When you first think of Sri Lanka, what springs to mind? Pristine golden sands, the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, and swaying palm trees? Beyond its heavenly beaches, there are a wealth of other experiences waiting to be explored – and in our opinion, Sri Lanka is one of the most scenically captivating islands in the world. Whether you’re spotting elephants or elusive leopards on a safari in one of the country’s national parks, exploring the fascinating ancient cities of the Cultural Triangle, touring the lush tea plantations or tasting the spicy delights of the Sri Lankan cuisine – this country is brimming with unforgettable experiences and jaw-dropping, stunningly beautiful landscapes.

Check out our Sri Lanka multi centre holidays to see our most popular itineraries, or let us know if you’d like us to craft your own adventure to this wonderful country.


Relax on the Stunning Beaches:

Spending time on the beach is an absolute must-do in Sri Lanka, where palm-fringed beaches and turquoise waters await, with wave sizes to suit every want and need. There’s a range of luxury beach holidays in Sri Lanka, with accommodation on Sri Lanka’s coast ranging from luxurious beachfront resorts to charming boutique hotels, all set against the backdrop of the island’s stunning coastal scenery. While the southern coastline attracts more tourists, and has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, the northern coast offers a more serene and a lesser-developed experience – albeit both equally idyllic.

Mirissa is possibly one of the best-known beaches in Sri Lanka and is situated on the southern coast, boasting a beautiful crescent-shaped beach and a vibrant beachfront atmosphere. Also located on the southern coast but offering a more tranquil experience, Tangalle is famous for its pristine and secluded beaches, untouched natural beauty and calm waters – perfect for some well-deserved downtime and peaceful sunbathing. Unawatuna, on the southwest coast, and situated near the historic city of Galle and its famous Galle fort, offers coral reefs, and a vibrant underwater life, making it a popular spot for snorkellers and divers. Unawatuna also offers a great range of beachfront restaurants, cafes, and bars, where you can sample the deliciously fresh, local seafood. Another popular beach spot nearby is Bentota, with idyllic palm-fringed golden sands, lots of water sports and a lively atmosphere. Bentota is also home to the Bentota River, where you can enjoy scenic boat trips through mangrove forests and the lush landscapes. Ahungalla Bay provides a quieter alternative to the more bustling beaches nearby, offering a peaceful retreat while still being within easy reach of other beach resorts and attractions along the southern coast. If surfing is your thing, head to Arugam Bay, on the east coast with its stunning stretch of sandy beach and excellent waves. Negombo, on its western coast offers sun-kissed beaches, bustling fish markets, and an interesting colonial heritage. Along with enjoying the golden sands of Negombo’s beaches, you can explore its historic landmarks such as the Dutch Fort and the lively beachfront area that is dotted with restaurants and bars. Nilaveli beach on the north coast offers a serene escape with unspoiled beauty. It also serves as a gateway to Pigeon Island National Park, known for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life.


Visit the Ancient Cities, Caves and Temples of the Cultural Triangle:

The Cultural Triangle is a region in the central part of Sri Lanka that includes many historically significant cities, monuments, and archaeological sites, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The major sites within the Cultural Triangle include Kandy, Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya and they are all within a couple of hours’ drive from each other – so easily accessible.

The sacred city of Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa). This Buddhist temple is believed to house a relic of Lord Buddha’s tooth. A short distance from Kandy lies the ancient city of Dambulla, home to the Dambulla Cave Temple complex. This consists of five caves adorned with stunning murals and over 150 intricately carved Buddha statues. The ancient rock fortress of Sigirya is located nearby. Also known as the Lion Rock, this fortress was built in the 5th century on top of a huge rock plateau. Its most iconic feature is the Lion’s Paw Entrance – or Lion Gate – where two huge lion’s paws have been carved out of the rock, giving the impression of walking between the paws of a massive lion. If you’re up for a challenge, take the climb to the summit to get a fabulous view. Another important stop within the Cultural Triangle is the sacred city of Anuradhapura. Established by King Pandukabhaya in the fourth century, it is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and home to numerous ancient ruins, monasteries, palaces, and three huge stupas: Mirisavatiya, Ruvanweliya and Jetavanaya which are dome-shaped places of worship that perfectly align with the three stars in the constellation of Orion. The Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred fig tree, is also located here and is believed to be one of the oldest living trees in the world. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is also a must-visit within the Cultural Triangle, and its ruins include royal palaces, temples, statues, and stupas. One of the most famous attractions in Polonnaruwa is The Gal Vihara, a rock temple with four huge Buddha statues carved into the granite.


Sip Tea Amidst Sri Lanka’s Lush Tea Plantations:

Sri Lankan tea, more commonly known as ‘Ceylon tea’ (with Ceylon being the former name of Sri Lanka) is a hugely popular tea and its reputation has cemented Sri Lanka’s position as one of the world’s leading tea-producing nations.

The epicentre of Sri Lanka’s tea industry is Nuwara Eliya, often referred to as ‘Little England’. It has a cool climate, a lovely colonial charm, and, most notably, tea estates. From this picturesque town you can take a guided walk through the tea fields, visit a tea factory to witness the artistry of tea-making first-hand, and sample various blends of tea – learning about the nuances of tea grading. You can also take a high tea experience at one of the colonial-era planters’ bungalows, where you can sip tea and eat sweet treats whilst enjoying the wonderful view of the surrounding hills. Another favourite destination for visiting the tea estates is Ella, located in the Uva Province. Ella is renowned as much for its scenic beauty as its thriving tea industry and, like its counterpart Nuwara Eliya, Ella boasts picturesque tea plantations that sprawl across the lush hillsides.


Spot Elephants & Leopards on a Wildlife Safari:

Sri Lanka’s diverse ecosystems offer incredible opportunities to spot a wide array of fascinating creatures in their natural habitat on a safari in one of the country’s national parks. Located in the southeastern part of Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is one of the best places in the world to see leopards, thanks to its high density of the creatures. In addition to leopards, Yala is home to elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, and an abundance of bird species.

Wilpattu National Park is the largest national park in Sri Lanka, and offers dense forests, natural lakes (known as ‘villus’), and open grasslands where you’ll find elephants, sloth bears, spotted deer, and leopards. Other great places to see elephants are the Udawalawe National Park, Kaudulla National Park and Minneriya National Park. All are renowned for their rich biodiversity and particularly their populations of Asian elephants where you can get the chance to observe them bathing and playing in the park’s reservoirs.


Go Whitewater Rafting at Kithugala:

If you’re seeking a shot of adrenalin, whitewater rafting at Kithugala offers an exhilarating experience amidst the stunning natural beauty of Sri Lanka’s hills. Located on the Kelani River, Kithugala is considered one of the best whitewater rafting destinations in the country, where you can ride the rapids surrounded by lush tropical forests and cascading waterfalls. Experienced guides will obviously lead the way, ensuring you have a fun, safe and memorable journey down the river. After the adrenaline rush of rafting, you can unwind and relax in the peaceful surroundings of Kithugala, enjoying a dip in the river or exploring the nearby rainforest trails.


Visit the Capital of Colombo:

Situated on the western coast, Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka and is home to a range of cultural landmarks, including ancient temples, colonial-era buildings, and bustling markets. The historic sites include the Gangaramaya Temple, Independence Memorial Hall, and Old Dutch Hospital. The city is also a shopper’s paradise, with a wide range of shopping options ranging from high-end boutiques to vibrant street markets, such as Pettah Market where you are guaranteed to get lost in the numerous narrow alleys lined with stalls selling everything from vibrant spices to exotic fruits. Colombo boasts a thriving food scene, and an equally vibrant nightlife with plenty of bars, clubs, and live music venues.

While the beaches here may not be as pristine or ideal for swimming as those in other parts of the island, they still offer a pleasant setting for relaxation and leisurely strolls. Galle Face Green is a grassy, urban ocean-side park that runs alongside the coast and is a popular spot for locals and tourists to enjoy the sunset views over the ocean. Next to Galle Face Green is the city’s ever-developing port, which is on course to become one of the largest in Asia. Here, you can take a stroll and see modern skyscrapers alongside 200-year-old warehouses and busy shipping-container loading bays.


Take a Scenic Train Ride:

A great way to see the diverse landscapes is to take the iconic train journey from Kandy to Ella, often considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. On this fascinating trip of approximately 87 miles, you’ll wind your way through mountains, lush jungles, waterfalls, picturesque villages, iconic bridges such as the Nine Arches bridge, and tea estates as the train snakes its way along the tracks.

On certain services you’ll also get the chance to stop for a couple of minutes at specific photo locations such as Horsetail Waterfall and Adam’s Peak.


Experience Sri Lankan Cuisine:

When it comes to food, Sri Lankan cuisine packs all the punches. It is full of flavour, spices and textures, and dishes are often centred around rice served alongside an array of curries, sambols, and side dishes. Curries are typically made with a base of coconut milk and a blend of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Curries are also often served with sambols, which are spicy condiments made with coconut, chili, and lime. Street food is a highlight of Sri Lankan cuisine, where you’ll find dishes such as samosas, roti, and kottu roti (a stir-fried dish with chopped roti, vegetables, and meat) and the markets are usually one of the best places to sample a wide variety of the best and most authentic Sri Lankan dishes. Of course, a lot of the cities and beach resorts offer a range of both local and international food, with seafood being a popular offering too, given that the waters surrounding the island offer a diverse array of fish, prawns, crabs, and other seafood. Restaurants range from upscale restaurants to casual beachside shacks serving freshly caught seafood straight from the grill with coastal towns such as Negombo and Mirissa particularly renowned for their fabulously fresh seafood, with fish markets where you can witness fishermen hauling in their daily catch.


Whether you’re looking for idyllic beaches, cultural immersion, or wildlife adventures, Sri Lanka has so much to offer. Our Sri Lanka Multi Centre Holidays page has lots of inspirational itineraries. If however you’d like our travel experts to create a unique travel itinerary just for you, so you can explore all the things in Sri Lanka that you’d like to visit, please get in touch. We’d love to help!

Kadie Ryan Personal Travel Consultant

Kadie started as an apprentice here at eShores in August 2007 and is now one of the most experienced members of the team. She has grown with the business and pretty much knows everything there is to know about eShores and the travel industry. She loves to travel to places of culture, to chat and to know all the latest gossip.