10 Best Attractions in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is maybe a small island in the Indian Ocean, but that is the only thing little about it! Sri Lanka was formerly known as Ceylon. It boasts an ancient civilization, beautiful golden sandy beaches with their swaying coconut palms trees, dazzling mountains, rubber and tea plantations.

While visiting the island, you will notice colonial architecture from the days when the Portuguese, Dutch, and English reigned. You will see lots of elephants, some of which participate in local festivals and, if you are lucky, maybe a leopard or two at the wildlife sanctuary. Let’s take an overview of the 10 best Attractions in Sri Lanka:

Sigiriya

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Wannabe archaeologists need to put Sigiriya on their list of must-see places to visit in Sri Lanka. This ancient city is built on a sharp slope, topped by a plateau almost 180 m (600 feet) high. This plateau is also known as Lion’s Rock as it watches over the jungles below. Entrance to the site is through staircases and then rooms emanating from the lion’s mouth. You will also see some ponds, fountains, and gardens. Pretty cool! Locals consider the place the eighth wonder of the world. This ancient rock fortress dates back to the 3rd century BC when it was a monastery. 10 best Attractions in Sri Lanka It was turned into a royal residence later.

Galle

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Galle’s most famous attraction is its 17th-century fort built by Dutch colonists. Sitting on a promontory overlooking the Indian Ocean, the fort is known for its architectural style. Galle is considered a prime example of a fortified city. 10 best Attractions in Sri Lanka The fortress is not just another pretty place, however, nowadays the houses of the courts and businesses. Galle is becoming famous an arts colony, and the foreigners own its expatriate community – about a 3rd of the city’s homes. Some other best sights include a natural harbor, a maritime museum, Sri Lanka’s oldest lighthouse the Jesuit built St. Mary’s Cathedral and, a principal Shiva temple.

Kandy

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Kandy, the 2nd largest city in Sri Lanka, is the doorway to the Central Highlands and its tropical plantations that produce both tea and rubber. If you are driving from Colombo, you will pass by rubber plantations on a road that is considered as one of the countries’ most beautiful. The last capital of the ancient kingdoms, Kandy, is the home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the holiest Buddhist temples in the world. 10 best Attractions in Sri Lanka  A significant, colorful festival involves taking the tooth relic around the city. Movie fans may be interested to know that Kandy was a chief location in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Polonnaruwa

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The terms “beauty” and “the beast” generally go together well, except at Polonnaruwa, where the beauty better goes with “the ruins.” The 2nd oldest kingdom in Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa is famous for the ruins of this ancient garden city. The 12th-century ruins are some of the best-preserved in the country. Polonnaruwa was a place where traders of exotic good intermingled with worshippers in the many temples. Start your tour of Polonnaruwa at the Archaeological Museum, and then proceed to the massive (50 buildings) Royal Palace with its well-preserved audience hall. The stunningly decorated Sacred Quadrangle is another must-see here.

Mirissa

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beautiful Mirissa Beach

If you are looking to spend the holiday in a tropical paradise then Mirissa might be the place to your dreams: beautiful golden sand beaches, swaying coconut palms, days spent rocking away in a hammock. It could n’tjust get any better than this. This crescent-shaped part of paradise is well-known for having the most stunning sunsets and sunrises in Sri Lanka. There are no luxury resorts to ruin the landscape, so it is just going to be you, the beach, and quiet throughout the day. The pace picks up at nights. Mirissa has the largest fishing port on the South Coast and is an excellent place to watch dolphins and whales.

Yala National Park

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The Animals rule the roost, the grounds and the sky’s at the Yala National Park, a wildlife sanctuary of about 240 km (150 miles) from Colombo. Yala offers plenty of things to do. Your visit begins with a safari to see animals, including water buffalo, elephants, and leopards; these are found in higher density than any other place in this world. Note: the park closes for Sep’s leopard breeding period. The park is also a home to 215 bird species out of which seven are native to the park. Best sights, besides wild animals, are Sithulpauwwa that is an ancient rock temple which once housed 12,000 monks, and Magul Maha Viharaya for the setting of a royal marriage.

Colombo

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Colombo has been the commercial capital of Sri Lanka for more than 2,000 years when its sizeable natural harbor made it popular with ancient trades from Italy to China. It’s often referred to as the country’s capital, though the legislative capital is located in a nearby city. Ruled over by first Portuguese and then British colonists, Colombo is a famous tourist destination. One of the topfamous attractions is Galle Face Green, a strip park beside the Indian Ocean. Also don’t miss the Gangaramaya Temple, which is well-known for its blend of ethnic architectural styles.

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is an ancient holy city that was established around a cutting from the Buddha’s fig tree. Dating back to the 3rd century BC, Anuradhapura was created by the organizer of an order of Buddhist nuns. This glorious city of palaces, temples, and monuments flourished for 1,300 years but was abandoned after it was attacked in the late 10th century. Much like Peru’s Machu Picchu, the locals were aware of it but not many others until it was “discovered” by Europeans many centuries later. These fantastic ruins have since been excavated and are open for the public to visit.

Nuwara Eliya

Sri Lanka is very famous for its tea. What is a better place to learn more about the tea than from the source itself: Nuwara Eliya! With a moderate climate and elevation of 1,900 meters (6,100 feet), Nuwara Eliya is the country’s tea production center. You can visit a tea plantation and see how the tea is being made. Founded in the 19th century, this hill country town quickly became a retreat for British colonists, earning the nickname “Little England.” April is the best time to visit when people gather here to see the blossoms and celebrate Sri Lanka’s New Year. Some other places of interest include Lake Gregory and Laxapana Sri Lanka’s most famous waterfalls.

Bentota

With coconut palms swaying in the breeze, Bentota is a multi-tasking tourist town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. One of Sri Lanka’s most popular beaches, Bentota is first an Indian Ocean beach resort where water activities, such as surfing, sailing, and snorkeling, abound. When it’s time for a change of pace, you can visit a sea turtle hatchery and conservation center, which monitors five of the seven species of sea turtles in the world. You can also take in a 17th-century fortress, lavish gardens and an old Buddhist temple that dates from primitive times.

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