports and finally don’t forget to complete your trip with a visit to Pigeon Island. This island is a marine national park, popular with both tourists and locals alike. Be amazed by the beautiful marine life here, where you will get to snorkel with turtles, sharks and colorful fishes. To get to this jewel of Trinco, we had to take a boat ride and pay an entrance fee, which is much higher for tourists. A tip I would provide is that it is best to visit the island early in the morning, where there will be less people. After all these activities, it is worthwhile to just relax on the beach with a good book.
Sri Lanka is definitely such as beautiful and incredible country where there are so many sights to soak in and places to discover. It took me completely by surprise and I will be back to explore other places that the pearl of the Indian Ocean has to offer in the years to come. These top travel destinations in Sri Lanka left me with so much everlasting memories and great experiences. I hope you will enjoy Sri Lanka as much as I did.