Sri Lanka, which spans over 65,600 square kilometers, is the 25th largest island country in the world. Located in the Indian ocean, the country has a diverse landscape filled with dense jungles, steep mountains, and sandy beaches. Because of the rarity of flora and fauna, it is estimated that about 13% of the land surface is declared as a wildlife protected area (WLPA). Many jungle reserves like the Yala National park, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Udawalawe National Park, Wilpattu National park and so on were established to preserve the wildlife in the country. The parks are open for safari and trekking trips. Tourists really enjoy such expeditions and hence they form the best part of Sri Lanka tour.
Sri Lanka has a long and rich history; the first reference of which is seen in Indian Epic Ramayana. Buddhism flourished in the country from 250 BC and many temples and monasteries were established throughout the land. The Anuradhapura period (377 BC – 1017AD) was the golden age of artists and sculptures who created astounding statues, temples, and palaces by carving into stone. There are still many monuments in Sri Lanka that are reminiscent of the era.
Top attractions in Sri Lanka
Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka, is a beautiful tourist attraction. The serene beaches, ancient temples, and buildings with colonial architecture lure travelers to the port city. The strategic importance of Colombo, located on the western coast of the country, was understood by colonizers. Hence they made it their capital and trade harbor. To this day, the colonial buildings stand tall among the modern high rise buildings in the skyline of Colombo. The National Museum in the place depicts the history of Sri Lanka. Other attractions include the Gangaramaya temple, Viharamahadevi Park, Independence Memorial Hall, and so on.
A picture of the cultural diversity and historical significance of the country, there is no wonder Colombo became the most-visited tourist place in Sri Lanka.
Dambulla Cave Temple
One of the top places to visit on a sightseeing tour in Sri Lanka is Dambulla Cave Temple, a two millennia-old Buddhist religious center. Also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the monument was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991. A massive golden Buddha statue rests on top of the relic earning it the name. The rock stands 160 meters above the plain and has more than 80 caves in the surrounding areas. The most prominent 5 caves contain numerous statues of Buddha and the gods Vishnu and Saman. The largest among the caves measures 52 meters in length and 23 meters in width. There are many paintings of Buddha on the cave wall that will excite those who are interested in Sinhalese art.
Gal Vihara or Uttararama is a stupendous rock temple located in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Built-in 12th century AD by the King Parakramabahu, the temple consists of four statues of Buddha carved into the face of large granite rock. The rock has been cut almost 4.6 meters deep to accommodate the statues. The height of the three statues in different postures — one sitting, one standing and the other reclining — range from 4.6 meters to 14 meters. The fourth one — a small sitting posture of 1.4 meters — is located inside an artificial cave made by carving 1.4 meters into the rock. A visit to this ancient monument, which has become a tourist attraction in Sri Lanka, will leave you amazed.
Galle, an ancient port located in the southwestern tip, is one of the best sightseeing spots in Sri Lanka. It is believed that the port was a center of trade relations with ancient Rome and Greece. Until the 16th century, the port was known as Gimhathiththa. When the Portuguese captured the port in the 16th century they renamed it, Point de Galle. The site is renowned for the Portuguese architecture. The landmarks like Galle Temple, Galle Fort are great tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. The Dutch captured the port from the Portuguese in 1640. They built the present fort in 1663, fortifying it with the granite wall. Dutch architecture is further visible in many monuments like the Reformed Church of Galle. Considering its cultural and historical significance, Galle was proclaimed as a World Heritage Center by UNESCO.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred fig tree that is grown from the southern branch of the holy tree: Sri Maha Bodhi. It is believed that Sri Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Maha Bodhi tree. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi was planted in 288 BC which makes it the oldest living tree in the world planted by humans. Brought to Sri Lanka by Sanghamitra, the daughter of the famous Emperor Asoka, the tree was planted by King Devanampiya Tissa. As one of the most sacred Buddhist relics in Sri Lanka, thousands from wide and far come to pay respect to it. The Sri Lankan tour is your only chance to visit the ancient holy relic that should not be missed at any cost.
Located in the Central Province, Kandy is one of the top places to visit in Sri Lanka. The city falls between the hills of Kandy plateau and overflows with natural beauty. The most important place in Kandy is the Temple of tooth relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) which was declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. The temple boasts of ancient Kandyan architecture and is considered one of the most important Buddhist places of worship. Lankatilaka Temple, seen as the icon of Sinhalese temple architecture, is also one of the top destinations in Sri Lanka. Other attractions include the serene Knuckles mountain range — yet another world heritage site in Kandy, Royal Botanical Garden, Kandy Lake, Alagalla Mountain Range and so on.
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa was established by the Chola dynasty in the 10th century AD. It is believed to be the second most ancient Sri Lankan kingdom. The remnants of the massive royal palace with 50 buildings will excite you. The efficient irrigation system installed by King Parakramabahu still provides water to the farmlands even during the driest summers. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the archeological museum at Polonnaruwa. You will get to learn the historical and architectural significance of the place. Considering the rich culture of the land, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa was declared as a World Heritage Site. Make sure to include this historical place in your Sri Lanka tour.
Named after the anti-hero King Ravana from the Indian epic Ramayana, the Ravana falls is one of the best sightseeing spots in Srilanka. The beautiful waterfall is 25 meters high and flows down the oval-shaped rock formations. The cascade assumes the form of an areca flower during the wet season and hence is most visited during that time. The Ravana Ella Cave, located at a height of 1370 meters above sea level, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Legend has it that Ravana hid Sita in this cave after kidnapping her. Newest excavations in the cave showed evidence of human inhabitation as early as 25,000 BC. Perhaps the story is not just a myth after all.
Sigiriya or Sinhagiri is an ancient rock fortress and is regarded as the best historical place to visit in Sri Lanka. It is located in the Central province of the country near the town of Dambulla. It is believed that King Kashyapa built his palace on top of the massive 200-meter high column of rock in 5th century AD. The remains of the palace and the lion gate are still preserved and are sure to enthrall you. There are many legends about Sigiriya, some of which connect the mythical demon king Ravana to the place. The frescos and mirror wall of this ancient monument will make you flabbergasted. Three distinct gardens — water gardens, boulder, and terraced gardens proclaim the elaborate planning of the ancient architects. The location was declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Yala National Park
Spreading over an area of 979 square kilometers, Yala National Park is the most visited wildlife sanctuary in Srilanka. Two of the five blocks in the park are opened to tourists. The varied ecosystem, extensive grasslands, marshes, sandy beaches and so on make the place a tourist’s paradise. The sanctuary is best known for its diverse wildlife. Crocodiles, bears, water buffalos, many varieties of fish and amphibians find their place in the park. It houses the largest colony of leopards in the world. The park also has a high concentration of Sri Lankan Elephants. Almost 215 species of birds were also identified in the region. Hence it is one of the top attractions in Sri Lanka.
How To Reach Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius year-round. There are two monsoon seasons, Southwest (April -September) and Northeast (November to March). The former is wetter and brings rain to the west and southwest coasts whereas the latter is less severe and hits the East coast. So the best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on which parts you are planning to go to.
If you are planning to visit the western and southern coasts, choose a time between December and March.
If you are heading to the North and the East coast, it is better to travel between May to September.