A paradise island like Sri Lanka with many destinations, only certain destinations can be considers special to you!
We asked various travel experts and prolific bloggers a simple question:
If you could only choose 3 favorite places to visit in Sri Lanka, what places it would be? and why?
Many reviews can describe a destination, and show images, but the real truth is that images don’t actually tell you the true experience you can receive from that location, but a review from a person who has visited can give you his experience which can help you decide many factors.
Lets check out the destinations of choice by the travel experts and prolific bloggers.
Top Places to Visit in Sri Lanka (as voted by travel experts)
#1 Ella (5 votes)
#2 Kandy (5 votes)
#3 Sigiriya (5 votes)
#4 Galle (5 votes)
#5 Adam’s Peak (3 votes)
#6 Nuwara Eliya (3 votes)
Responses listed in the order they were received in:
Lauren – The Lifestyle Diaries
My top 3 places would be:
Ella – The vistas from the top of Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock are truly spectacular and really shouldn’t be missed. Walking along the rail tracks to get to Ella Rock is also an incredible experience – though make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes! Stay in one of the guest houses up high to make sure you get the best views.
Tangalle – Though I loved Unawatuna, I think the beaches in Tangalle are even better – and they’re certainly quieter. Stay at the Mangrove Beach Cabanas and you’re right on the most perfect beach, though be careful of swimming – ask the staff where is safe to swim. You can also take kayaks out around the lagoon which is great fun. Tangalle really is a perfect beach paradise!
Galle – The old Dutch fort is unlike anything else I saw in Sri Lanka: it’s perhaps the most Westernized part of the country, but that doesn’t detract from its charm at all. I love the winding cobbled streets, the incredible shopping and being able to wander around the fort, taking in the breathtaking views. Make sure to stop for afternoon tea at Amangalla – it’s a wonderful experience and well worth the expense.
Dan – Dan Flying Solo
Kandy to Ella Train – The train ride through tea plantations, rolling hills, clouds and mist was one of the most beautiful journeys of my life. Try to get on the slow train so you can really take it in and get plenty of fantastic photos.
Mirissa – By far my favorite beach, sleepy and slower paced than some of the other beach towns, Mirissa is the perfect place to kick back and unwind coconut in hand. During the right season it is an ideal place to head out and see Whales!
Minneriya National Park – The chance to see Elephants in the wild is one thing you should not miss in Sri Lanka! Take a safari through one of the countless national parks, I recommend Minneriya as there was Elephants everywhere and the landscape around the water was stunning!
Lauren Rellis – Lauren Rellis
Ella – because of the beautiful scenery and chance to go trekking as well as options to visit tea plantations and spice gardens. Ella is also a small town that feels very authentic and the perfect rural getaway. It’s also a breathtaking train ride up to Ella from Colombo with Expo-Rail and the food options in the town are all delicious and rather healthy.
Unawatuna – Beautiful beaches and lots of options in the way of food and drink along the coastline. It’s also near enough to visit Galle for the day and go on a trip to the fort. For shopping and taking cooking classes, Unawatuna is the best location as there is so much available. There also amazing hotels on the beaches with loads of activities to do such as watersports and yoga.
Peraliya – This is a perfect little village to visit on the south coast to learn all about the tsunami and the effects it had on Sri Lanka. There is also an amazing, small turtle sanctuary, very simply run by a lovely family, where you can feed and see baby turtles. The village is set against the stunning coast and easily reachable by car from Hikkaduwa, Galle and Unawatuna.
Johnny – One Step 4Ward
Colombo first – I always love to visit the capital of a country, it’s gives you a real sense of the place, and the walk along the beach is to the Hilton is beautiful. Then you have to take the train to Kandy, while Kandy itself is amazing, the train journey will make you really feel like you’re immersed in a foreign culture. The train is like something from back in time, awesome experience. Finally, the Lion Paw temple – Sigiriya. Everyone wants epic photos to remind them of their travel adventures – and a pic with the beautiful lion’s paw screams ‘Sri Lanka’.
Stephen – MonkBoughtLunch
Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) – I’m big on hiking, so this is an easy first choice for me. Waking up unreasonably early in the morning to walk up a giant hill kind of sucks, of course, but being at the top for sunrise makes it all worthwhile. Backed by the faint sounds of monks chanting from an upstairs balcony, the light gently breaks over the horizon and peels away a low-lying fog to reveal layers upon layers of hills that stretch as far as the eye can see. It really is an incredible thing, especially if you take the time to hang out with the pilgrims on the trail with you.
Kandy – To be honest, I sort of just landed at the airport in Colombo and this was one of the easiest places to get to so I went. The first two days I was in town were a rainy flooded mess and I hated it! I stuck around a little longer, though, and the sun came out long enough to me to rent a motorbike and cruise through the rural regions around town (especially near Matale). That, combined with the epic temple action and my first taste of Sri Lankan food, have left a soft spot in my heart for Kaindy. Now I just need to get back during that big festival with all the elephants.
Galle – Ok this one’s a bit of a stretch – I never actually went! I’ve seen SO much about it on other travel blogs over the past few years, though, that it has me really wanting to get back to the country in part so that I can spend some time here. Fort + Ocean + History = what’s not to love?!
Jones – Jones Around The World
“Sri Lanka was the first country I started my first long-term solo backpacking trip in. I absolutely loved my experience there, and definitely plan on going back there someday. From lots of travel research and planning, I found out that Sri Lanka had two different monsoon seasons, and then time I was there was recommended to avoid the south and west costs. So I mainly traveled to the north and east, and these were my favorite three spots!
Arugam Bay – This was by far my favorite place in Sri Lanka. I had heard great things about it from fellow backpackers, and when I got there, I finally understood why. Arugam Bay is a popular surfing destination, but there’s definitely a lot to do even if you don’t surf. I found myself staying at a really relaxed beach bungalow place called The Beach Hut. I planned on staying 4 nights, and ended up staying 10. This is what is called the “sticky factor”. I met some amazing and inspiring people who had been living a travel lifestyle for awhile. I was just at the beginning of my trip, so it was great to be able to talk with long-term travelers. The food was delicious, the nightlife was really fun, and the beaches were stunning. If you find yourself in Sri Lanka, make sure you find your way to Arugam Bay!
Sigiriya – The only reason you come here is to visit the magnificent landmark Sigiriya Rock. When I was planning my travels through Sri Lanka, I found out about this stunning place, and knew I had to go. I was pretty shocked to find out it was around $35 to climb up it, but I must say it was completely worth it. The views from the top were absolutely gorgeous, and the sunset was incredible.
Nilaveli Beach – This quiet and relaxing beach area was great to spend a few days in and relax. There was a decent snorkeling trip to Pigeon Island that was really great, and the food all along the beach was really tasty. There were a few bars along the beach as well that were fun to meet fellow backpackers at. This beach might not be as highly acclaimed as the beaches in the south, but I really enjoyed my stay here”
Dave – Dave’s Travel Corner
Nuwara Elyiya is one of my favorite spots in Sri Lanka. This small town is situated at about 2000 meters or 6200 feet in the hill country. As a result the temperatures are extremely mild, getting chilly at night and is host to some of Colombo’s wealthy who want to get away from the sizzling tropical heat of the lowlands, especially during the hot months. Worth visiting are the Lovers Leap Ella Waterfall and Mackwoods Tea Plantation.
Sigiriya is a World Heritage Site and dates from the 5th Century BC. The ruins you will see however, date from around 500 AD. The Gardens of the Sigiriya are among the world’s oldest landscaped public gardens. One of the main highlights of a visit to Sigiriya is the at times steep hike to the summit of this imposing rock. On the way you pass a number of ancient frescoes on the stone walls and by the time you reach the top you are probably soaking wet from the humidity but your reward is excellent views of the surrounding landscape.
Kandy – There are a number of minor attractions in the area with the most well known and most visited being the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa) – this is extremely popular with Buddhists as this site contains the only physical remnant from Buddha, his sacred left tooth. Worth seeing are the Kandyan Dancing – a cultural show put on nightly by the Kandyan Art Association in their performing arts hall located behind the main Temple of the Tooth. This is very popular with tourists and is an hour long drumming, music and dancing session culminating with the fire breathers and then some exciting walks on fiery hot coals.
Carmen Jenner – Fluffy Towel
Galle Fort – I love wandering around with my camera capturing life in the fort, browsing the shops and galleries, lingering in the cafes and watching life play out. I especially love it during the Galle Literary Festival where the fort comes alive with creativity.
Wijaya Beach – like many of the beaches in the south, it’s postcard perfect. But what sets it apart is the cool café where you can settle in for the day and you’re bound to bump into someone you’ve met on your travels. Marissa Beach is almost too beautiful to be real, but I also have a soft spot for Unawatuna too as I used to come here before it was overrun with cheesy beachside joints, although the little town is still as charming as ever.
Elephants – when I’m back in my reality, it’s the elephants I miss. You can get your fix in many of the national parks but Yala is my favourite as you can camp overnight and be serenaded to beats of the jungle. Also, Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo has resident elephants and the temple also features a museum, Bodhi tree, and hundreds of Buddhas sitting in various positions.
Sarah & Nigel – A Social Nomad
Ella – this is glorious tea countryside and amazing hiking with such friendly folks.
Adams Peak – because getting up at 2am to walk up thousands of steps in the dark to have a cup of Ceylon tea and to see the sunrise is an incredible way to get your exercise in – before breakfast!!
Galle – a most beautiful walled city with a fabulous and desperately sad history. Go for cosmopolitan cafes, great coffee, a game of cricket and be sure to visit the moving Tsunami museum at nearby Telwatta.
Hannah – Heels to Hiking Boots
Kataragama – This town is located a little bit off the beaten path near Yala National Park. Here, locals (Buddhist, Hindus and Muslims) gather every night and give religious offerings at the shrine to Kataragamadevio. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my life. They bring massive amounts of fruit offerings and the celebrations commence with fire flames, elephants and loud music. It’s a cultural experience everyone going to Sri Lanka would be lucky to see.
Pidurangala Rock – Most people traveling to Sri Lanka don’t here about Pidurangala, instead they hear of famous Sigiriya. Sigiriya is neighbors to Pidurangala. Both are two large rocks you can climb to the top of to see breathtaking views of the jungle brush of central/northern Sri Lanka. The only difference is that Pidurangala is fifth of the price to climb as Sigirya. Pidurangala is less crowded and a more private experience, with everything that Sigiriya has to offer and more.
Hikkaduwa – If you’re into beaches as far as the eye can see and swimming with massive sea turtles, Hikkaduwa is the place to be. Lined with towering palm trees and guesthouses running $20-30/night, Hikkaduwa left an ever-lasting impression on my trip to Sri Lanka. We found a bargain and paid $12/night for an oceanfront view only steps away from the pristine ocean.
Deborah – Ardent Traveler
Nuwara Eliya – Dubbed the “Little England” of Sri Lanka, this mountainous spot is carpeted with tea plantations. A pleasurable retreat with many old colonial style guest houses refurbished to treat the tasteful traveler. This is also the base for those who want to climb Horton Plains to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking panoramic view of World’s End – an abrupt end to a cliff that overlooks several mountain ranges.
Yala National Park – This is where leopards roam and it’s almost a guarantee you’d be able to see this otherwise elusive animal. The safari ride is a thrill in itself, spotting other wildlife aside from leopards – elephants, crocs, deers and a good variety of bird species.
Kandy – Kandy is a cultural hub with cultural shows of song, dance and fire rituals being staged daily for the curious traveler. Formally known as the capital city of country, this buzzing cultural centre is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage City. In the middle of the city is the Mahaweli Lake that connects to the Mahaweli River, Sri Lanka’s largest.
Matt – Travel Geek UK
For such a small island Sri Lanka truly punches above its weight for things to do/see. My three favourite destinations in Sri Lanka were Nurwara Eliya, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya.
I hate early mornings, but if it’s worth getting up for then I’m happy to do it. The day I visited Sigiriya was one of those mornings that blew me away; I was not expecting to see what I did. Making your way to the top is worth every footstep; the view is incredible, although if you don’t like heights you won’t like steps leading up/down to the fortress.
Nurwara Eliya – the heart of Ceylon tea country. There was something magical about this place, not only does it have the best views from being one of the highest places in the country but it was like visiting the past due to many of the old colonial buildings that still survive here.
Polonnaruwa – Step-back in time and visit the ancient capital city of Sri Lanka, although mostly now in ruins, it’s a fascinating look into the past. My advice is to arrive early, this way you avoid the heat of the day and the bulk of the tourists arriving mid-morning.
Pauline – Pauline Travels
Sri Lanka, the country is in my heart. I had no expectations when entering the country. I ended up falling in love with the people and the places and this is some of my favorites in Sri Lanka.
Mirissa – Mirissa beach, is just wonderful if you need to relax, catch up with sun and have some true vacation feeling. The ocean is nice and the waves are gentle but still there is an option for surfing. We loved spending some time there. When we were tired of the beach, we went whale watching out in the big ocean – blue whales and spinner dolphins. Amazing moment when the Whale went up with their big tales before going down in the ocean again. We had an wonderful yoga experience there as well. Mirissa is the place for just reading a book, or eating a lot oof great seafood or local curry and watch the sunset. > Pictures Mirissa Beach
Ella – The mountains of Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful place to walk around and see the stunning nature of Sri Lanka. We walked the Little Adam’s peak since we were going to the big Adam´s peak two days later. It was a beautiful trip with a great view over Ella and the Tea plantation. We enjoyed it. We also went to a tea factory and got an introduction to the whole process. Of course a lot of tea tasting, so much good tea. I´m a big coffee person but in Sri Lanka there was always room for tea. In Ella there were some really good massages for after long days hiking. We didn’t hike so much but there is always a need for a massage. We had dinner at some street restaurants with rice and curry ( 3 vegetarian dishes and 2 fish dishes). Pumpkin Curry is a must try! And also we got an introduction on how to drive a tuk tuk.
Adam´s Peak – The best experience in Sri Lanka. I recommend that everybody do this trip. You have to be able to climb 5831 steps one way and back. Then you will reach 2,243 metres and realize that you are above the sky. This is an important pilgrimage place, especially for Buddhists. We had company with two Sri Lankan friends that followed us because they wanted to do it for their Buddhist believes. It took us 3 hours to get up. When we arrived at the top, we had to take our shoes of because we were walking on holy ground. Then we walked through the temple and rang the bell – one time for each of us. One of our friends rang the bell three times, since this was his third time for him to climb the Adam´s peak. We made the goal, which is to be at the top of the mountain at sunrise. We had a beautiful experience listing to the prayers when the sun was rising, giving us a new day in life. pictures > Adams Peak
Erin – Travel with Bender
Kaudulla Elephant Safari – I mean who doesn’t love elephants. These beautiful creatures are simply divine to watch in their own environment and Kaudulla allows you to do that.
Sigiriya Rock – This rock is a phenomenon worth the climb. Not only gorgeous from the ground, but if you make it to the top you are set to see the best views in Sri Lanka.
Galle – this fortified Dutch colonial city is so sweet to walk around and just take in the sights. But if you can get on a Cinnamon Air scenic flight and take a look at Sri Lanka from the air – it’s so breathtakingly beautiful.