Pristine beaches, beautiful temples, mesmerizing mountains and scenic tea gardens are just the tip of the iceberg at the island country of Sri Lanka. Formerly known as Ceylon, this small nation is situated in South Asia, in the Indian Ocean. The natural beauty of the island makes this a wonderful vacation spot for tourists. The vestiges of the Dutch, Portuguese and English rule in the region add to its charm.
Here are some of the most popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka that must not be missed, especially if you are a tourist-loving person who'd prefer the popular attractions over the less-touristy places in Sri Lanka.
Colombo is the judicial and executive capital of Sri Lanka and largely serves as an entry point to the country.
One of the most famous tourist spots in the city is the Galle Green Face, a seaside urban park along the Indian Ocean.
Named after Queen Viharamahadevi, Colombo boasts of a grand public park that has a mini zoo, aquarium, children's play zone, a lake and a suspension bridge.
An iconic Buddhist temple is the Gangaramaya Temple located in Colombo- a wonderful mix of Indian, Thai, Chinese and Burmese architecture.
The National Museum of Colombo is a must-visit for history buffs. Built in an Italian architectural style, the museum houses many valuable relics of ancient dynasties and palm-leaf manuscripts in various languages.
Sigiriya is a world heritage site and a breath-taking wonder atop a mountain. The Lion's Rock plateau is almost 600 ft high and overlooks the jungle below. Sigiriya fortress dates back to the 3rd century B.C. It was a monastery before becoming the royal residence.
This is truly an engineering marvel; a little piece of history perched on a summit.
Kandy is the second-largest city in Sri Lanka, famous for tea and rubber plantations. It is also home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, which houses a tooth of the Buddha.
Also known as the Golden Rock Temple, the Dambulla Cave Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Kandy. This sacred Buddhist site has more than 80 caves out of which five have many beautiful paintings and statues.
The Bahiravakanda Vihara Buddha, an 88ft white Buddha statue is located on the Bahirava Kanda hill, offering great panoramic views of the city. Best time to visit the place and see the magnificence of the statue is early morning or post sunset.
The Ceylon Tea Museum in Kandy offers tourists a tour of tea making and opportunities to buy the delicious varieties as well.
The Tea Museum is closed on Mondays.
Tourists have free entry to Dambulla Cave Temple on full moon nights.
Galle is a fortified town famous for its Portuguese and Dutch influences on architecture and city planning. The Galle Fort is an important tourist destination, which today houses various businesses and courts. Popular attractions nearby include a maritime museum, the country's oldest lighthouse, a Shiva temple and a cathedral.
Adventure sports enthusiasts can head to Arugam Bay, located on the east coast of Sri Lanka. This town is a surfer's paradise. There are multiple spots along the coast that offer adrenaline-pumping surfing opportunities for novices as well as experts. The Main Point surf break is a popular spot for experienced surfers. If you are not an expert, ride the waves at Whiskey Point or Peanut Farm. The areas along the beach offer great culinary joints and shopping options.
Located about 250kms from Colombo, in the south-eastern part of Sri Lanka, the Yala National Park is home to many wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles and water buffaloes are found here in large numbers. Leopards are the main attraction here and chances of spotting them are high. Tourists can opt for walking trails or safaris to explore the park. Camping and wildlife photography are wildly popular activities here.
The park is closed in September owing to leopard breeding season.
A visit to the lush green tea gardens at the production capital of the country- Nuwara Eliya is a must. This hill town was founded in the 19th century and is also fondly called Little England due to the Britishers who came to stay here.
Nearby attractions include strawberry fields, Gregory Lake, Victoria Park and botanical gardens. It is the best place for a scenic train ride as well.
The Best time to visit is between March and May when the tea plantations are in full bloom. Sri Lankan New Year also takes place in April.
These were some of the more popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. If you are someone who hates crowds and prefers off-the-grid, low-key, not-so-popular tourist spots, here are 6 offbeat destinations in Sri Lanka that you may find to be more to your liking.