1. Visit the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella
Nine Arch Bridge is one of the most iconic places to visit in the whole of Sri Lanka. This mammoth bridge is located just outside the pretty town of Ella, deep among the luscious jungle, green tea plantations, and bamboo forest.
At a massive 25 meters high and 91 meters long, the bridge is an example of incredible architecture and engineering; it has stood without steel support for over 100 years!
Nothing quite beats walking through the jungle and seeing the beautiful stone arches of the bridge appear through the mist. Hang around, and you might be lucky enough to see the famous train crossing the tracks on its way to Ella.
2. Hike to the Top of Diyaluma Falls
This incredible slice of nature is located around 40 km from Ella, so it’s a great day trip on your vacation. Ask your tuk-tuk driver to take you to the bottom of the trail. From here, you can follow the path for around 2 hours from the waterfall’s base to the top.
Once you reach the summit, you’ll see the three natural infinity pools perched on the edge of the cliff. Swim in the pools, chill on the rocks, and enjoy the extraordinary views as you gaze 220 meters below. You’ll feel as if you’re on top of the world!
Tip: Please note that there are no safety barriers at the falls, so be careful when swimming close to the cliff edge.
3. Southern Beaches: Swings & Palm Trees
Imagine swinging in the shade of palm trees with a coconut in hand and the sea breeze in your hair; the Sri Lankan southern beaches have become well-known for just this!
Several beaches have Instagram-famous swings, popular among travelers who want to live the beach vacation dream.
Dalawella Beach Swing
One that is particularly famous is the swing at Dalawella Beach in Unawatuna. It sits high up in the curve of a bending palm tree right in front of Dream Cabana, and it’s one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka! Seeing the swing at sunset is spectacular as you swing through the sky, watching the colors of the sun change.
These days, it’s likely you’ll have to pay a small fee to use the swing (this is for maintenance and upkeep). Make sure to also stop for a chat with the locals in the nearby huts and bars, enjoying the vibes of this beautiful spot.
Dikwella Beach Swing
If you’re not planning on heading to Dalawella Beach, you’ll find a second palm tree swing located in Dikwella, which is also on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Unlike Dalawella, this is a seated swing, so it’s a bit easier to sit on. There are also fewer tourists, so you’ll get more time to enjoy the experience.
This beautiful palm tree sticks out from its roots almost horizontally, which provides a fantastic backdrop for your sunset photos. You can find it outside the Dikwella Beach Hotel.
4. Places to Visit in Sri Lanka: One of the National Parks
Sri Lanka is lucky to have a great selection of wildlife and marine life. You can spot elephants, sloth bears, blue whales, dolphins, and even the elusive leopard! These animals roam freely in the wild, many living within the 26 national parks spread all over the country. In fact, it’s one of the best places for a safari in the world (outside of Africa)!
Each national park has its own unique characteristics. For example, some are known for their vast herds of elephants, and others for their diversity of monkey species. Whatever you choose, there is no better experience than jumping in a jeep and riding through the long grasses and bushland of Sri Lanka. It’s an incredible opportunity to see these majestic animals in the wild and one that you’ll remember forever.
5. The Red Mosque, Colombo
The Red Mosque in Colombo is one of the most spectacular buildings you’ll find on your trip! The stunning candy-like red and white striped mosque is named ‘Jami Ul-Alfar’ and is located in the bustling Pettah district (one of the oldest parts of Colombo). The building from the outside is phenomenal, with its tall minarets towering across the city and its facade covered in red and white patterns moving in every possible direction.
The inside is equally as beautiful, and tourists can enter and look around. However, be aware that this is a religious place of worship, and you will need to cover your hair, arms, and legs as a sign of respect.
6. Tea Plantations at Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, famous for its rolling green hills and breathtaking tea plantations. This area has a rich history and is known as one of the most important tea producers globally; it’s also where Lipton Tea began! The British brought tea here during colonial times when they discovered the cool climate and high altitude of Nuwara Eliya provided the perfect growing conditions. Tea production continues to live on in Sri Lanka, and the country is still one of the largest exporters of the plant today.
The area is home to many factories, plantations, and tea rooms. Rent a tuk-tuk for the day and ask your driver to take you on a tour, stopping off at the many beautiful viewpoints, and drinking tea at the factories. You can also arrange for a tour of the factories to learn more about tea production and its history.
7. Galle Fort – A Must-visit in Sri Lanka
Galle Fort is an ancient town on Sri Lanka’s southwestern coast, bursting with culture, history, and architectural gems. The fort’s story began in the 1500s when the Portuguese arrived (although the town was an important trading center for hundreds of years before that). However, in the 18th century, the Dutch captured Galle Fort and rebuilt it as their headquarters.
These buildings are of such cultural significance that UNESCO has named Galle Fort a world heritage site, promoting the continued preservation of the area. The turbulent history of invasions and colonization definitely explains the uniquely European feel in this tropical paradise!
Nowadays, visitors can enjoy visiting the ancient fort and wandering through the charming streets, full of beautiful Dutch-style buildings transformed into trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants.
8. Sigiriya Lion Rock
Sigiriya Lion Rock is known as one of the most remarkable natural phenomena globally and is one of the top places to visit in Sri Lanka! The enormous (200m) square-shaped rock emerges from the ground in the middle of a flat, dense landscape. The sheer size of the stone is totally jaw-dropping, almost looking as if it has appeared by magic.
Most interesting is that this rock was designed as a fortress by King Kashyapa as far back as 477 AD! He believed this was the most strategic place because of its panoramic views of the land below. The gardens he designed on top of the rock are still there today, as well as murals and rock paintings. It will take you around 2-3 hours to explore the entire area around and on top of Sigiriya Lion Rock.
It’s recommended to climb Lion Rock as early as possible so that you can avoid the heat and see the epic sunrise from this elevated position.
9. Pidurangula Rock
Pidurangula Rock is Lion Rock’s little sibling. It may be smaller, but the views are just as good as Sigiriya Lion Rock. Plus, it comes with the advantage of fewer tourists and crowds! You also have the unique vantage point of looking directly onto Lion rock itself, which gives you more time to admire the impressive formation. This hike is undoubtedly for adventurers; leave before sunrise with your torch and climb up steep boulders before reaching the top.
Hiking up Pidurangula Rock is a magical experience that you must add to your places to visit in Sri Lanka! It also has a cheaper entrance fee than Lion Rock.
10. Kandy Botanical Gardens
Kandy Botanical Gardens are the perfect place to escape the city’s heat and enjoy the tropical goodness of nature! The gardens are enormous and are home to hundreds of species of plants, trees, and flowers. It’s particularly famous for its massive collection of orchids, showcased in many varieties and colors.
Spend an afternoon here, walking among the plants, taking photos, and relaxing on the grass. There’s also the option to sit down for a refreshing drink at one of the garden’s cafes.