Are you planning a trip to Sri Lanka? There are so many incredible places to explore and fun activities to enjoy. From pristine beaches to ancient temples and breathtaking wildlife, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful country. To help you make the most of your time in Sri Lanka, we’ve compiled a list of the top 30 best tourist attractions in the country. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday, an adrenaline-filled adventure, or some cultural exploration, this list has it all. Read on to learn more about the best tourist attractions in Sri Lanka!
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1. Polonnaruwa – What To Do in Sri Lanka
This is an ancient city in the north-central province of Sri Lanka, located approximately 205 km from the capital city of Colombo. It served as the second major capital of the country from the 11th century to the end of the 13th century AD. The city is home to numerous historical and archaeological sites, including the grand Polonnaruwa Vatadage, the Rankot Vihara, the Gal Vihara, and several more temples, palaces, and monuments.
Polonnaruwa was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982 for its unique and well-preserved ancient ruins and remarkable architecture. The city has been meticulously restored and maintained, giving visitors an authentic experience of how life in the royal capital must have been centuries ago.
The impressive Polonnaruwa Vatadage is a circular relic house surrounded by four large stone pillars and three concentric walls. Inside are several sacred Buddhist relics, including a moonstone and a stone inscription dating back to 1284 AD. Other attractions include the Rankot Vihara, the Gal Vihara, the Atadage (a relic house built for King Parakramabahu I), and the Shiva Devale No. 1 temple.
Polonnaruwa is also known for its lush landscape, with lush forests and verdant paddy fields surrounding the city’s many monuments. Visitors can explore these scenic spots on foot or take a leisurely boat ride around the lakes. Other activities such as bird watching and trekking are popular among visitors.
Overall, Polonnaruwa is a must-visit destination for any traveler to Sri Lanka, with its history and stunning landscapes providing a memorable experience.
2. Udawalawe National Park Safari
If you’re looking for an up-close-and-personal experience with some of Sri Lanka’s most iconic wildlife, then you should plan a visit to the Udawalawe National Park. Located on the borders of the Uva and Sabaragamuwa Provinces, this park is well known for its large herds of Asian elephants.
In addition to its abundance of elephants, the park is home to a variety of other animals, including sambar deer, wild boar, spotted deer, leopards, and water buffalo. The park also serves as a haven for more than 200 species of birds, making it a great destination for bird watching.
The best way to explore the Udawalawe National Park is on an organized safari tour. Most safaris will take you through the park in an open-air jeep, allowing you to get close to the animals and take amazing photos. Alternatively, you can also choose to go on a walking safari, which will give you an even more intimate experience with nature.
No matter how you decide to explore the park, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re an experienced wildlife enthusiast or just looking for a unique adventure, a visit to Udawalawe National Park is something you won’t soon forget.
3. Nuwara Eliya
Nestled in the lush hills of central Sri Lanka lies Nuwara Eliya, a town full of charm and beauty. This quaint city is often referred to as “Little England” due to its colonial architecture and influence from the British. It is a popular destination for tourists thanks to its stunning scenery, cool climate, and abundance of activities.
One of the main attractions in Nuwara Eliya is Gregory Lake, a large lake surrounded by hills. Here visitors can take a leisurely boat ride or relax by the shore and admire the views. Those seeking an adrenaline rush can opt for jet skiing or other water sports.
The Hakgala Botanical Garden is another great place to visit while in Nuwara Eliya. It is home to a wide range of flora and fauna and is a great spot for nature lovers.
The annual horse racing event held at the Nuwara Eliya Racecourse is also a popular attraction. It is held every April and attracts thousands of spectators from all over the world.
Other popular activities in Nuwara Eliya include tea tasting at local plantations, shopping at local markets, and exploring the surrounding countryside. The nearby Horton Plains National Park is also worth a visit, offering stunning views and plenty of wildlife.
No matter what you’re looking for, Nuwara Eliya has something for everyone. With its breathtaking scenery, diverse activities, and rich history, it’s easy to see why this charming city has become such a popular tourist destination.
Situated in the beautiful Sri Lankan hill country, Ella is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking to explore the great outdoors. From hiking to trekking, Ella has plenty of activities to offer.
One of the most popular activities in Ella is the Little Adam’s Peak hike. This hike is relatively easy with stunning views from the top. You’ll be able to see the rolling hills, lush green forests, and the tea plantations that make Ella so famous.
For a more challenging hike, you can take on the Ella Rock. This is a 6-hour climb and will require stamina and determination. The reward at the end is breathtaking views over the valley and beyond.
Ella is also home to several waterfalls, including Ravana Falls, Diyaluma Falls, and Rawana Falls. All of these waterfalls offer an amazing sight to behold and a refreshing dip in their waters.
In addition to the hikes and waterfalls, Ella is a great place to explore the local culture. Take some time to visit the local markets or spend some time with the locals.
Overall, Ella is an excellent destination for anyone looking for an adventure-filled trip. From breathtaking hikes to peaceful waterfall trips, Ella is sure to have something for everyone.
6. Viharamahadevi Park
Located in the heart of Colombo, Viharamahadevi Park is a large public park with plenty of trees and greenery. The park was established in 1885 and is one of the oldest parks in Sri Lanka. It’s also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. The main attraction of the park is the huge bo tree which is said to be over 250 years old. There are also two man-made lakes, two swimming pools, playgrounds for kids, and a butterfly garden. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the park or take part in activities such as jogging, cycling, and horse riding. There are also several food stalls where you can grab some local snacks and drinks. Viharamahadevi Park is a great spot to spend an afternoon or evening exploring Colombo.
7. Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya
Located in the Colombo district of Sri Lanka, the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is one of the most revered and significant Buddhist temples in the country. The temple is believed to have been visited by the Buddha himself over 2,000 years ago. Today, it is a beautiful and tranquil place of worship, where visitors can explore its many sacred shrines, gardens, and other attractions.
The temple is home to an incredible array of artwork and sculptures from the ancient period of Sri Lanka’s history. Inside the main shrine is an enormous 18-meter-high Buddha statue dating back to the 13th century. It is also believed to be the spot where the Buddha preached his sermon on the Eightfold Path.
The temple grounds are also home to several other shrines and statues, including an 11-meter reclining Buddha and several other Bodhisattvas, as well as images of gods, kings, and saints. There are several ponds and gardens, filled with beautiful plants and trees.
In addition to its spiritual importance, Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is also a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. Visitors can explore the temple grounds, take in the breathtaking views, or simply relax and take in the peaceful atmosphere. With its unique and beautiful architecture, it’s no wonder that Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is one of Sri Lanka’s top tourist attractions.
8. Sigiriya, Unesco World Heritage Site
This is an ancient fortress with a massive rock column high. This impressive site dates back to the reign of King Kasyapa, who chose this site as his new capital. He decorated the walls with frescoes and built an impressive Palace just above the rock column, accessible only through the mouth of an enormous carved lion. This place has a special vibe and is worth a visit.
With so much to see and do in Sigiriya, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
9. Independence Square – What To Do in Sri Lanka
This square is one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic attractions, located in the capital city of Colombo. It was constructed to commemorate the country’s independence from the British in 1948, and today it stands as a symbol of national pride. Visitors will find a variety of monuments, parks, and statues here, including the National War Memorial, the Victory Monument, and the Independence Arch. There are also several galleries featuring art and sculptures from around the country. On the grounds, visitors can take a stroll around the square and enjoy the greenery, or take part in activities such as kite flying, picnicking, and playing chess. Independence Square is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike and provides a great opportunity to learn more about Sri Lanka’s history and culture.
10. Thuparamaya Dagaba
One of the most iconic and important attractions in Sri Lanka is the Thuparamaya Dagaba. This ancient, or Buddhist temple, is believed to have been built by King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC. It is said to have been built on top of the ashes of Arahant Mahinda who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. The temple is an important site of pilgrimage for Buddhists, who come to pay homage to the Lord Buddha.
The temple is located in the city of Anuradhapura and is one of the oldest surviving temples in Sri Lanka. It stands 100 feet tall and has a circumference of 441 feet. The most impressive feature of this temple is its white stupa, which is decorated with paintings depicting the life of Buddha. The walls of the database are intricately decorated with Buddhist murals and carvings. There are also numerous shrines and statues around the temple, including a 12-foot Buddha statue and a reclining Buddha figure.
Visitors to the Thuparamaya Dagaba can explore the ancient temple complex, take in its beautiful architecture, and marvel at its rich history. While there, be sure to visit the museum within the temple premises, which contains artifacts from different periods in history. It’s definitely worth the visit!
11. Nine Arches Bridge – What To Do in Sri Lanka
The Nine Arches Bridge, also known as the Bridge in the Sky, is a magnificent railway bridge in Demodara, Sri Lanka. This bridge is one of the most iconic symbols of the country and a popular tourist destination. It is over 100 years old and is believed to have been constructed by a local engineering genius in the early 1900s.
The bridge stands above a small river, providing an impressive view of the surrounding landscape. It has nine arches, each about 25 meters wide, and its peak stands at 25 meters above the river below. The Nine Arches Bridge is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. It’s perfect for a romantic evening walk or a relaxing morning stroll. Whether you’re looking for a beautiful spot to take photos or simply admire the stunning views, the Nine Arches Bridge is sure to make your visit to Sri Lanka a memorable one!
12. Koneswaram Temple
Koneswaram Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built in the 5th century, it is one of the most ancient and famous temples in the country. The temple houses a 20-foot-tall statue of Lord Shiva in its main sanctum, along with several smaller shrines dedicated to other gods. The temple is surrounded by a large lake, making it an even more impressive sight. Visitors to the temple can explore the temple grounds and participate in various rituals and festivals held here throughout the year.
A must-see attraction, the Koneswaram Temple is a place of peace and spiritual contemplation.
13. Nallur Kandaswamy Temple – What To Do in Sri Lanka
Located in the northern city of Jaffna, Nallur Kandaswamy Temple is one of Sri Lanka’s most important Hindu temples. Built by King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe in 1734, it is dedicated to the deity Lord Murugan, who is the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. The temple is a stunning example of traditional South Indian temple architecture, featuring intricately carved pillars, brightly colored stonework, and beautiful statues.
The annual chariot festival, called Theppam, is held each year in July/August and attracts thousands of visitors. On the final day of the festival, the three-story chariot is taken around the city and ends at the temple where it is set alight with traditional firecrackers. This exciting event is the highlight of the festival and creates a unique atmosphere of celebration and devotion.
Visitors to the temple can admire its striking facade and admire its vibrant sculptures and statues. The temple also has many shrines and altars that are used for daily worship rituals and other festivities. The nearby Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil Museum houses a collection of artifacts related to the history of the temple and offers insight into the cultural significance of this sacred site.
Located on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, Hikkaduwa is a popular destination for beach lovers. The town is well-known for its white sand beaches and vibrant nightlife. During the day, visitors can take part in various water activities such as snorkeling, diving, and surfing. You can also take a boat ride to explore the nearby coral reef, home to a large variety of marine life. If you’re looking for something more laid-back, the town offers plenty of cafes and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine. Or, you can simply spend your days relaxing on the beach and soaking up the sun. No matter what you choose to do in Hikkaduwa, it’s sure to be a great time.
15. Lipton’s Seat
Located in the heart of the Sri Lankan hill country, Lipton’s Seat is a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the magnificent surrounding landscape. It is named after Sir Thomas Lipton, the founder of Lipton Tea Company, who is said to have taken refuge in the area while fleeing from the British.
From the top of this scenic vantage point, you can marvel at the lush hills, cascading waterfalls, and tea plantations that characterize this area. Not to mention the array of local wildlife, such as elephants, deer, and monkeys.
The journey to Lipton’s Seat is part of the attraction. You can take a hike along the nature trails and explore the surrounding villages. The views from the viewpoint are worth every step you take and make for some stunning photographs.
Once you get to the top, you will be able to enjoy a traditional tea ceremony with a local farmer, during which you can sample some of the finest teas Sri Lanka has to offer.
So, if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience in Sri Lanka, be sure to add Lipton’s Seat to your itinerary. It’s one of the best places to witness some of the country’s most breathtaking natural beauty!
16. Coconut Tree Hill – What To Do in Sri Lanka
This hill is one of the most breathtaking sights in Sri Lanka. Located in the Central Province, near Kandy, it is a popular spot for visitors who want to take in some of the country’s stunning scenery. The hill itself is known for its panoramic views of rolling hills and vast tea plantations that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
At the top of the hill, there is an ancient rock temple called Lankathilaka, which is worth visiting if you’re interested in exploring some of the country’s rich culture and history. The temple also provides an impressive view of Kandy city from its elevated position, so make sure you don’t forget your camera!
The summit of Coconut Tree Hill is also home to a few monkeys, who will be sure to greet you as soon as you reach the top. Don’t worry, though; these animals are harmless and friendly.
So, if you’re looking for a unique sightseeing experience in Sri Lanka, be sure to check out Coconut Tree Hill. You won’t be disappointed!
17. Seetha Amman Kovil
Located in the ancient city of Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, Seetha Amman Kovil is one of the oldest Hindu temples in the country. Built in the 11th century, this temple is dedicated to goddess Sita, who is known to have been born here during her exile from the kingdom of Ayodhya in India. The temple has a unique architectural style with its four gopuras and colorful domes. Visitors can explore the rich cultural heritage and get an insight into the history of Hinduism in Sri Lanka. Inside the temple, you will find a stone image of Lord Rama and Sita, as well as beautiful paintings of gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology. It’s a great place to take photos and experience traditional rituals such as offering prayers, participating in pujas, and attending cultural events.
18. Polonnaruwa Gal Viharaya
Located in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, the Gal Viharaya is a group of four large rock-cut sculptures carved into the side of granite rock. The site dates back to the 12th century and is considered one of the most important religious sites in Sri Lanka.
The four main statues are all representations of the Buddha. The largest of the four is known as Gal Potha and depicts the Buddha seated in a meditative posture. The statue is 7 meters high and is made up of two large granite rocks that have been joined together. On either side of this larger statue are two smaller statues of the standing Buddha and one reclining Buddha.
The Gal Viharaya provides an excellent opportunity to explore and appreciate ancient Buddhist art. The statues are well preserved and offer a unique insight into the culture and religion of Sri Lanka’s past. Visiting the site is a must for any traveler who wants to gain an understanding of the country’s rich history.
19. Udawatta Kele Sanctuary – What To Do in Sri Lanka
Located close to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, Udawatta Kele Sanctuary is a popular attraction among nature lovers and bird watchers. The sanctuary is home to over 150 species of birds and more than 20 species of butterflies. It also offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Several walking trails meander through the lush forest, providing visitors with an opportunity to observe the abundant wildlife up close. You can also explore the ancient ruins scattered throughout the park, such as temples and stupas. Visitors can also take part in boat rides on the nearby lake, which offer beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
20. Bambarakanda Falls
Located in the Kalupahana region of Sri Lanka, the Bambarakanda Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the country. Standing at 263 meters, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Surrounded by a lush green forest and crystal clear pools of water, it’s an ideal place for trekking and exploration. Visitors can also visit some of the nearby attractions such as the Kalupahana Cave Temple, the Diyaluma Falls, and the Sella Kande Falls. The trek to Bambarakanda Falls is quite a challenge as it involves a steep climb up to the falls, but once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding areas. With its majestic height, this is one of Sri Lanka’s must-visit attractions!
21. Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya – What To Do in Sri Lanka
The Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya is a stunning and ancient Buddhist temple located in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The temple dates back to the 3rd century BC and is believed to have been built by King Devanampiyatissa. This sacred site features several stupas, carvings, and inscriptions that are some of the most treasured archaeological artifacts in Sri Lanka. One of the most impressive structures on the temple grounds is the Isurumuniya Lovers carving, a stone sculpture depicting a prince and princess in an intimate embrace. In addition to the beautiful sculptures and carvings, visitors can also take a stroll through the courtyard and explore the other ruins of the ancient temple complex. Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience some of Sri Lanka’s most incredible heritage.
22. Kande Viharaya Temple
Located in the historical city of Anuradhapura, the Kande Viharaya Temple is one of the most important religious sites in Sri Lanka. Built during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC, this temple is said to be one of the earliest Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. The Kande Viharaya Temple is unique in that it is the only temple in Sri Lanka where the Stupa and the Vihara (monastery) are built together on a single platform. The main attraction of this temple is the statue of Lord Buddha carved out of granite and surrounded by numerous statues of his disciples. This site also contains many other sculptures and artwork from different eras. The Kande Viharaya Temple is a must-see for all visitors to Anuradhapura and anyone interested in the history and culture of Sri Lanka.
23. World Buddhist Museum
Located in Colombo, the World Buddhist Museum is a must-visit for anyone looking to learn more about Buddhism and its cultural impact on Sri Lanka. This museum houses numerous artifacts, manuscripts, and artworks related to Buddhism, showcasing its influence throughout the region. The museum also has several galleries that feature interactive exhibits which are designed to educate visitors about the various aspects of Buddhism. Additionally, the World Buddhist Museum also hosts regular events and lectures related to the topic, making it an ideal place to gain an understanding of this ancient religion.
24. Hiriketiya Beach – What To Do in Sri Lanka
This beach is located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka and is a must-visit for anyone looking for a beach getaway. With its stunning white sand beach, crystal clear waters, and abundance of activities, it’s easy to see why this beach has become so popular. Surfing is the main activity here and Hiriketiya offers some of the best conditions in Sri Lanka. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you can find something suitable here. But surfing isn’t the only activity here. The area also offers incredible snorkeling opportunities, with vibrant coral reefs, sea turtles, and other marine life. It’s also the perfect place to relax, grab a bite to eat or enjoy stunning sunsets. No matter what you choose to do here, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience at Hiriketiya Beach.
25. Avukana Buddha Statue
Avukana Buddha Statue is one of the most important archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. Located in the North Central Province, the statue stands on a rock facing the Kala Wewa reservoir. The statue depicts the standing position of Lord Buddha, with his right hand raised and the left hand bent to touch the earth. It is believed to have been built during the 5th century by King Dhatusena.
This 39 feet tall granite statue of Lord Buddha is considered to be one of the finest examples of ancient Sri Lankan art and architecture. With its intricate carvings, it showcases the skills and craftsmanship of the artisans of that era. Avukana Buddha Statue is an important site for Buddhists, as it shows the importance of Lord Buddha and his teachings.
26. Gangarama Seema Malaka
Located near the Gal Viharaya in Polonnaruwa, Gangarama Seema Malaka is a unique temple of its kind. It is believed to have been built by King Parakramabahu in the 12th century and is known as the ‘Temple of the Jewel Sea’. The temple consists of a large pond surrounded by a circular structure built with black granite stones. The inner courtyard has many ancient statues depicting various figures from Hindu mythology. The most impressive feature of the temple is its intricately carved rock formations on its walls.
Visitors can also enjoy an array of colorful flowers around the temple, making it a perfect spot to relax and soak in the natural beauty of this place.
27. Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque – What To Do in Sri Lanka
The Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, also known as the Red Mosque, is one of the oldest and most famous mosques in Colombo. The red and white striped façade of this historic site makes it easy to spot from a distance. The mosque was built in 1909 by two Muslim business partners and has become a popular tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. Visitors can admire the intricate architecture and colorful paintings on the walls. A mosque is a place of worship and a great spot to observe the local culture and traditions. On Fridays, the mosque is particularly bustling with activity as worshippers gather for prayer. Be sure to dress respectfully if you visit during prayer times.
28. Abhayagiri Vihara
Abhayagiri Vihara is an ancient Buddhist monastic complex located in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. The name Abhayagiri translates to “fearless mountain” and the monastery was once one of the most sacred sites in the country.
The ruins of this historical site consist of three parts – the entrance complex, the middle complex, and the monastery complex. Visitors can see remnants of the monastery such as stupas, prayer halls, and monastic dwellings. Many of the stupas are decorated with intricate carvings. One of the most impressive sights is the 23-meter-high Abhayagiri Dagaba stupa, built around 100 BC.
The ancient site is also home to a few modern monasteries, where visitors can observe the daily life and rituals of local Buddhist monks. Abhayagiri Vihara is a must-see for anyone interested in learning about Sri Lankan history and culture.
29. Japanese Peace Pagoda, Rumassala – What To Do in Sri Lanka
Located near Unawatuna, the Japanese Peace Pagoda is an iconic Buddhist monument. Sitting atop a hill, this beautiful temple offers stunning views of the lush green surroundings and nearby beaches. Inside, you’ll find a spectacular gold statue of the Buddha surrounded by four other statues representing the four cardinal directions. A popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists, the pagoda is a great place to explore and learn about Buddhism. In addition to its spiritual significance, the pagoda also serves as a reminder of the strong relationship between Japan and Sri Lanka. Visitors to the temple will also be able to appreciate its beautiful architecture, including intricate carvings and stupas. The Japanese Peace Pagoda is a must-visit spot while in Sri Lanka.
30. Embekka Devalaya
This is an ancient temple complex located in the heart of the historic hill country in Sri Lanka. This temple dates back to the 13th century and is made up of three shrines dedicated to the three gods of Hinduism: Shiva, Vishnu, and Murugan. The complex also includes a large assembly hall with intricately carved stone pillars and beautiful wooden carvings of Hindu gods. Embekka Devalaya is one of the most important temples in Sri Lanka, and it is a must-visit site for those looking to explore the country’s rich culture and history. Here, you can find a peaceful atmosphere and plenty of beautiful sculptures and carvings that tell a story of a different era.
There are also numerous festivals held here throughout the year, making this an ideal place to experience Sri Lankan culture in its entirety.
Sri Lanka is an incredibly beautiful country, with many amazing places to explore and discover. From Polonnaruwa to Embekka Dewalaya, there is no shortage of sights to enjoy in this tropical paradise. Whether it’s the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage or the Ella rock formations, there are plenty of tourist attractions to see and experience in Sri Lanka. If you’re planning your next vacation, be sure to check out these 30 top-rated tourist attractions and make the most out of your stay in Sri Lanka.
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