Travel as much as you can, as far as you can, as long as you can. Life is not meant to lived in one place.” And there is no better place to explore a series of abundant magical destinations than in the tropical island paradise of Sri Lanka. The once Ceylon, is home to a vast array of beautiful gems that await to be explored from vibrant flora and fauna to rich forest and marine life, sandy beaches, extensive cultural escapades and the most glorious historical sites. We at Olanka Travels are counting down the top six holiday destinations that we believe are the best tourist attractions in the homely and strikingly beautiful Sri Lanka.
Ancient City of Sigiriya
A truly majestic wonder that is home to one of the most astounding histories of the tiny island calls out to be explored. Once, long ago this archaeological monument was home to King Kashypa who on top of this gracious rock, erected his castle and adorned with strikingly beautiful frescoes. At present day, the historical Sigiriya stands proudly as a UNESCO world heritage site; located in the northern Matale District of Sri Lanka’s Central Province, near the town of Dambulla.
Head towards the picturesque small town that yet beholds one of the grandest sites in the country and be amazed by all the mysteries it has to offer. The ruins of the ancient capital lie at the summit of the rock, renowned as the Lion’s rock, dominating the luscious green town.
As you step foot on the enthralling site, the extensive collection of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys and fountains are surely set to mesmerise you alongside the truly unique harmony between the nature and human imagination that it exuberates. The enthralling frescoes on site, depict paintings of nude females are considered to be either the portraits of the king’s wives and concubines or priestess performing religious rituals. Despite the unknown identity of the females depicted in the frescoes, these unique ancient paintings are celebrating female beauty and have incredible historical significance. Another substantial feature of the monument is the famous mirror wall, painted inscriptions and poems written by the visitors of Sigiriya. Apart from visiting the renowned Lion’s rock, there are abundant other activities that you could enjoy during your stay in Sigiriya from visiting the local handicraft shops that surround the site to participating in sacred ‘Pansil’ ceremonies, enjoying delectable local meals and taking in the serene beauty of the tranquil town by either a long stroll or exciting cycle ride around the historical monument of Sigiriya.
Temple of the tooth in Kandy
Known for its spirituality and laid-back charm, Kandy has everything peaceful, serenade and balmy about it. Explore the country’s second largest city, brimming with a fascinating history, rich culture, spectacular beauty and old-world charm. A visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic or Sri Dalada Maligawa is a must when you are in Kandy as it is one of the most picturesque and iconic Buddhist temples in the country. Step into its midst and embark yourself in the city’s vast and magnificent history. Located in the heart of the town surrounded by the glistening Kandy Lake also known as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk, the temple was once the royal palace inhabited by the king of Ceylon during the Kandyan kingdom and his consorts, but after the demise of the Kandyan Kingdom the palace was transformed into a Buddhist temple that holds the scared tooth of Lord Buddha. Take a walk to its sight and also catch a chance to witness the magical cultural show at the temple of the tooth that will give you the opportunity to spectator a remarkable display of Kandyan dancing, Sri Lanka’s iconic art form, which includes elaborate costumes, boisterous mass drumming, and flamboyant dancing. The cultural center of Kandy is also renowned for its Kandy Perahera: the Esala Perahera, a stunning sight guaranteed to leave you baffled in awe featuring dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers and more.
Ella is a paradise like highland village set on southern edge of Uva province of Sri Lanka. The beautiful and scenic village of the tropical island with its salubrious climate nestles amidst hill after hill of tea plantations bringing in panoramic views of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. Enjoy Sri Lanka’s most scenic train ride from Nanu Oya to Ella as you capture the most mesmerizing surroundings from passing by mountains to lakes and beautiful waterfalls and visit the renowned Nine Arch Bridge, popularly known as the “Bridge in the Sky.” This bridge is 300 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 80-100 feet tall and is one among the country’s greatest instances of colonial-era railway building. Other fun activities and excursions to do during your stay at the beautiful Ella include a trek to the Little Adam’s Peak offering an exciting climbing and trekking option for today’s explorers. Adventurers are encouraged to begin their excursions from Ella town, where the mountain’s top is only 3 kilometers away. It comes as no surprise that there is no party scene with loud music and excitement in a charming hamlet hidden between misty mountains when it comes to nightlife. Instead, there are a few restaurants that dish up some warm western-style cuisine, as well as a few pubs and swanky cafés that give a nice relaxed ambiance, perfect for capping off a long day of trekking in your Sri Lanka trip.
Mirissa is of the main beach destinations in southern Sri Lanka, renowned for its beautiful tropical beaches, surf waves, whale watching, and thriving bars and restaurants. Enter into the coast, take in the sun, soak in the icy waves altogether with a stifling drink in hand. Catch a whale watching safari down the picturesque blue isles of the glimmering Mirissa Ocean. You can explore the depths of the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean and catch a glimpse of the glorious whales, ever friendly dolphins and of course the famous island sea turtles as well. Mirissa is the hub for water sports, giving you the opportunity to ride the curls of the waves, swim with the largest mammals on earth, snorkel, and even enjoy a full day sailing experience in the sea filled with its truly magical activities from fishing with people of the coast to catching more than just a foretaste of the grandeur whales and dolphins.
Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s most renowned park is located in the south eastern region of the country and extends over two provinces of Hambantota district of southern province and Monaragala district in Uva province.
Of all the National Parks in Sri Lanka, Yala National Park gives the best opportunity to witness Sri Lanka’s broad variety of wildlife: colourful painted stork in troops are seen perched at the shores of lagoon where the crocodiles too have chosen to doze off; lovely fantailed peacocks in their resplendent blues and greens parade about amidst the woods where monkeys hang, leap and chatter; in the bush jungle are the Elephants; crossing the tracks and wandering off into the thorny scrub jungle is the star attraction of the park: the leopard.
You can also enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity of camping on sight. Whether it’s wild swimming, stone skimming or simply messing about in boats, there’s nothing quite like camping beside a river in the midst of the bustling forest of Yala. For guests looking for a more tranquil stay, the destination also has some of the most luxurious resorts that are set to give you a one-of-a-kind experience, bringing together unparalleled wildlife experiences, comfort and luxury.
The picturesque colonial city of Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is awaits to be explored. From exotic old trading ports blessed with imposing Dutch-colonial buildings to ancient mosques and churches, grand mansions and museums, the city has it all. Wandering its rambling lanes, you’ll pass stylish cafes, quirky boutiques and impeccably restored hotels owned by local and foreign artists, writers, photographers and designers. Take a walk in the picturesque streets of the Galle fort amidst the grandeur of the colonial hub which is a prominent attraction with a modified twist of open cafes and restaurants to decorate the old city fort and explore the evidence of the history of colonized Ceylon all preserved in a colonnade left by the Dutch at the famous Dutch museum.
Explore the rural village by wheels as you enjoy a cycle or tuk-tuk ride around the blissful Galle or take an exciting tour to the colonial past of Galle and its glory days. The artifacts and collector’s items are priceless with art history and craft for a treasure hunt. Here at Galle, you can also savour the taste of a variety of free-range prawns and shrimp squid lobster and blue crab meat from the warm blue Indian ocean and experience a glimpse of Island life in a platter.