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The 13 must-see places to see in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean that impresses its visitors with its selection of colors, the diversity of its landscapes, and its social and smiling people. An increasingly popular destination, it also benefits from its location as a port of call to the Maldives and its economical way of life.

Between jungles, beaches, and rice fields, Sri Lanka is unquestionably an unforgettable location. The great news? Its small size makes it feasible to go to the nation in 10 days and the transportation system makes it effortless to enjoy. What to do in Sri Lanka?

1- Adam’s Peak

adam
In the southwestern highlands area, Adam’s Peak (2,243 m), is among the main mountains in Sri Lanka. At the summit, a footprint carved into the stone has drawn pilgrims of different faiths for millennia. Based upon the beliefs, the translation is different: it’s said to be the foot of Buddha for Buddhists, Shiva’s for Hindus, Adam’s for Muslims, and St Thomas’ for Christians. After scaling over 5,000 steps, you get to the top of this sacred mountain to see the sunrise. On a clear day, the triangular shadow of the mountain seems on the surrounding relief. This demanding hike is acceptable for people in good physical condition.

2- Anuradhapura

sri
North of the Cultural Triangle, the city of Anuradhapura is a Mecca of Sinhalese Buddhism. This triangle formed by the cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy, is home to most of Sri Lanka’s archaeological heritage. The first royal capital of Sri Lanka in the 4th century BC to the 10th century, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3- Colombo

colombo
As the financial capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo, with its skyscrapers and traffic jams, doesn’t reflect the idyllic picture of the island. Despite some flaws, the town remains an important stop on a visit to the island. It’s not distinguished by shores or walks but by its own past, its heritage, and its own markets. Founded by the Portuguese, it is possible to distinguish some traces of the history by visiting the district of the fort. The city is also famed for its Buddhist and Hindu temples, in addition to the Pettah district, famous for its economy and vegetable and fruit stalls.

4- Polonnaruwa

sri lanka
Also found in the center of the island, Polonnaruwa is the next historical capital of Sri Lanka. The town is known to contain a colossal archaeological site dating from the 11th-12th centuries that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are temples, basins, a lot of statues including the four famous Buddhas of Kalu Gal Vihara.

5- Dambulla

dambula
In the center of the Cultural Triangle, Dambulla is a significant site in the history of Sri Lanka. Chosen as a refuge by a hunted warrior of Anuradhapura, he transformed the caves of Dambulla into beautifully decorated temples, now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This stone complex dating from the 2nd century BC is one of the most gorgeous sites in Sri Lanka. You can not miss the Golden Temple dominated by its imposing gold Buddha. Inside, you’ll see ancient wall paintings and numerous sculptures of Buddha.

6- Sigiriya and the Lion Rock

sigiriya
Sigiriya and its Lion’s Rock would be the most surprising areas of interest to see in Sri Lanka. At the peak of this immense ochre-colored monolith that defies the jungle at the middle of the island are the ruins of a royal palace. The presence of the strange and historical capital is caused by a virulent opposition within the royal family of the 8th century.

7- The Temple of the Tooth at Kandy

kandy
Surrounded by hills and mountains, Kandy was the last capital of the island to fall into the hands of European colonizers in 1815. Kandy is above all of the centers of the nation. Additionally, it is an artificial lake around which it is pleasant to walk and which adjoins the Mecca of Sri Lankan Buddhism, the Temple of the Tooth. This temple houses one of Buddha’s relics, namely his tooth, which is maintained in seven stupa-shaped reliquaries. The tooth is just shown to the public every 7 years; the next time will be in 2015, but expect to be in line to get there!

8- Galle

galle
Pronounced”Gallé” in Sinhalese and”Gaulle” in English, it’s the most charming city on the island! The Portuguese began the building of the fort in the 16th century, the Dutch expanded it by constructing the ramparts from the 17th century. Then, under the British occupation, the port of Wales became the most important of the nation. Today, the old city of Wales and its fortifications are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Churches, mosques, and Buddhist temples bear witness to the different communities living in Wales. From the picturesque alleyways, cafés, restaurants, and stores follow one another one of the colonial buildings.

9- Jaffna

jaffna
In the extreme north of the island, the Jaffna Peninsula is the heart of Sri Lankan Tamil culture. Cut off through years of civil war, the area is slowly opening up to tourism. Jaffna plunges you into another Sri Lanka. “Authentic” is the term that comes up most frequently from the mouths of travelers to Jaffna.

10- Nuwara Eliya

sri lanka
Are we in Sri Lanka? That’s the question we ask ourselves after we get to Nuwara Eliya. The maximum city of the island (1900 m) is in reality a high elevation station created at the end of the 19th century by His Majesty’s lands so as to escape the heat of the plains. The town benefits not from the tropical climate within the entire island, but from a more clement microclimate unique to this area. Here, no longer beaches, temples, and dinosaurs, but instead tea plantations, British architectural design, and golf courses.

11- Da Walawe

udalawe
Credit: Uda Walawe
Situated in the southeast of the mountainous region, Uda Walawe is one of the key natural parks around the island. Centered around a man-made lake, the park is known for its large number of elephants; there are about 500 of them. Aside from the elephants, birdwatchers will have the ability to observe many species and varieties of birds.

12- Yala

yala
Along with Uda Walawe, Yala National Park is among the island’s major organic parks. Found in the southwest of the island near Tissamaharama, Yala is home to a very diverse fauna. Onboard a jeep, you can observe reptiles (crocodiles, lizards, snakes), elephants, deer, peacocks, birds of prey, tens of thousands of birds, and if you’re lucky you may encounter a bear or a leopard.

13- Les plages du Sud

les plages
Credit: Les plages de Sud
The south of the island is well known for its superb white sandy beaches hemmed with coconut palms overlooking the Indian Ocean. By Galle to Tangalle, the air differs based on your desires. Unawatuna, only next to Galle, has the advantage of offering a wide selection of accommodation, and permits you to remain at the beach when visiting the Galle Fort in a tuk-tuk! The huge bay of Weligama is well known to surfers, it’s also here that the famous fishermen perched on stilts are available.

14- The tea area

tea area
The atmosphere of this Sri Lankan highlands contrasts with the rest of the nation. In this mountainous region, the landscapes are a combination of waterfalls, tea plantations, and tropical woods. Due to its temperate climate, the British developed tea.

15- Trincomalee

sri lanka
On the east coast of Sri Lanka, Trincomalee, nicknamed Trinco, is famed for its beautiful coastline and long white sandy beaches. This historic port has suffered greatly as a consequence of the civil war and the devastating tsunami. Recently, tourism has revitalized the area and travelers are flocking to the region more and more every year. In the city center, have a tour of Fort Frederick, built by the Portuguese in the early 17th century.

When to visit Sri Lanka?

The high season is from January to April. The climate is somewhat complicated because of the topography of the country, but even if you come during the monsoon, it does not rain all day long. The showers are heavy, but short-lasting. Also, there’ll always be a part of the island which will be sunny in this season.

Be careful, if you mean to visit the mountainous regions, don’t forget to have a hot piece of clothing, because it is usually humid and cool there.