The island nation of Sri Lanka beckons tourists with its stilt fisherman on sandy tropical beaches, shrines and ruins of old kingdoms, and tea leaf baskets and herbal spice gardens. To help you choose the right tour of Sri Lanka for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in the Peal of the Indian Ocean – take a look and start comparing tours through Sri Lanka today!


The Cultural Triangle in Kandy


The spiritual heart of the Cultural Triangle, lotus flowers give tribute to the Temple of the Sacred (Buddha) Tooth Relic. Parading Tusker elephants and Kandyan drummers beat through the colourful Esala Perahera festival held in July and August.


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Tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya


Sri Lanka’s most important tea production area can be found in the lush temperate region of Nuwara Eliya, nicknamed ‘Little England’. The country’s highest mountain, Pidurutalagala, stands guard over the administrative capital Nuwara Eliya in what is Sri Lanka’s coolest region.


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Swim and stroll along white sandy beaches


Sri Lanka welcomes an influx of surf dudes and beach bums taking advantage of the warm Indian Ocean in the white sandy bays of Unawatuna and Bentota, and clean waves of Hikkaduwa or Arugam Bay. The island’s south side is where it’s at.


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Blended history in Galle


Coastal fort ramparts built by 16th century Portuguese colonists encircle cobbled streets and Dutch colonial villas in Galle, whose green parks host daily games of Sri Lanka’s national obsession, cricket.


Spot wildlife in Yala National Park


The spotty star of the show is the elusive leopard, joined by elephants, monkeys, crocodiles, Indian pangolins, palm squirrels and an array of birdlife. Safaris are becoming increasingly popular in the island’s most visited national park.


Climb Adam’s Peak


Impress the locals by scaling the folkloric pilgrimage of Sri Pada, attempted by all walks of faith to reach the summit holding the ‘sacred footprint’. Buddhists, Muslims and Christians start the thigh-busting 5000+ step trek at 2am, arriving in time to see amber glow of sunrise over the mountain.


Explore magnificent Sigiriya


This rather unusual rocky throne of 5th century King Kashyapa is found at the 200m towering site of ‘Lions Rock’ – the Indian Ocean’s ‘Uluru’, topped by a royal citadel adorned with ancient cave murals depicting heavenly nymphs. Make your way with relative ease, and explore the old water gardens and tremendous views of the surrounding kingdom while looking out for temple monkeys.


Watch the sun set in Colombo


A certain prestige remains in the capital. Despite the tuk-tuk traffic and crumbling British colonial hotels, no one can complain about the purple-orange-pink sunset on the harbour while tucking into a plate of coconut flaked roti in one of the ubiquitous esplanade cafes.


Watch whales


Set sail in Mirissa to spot the mother of all cetaceans, with sperm whales and the colossal blue whales coming up for air to the incessant click of camera shutters – all for a fraction of the price you pay in other sites around the world.


Stilt Fishing in Koggala


Perched above the lapping Indian Ocean looking for the lonely catch of the day, fisherman employ the old-school Sri Lankan method for trapping tonight’s dinner. Nowadays the pose is more for the benefit of tourists, but the sublime sunset photo opportunities are worth it.


Soak up Sinhalese culture


Sri Lanka is home to a particular kind of Buddhism known as Theravada, which the Pali chronicles say is destined to be protected and preserved by the Sinhalese people.


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Stupas, Sri Lanka’s ancient wonder


Stupas are considered one of Sri Lanka’s greatest architectural achievements, as the largest brick structures known to the modern world. Mahiyangana Raja Maha Vihara is accepted as the first stupa of ancient Sri Lanka, while the biggest is Jetavanaramaya.


Biodiversity at Knuckles Mountain Range


Traditionally called Dumbara Kanduvetiya, which means ‘mist-laden mountain range’, by the Sinhalese people, the Knuckles Mountain Range is well known for its biodiversity despite comprising only 0.03% of Sri Lanka’s total area. Look out for the fist-like formation that earned the range its name from British surveyors.


Snorkel on Pigeon Island


Pigeon Island National Park is one of the two marine national parks in Sri Lanka, and boasts some of the country’s best coral reefs – making it a prime snorkelling destination. The national park is made up of two islands, with the larger only 200m long and 100m wide.


Tick off Sri Lankan experiences


Parade along a sandy beach wearing a colourful sarong or purchase a sari, enjoy scenic train rides past lush tea-growing hills and mountainous backdrops, eat with your right hand only and treat yourself to an Ayurveda massage – all quintessential experiences in the land of the Lion flag.


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Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC