17 Unique and Beautiful Places to Visit in Sri Lanka
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There are a ton of amazing places to visit in Sri Lanka, and in this blog, we arrow it down to the 17 BEST so you can plan your holiday in Sri Lanka accordingly!
Sri Lanka is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Well, although this tiny island nation is only 9,833,517 sq km it has a huge range of diverse landscapes to offer. I’m talking mountains and cliffs, hills filled with tea plantations, waterfalls, insane beaches and sunsets, and of course, temples.
All of this diversity and the seemingly endless list of things to see, makes planning your trip and finding the best places to visit in Sri Lanka a challenge.
After driving around Sri Lanka for a month in a tuk-tuk, we have carefully narrowed it down to the 17 most beautiful and interesting places to visit in Sri Lanka. Some of these places are well-known tourist destinations, while some are off-the-beaten-path. But the truth is, they are all amazing and destinations you simply must see with your own eyes.
So, without further ado, here are the 17 best places to visit in Sri Lanka!
17 BEST Places to Visit in Sri Lanka
1. Maduru Oya National Park
|Location:||Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, about a |
3.5-hour drive from Kandy or
Trincomalee in the opposite direction.
|Cost:||Driving through the park on the B502 |
highway is FREE! Park entry fees apply
for joining tours and are about $15 USD
|Best time to visit:||In the evening before sunset is when you |
are most likely to see many elephants!
Elephants, massive rocks, jungles, rivers, and insane sunsets are what you can expect to see in Madura Oya National Park.
Most people visit Yala National Park for an elephant safari while in Sri Lanka, however if you want to go somewhere that is less touristic, then heading to Maduru Oya is a must!
Here, you don’t even have to go on a tour or safari to see elephants, all you need to do in simply drive through the national park on the public highway (B502).
If you go at dusk, you are guaranteed to see some elephants and the setting is beautiful!
Honestly, when it comes to off-the-beaten-path national parks in Sri Lanka, Madura Oya is the place to go. The scenery mixed with all of the elephants easily makes it one of the most exciting places to visit in Sri Lanka!
To me, this is one off-the-beaten-path destination in Sri Lanka not to miss!
*Hot tip: If you want to visit Maduru Oya National Park at sunset, it is best to find a place to stay nearby. We stayed at a beautiful guest house only minutes away from the B502 called Blue Lake Ridge, and we highly recommend it! It was super affordable and located right in nature with the kindest hosts.
2. Dambulla Cave Temples
|Location:||In the city of Dambulla. 148 km from |
Colombo, or 72 km from Kandy.
|Cost:||1,500 Rupees per person entrance fee|
|Best time to visit:||First thing in the morning or in the |
evening at sunset (it is cooler and
If you are only going to check out only one temple while in Sri Lanka, then you should make it the Dambulla Cave Temples (also known as the Dambulla Rock Temple). Not only do these temples have religious and historical significance, but they are simply beautiful and unique.
The Dambulla Cave Temples date back thousands of years and showcase a series of 5 temples carved into the side of a cliff face (making them temples inside of manmade caves.) Inside the temples, you will see hundreds of different Buddha statues as well as paintings on all of the walls. The detail is incredible and it is simply gorgeous.
But it isn’t just the inside of the temples that are beautiful.
The Dambulla Cave Temples are located 160m above the town of Dambulla. From up here, the views are gorgeous of the surrounding mountains.
Also, expect to see tons of monkeys!
You can visit on your own and explore the temples independently. All you need to do is book accommodation in Dambulla or Sigiriya and then take a taxi or tuk-tuk to the temples. Or, if you want, you can visit the temples on a full-day cave and village tour for only $65 including transport!
3. Little Adam’s Peak
|Location:||In the town of Ella (Sri Lanka’s cultural center)|
|Best time to visit:||On a clear day. The mornings are usually less |
cloudy than the afternoons in Sri Lanka.
For those who aren’t ambitious enough to tackle the real Adam’s Peak, Little Adams Peak in Ella is the perfect alternative.
The top of Little Adam’s Peak can be reached in as little as an hour walking from Ella town center. From here, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the mountains rolling hills, Ravana Falls, the town of Ella, and of course, Ella Rock.
I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the views were, especially considering how easy the hike was! The easy climb and rewarding views make Little Adams Peak one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
If you want a short hike with rewarding views then Little Adams Peak is perfect. It is free and easy to access. Just don’t forget your camera as you will definitely want to take some photos!
Don’t forget to book your accommodation in Ella to avoid missing out on the best places to stay!
4. Liptons Seat
|Location:||7km from the town of Dambatenne. About a 45-minute drive from Haputale.|
|Cost:||100 Rupees per person|
|Best time to visit:||For sunrise of course!|
One of the most beautiful places I visited in Sri Lanka was Liptons Seat. We got up very early to be able to be at the viewpoint in time for sunrise, and it was stunning!
Liptons Seat is a viewpoint up above all of the tea fields not too far from Haputale. Back in the day, Thomas Lipton was once in Sri Lanka and owned these tea fields. Although the company Lipton no longer owns the tea fields or factory here (although they are a buyer) the viewpoint remains named after the infamous Thomas Lipton.
My best advice is to get up early and get a tuk-tuk up to the viewpoint for sunrise. The area opens at 6 am so arriving right at 6 is a great idea. From Ella, Liptons Seat is about an hour’s drive and from Haputale it takes 45 minutes.
After the sunrise, we drove through all of the tea fields on the way to the Dambatenne Tea Factory. You can drive this route or choose to walk as it is only 7 km long and all downhill making it a very nice walk.
*Tour recommendation: This particular tour will drive you to Liptons Seat for sunrise and then includes a picnic breakfast with incredible views all for as little as $25!
5. Pidurangala Rock
|Location:||In the town of Sigiriya (right beside Sigiriya |
|Cost:||500 Rupees per person entrance fee|
|Best time to visit:||Sunset – when it is cooler and you get an |
Pidurangala Rock sits perpendicular to Sigiriya Rock Fortress. It is only 1 meter lower than Sirgirya Rock so it offers the same panoramic views.
However, I actually think that Pidurangala Rock has BETTER views than Sigiriya rock simply because from Pigurangala, you get views of Sigiriya Rock in the distance.
Sigiriya Rock is very strange looking as it protrudes from the ground seemingly out of nowhere. This sight is strange but also beautiful and well worth checking out. In my opinion, it is one of the most interesting places to visit in Sri Lanka.
6. Fort Frederick
|Location:||Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s east coast|
|Best time to visit:||Anytime really. The east coast has the |
best weather typically from February to August.
Fort Frederick is a fort in Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s east coast. The Fort is built on the edge of a peninsula and offers views of Trincomalee and Uppuveli Beach. The water is bright blue and the huge beach bay is beautiful.
When you visit the fort you can check out a couple of different viewpoints including one from Gokanna Raja Maha Viharaya. Here, you climb a few stairs up to a large Buddha statue and can peer over the fort’s wall at the views.
Another option within the fort is to visit Koneshwaram Temple. The temple is a beautiful place to visit in itself, but on the walk there you will pass many little restaurants. These restaurants all have balconies out the back that offer incredible views. I recommend visiting one of these restaurants and getting fresh fruit juice while taking in the views!
Consider booking a day tour around Trincomalee that only costs $55 and goes to Fort Frederick as well as many other points of interest!
7. Nilaveli Beach
|Location:||Nilaveli town, only 15-minutes from |
Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s east coast.
|Best time to visit:||For the warmest and driest weather visit |
from February to August.
Only a 15-minute drive from Trincomalee is the lesser-known destination called Nilaveli. Nilaveli Beach is a pristine white sandy beach. Here you can swim, relax in the sand, or even go snorkeling. It is a stunning area any beach lover will be impressed with.
One of the things that makes Nilaveli Beach so beautiful is that it is not very developed or busy yet. There are very few beachfront restaurants meaning the beach isn’t cluttered with chairs and tables like many of the more popular beaches in Sri Lanka.
You can visit Nilaveli on a day trip from Trincomalee or chose to spend the night. There are plenty of amazing guesthouses is Nilaveli to choose from so you can spend as long as you’d like in this tiny beach paradise!
8. Secret Beach
|Location:||In Mirissa, only a 5-minute drive from |
|Best time to visit:||The weather is generally best from |
December to March, but this is also
the busy season.
Another beach that I think is one of the most gorgeous in Sri Lanka is “Secret Beach.” Secret Beach was once a beach very few knew about, but as soon as tourists discovered how gorgeous this little beach bay was, the word got out. It has since become one of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka!
Secret Beach is located in Mirissa and can be reached by walking or with a tuk-tuk.
Once you arrive at Secret Beach you will see the beautiful ocean and a small calm bay. The little beach is sheltered by rocks making the water calm. It is shallow and calm enough to just lay in and relax.
The town of Mirissa (where Secret Beach is located) is a wonderful place to spend a few days! I recommend booking a hotel or guest house and staying a while!
If you’re a budget traveler, then the Green Garden Guesthouse is a great choice with the nicest host and central location (this is where we stayed!) For those who like a bit of luxury, Number One is sure to impress with their incredible views and pool!
9. Knuckles Mountain Range
|Location:||In central Sri Lanka, most easily reached |
from the city of Kandy.
|Cost:||FREE in most areas, some hikes are |
630 Rupees per person though.
|Best time to visit:||Anytime! A clear day will allow you to |
enjoy the views.
The Knuckles Mountain Range is a very scenic mountainous area in central Sri Lanka. The range can be reached in only an hour or so drive from Kandy. Once here, you can choose to go on a scenic drive and take in the views or tackle one of the many hikes in the area.
We drove into the Knuckles and then went on a short hike called “Mini World’s End.” Exploring the Knuckles means you will see lots of lush forests as well as enjoy views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.
For those who really want to tackle some longer hikes in the Knuckles, consider doing the Nitro Caves hike or the Duwili Ella trail.
You can easily explore the Knuckles on your own if you have your own transport. Otherwise, there are plenty of day tours from Kandy including this one particular full-day tour that includes lunch!
10. Bambarakanda Falls
|Location:||In Horton Plains National Park, most easily |
reached from Haputale.
|Cost:||150 Rupees per person entrance fee|
|Best time to visit:||During the wet season there is the |
most water. The waterfall can dry up during the dry season.
Bambarakana Falls is Sri Lanka’s tallest waterfall and definitely a place to check out if you want to see one massive (and breathtaking) waterfall. It is located within the Horton Plains National Park but on the southern side meaning it is best accessed from Haputale (rather than Nuwara Eliya like most of the other parts of the national park.)
After driving through a very bumpy road in the forest, you will then have to walk for about 15 minutes to reach the falls. There is a viewing platform where you will be able to see just how large this 263m tall waterfall is!
This area of the national park is free to visit (yay!) but there is a small fee of 150 rupees to visit the waterfall. To me, this is the best waterfall to visit in Sri Lanka.
11. Nine Arches Bridge
|Location:||In the town of Ella|
|Best time to visit:||First thing in the morning around 6am|
Nine Arches Bridge is one of the most photographed places in Sri Lanka – but that’s because it is just so beautiful! The bridge towers above a gorge full of tea fields and makes for the perfect place to visit in Sri Lanka to take your next favorite travel photo.
If you want to see a train drive by you’ll have to visit during specific times based on the train schedule. I recommend going early in the morning as there are two trains that pass by at around 6:15 am and 6:45 am each morning.
Ella is easily one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka and the Nine Arches Bridge is just one of the best things to do in Ella! Be sure to spend a couple of days there and book awesome accommodation in advance to avoid missing out!
12. World’s End Lookout
|Location:||In Horton Plains National Park, about |
1.5 hours from Nuwara Eliya.
|Cost:||$30 USD approx. park entrance fee per person.|
|Best time to visit:||First thing in the morning. Most people |
leave Nuwara Eliya around 5 am!
The World’s End hike is one of the most famous hikes in Sri Lanka. This short 9.5 km-long loop trail brings you up to an edge of a cliff where it literally appears as you’ve come to the end of the world! In fact, on a clear day, you can see over all of the mountains all the way to the ocean!
The World’s End hike is located in the Horton Plains National Park. It is best accessed from Nuwara Eliya and lots of transport and tour companies depart daily. You’ll need to leave first thing in the morning so be sure to spend the night before in Nuwara Eliya.
Browse all of the awesome accommodation in Nuwara Eliya and book in advance!
13. Rose Quartz Mountain
|Location:||A 40-minute drive from Dambulla in |
Jathika Namal Uyana Nature Reserve.
|Cost:||$5 USD per person entrance fee.|
|Best time to visit:||Anytime! Most tourists don’t know about |
this place so it isn’t ever very busy!
Many tourists don’t know about the Rose Quartz Mountain in Sri Lanka, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why. To me, it was a highlight during my travels in Sri Lanka and a really unique thing to do in such a beautiful location.
Located about 40 minutes from the city of Dambulla, Rose Quartz mMountain is the largest mountain made entirely of Rose quartz in all of Southeast Asia. Here you will climb the mountain and underneath your feet is not dirt or rock, but rose quartz!
It is amazing!
The views from the top are of many lakes and mountains nearby, but to me, the best part of the mountain is seeing the dusty pink hue from the Rose Quartz. It is really unique but also stunning and a place I would highly recommend you visit while in Sri Lanka.
14. Galle Fort
|Location:||In the city of Galle, only a short drive |
from Mirissa or Hikkaduwa.
|Cost:||FREE! (The museum costs $5 USD)|
|Best time to visit:||Anytime!|
On Sri Lanka’s southern coast you can visit Galle Fort. Here, you can explore this historical fort and take in views of the ocean at the same time.
Galle Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1588 to protect Sri Lanka from ocean attacks. Evidence of battle is found throughout the fort and the Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, a visit to Gale Fort means strolling along the walls, checking out the ocean, wandering the many streets within the fort, eating at cute cafes, or even visiting the fort museum. It is a great way to spend a couple of hours learning a little bit about Sri Lanka’s history in such a picturesque location.
Galle city is a beautiful place to stay in Sri Lanka, in fact, it is a top tourist destination FULL of amazing hotels right on the water! Browse all of the beautiful hotels available in Galle here!
15. Train from Ella to Kandy
|Location:||Ella to Kandy or vice versa|
|Cost:||130+ rupees per person depending on |
the class of ticket
|Best time to visit:||Great activity all year round, for the |
best views though, try to go on a clear day!
The train ride from Ella to Kandy has become famous because of how scenic it is! This route is not only a practical way of transport for travelers but also one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka. From the train window, you will be able to take in some of the beautiful landscapes of Sri Lanka of mountains, gorges, and tea fields.
The train ride takes about 4 hours, however, you can also do the short ride between Ella and Haptuale which is much shorter and is said to be the most scenic portion of the journey anyway.
Ticket prices differentiate depending on what class of ticket you buy. Just be aware that during peak season the tickets for first and second class often sell out so consider buying yours in advance for this route!
16. Coconut Tree Hill
|Location:||Mirissa on Sri Lanka’s southern coast.|
|Best time to visit:||For sunrise, it can be very busy during |
the day or at sunset.
Thanks to Instagram, Coconut Tree Hill has become one of the most famous places to visit in all of Sri Lanka! This means that when you go there, chances are there will be many others also trying to get their perfect “Insta snap”.
I visited Coconut Tree Hill twice, once in the afternoon and once first thing in the morning. If you want to avoid the crowds, then make sure you go in the morning! Although we weren’t the only ones there, there were only a couple of other tourists.
Coconut Tree Hill is just outside of Mirissa and can be reached with a tuk-tuk to get to the hill’s base. From the road, you must walk uphill for 5 minutes to reach this famous palm tree viewpoint!
17. Marble Beach
|Location:||30-minute drive from Trincomalee.|
|Best time to visit:||February to August for the driest |
weather on the east coast.
And last, but definitely not least, is Marble Beach. To me, Marble beach is the best beach in all of Sri Lanka simply because it is that breathtaking! The sand is fine and white, and the water is calm. Visiting Marble Beach is a serene experience and it really is a true beach paradise.
From Trincomalee, Marble Beach is about a 30-minute drive. There is a free beach area you can enjoy, or you can visit the Ralla Restaurant and buy something there in order to gain access to their exclusive section of the beach.
This section is larger than the public area and less crowded so I recommend taking advantage of this and just buying a bite to eat (the food is good and actually very reasonably priced!)
Other Beautiful Places to Visit in Sri Lanka (worth a mention)
- Parrot Rock – beautiful lookout over Mirissa Beach
- Weligama – a surf beach on the south coast
- Udawalawe National Park – a great place for an elephant safari
- 18 Bends Road – this stretch of highway is on the side of a mountain
- Pigeon Island – a snorkeling paradise with the chance to see turtles and sharks
- Arugam Bay – a beautiful beach with amazing sunsets
- Temple of the Tooth – a world-famous temple in Kandy
- Adam’s Peak – a great hike for those who up for the challenge
Before you go…
If you explore even just a couple of the amazing places I mentioned above, I promise you’ll understand why I think Sri Lanka is such a top tourist destination!
I hope you enjoy this stunning country as much as I did and my blog on the best places to visit in Sri Lanka has helped you plan your own trip!
If you want some more travel advice about Sri Lanka, browse all of our Sri Lanka blogs. Some, in particular, you might enjoy are:
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April 21, 2020