Sri Lanka serves up secluded sandy beaches and exotic jungle wilderness – with vibrant cities in between. As well as the scenery and activities, the friendly Sri Lankan people will make you feel welcome.
- The capital Colombo is a real 21st-century city with galleries, museums and theatre on offer.
- Pinnewela is famous for its elephant orphanage, where abandoned baby elephants are cared for.
- The Rekawa natural reserve is a protected area right on the beach that is dedicated to the preservation of turtles.
- The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is an ancient Buddhist temple that was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Bogawantalawa Valley is the setting for the world-famous Ceylon tea plantations.
When to go
Almost any time.
The months of November to April offer the best weather in the south of Sri Lanka while May to September is driest on the east coast. Throughout the country, temperatures rarely vary by more than 10ºC (18°F) from winter to summer.
Need to know
Currency: Sri Lankan rupee
Visa needed?: Yes. All British nationals are required to have short-stay visas that you can obtain through an online application process.
Main languages: Sinhala, Tamil
- Greetings are usually very hushed, even between close friends. A raised eyebrow or broad smile is a common way of acknowledging others.
- It is customary to tip in Sri Lanka – for instance, your driver, porter or city guide.
- Beach wear is not acceptable at any religious sites.
Main airports: Colombo, Mattala
Travelling in Sri Lanka
In the cities, taxis and tuk tuks are plentiful and available 24/7. Private cars with drivers are available for a reasonable price and most drivers speak English.
Since roads in the countryside can be poor, renting a car in Sri Lanka is not recommended. Public buses are available but crowded and slow. Trains criss-cross the country, and there are sleeper cars for longer trips.
Explore the major sights of Sri Lanka
From colonial architecture to ancient temples, there’s a lot to see on a trip to Sri Lanka.
Visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
This 16th-century Buddhist temple is home to a tooth of Buddha, a sacred relic in the Buddhist faith. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can witness the rituals held every day.
Tour the Ceylon tea plantations
Luxury accommodation is the order of the day in the Bogawantalawa Valley – and from your relaxed base you can go on tours of the Tea Trails and learn to make the perfect pot of tea.
Go underground to the Aluvihara monastery
The Aluvihara monastery is buried within a series of caves, a few kilometres north of Matale. The highlight here is the 10-metre long reclining Buddha, stretched out within a low-ceilinged cave.
Take up surfing at Sri Lanka’s golden beaches
With 1,500 miles of sparkling beaches, you’re always within striking distance of the beautiful Indian Ocean.
Master a watersport
The Indian Ocean makes a great playground for surfers, divers and windsurfers. There are watersports centres at all the major beaches which can help you get started.
Get a glimpse of the underwater world
A trip on a glass-bottomed boat gives you a chance to spy out some of Sri-Lanka’s underwater creatures. Sharks and dolphins are the 2 animals everyone’s looking out for.
Cycle the rural tracks
If you’re looking for a great way to go beach-hopping, you might want to join a bike tour that takes you along the coastal backroads. You can get a real glimpse of traditional rural life and see some of Sri Lanka’s diverse wildlife.
Get to know Sri Lanka’s exotic animals
The jungle interior of Sri Lanka is the perfect place to go looking for some of the world’s rarest animals.
Visit the elephant orphanage at Pinnewela
One of the most famous attractions in Sri Lanka, this animal sanctuary cares for abandoned baby elephants – and visitors can enjoy watching them play in the wide lakes.
Spot the rare turtles at Rekawa
This natural reserve is where hundreds of turtles lay their eggs in the sand every year. If you come between January and April, you might even spot one of the baby turtles hatching.
Go in search of the big animals
Sri Lanka is home to leopards and elephants, and there are tours into the countryside to see them. Or if you prefer your animals smaller, you might like to take a tour into the monkey reserves.