Ancient Buddhist ruins, huge stretches of highland tea plantations and a richness of wildlife that makes most other South Asian country’s claims of biodiversity pale in comparison: Sri Lanka is a truly fascinating country to visit. So here are our top Sri Lanka highlights for adventurous travelers.
Spot majestic wild elephants in UdaWalawe National Park
With around 500 wild elephants thought to live in the park, UdaWalawe is where you should head first if you’re hoping to catch sight of these gentle giants. It’s considered one of the best places in Asia for seeing elephants, so it should come as no surprise that this tops our list of Sri Lanka highlights!
Scuba dive through gleaming coral reef on Sri Lanka’s south coast
Sri Lanka has become a globally renowned destination for scuba diving and various parts of the coast are lauded for their access to coral reef. Kirinda Beach in the southeast of the island is one of the best places for diving and snorkeling as you can explore the Great Basses wreck and the Great and Little Basses coral reefs.
However, with only 50 days per year when waters are calm enough for divers, it’s essential you plan a trip here between March and mid-April. Those lucky enough to time it right will likely encounter porpoises, gray sharks and giant Maori wrasses among other incredible marine wildlife.
Venture to the ruins of Anuradhapura in the Cultural Triangle
The now ruined city – but once grand capital of the country – Anuradhapura sits at the heart of an area in the north of the island now commonly referred to as the Cultural Triangle. Comprising imposing temples and Buddist monasteries, all bearing bear testament to the city’s role as an important spiritual hub, there’s plenty to soak up here.
Plan to spend a good few days exploring this UNESCO World Heritage city and make sure you bring a camera.
Go leopard spotting in Yala National Park
Some argue it’s the best place for observing mammals in the whole of the Asian continent; either way, Yala is Sri Lanka’s most popular national park thanks to its huge array of animals, most notably its population of Sri Lankan leopards.
Boasting one of the highest densities of this big cat in the world, Yala doesn’t guarantee sightings but a visit to this Sri Lanka highlight definitely offers one of the best opportunities for seeing this leopard in the wild.
Unmissable Sri Lanka highlights: the country’s eight UNESCO World Heritage sites
We may have already mentioned one of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, but with eight found on the island alone, a whole trip could be dedicated to visiting just them.
One of the most unique is the Dambulla Cave Temple or Golden Temple of Dambulla. Made up of over 80 caves, this complex contains statues and paintings that constitute a huge proportion of the country’s most important religious art, many of which are thought to have been created over 2000 years ago.