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Must do experiences in Sri Lanka

| Words by Ashley Diterlizzi |

Sri Lanka is known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean for its golden beaches, inclusive cultural sites and lush tea plantations so it’s no wonder the country is being heralded as the next big ‘hot spot’ destination. With beauty and culture around every corner, we have compiled our top reasons to visit stunning Sri Lanka.

negombo beach

Immaculate sandy beaches

Sri Lanka is famous for its tropical climate and beautiful, golden beaches. Bathe in the sunlight of sunset over the coast in Galle or catch the first glimpses of sunlight from Passikudah in the east.

With 1,600 kilometres of coastline, Sri Lanka is a year round beach holiday destination. Many remain lesser known gems that offer peaceful and pristine respites while more popular beaches offer a full range of water activities including windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving and yachting.

The country’s infamous stilt fishermen are found on southern beaches near Galle at Weligamab and Uawatuna. Put your feet up and replenish your Zen in the east where family friendly beach resorts and sophisticated spas line the tropical coral-filled waters between Passikudah and Trincomalee or immerse yourself in the bustling activities of the western coast where visitors can jump on to a jet ski, enjoy surfing, hit the waters in a boat or cast out a fishing line. Venture to one of the country’s most popular stretches of beach, Bentota, where palm trees line the coast and turquoise water laps the sand.

nuwara eilya

Rainforests and tea plantations

Wet and warm all year around, the lush rainforests in the southwest have amazing fauna and flora. Walk among tropical plants and renowned collection of orchids in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens which is patronised by the former royal family.

Travel by train from Sri Lanka’s cultural and religious heart in Kandy to colonial tea centre at Nuwara Eilya. Chug through scenic fields of sugar, tea estates and waterfalls. At the end of the journey, spend the night in a charming hotel on the Nuwara Eliya hilltops in Heritance Tea Factory, a former plantation that has been converted into a unique heritage hotel. The building’s colonial charm pays homage to the region’s past. Here, guests can dine in a classic railway carriage and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounds.

yala national park

Abundant wildlife

Spend the night surrounded by elephants, deer and leopards in Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park. Tented safari camps allow you to get up close with the park’s abundant wildlife. The wildlife reserve protects 44 species of mammals and has the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world. Wake to the sounds of animals before climbing aboard a super jeep and touring the park.

Not all animals roam the land. The tropical beach resort of Mirissa has a mighty neighbour hiding in the waters off its coast. A pod of Blue Whales has made this town one of the best places to spot the largest mammal in the world. Take to the water on a cruise and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and orcas as they too are known to frequent the area.


Ancient ruins and historic temples

Enter a time when Kings tamed the land and built their cities in the skies. Historical relics are abundant across Sri Lanka, making it the perfect destination for those intrigued by the past.

UNESCO World Heritage-listed city Anuradhapura is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and was Sri Lanka’s capital for more than 1,000 years. Home to ruins that are archaeological and architectural wonders, several of which remain in use as holy places and temples today, here you can visit one of the most popular Buddhist sites in the country, Mihintale, a mountain peak where Buddhism began in Sri Lanka.

Just south of Anuradhapura is Sigiriya, a Rock fortress which dates back to the fifth century. Considered the Eighth Wonder of the World, the fortress can be climbed by the fit and adventurous or enjoyed from the ground.

Located in Kandy, a sanctuary for traditional Sinhalese culture, the Temple of the Tooth is another must visit, enshrining the most sacred Buddhist relic - a tooth of the Buddha.

traditional food

Culinary delights

Sri Lanka has a rich history and culture when it comes to culinary delights with international influences over 3,000 years incorporating elements from the Dutch, Portuguese, English, Arabs, Malays, Moors and Indians. With staples like milk rice and curries and twists on your Asian favourites like pancakes and rotti, there are flavoursome options aplenty in Sri Lanka!


Mesmerising cities

Sri Lanka’s main towns and cities are a picturesque melange of scenic spots, each with their own pace and vibe. The increasingly cosmopolitan capital, Colombo, retains some of its ‘garden city’ legacy and is also home to significant religious and historic monuments such as the historic fort and the colourful and chaotic Pettah market. By contrast, Galle is a charming, laid back coastal city with restored Dutch colonial-era buildings and café-lined quaint cobbled lanes. The city is best known for its historic fort perched next to the Arabian Sea.

Insider Journeys offers two Small Group Journeys to Sri Lanka; a 9-day Taste of Sri Lanka from $2830pp and a 15-day Sri Lanka Discovery from $4450 per person.