Beauty and culture round every corner
On a Sri Lanka vacation, discover an island packed with ancient ruins and sacred sites, sample authentic cuisine, explore seaside towns and relax on pristine beaches.
Journey to Sri Lanka and you’ll be amazed at how much beauty and culture can fit into the island nation known as ‘the Emerald Isle’. The warmth of its people makes you feel welcome wherever you go, whether you’re exploring the evocative ancient ruins of Anuradhapura in the famous Cultural Triangle or stopping for coffee at a quaint cafe on the colonial streets of Galle.
On your Sri Lanka vacation, look out for leopards on an exotic safari adventure in Yala National Park, and discover Buddhism’s most sacred site at the lakeside city of Kandy. Take some time out from exploring to get a taste of the delicate flavors of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine.
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A cutting from the Tree of Enlightenment - the Buddha's fig tree - is said to lie at the heart of the ancient city of Anuradhapura. As you explore the sprawling ruins that lay for centuries beneath dense jungle, it's hard to imagine that this was a thriving city for 1,300 years. Considered a sacred site, religious ceremonies are still held here today, and seeing one being performed makes the experience of visiting Anuradhapura even more extraordinary.
Dambulla & Sigiriya
For two thousand years, the cave complex at Dambulla has been a sacred place of worship, and that long history is revealed by the incredible ancient Hindu and Buddhist art that adorns the cave walls. Continue your exploration of Sri Lanka's past by traveling up the road to Sigiriya, where a huge column of rock holds an ancient ruined palace. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Sri Lanka's most iconic sights, and your steep climb to the top is rewarded with frescoes on the way up and far-reaching views when you reach the top.
Explore the country's history and religion in more depth at Kandy, a scenic lakeside city considered by many to be Sri Lanka's cultural capital. Its most celebrated landmark is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, one of Buddhism's most sacred sites, which enjoys recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having explored this fascinating place and its other temples and museums, you'll find plenty more to occupy you in Kandy, where the cooler climate makes it a pleasure to discover attractions such as the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and the Ceylon Tea Museum.
Buddhist temples and cathedrals both have a place in the rich cultural heritage of Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital city, and both nestle amongst modern architectural edifices such as the World Trade Towers. There's still plenty of room for local life, though, as you'll discover in the bustling markets of Pettah. The National Museum is an unmissable highlight of Colombo, where the end of the day is best spent sauntering by the ocean along the Galle Face Green, savoring the flavors of authentic local dishes served up by street vendors.
17th century Dutch colonists left behind elegant streets of colonial buildings that give Galle a European vibe. The city's Fort area is best known; wander its historic streets and discover charming cafes and boutique shops run by local artists. The fort walls give an insight into its military past, while vendors selling delicious street foods such as chilli and papaya give you a flavor of modern Sri Lanka's culinary favorites. For a spectacular end to the day, head to Flag Rock to watch the sun go down.
Africa may be more famous as a place to go on safari, but Sri Lanka's Yala National Park is a worthy rival. It's home to one of the greatest leopard population densities in the world, so you stand a better chance here than anywhere else of seeing this striking big cat in the wild. The park's grasslands are roamed by herds of buffaloes and elephants, its forests by exotic monkeys and peacocks. With 215 bird species, including the crested serpent eagle and the painted stork, there's plenty to keep birdwatchers happy here, too.
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Climb the World Heritage-listed Sigiriya Rock
A steep set of steps takes you past ancient murals to the top of this enormous rock, where the ruins of an ancient palace look out over sweeping views of the jungle below.
Soak up some sun on deserted beaches
There’s no shortage of immaculate sandy beaches in Sri Lanka, and they’re the perfect place to soak up the sun and relax with a good book.
Tea Estates in the high country
Get a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s past by savouring the aroma of an Orange Pekoe tea on a picturesque tea estate.
Safari in Yala National Park
Look out for leopards on a jeep safari in Yala National Park, home to one of the largest numbers of these majestic big cats. The leopards share this captivating habitat with wildlife ranging from elephants and water buffaloes to the Red Slender Loris.
Feast on local delicacies
Sumptuous flavours are waiting for you to discover in the varied local cuisine, which takes inspiration from numerous international influences and ranges from flame-roasted seafood to aromatic curry.
Explore historic Galle by foot
Reminders of Sri Lanka’s Dutch colonial past abound at historic Galle, which is dominated by an impressive fort. Explore its network of old streets and ramparts to get a taste of the city’s interesting history.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy
The lakeside city of Kandy is home to one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics: a tooth of the Buddha, housed in the tranquil Temple of the Sacred Tooth.
Explore the ancient cities of the Cultural Triangle
The evocative ruins of ancient kingdoms lie waiting for you to explore in Sri Lanka’s renowned ‘Cultural Triangle’; don’t miss Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
Caves at Dambulla
The ornate Hindu and Buddhist art that adorns the caves at Dambulla is more than worth the effort of ascending hundreds of steps to get there
Observe the native wildlife
Take an early morning walk along the banks of one of the great man-made lakes of central Sri Lanka, watching the incredible birdlife, crocodiles and other wildlife.
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48 Hours in Colombo
Find out what to see and do in Colombo, the colonial capital of Sri Lanka, with this two-day itinerary that takes you to the city’s best bits.