20 Fab Things Do In Sri Lanka 2019 - A Helpful Video Guide
Sri Lanka is an island country that belongs in the Southeast Asian region. It was not always known as Sri Lanka, though. Throughout the years, with its colorful history that spans three thousand years, the country has carried the names Tambapanni (“copper-red earth”), Lankā ("Island"), Eelam, Taprobanā, Sarandīb ("serendipity"), Ceylon, Sri Lanka, and finally its official name, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka enjoys a tropical climate common to most Southeast Asian countries, which makes its safaris ideal and fitting for the country’s rich biodiversity.
The island is home to a lot of cultures, ethnicities, and languages. This is not surprising, in spite of the island’s geographical size, since there are documented data of pre-historic human settlements that date back to more than a hundred thousand years, and Sri Lanka has a number of ancient ruins to show for it.
Sri Lanka’s abundance in names also reflects in the profusion of the activities and attractions it offers.
Exciting Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
1. Udawalawe National Park
Aside from the many names that Sri Lanka was known as, the country also has abundant wildlife, especially in Udawalawe National Park. The experience in this park is further magnified by the open-top jeeps that take guests on a more up close and personal encounter with the members of the large elephant population in the park. Udawalawe National Park has a huge man-made lake that provides water for its wild buffaloes, crocodiles, jackals, samba deer, macaques, big cats, and water birds. Visitors usually come in organized tours, since only official vehicles with licensed guides are allowed to wander and explore the park.
Things to See in Central Sri Lanka
2. Sigiriya Rock Fortress
A natural monolith that rises up to an estimated six hundred feet above the fairly flat Sri Lankan landscape is the foundation of one of the country’s cultural and historical pillars: an ancient palace in the sky.
At the peak of this rocky mountain plateau sits a palace that King Kassapa I built in the late fifth century. Less than twenty percent of the original structure remains today, though.
For most of the site’s visitors, they’re okay with seeing the ancient palace from below, but there are a few brave climbers who attempt to ascend the summit of Sigiriya through the 1200 steps to get there.
The view from the top is more than worth it, though, along with the manicured terraced gardens and the ruins of the former majestic Sri Lankan engineering and architectural wonder.
Cultural Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
3. Colombo National Museum
This charming museum in the heart of Sri Lanka houses several galleries that date as far back as the 1800s, so the Colombo National Museum gives its guests and visitors a feel like they are travelling back in time. Sri Lanka has a long and rich culture and this museum showcases the best and even worst of their past. In fact, this museum is undoubtedly the country’s top cultural attraction.
Colombo National Museum features different kinds of arts and visitors will awe at iconic art, ancient art, relics, and masterpieces that are heavily rooted in Sri Lankan traditions, like intricate masks, ornate hand-carved furniture, and well-preserved swords. Even though there are several attractions in and around Sri Lanka, the museum still remains a favorite among guests and tourists.
Free Things to See in Sri Lanka
4. Galle Fort
The city of Galle in Sri Lanka was founded in the sixteenth century by a group of Portuguese explorers. The Dutch then moved in and started fortifying Galle in the 1640’s by building an 89-acre fort right on the town’s cape, bordered on three sides by the Bay of Galle. Now, Galle, along with the fort that the Dutch constructed, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988, and is acclaimed as one of the most well-preserved European-built cities in Southeast Asia.
Galle Fort is more than just a historical attraction, though; it is still very much thriving. Inside the walled city are museums, cafes, government buildings, business centers, and shops of different kinds. The streets are brimming with local residents and their businesses.
The walls provide a panoramic view of the Indian Ocean and is best climbed on at sunrise.
Cultural Things to See in Sri Lanka
5. Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa)
Sri Lanka’s most significant relic is housed in the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa) that is located within the royal palace complex of Kandy. The purported left upper canine tooth of Buddha, allegedly taken from his body before cremation, is kept deep in the heart of the Temple of the Tooth, inside a two-story shrine adorned by elephant tusks. The temple was built sometime between 1687 and 1707 to put up Buddha’s tooth, hence the name.
Visitors and devotees still frequent the temple even though the actual tooth is kept inside a golden casket. Aside from that, the International Buddhist Museum on the temple grounds is also a place of interest. Here, visitors can learn a lot about the history as well as the expansion of Buddhism throughout the world.
Amazing Things to See in Sri Lanka
6. Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla Cave Temple is the biggest and is one of the oldest temple complexes in Sri Lanka. The structure dates back all the way to the 1st century BC when Sri Lanka’s then king, King Valagamba sought refuge in this large rocky outcrop. He had ordered marvelous temples to be carved out from the caves, some of which were 150 meters over the nearby fields.
The temple’s history is so rich and vibrant that it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nevertheless, it isn’t only the history of the place that draws in a lot of visitors; the view from the top of the temple caves is also superb. There are more than 80 caves in the complex, but you only need to visit 5 of them. Those 5 caves have different images of Buddha in different poses and there are paintings as well, some of them dating back to the 19th century.
Bucket List Things to See in Sri Lanka
7. Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple
Deep in the heart of Colombo is another one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic religious structures: the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. Visitors to this attraction will awe at the colorful history, deep religious roots and the exceptional architecture that warranted the temple a place in the top most coveted spots in Sri Lanka.
Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple features a fusion of elements from Chinese, Indian, Thai, and local Sri Lankan architecture. It is located near Beira Lake and other interesting sights and sounds, but the intricate interiors, calm and ornate reflecting pools and the rows of praying Buddhas that make every visit to the temple worth it.
Free Things to Do in Sri Lanka
8. Galle Face Green
Galle Face Green was once a spot for firing cannons against the Portuguese before it became the ocean-side urban park with stunning coastal sights it is today. What was once a war zone is now a Mecca for visitors who seek fresh air and a taste of Sri Lankan history. It is also one of the places in Sri Lanka that travelers who are also into sports visit because this attraction housed a golf course, cricket fields, and even a horse track.
Visitors can see the old horse track, now the Crystal Ballroom of the Taj Samudra Hotel, and the colonial golf course that was built in 1879 to check out some of the remaining remnants of the once prominent club. Some sports facilities were shut down, others were moved to a different location, but the wide open space is still flocked by both locals and travelers because of the ideal picnic spots, kite flying winds, and panoramic views.
Cultural Things to Do in Sri Lanka
9. Independence Square
A lot of attractions in Sri Lanka highlight the country’s vibrant history and picturesque views; Independence Square, however, features a taste of the local life in Sri Lanka. The charming square is where both tourists and residents visit to enjoy a relaxing evening in Colombo. The place provides wide green spaces, quiet cafes, historical buildings, and quaint local handicraft stores and designer boutiques to shop from. The square also has a monument built for Sri Lanka’s first prime minister.
A trip to the square is an ideal scenario to meet locals and enjoy the warmth of their hospitable nature. Visitors can also take a stroll along the pristine paths or bike over the well-paved roads together with the residents.
Environmental Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
10. Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project
A lot of countries in Asia have been richly blessed with natural wonders and precious wildlife. Sri Lanka is no exception. However, due to several different factors, the number of these wildlife species has been depleting rapidly over the past centuries.
The Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project is a small location in Kosgoda run by volunteers and relies on donations to help conserve and protect Sri Lanka’s turtles from extinction. The main goal of the project is to keep track of the local sea turtle activity and preserve their local natural nesting site. One important element is the hatchery, or rescuing the eggs so they can hatch in a safe spot,
Another aim of the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project is to spread awareness of how endangered these species are and the importance of protecting them from potential extinction. Volunteers show guests around their various tanks to see the different species of turtles.
Bucket List Things to See in Sri Lanka
11. Maha Vishnu Devalaya
Religion is embedded deeply in Sri Lankan culture and traditions, so much so that the most famous spots in Sri Lanka more often than not have something to do with Buddhism. Maha Vishnu Devalaya, on the other hand, is important to Buddhists AND Hindus. It is one of the four unified shrines, also known as devales, in the northwest area of the Kandy palace complex.
This specific devale venerates Vishnu, the Hindu God, who, according to Sri Lankan belief, will be a future Buddha after Natha, also a Hindu god honored in one of the other devale.
Vishnu is depicted by King Rama in Ramayana, an Indian epic, and a painting displayed in the devale shows a battle scene between King Rama and Ravana.
Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka For Free
12. Natha Devale
The Natha Devale, one of Kandy’s oldest existing structures to date, was built by King Vikramabahu III in the fourteenth century. It sits on a stone terrace fronting the palace compound, near the Temple of the Tooth. Each temple is a reverence to a different god: Vishnu Kataragama, Natha, and Patini. Natha is worshipped as the protector of Buddhism and believed to be the next Buddha; the other gods, though, represent a fusion of Buddhist and Hindu traditions.
Travelers who seek peace and quiet sometimes visit the Natha Devale, since it is much more tranquil and serene than the adjacent Temple of Tooth flocked by tourists. It also houses a white dagoba where monks often meditate, and a bodhi tree.
Historical and Cultural Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
13. Visit The World Buddhist Museum
The International Buddhist Museum in Sri Lanka is a unique museum that highlights the history and expansion of Buddhism across Asia and eventually, the whole world. Travelers who look through the exhibit, galleries, and artifacts will get an insight of how the religion and culture spread from east to west.
There is a specific path that travelers are requested to follow. It winds through exhibits and models of sacred structures, photos, and several Buddhist artifacts. Regardless of whether the guests are well-informed in Buddhism or otherwise, almost everyone who walk through the displays agrees that one will get a more profound appreciation and understanding of the religion and its doctrines, and the beliefs associated with it.
Things to Do in Sri Lanka For free
14. Lake Gregory
One of the most frequented tourist attractions in Nuwara Eliya is Gregory Lake. It used to be a large marshy area, but this man-made lake was built in 1873 under the governance of Sir William Gregory. It was used as a recreational place at the time of the British rule. Today, there are still several interesting structures from the colonial period that serve as a reminder of the British era.
There are a lot of activities that visitors can enjoy around Gregory Lake. Folks can enjoy walking, cycling, horse riding, and sailing on the lake itself. There are tours available to explore the lake, while independent travelers can hire a two-seater swan boat.
Luxurious Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
15. Take A Trip To The Gem Museum
It doesn’t get any more luxurious in Sri Lanka than by paying a visit to the Gem Museum. It has started in 1920 as a family-owned business that offers some of the country’s prized gemstones to travelers, distinguished guests, dignitaries, and locals.
Travelers to this opulently designed showroom can see impeccable diamonds, turquoise aquamarines, crystal green emeralds, and other precious stones on display. There is also an educational interactive demo that shows visitors how raw stones turn into delicate gems that are sat on gold or platinum settings.
A lot of the Gem Museum’s past and repeat guests say that it is the place to stock up on gem stones, it is still advisable to do prior research on the ins and outs of gems to avoid steep prices for less precious stones.
Breathtaking Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
16. A Bucket List Visit To Ramboda Falls
Ramboda falls, the 11th tallest waterfall in the entire country, is at over a hundred meters high. It is situated between Pussellawa and Nuwara Eliya on the A5 highway. The waterfall is so high that it is comprised of three parts and each section must be seen from various vantage points. To see the peak of the Ramboda waterfall, travelers must follow a pathway from the bridge then climb up. It is quite a feat, but the view from the top is more than worth the effort.
The lower part of the waterfall can be seen from under the bridge alongside the road. Like with the middle part of the falls, travelers can get a good glimpse from the main road, but its full glory can be appreciated by accessing the Ramboda basin.
Gastronomic Things to Do in Sri Lanka
17. Dine at The Ministry of Crab
The Ministry of Crab in Sri Lanka has a lot to offer its patrons: sumptuous food, posh interiors, and a history as rich as their curry. The restaurant is situated in a one hundred year-old ancient Dutch hospital in Colombo. It is one of the few restaurants in Sri Lanka with an open kitchen setting. Its interiors are posh, although on the minimalist side. How minimalist? Well, let’s just say they like to keep it within their theme and only go for crab-claw plants as their only decors.
Chef Dharshan Munidasa and Sri Lankan cricketing icons Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene founded the Ministry of Crab. As the name of the restaurant implies, they serve a plethora of crab dishes, like chili crab, pepper crab, garlic crab curry, or clay pot prawn for variety.
Free Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
18. Visit Mulkirigala Rock Monastery
Mulkirigala Rock Monastery is located on a jagged rock in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, and refers to a set of ancient Buddhist cave temples. There are seven rock caves sitting on five terraced levels of different heights enveloped by verdant forest. These terraces include the Lower Terrace (Patha Maluwa), Bo Tree Terrace (Bodhi Maluwa), the Great King's Temple Terrace (Raja Maha Vihara Maluwa), Upper Bo Tree Terrace (Uda Bodhi Maluwa), and Chetiya Terrace (Chaitya Maluwa).
All those levels can be accessed through a well-paved granite pathway and a lot of steps. Travelers see a variety of Buddha images on different poses, and several ornate religious paintings within the caves. At the peak of the terraces, around 205 meters above sea level, travelers will see a small dagoba and some panoramic views of the nearby forests.
Breathtaking Things to Do in Sri Lanka
19. Hike The Alagalla Mountain Range
The Potato Range, or the Alagalla Mountain Range, extends along the length of the borders of Sabaragamuwa and Central Sri Lankan Provinces. This mountain range is a favorite among hikers, since the top summit reaches only around 3,600 feet above sea level. However, it is considerably taller than the nearby mountains, so the view from the peak is just breathtaking. The path to the summit starts by crossing through the lush tea plantations at the bottom of the mountain prior to passing through a mossy jungle. As the trail ascends, the forest gives way to small shrubs. It is optional to hike during the day, but most hikers prefer to camp at the top to enjoy the Sri Lankan sunset and sunrise at a magnificent vantage point.
Things to See and Do with Kids in Sri Lanka
20. Visit The Elephant Transit Home
Elephant Transit Home in Sri Lanka is the only elephant orphanage outside of wildlife parks. It is one of the few elephant sanctuaries in the world where visitors can see these glorious creatures in their natural behavior. Guests can rest assured that the proceeds from the fees incurred inside the sanctuary fund the rescue, ethical treatment of elephants, and their safe return to the wild.
This sanctuary does not train elephants to perform. The animals here were rescued from the wilds, and then returned to their natural home using unobtrusive methods. They are fed, given milk, nourished back to health while they are in the facility. It may be a bit upsetting to see the young elephants guided with light sticks in and out of the feeding area, but this just minimizes human contact and they are not hurt in any way. Once they are back to good health, they are reintroduced to the wilds in the quickest and gentlest way possible.
Kids can learn a lot from watching the elephants than by looking at pictures in books and the internet. It is also a great way to instill in them the love for nature and the awareness to conserve and preserve wildlife.
Sri Lanka is a beautiful fusion of natural and architectural marvels, of ancient and contemporary wonders, and a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions that dates back to several centuries. It is a country blessed with diverse wildlife and hospitable people. There are a lot of unique activities to do in this country, regardless of the traveler’s interests.