In a paradise Island with hidden beauty, the real question would be what are the destinations of choice?
We asked various travel experts and prolific bloggers a simple question:
“If you could only choose 3 favorite destinations in Sri Lanka, what places it would be? and why?”
With hundreds of reviews available on the Internet, we valued for a direct response to our question from travel experts and bloggers. The Responses were wonderful, as many were able to express their opinions to our question in an intriguing approach. Lets take a closer took at the destinations of choice by the travel experts and prolific bloggers…
Most Favorite Destinations in Sri Lanka (as voted by travel experts)
#1 Unawatuna (4 votes)
#2 Ella (4 votes)
#3 Adam’s Peak (4 votes)
#4 Kandy (3 votes)
#5 Trincomalee (3 votes)
#6 Galle (3 votes)
#7 Sigiriya (3 votes)
Responses listed in the order they were received in:
Sarah – Fit Travels
Unawatuna – A calm stretch of water with beachside restaurants and bars. We were lucky enough to have a turtle pop his head up and say hello while we were swimming in the water. We spent 10 blissful nights in Unawatuna, watching the monkeys feed at dusk and taking early morning beach strolls.
Ella – What a beautiful little town in Sri Lanka. I felt a sense of calm as soon as I stepped off the train in Ella. We stayed at a home stay here for six nights and it was such a magical and heart warming experience. Our hosts were amazing, constantly bringing us pots of tea! Climb Little Adam’s Peak for an amazing view across the hills and treat yourself to a cold beverage at the luxurious 98 Acres on the way down.
Ella to Kandy by train – Now I know this isn’t technically a place, but it’s a series of places that you cannot miss while travelling in Sri Lanka. Having been on lots of trains across Asia, this journey was by far my favourite. Rock along with the windows open as the temperature cools passing through Nuwara Eliya. Tea plantations as far as the eye can see with magical mist and clouds sweeping the hill tops. Travel in 2nd or 3rd class for a real Sri Lankan train experience. Holding on in the doorways as you choo choo along.
Ása & Andri – From Ice To Spice
Trincomalee – The town went through difficult times during the civil war (ending in 2009) and has only recently started to regain more attention from tourists. The infrastructure is scarce, so you won’t find the same variety of guesthouses and restaurants as on the southwest coast. On the other hand, you’ll have this paradise mostly for yourself; the sand is superfine and white, the ocean is crystal clear and there is notably less undercurrent than on many other beaches in Sri Lanka, making it ideal for swimming. From Trinco you can head by boat (2 km) to the nearby Pidgeon island, a marine national park. This was one of our highlights in Sri Lanka. The small island is surrounded by crystal clear waters, colourful coral life and shy reef tip sharks, making it ideal for snorkeling enthusiasts.
Ella – A quiet little mountain village situated 1300 m above sea level making it the perfect retreat from the summer heat. We felt so relieved, the atmosphere was relaxed and this village may well be one’s definition of paradise; the color green doesn’t seem to get any greener than here and waterfalls spring from the tea covered mountain hills. Ella offers a variety of hiking routes; Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak being the most famous. Also don’t miss out on the Nine Arch Bridge, it’s an engineering masterpiece!
Mirissa – This was our favorite beach in Sri Lanka, mostly since it seemed to have the perfect combination of cleanliness and quality without being overrun or damaged by too much tourism. This crescent shaped beach is the perfect destination for a beach holiday where you can chill out in a hammock enjoying a fresh lassi drink (local mix of fruit and curd) during the hottest hours and walk among the candlelit restaurants when the sun start to set and pick your favorite display of local fish and lobster which they cook to your liking. Mirissa is also superb for surfing (you can hire a board for 3$ an hour) but one of the most popular activities is whale watching. Apparently this is one of the best places to spot the largest whales in the world, the blue whale.
Sharon – Where’s Sharon
My three favourite destinations in Sri Lanka are Polonnaruwa, Nuwara Eliya and Galle. They are all great in their own right and also offer three very different views of Sri Lanka.
I loved the old fort at Galle, the history, the beautiful setting and how things were a bit quieter than elsewhere in Sri Lanka. I also loved the beach at Unawatuna just 20 minutes away. I loved the variety of attractions at the ancient city of Polonnaruwa – we were able to see one of the ancient cities, go on an elephant safari and hang our by a beautiful tank. Nuwara Eliya up in the hills was different yet again. The different climate was a nice change after months in the tropics. It’s beautiful with all its tea plantations and it’s just a great place to explore.
Becki – Borders of Adventure
Jaffna – because it’s important to understand both sides of the conflict and how they country is opening up barriers and mending after civil war.
Yala National Park – people are unaware of such safaris outside of the famous ones in Africa and spotting a leopard in Sri Lanka is a traveller rite of passage.
Sigiriya Rock – to climb a national wonder, walk the heights of historical legend and be rewarded with an incredible sweeping view of green Sri Lankan landscape.
Nick and Dariece – Goats on the Road
Unawatuna Beach – This was the best beach we saw during our trip to Sri Lanka! The water was clear and perfect for swimming (or doing a little bit of boogie boarding!) There’s a Stupa at one end of the bay, which is a great spot to watch sunset from the cliff’s edge.
Ella – There’s just something about this area. Jungle, tea plantations, waterfalls and endless places to go walking. Ella is a peaceful place.
Kandy – There’s a lot of history in this city and many surrounding ancient sites as well. Take a train ride out into the nearby countryside for gorgeous views.
Jonny – Dont Stop Living
Pinnawala – because they have elephant parades, elephant bathing and they look after elephants here. It’s also a place to find cobra charmers and relax by the river.
Adam’s Peak – because it is a tough but rewarding hike in the middle of the night all the way to the top of Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) and it is a spiritual pilgrimage which provides you with great views and a self of achievement.
Dambatenne in Haputale – because it was the first ever place on my travels that I saw a tea factory. We got a full guided tour of the tea process, saw the hills full of tea plantations and got some fresh Sri Lankan tea to take away.
Oneika – Oneika the Traveller
Galle – beautiful architecture, stunning physical backdrop (the Ocean!).
Sigiriya – the rock is extremely impressive.
The beach in Negombo – great sunset there.
Neil – Backpacks and Bunkbeds
Unawatuna – I think Unawatuna is as close to paradise as I’ve ever come. A beautiful bay, lined with cool, chilled out bars, this spot feels a bit more secluded and tucked away when compared to the likes of Hikkaduwa. No doubting that Hikkaduwa is where the party is at, but for amazing views and maximum relaxation I love Unawatuna.
Adam’s Peak – Climbing 5000+ steps at 2am in the morning is probably the hardest thing I have ever done physically. It might not sound all that difficult, but factor in the leaches, the heat, plus the size of the steps (hint – they’re big) and my journey to the top of Adam’s Peak was a serious slog! … but it was all worth it of course, as we arrived in time to see the sun break through the clouds and over Sri Lanka. We were also privileged to be offered to share in a pot of tea with a group of monks, in celebration of our climb. To say Sri Lankan tea is good would be a mass understatement. It tastes even better when you’ve just scaled a mountain.
Ja-Ela – As a tourist attraction, I’m not sure Ja-Ela offers a huge amount, but for 2 months during the Autumn of 2007 it was my home. It was where I lived in a beautiful house with fellow volunteers. Where I walked to work every day. Where I taught english and sports in a local school, whilst at all times being careful to play soccer around the school cow. It’s where I made friends, was invited to dinner by a fellow teach, play soccer with his friends and most amazingly it’s where I was invited to a wedding and welcomed with open arms. Most tourist or backpackers will probably never see this suburb of Colombo, but for me it will always remain as one of my top destinations within Sri Lanka.
Ian – Encircle Africa
Pattipola – there’s not much to the town itself other than a couple of cheap places to stay and a train station, but its a great base from which to do some walking in Sri Lanka’s hill country, or even then to head on into Horton Plains National Park.
Kandy – A little overrun by tourists perhaps, but probably unrivalled for its culture; the daily celebrations at the Temple of the Tooth complex, the traditional dancing, and the centre of the mask making industry. (It’s a good place for handmade souvenirs too).
Trincomalee – Sitting on the Indian Ocean, Trincomalee has a wonderful laid back charm that just leads to gentle wanders and sitting on its pristine beaches among the fishing boats. As a Tamil heartland, it’s also an interesting contrast from the Sinhala areas of the country like Kandy.
Roshan – Roshan’s Ramblings
Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage – seeing a herd of elephants bathe is the river is awesome.
Galle – very interesting old city with lots to discover.
Dambulla cave temple – 150 Buddha’s in a cave has to be seen to be believed.
Annette – Bucket List Journey
Sigiriya – One of my favorite places in Sri Lanka is the marvelous Sigiriya. This UNESCO World Heritage site is an ancient palace located in the central Matale District and is not only a beautiful site to see from the bottom, but you can also climb the 1200 steps to the top for the most breathtaking landscape view. It took some stamina to get all the way to the peak, but it was worth every step.
Kaudulla National Park – Due to its incredible elephant safaris, Kaudulla National Park easily makes my list of top 3 Sri Lankan destinations. Though during my safari we only saw a few dozen ellies, in the dry season there can be in upwards of 200 of these majestic creatures lurking about. There is also an opportunity to spot up to 160 species of birds!
Temple of Tooth – The Temple of Tooth is one of the most sacred destinations in Sri Lanka. Located in the city of Kandy, this center of the Buddhist faith is believed to house the relic of the tooth of Buddha himself. Though we could not see the tooth during our visit, walking through the temple, witnessing the passion of its worshippers, was a very spiritual experience.
Marysia – My Travel Affairs
I truly loved Sri Lanka. I have spent there 5 amazing weeks filled with all those things that every traveller may dream off! Beaches, great surfing, observing wildlife, Buddhist architecture’s gems and climbing sacred peaks!
My favourite parts of Sri Lanka are the less visited ones! As much as I loved beautiful Hill Country and some great beaches I like to explore unexplored therefor my top tree must be Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa.
Trincomalee – for its amazing set up, Pigeon Island and wales. For some of the nicest people I have met in colourful fishermen villages, for learning about Arrack production and some great snorkeling.
Batticaloa – for genuine Sri Lankan beaches without tourists, very picturesque boat trips, wandering around Old Batti, admiring the Dutch Fort and observing real locals life.
Jaffna – for adventure, crazy cows taking over the city, great city market, colourful Tamil architecture and culture, some of the most beautiful Hindu temples I have seen and the spiciest food in whole Sri Lanka! And most importantly gaining a bigger understanding for Sri Lanka civil war past.
Dani – Globetrotter Girls
Mirissa – My favorite place for a beach getaway in Sri Lanka. I visited beaches all over the country, especially the south coast, but this was by far my favorite one. I loved the beautiful bay, the laid-back vibe and the candle-lit restaurants that were set up right in the sand at night.
Anuradhapura – The sacred city of Anuradhapura, which was the first capital of the Sinhalese kingdom, is my favorite of the eight UNESCO sites in Sri Lanka. The crumbling temples, bright white dagobas and brick ruins of the ancient city are simply stunning.
Minneriya & Kaudulla National Park – I love seeing wild animals in their natural habitat, and Kaudulla National Park wowed me with the hundreds of elephants I was able to see during their migration to Minneriya Lake between September and November. Sitting in our safari jeep and watching the elephants gaze, play with each other and cleaning themselves in the water is one of my fondest Sri Lanka memories.
Jenny – She Gets Around
Hike to the top of Adam’s Peak for sunrise. Well worth the 3am start to trek up over 5000 steps to the top. The sunrise is spectacular, the views out of this world and the temple at the top leaves you feeling peaceful yet totally alive!
Sinharaja rainforest is a perfect day out without having to go too far from the beaches. I went for an afternoon, with an awesome guide who knew everything about every living creature or plant in the forest. The sounds, the smells the sights make it definitely worth a visit.
Unawatuna (well just outside) – while in Sri Lanka I stayed in the most perfect beach hut, just a couple of metres from the waters edge we were woken to the sound of the sea lapping below are large balcony overlooking the ocean. It was a privately owned hut in the back of someone’s garden, but had everything you could wish for, including sneaky wifi from the hotel next door and fresh breakfast and tea brought up every morning. Only slightly off the beaten track, it’s worth trekking outside the main towns to find some quirky spots to stay with the locals.
Jill – Jack and Jill Travel
Ella/Nuwara Eliya – beautiful tea country scenery and relatively easy hike to a peak (Little Adam’s Peak) with even more beautiful scenery.
Adam’s Peak – I loved, LOVED the countryside (surrounding Adam’s Peak). It’s soooo pristine and lush with rivers and waterfalls and small villages. I’d come back here in a heartbeat. It’s not quite as touristy yet as the other places in Sri Lanka I’d been so it was a lot more laid back. It was just fun to jump onto buses and ride through the countryside.
Kaudulla National Park – we saw big herds of wild elephant up close. It was incredible. Elephant is one of my favorite land mammals so I might be a little bias here but I think most people would agree that this would be close to the list of their top experiences in Sri Lanka.
A BIG THANKS to everyone who contributed to this post and revealing their favorite destinations in Sri Lanka, Now you know where to head over in your next Sri Lanka tour.