Allow us to introduce you to Sri Lanka (literally meaning Sacred Island) – one of the few remaining paradises on earth. Navigating its terrain and uncovering its many secrets can be hard if not given enough time. Therefore, to help you prepare for the holiday of a lifetime we have come up with a list of 10 ‘must-sees’ and places that you need to visit to get the very best of your Sri Lanka Holiday experience.
1. Visit a Tea Plantation
Tea is an important part of Sri Lankan culture, dating back to colonial times, and was a British addition to the country. Sri Lanka is now the 4th largest producer of tea in the world, it’s also considered as the “cleanest in the world”. It is therefore essential that you should visit a traditional Tea plantation (and they are not hard to find), sit back with a refreshing cup of tea, and take in the jaw-dropping scenery all around you. Nuwara Eliya hill resort & tea growing centre is a stop on our Cultural Highlights Tour and one such plantation. There’s always time for tea, especially when it could be the best cup you may ever have!
2. Climb Mount Sigiriya
Mount Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress, constructed in the 5th Century AD. Standing proud at 200 metres tall, it gives the most incredible panoramic views of the rainforest, absolutely perfect for taking impressive photos. Inside the rock is a maze of cave networks, containing historic cave paintings and colossal statues leading up to the top. Although the 200 meters can be a tough climb even for the most veteran of travellers, the reward is so worth it – a truly unforgettable experience.
3. See the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
The Pinnawala Orphanage is an extremely important visit. The centre provides a much needed lifeline to orphaned babies & injured adult elephants, here they are well cared for by wildlife authorities. One of the most amazing sights in Sri Lanka is the sights of Elephants washing themselves and playing with one another in the river. You can also take the opportunity to feed a calf if you choose to.
4. Visit a Turtle Hatchery
Visiting a Turtle Hatchery is also a rare and incredible opportunity, something that we can never see in day to day life. The Kosgoda Hatchery on Sri Lanka’s south west Coast tries to help turtles reproduce and hopes to raise population numbers after having being heavily hunted in the past.
5. Visit The Temple of the Tooth
This is a sacred Buddhist temple, now made into a World Heritage site. It is said to contain and protect the relic of the tooth of Buddha, after being passed down by Sri Lankan kings for centuries. It is also considered to be one of the holiest places of worship and pilgrimage for Buddhists around the world. Wonder at the solid gold canopy hanging above the main shrine, and examine the incredible wall paintings that date back centuries.
6. Walk in the Peradeniya Botanical Garden
The Peradiniya Botanical Garden is one of the most astonishing in Asia, attracting more than 2 million visitors each year. The origins of the gardens date as far back as 1371 and situated in over 147 acres of beautiful terrain, the magnificent display of flora (and fauna) impresses even the locals and those familiar with Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity. Discover the secret healing powers of plants and explore the spice gardens used for traditional Sri Lankan Ayurvedic medicines & remedies. Spend the afternoon surrounded by the scenic splendour of the gardens and enjoy a picnic under the leafy shade of a palm tree. Maybe even share a sandwich with a monkey or two.
7. Visit the Golden Temple of Dambulla
This is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular heritage sites: boasting murals dating back 2,000 years and 158 Buddha statues including an enormous 15 metre long reclining, golden Buddha. Sitting on top of a hill, this impressive and intricate series of caves conceals statues and paintings related to Lord Buddha and his life. This site dates back to the 1st century BC and it’s really is worth exploring.
8. Go to the Yala National Park
This is the most visited park in Sri Lanka and for good reasons. It covers 979 square kilometres and is the largest wild animal reserve on the island, with the highest leopard concentration in the world. Because of their value to hunters, this may be one of the last places on earth in which the leopard can survive, so do try to visit. Expect exciting encounters with elephants, wild boars, buffalo, deer & even the odd crocodile, it’s also home to many migratory and indigenous birds. With so many species to see, it’s well worth taking a walk on Sri Lanka’s wild side.
9. Ayurveda Spa Treatment
This is an uncommon system of traditional medicine which is only native to the Indian subcontinent. It is over 5,000 years old, and is based on achieving physical and mental harmony with nature, using oils and massages. This soothing treatment has been reported to sooth muscles and relieve stress, much needed after a climb to the top of Mount Sigiriya. As this is practically exclusive to Sri Lanka, and most hotels offer it, why not give it a try?
10. Try some proper, traditional Sri Lankan food
Sri Lankan food is always rich in spice and taste; it creates an amazing sensation in the mouth, the result of numerous different spices and herbs, all native to Sri Lanka. Whether using cutlery in a five star hotel, using your hands with a Sri Lankan family, or using a plastic fork from a stall on the street, do try to eat some traditional Sri Lankan food – some of the best, and some of the healthiest in the world.