10 Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka
Published on: January 30th, 2018
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
If you haven’t discovered the ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’ yet, it’s time to put it at the top of your list. From its idyllic beaches and lush tea country to majestic leopards, elephants and sea turtles, all kinds of surprises await you in Sri Lanka.
Why Visit Sri Lanka?
This South Asian island is brimming with rich history, diverse culture, spectacular wildlife, stunning landscapes and unparalleled experiences. Here you can go on thrilling safaris, taste incredible cuisine, enjoy beautiful weather and so much more. No matter what you’re looking for, Sri Lanka has something for you.
A Sri Lankan safari might also include sightings of wild boar, buffalos, langurs, toque macaques, sloth bears, crocodiles, whales, dolphins and the countless other species that reside here.
2. Welcoming People
In Sri Lanka, as with much of the parts of the Indian Subcontinent, you’ll find that most locals welcome visitors with open arms. The general atmosphere is very laid-back, offering a refreshingly slow pace and serene environment for travellers to discover its charms.
The people of Sri Lanka have many ways to make visitors feel at home. Known for their generosity and vibrant spirit that’s demonstrated through dance, food, art and festivals (there are around 25 national holidays a year in Sri Lanka) it seems there is always an open invitation to celebrate something.
3. Unique Cultural Heritage
Over the centuries, traders from across the globe have been drawn to this island. For many millennia it was divided into ancient kingdoms. The Portuguese arrived in 1505, and Sri Lanka was then colonised by the Dutch and the British before gaining independence in 1948.
This history has created a rich and diverse culture, where ancient traditions coexist with more modern heritage. You can see evidence of Sri Lanka’s eclectic influences in the juxtaposition of ornate ancient temples and grand colonial buildings, particularly in its coastal cities and the capital Colombo.
4. Verdant Tea Plantations
Since the first tea bush was planted here in 1867, Sri Lanka has become the world’s fourth largest producer of tea. In fact, you might recognise its former name – Ceylon – as a variety of tea that’s still popular today.
Sri Lanka’s tea country is a gorgeous expanse of undulating green hills and lush plantations. It’s one of the only places on earth where tea is still harvested by hand. Here you can learn about traditional methods and sample premium brews as you breathe in the fresh highland air.
5. Amazing Local Food
Sri Lanka is the land of cinnamon and spices, so you can imagine how delicious its food is. The local cuisine is distinctive and flavourful, with influences from neighbouring countries and the various other cultures that have left their mark here.
Sri Lankan dishes often highlight locally sourced ingredients like fish, rice, fruits and vegetables. Seafood is a particularly important element of its cuisine; imagine savouring freshly caught prawns, squid, cuttlefish and lobster as you gaze out at the sparkling sea.
6. Epic Train Journeys
One of the best ways to explore Sri Lanka is by train. The country has several fantastic rail routes that will carry you through bustling cities, dense forests, deep valleys and surf towns, promising unbelievable views along the way.
7. Unspoiled Beaches
Sri Lanka has no shortage of beautiful beaches. Whether you’re seeking solitude, parties, surfing or snorkelling, there’s a strip of sand for you. The country’s best beaches can be found on its western and southern coasts, famous for their golden sand and abundant palm trees.
The main town in this area is Galle, an eclectic outpost known for its imposing colonial fort, vibrant streets and traditional ‘stilt fishermen’ who perch above the water to bring in the daily catch, just as they’ve done for decades.
8. Tropical Climate
No matter what time of year you choose to visit Sri Lanka, you’ll be treated to wonderful weather. In fact, this is one of the warmest countries in the world. The northern and eastern regions tend to be drier and hotter, while the central highlands see the most rainfall.
9. Scenic Hiking Trails
The endless natural beauty of Sri Lanka lends itself well to exploration on foot. If postcard-worthy views and ancient cultural sites appeal to you, head to the Cultural Triangle. Here you can ascend to Sigiriya, an awe-inspiring palace and fortress complex set atop a rocky plateau.
We also highly recommend trekking through the brilliant hills of tea country. There’s a multitude of routes including the iconic Adam’s Peak. Although the hike to reach the peak of the mountain is a challenge, the rewards are breathtakingly beautiful. We recommend starting early to avoid the heat of the day and witness the orange and pink light of sunrise as you stand above the clouds.
10. Luxurious Escapes
This country is replete with superb accommodation, no matter which city or region you’re in. Outside of Colombo you’ll find The Wallawwa, an elegant colonial manor house set amidst tropical gardens. In the heart of tea country is another historic spot: Thotalagala, a restored planter’s bungalow with just seven sumptuous suites.
Luxury accommodation in Sri Lanka
AmanwellaAmanwella is a tranquil hideaway set amid palm trees that spill down to the golden beach and the sea, a little west from laid-back Tangalle. 27 contemporary suites are open to the sights and sounds of the bay with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. On one side they lead onto the entrance courtyard with a private plunge pool, the other to an expansive terrace with sun loungers, dining table and chairs, and views of the coconut grove, beach and ocean. The restaurant serves fish straight off local fishermen’s boats and local produce sourced by the chef at the nearby market – an experience you can join to discover more about this fertile island. The beach is ideal for swimming, snorkelling and surfing, some of the best in the region in fact, while a little further out you can try your hand at fishing. Blue whales can be sighted on their annual migration from December to April, as well as sperm whales and spinner dolphins. Turtles can be spotted laying their eggs on the beach a little way along the coast and, inland, Yala and Udawalawe National Parks can be explored. There’s also a rich cultural heritage with a landscape dotted with ancient temples and you can even try your hand at pottery with a local artisan.
ThotalagalaVenture into the lush heart of Sri Lanka’s tea country and surround yourself in old-world luxury at Thotalagala, a carefully restored planters bungalow which dates back to the 19th century. Each of the seven suites is inspired by prominent role-players in the tea-growing region’s history. Situated on Pitaratmalie Estate, the hotel offers easy access to all tea country has to offer, including Dambatenne where Sir Thomas Lipton lived in the late 1800s. Décor is elegantly refined, with antique furniture complemented by carefully-chosen artworks. Enjoy a cigar or after-dinner drink in the lavish cigar room, indulge in a sumptuous tea out on the lawns or allow the chef to treat you to a feast of plantation-inspired cuisine in the dining room. For an extra special Thotalagala dining experience enjoy perfectly barbecued meat beneath the stars, while sipping a fine wine from the cellar. As this is a working estate, guests are welcome to explore the gardens and fields, learning about how tea is produced. Immerse yourself in the history of the area and keep a look-out for memorabilia from the region’s colonial past.
UlagallaThe former ancestral estate of local Anuradhapura nobility, Uga Ulagalla is a beautiful boutique property set among 58 acres of lush tropical gardens in the Cultural Triangle. At the heart of the hotel is a 150-year-old mansion which is surrounded by 20 villas, each with a private deck, plunge pool and huge windows looking out over paddy fields, forest or the lake. The two-bedroom Nikawewa Villa with separate living and dining room is perfect for families. Fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden are used to create mouthwatering Sri Lankan cuisine, which you can enjoy in the main restaurant, on your private deck or in the beautiful surroundings of the paddy fields. Enjoy some time out at the spa, a tranquil haven where you can unwind with a rejuvenating treatment. There is also an outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre, as well as a pool table in the main house.