Best attractions in Sri Lanka: Top 22

Paradise, blessed land, the world of Buddhism, fragrant Ceylon tea and a variety of spices - this is how the island of Sri Lanka appears to its guests. Despite the fact that this amazing island has a very tiny size, here is a concentration of a number of wonders - a variety of attractions in Sri Lanka, which will be the basis of your first acquaintance with this country. Despite the fact that Sri Lanka, being an island nation, is famous for its beautiful beaches, there is something to see in Sri Lanka and beyond them. Everyone will find something interesting for themselves - both lovers of culture, art, nature, and fans of active recreation.

What to see in Sri Lanka first

List all the famous attractions of the country is difficult enough, and to choose what to see in Sri Lanka in 1 day is not an easy task at all. To this end, was compiled a rating of the most interesting sights with a brief description, which will be discussed below.

1. Dambulla Golden Temple

Museum of Buddhism at Dambulla Golden Temple on a picturesque mountaintop

The cave temple of Dambulla, carved right into the high 300-meter cliff, includes 5 caves connected to each other. In the main cave lies a large statue of Buddha, along with several other statues. In another hall one can observe an unusual phenomenon: the water from the cave spring flows up the walls of the cave, defying all the laws of physics. The cave pagoda is over 2 thousand years old, and its many statues are part of one of the greatest collections of sculpted Buddha statues.

2. Sigiriya

A general view of the majestic rock

In the central part of the island of Sri Lanka is an important landmark that has become the country’s calling card. It is Sigiriya, or “Lion Rock,” located on the site of a volcano that fell asleep millions of years ago. Frozen lava has formed a plateau, where in the first centuries AD was built the ancient castle. The ruins of the fortress have reached our days, but even from the ruins you can judge about the former greatness of the construction. The entrance to the castle was once carved in the form of a huge lion, but today you can see only its paws - that’s all that remains of the stone giant.

3. Adam’s Peak

View of the top of Butterfly Mountain

Among all the excursions in Sri Lanka, climbing the sacred mountain, Adam’s Peak, is especially popular. This religious site, located at an altitude of 2.2 kilometers, has become an occasion for pilgrimages of representatives of four religions, including Christianity. At the first steps of the ascent participants meet a statue of Buddha, and then there is a difficult path for travelers - about 6,000 steps, the ascent which takes about 4 hours. The path, which begins towards nightfall, ends with a mesmerizing dawn, and at the top visitors have the opportunity to see the footprint that is believed to have been left by the enlightened Buddha himself.

4. Cumana National Park

Animals by the pond in Kumana National Park

In the southeastern region of Sri Lanka there is a national park that is famous for the variety of feathered inhabitants that inhabit it - about 250 different species in total, among which are different species of marsh, lake and pond dwellers, as well as land dwellers. In addition to birds, there are many reptiles as well as mammals, the largest of which is the Sri Lankan elephant. The extensive water and wetland areas are surrounded by a drier rainforest zone. Those wishing to stay in the park for several days can stay in the park - there is a campsite available for this purpose.

5. Kandy Valley

The picturesque Kandy Valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains Bernard Gagnon

Feedback from connoisseurs of natural beauty shows that one of the most beautiful places in Sri Lanka is a hundred kilometers from the capital Colombo. We are talking about the beautiful valley of Kandy, which is located the ancient city of the same name, once the legendary capital of the island kingdom. In its center is an artificial lake, and in the middle of it on an island rises an ancient palace. Hiking is a great way to discover Kandy’s unique culture and natural beauty, especially since there are many informative hiking trails in the surrounding area.

Check out the beautiful views of Sri Lanka in this breathtaking video!

6. Yala National Park

Elephants in Yala National Park

The special pride of Sri Lankans are the nature reserves, the jewel among which is Yala National Park. Among the 12 other reserves, Yala is considered the oldest, the second largest on the island. Areas of the park are a flat landscape, mostly dry soils with small oases. Only the western part of the park is accessible to visitors, while the eastern part is reserved for the work of naturalists. In all, the park is inhabited by more than 2 hundred species of birds and 44 species of mammals, among which the largest is the Ceylon elephant.

Official website: https://yala.national.park

7. Port of Colombo

Port of Colombo and Fort Business Center

As we continue our journey, the city of Colombo on the west coast of Sri Lanka is worth a stop. It is the most populous city on the island, and most famous for its seaport, the largest and oldest in all of South Asia. Come to think of it, Colombo became a commercial port over two thousand years ago, and to this day it is the busiest on the island. 24 hours a day, without any interruptions, the port does not stop working. Such a high level of responsibility is also due to the fact that Colombo also serves as a naval base in Sri Lanka.

8. St. Clair’s Falls

St. Clair's Falls among the green tea plantations

When choosing what to visit in Sri Lanka of natural beauty, it is impossible to pass by one of the treasures of the island, St. Clair’s Falls. Until a few years ago, St. Clair was the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka, but with the opening of the hydropower project, the volume of water in it has decreased noticeably. Even so, the width of the cascade is impressive at about 50 meters. Running through picturesque tea plantations, St. Clair splits into two segments, a large and a small one. Descending from the main tourist road to the plantation, you can find a mesmerizing view of the flowing waterfall.

9. Temple of the Buddha’s Tooth

The Temple of the Buddha's Tooth, which houses a sacred relic of Sri Lanka

One of the most important relics of the island is the tooth of the Buddha, kept in the city of Kandy, in the temple of the same name. This relic was brought to the island from India in the 4th century AD, and to this day it is attributed miraculous properties. Detractors, having learned of the shrine’s amazing properties, repeatedly tried to destroy the tooth, and with it the Buddhist faith. But none of these plots have failed to materialize, the tooth remained intact. The temple itself stands on the shore of a beautiful lake, has a rich decoration, and every day several times a day there is a demonstration of the sacred tooth to the faithful congregation.

Official website: http://sridaladamaligawa

10. World Trade Center in Colombo

The twin towers in the business district of Ft

The largest and most developed city in Sri Lanka, Colombo offers tremendous opportunities to buy quality products - souvenirs, groceries, textiles and other groups of goods at minimal prices. And no wonder that it is in Colombo where the World Trade Center is located. This is the tallest structure on the island, its height exceeds one hundred and fifty meters, and its performance meets the highest international standards. The complex consists of 2 high-rise buildings and the connecting block, there are shopping centers, offices, upscale hotels of Sri Lanka and many restaurants.

Official website:

11. Pinnavela Elephant Sanctuary

A herd of elephants swim in the river in Pinnavela

The turbulent political situation and years of internecine warfare in Sri Lanka has also affected nature - war and famine have contributed to the decline of the elephant population. In 1975, a nursery was established at Pinnawela, the elephant nursery of Sri Lanka, where elephants were cared for and rescued. This is where motherless elephants were brought in, as well as adults maimed by explosions and poachers. The elephant sanctuary has now become one of the best attractions in Sri Lanka, where visitors come eagerly to see and even participate in the care of elephants.

Official website:

12. Pinnavela Zoo

Sri Lankan leopard at Pinnawela Zoo

If you happen to be in the town of Pinnavela, you’re sure to find somewhere to go in Sri Lanka besides the elephant nursery. The zoo was recently opened here in 2015 with an open-air aviary. Thanks to the close proximity of the elephant sanctuary known to many, this attraction has quickly gained popularity. Despite the fact that the animals are provided with close-to-natural living conditions and are allowed to roam almost freely in the spacious area of several hectares, all areas of the zoo are equipped with strict safety standards.

Official website:

13. Royal Botanic Gardens in Paradeniya

The stunning corner of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Paradeniya Koshy Koshy

The most lush and spacious botanical garden in Sri Lanka, Peradeniya, dates back to the distant 18th century. Its territory of 60 hectares teems with a variety of exotic plants, with more than 4 thousand species. Trees, shrubs, flowers are marked with introductory plaques, and at the entrance there is a bright guide map where you can find out the location of the gardens and other necessary information. A stroll through Peradeniya is an opportunity to stroll through a heavenly, fragrant land, learning about different cultures and eras of horticulture.

Official website: http://www.botanicgardens

14. Nuwara Eliya Tea Plantations

The hilly area around Nuwara Eliya is planted with tea bushes

Once upon a time, the Nuwara Eliya plantations were the site of a wild tropical forest. Later it was discovered that the region had very good conditions for growing tea so the first tea plants were brought here by English colonists. For centuries, the traditional technology of growing, harvesting and processing of high quality tea has been strictly adhered to here. Sri Lankan guides will take you through the best plantations of Nuwara Eliya and lead you to the tea factory where you can see with your own eyes the step by step process of tea production. In addition, you can visit the museum, where you can get acquainted with the different varieties of tea, or the store, where you can buy any of the presented varieties.

15. Victoria Dam

The Victoria Dam is an arched dam on the Mahaweli River

In 1978, construction began on Sri Lanka’s tallest dam on the Mahaweli River, with the main objectives of supplying water to the region and generating hydroelectric power. Seven years later, the grandiose construction was completed and the 122-meter high Victoria Dam contributed to the formation of a large reservoir. One can see the incredible, impressive power of water discharge from the top of the dam: the automatic system regularly opens the floodgates the moment the reservoir waters reach the upper allowable threshold, and then the dam turns into an incredible artificial waterfall.

16. Ravana Falls

Multi-cascade Ravana Falls

One of the popular tourist destinations are tours in Sri Lanka to numerous waterfalls, and the best time to visit them is during the monsoon, when they are at their fullest. Despite the great variety of waterfalls on the island, reaching a height of 270 meters, tourists love the relatively small 40-meter waterfall Ravana. The thing is that this picturesque landmark has its own interesting legend, according to which, right under the water cascade is stored a pot filled with gold, and on certain days, when the water recedes a little, this vessel comes to the surface.

17. The Beaches of Bentota

The wide sandy strip of Bentota Beach

The coastal town of Bentota is located in the southern province of the island, 65 kilometers from Colombo. Any tourist arriving here will appreciate the main advantage of this place - its clean sandy beaches with high and medium class hotels, located right on the sea. It is worth emphasizing the convenient geographical location of Bentota - a small distance from the modern metropolis of Colombo allows you to enjoy a paradisiacal holiday on the sea coast, without going too far into the wilds of pristine nature, but it is always possible to comfortably get to the nearest civilization.

Attractions in Sri Lanka: what else to visit in Sri Lanka

The main attractions of Sri Lanka were briefly listed above, but of course, this is not all - those wishing to continue to explore these lands can endlessly find more and more interesting places.

18. Negombo Beach

Beach in Negombo

At the mouth of Negombo Lagoon is the beach of the same name, the main one on the west coast of the island. It is also a popular resort, which is often used as a stopover on the island. It has a very convenient location - the airport is just a stone’s throw away, just 7 kilometers away. Hotels along the beach offer a different level of services for all income levels, making this place affordable for any traveler. Recreational activities include a variety of water sports and, of course, diving among the well-preserved coral reefs. In local restaurants you can enjoy delicious dishes of the freshest seafood.

19. The Dutch Fort in Halle

The ancient architecture of the Dutch Fort in Galle

Vacationers on the southern beaches of Sri Lanka are advised to visit the island’s world-famous historical landmark, Galle Fort, the largest fortification structure in Asia. The fort was originally built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century, but with the arrival of the Dutch it was almost all rebuilt, and since then for 2 centuries it has served as Sri Lanka’s main port. Today it is a whole tourist area of the city of Galle, where there are many stores, restaurants, there are offices and a market. But despite this, there is always a relaxed atmosphere that encourages a quiet, unhurried stroll.

20. The Sacred City of Anuradhapura

White dagoba (bell-shaped stupa)Ruanveli in the sacred city of Anuradhapura

A very important in the world of Buddhism in Sri Lanka - the city of Anuradhapura, once the former capital of the ancient Sinhalese state. The sacred city has experienced a lot in its lifetime - both prosperity and looting by invaders. And only in 1980, the restoration of its ancient ruins began. Buddhist pilgrims to Anuradhapura attracted by the ancient cave temple of Isurumuniya, built in the 4-3 centuries BC. Numerous tourists who are not practicing Buddhism, also find a lot of interesting places: these are numerous monuments of antiquity - statues, shrines-stupas, palaces, artificial reservoirs, which became part of the glorious history of the city.

21. Mihintale Mountain Park

The beautiful scenery of Mihintale Mountain Park

Just a dozen kilometers from Anuradhapura is another historic site, the Mihintale Mountain Range, where a mass of ancient Buddhist buildings - or rather, what’s left of them today - are concentrated. After climbing about 2 thousand steps, you can see many structures that were once part of a large monastic complex: several stupas, a statue of the Buddha, a hall of alms and hall of relics, caves, museums and monasteries. A walk through the sacred sites of Mihintale invariably conveys the atmosphere of tranquility and grandeur that these monuments have carried through the millennia.

Official website:

22. The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

The Terrace of the Buddha's Tooth in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Another historical place that will be touched by the recommendations of this rating is located two hundred kilometers from Colombo. This is the medieval capital of Sri Lanka, the city of Polonnaruwa, whose first settlements began to form in the 2nd century BC. The main monument of Polonnaruwa is the temple Gal Vihara with 4 giant statues of Buddha carved out of the rock. In the ancient Palace Pakakrambahu was the royal residence: three-story ruins - this is all that remains of it today. Among the several stupas located here, the Rankotwihara Dagoba, the tallest in Polonnaruwa and the fourth largest on the island, stands out.

We have given in this article the main attractions of Sri Lanka photos with names and descriptions: each of these places will add something new to the piggy bank of your experience and will be a guide to this wonderful land of extraordinary nature, multifaceted culture, ancient relics and vivid exoticism.