The 11 best places to visit in Sri Lanka

There is a multitude of unique experiences waiting to be explored on the wonderful island of Sri Lanka. From watching elephants in National Parks to a sacred tooth, Sri Lanka offers a wonderful range of destinations to suit every traveller.

The 11 best places to visit in Sri Lanka

Discover the ‘Little England’ of Nuwara Eliya and the colonial-era walled city of Galle, or experience breathtaking scenery on a train journey to enchanting Ella. We show you the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.

Yala National Park

As the most popular national park in Sri Lanka, Yala National Park draws large crowds during the tourist season. It is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka and in all of Asia for big mammal sightings, and you will get a good chance of spotting one of Sri Lanka’s elusive leopards on safari with an experienced guide.

There are also Sri Lankan elephants to spot alongside spotted deer, sloth bears and aquatic birds. In total, the Park is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species.

Leopard Spotting at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya

With its picturesque landscape and subtropical highland climate, Nuwara Eliya is one of the most important locations for tea production in Sri Lanka. The tea bushes produce some of the world’s finest orange pekoe tea, which you can sample on a tea factory visit.

Nicknamed ‘Little England’, Nuwara Eliya gives you a taste of the bygone days when it was a hill country retreat for British colonialists. You can reach Nuwara Eliya aboard the ‘toy train’ highland railway from Kandy.

Tea Plantations, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka


Galle is a wonderful example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese in South and Southeast Asia. The beautiful colonial-era walled city has windswept beaches with shimmering blue waters and nodding palms surrounding the 16th-century Portuguese-built fort.

Elsewhere, you’ll see Dutch-style colonial homes, history museums, quaint stores and whitewashed villas. Visit the National Maritime Museum, St. Mary’s Cathedral and Galle International Stadium, one of the world’s most beautiful cricket grounds.

Galle, Sri Lanka

Uda Walawe

Uda Walawe National Park is famous for its herd of around 250 elephants, that you can spot whilst feasting on the surrounding grasslands. The Park attracts endemic and migratory birds, including the vibrant Sri Lankan junglefowl, the country’s national bird. There is also a range of mammals to spot, although the Sri Lankan leopard and sloth bear are very elusive.

Visit the Elephant Transit Home just outside the park at visit at feeding time to see orphaned or sick elephants being fed milk.

Elephant family Udawalawe national park Sri Lanka


Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and boasts many attractions. The Gangaramaya Temple blends Chinese, Indian, Thai and Sri Lankan style architecture, and Viharamahadevi Park with its huge Buddha statue is Colombos’s oldest and largest park.

You can also visit Sri Lanka’s only Planetarium, the Dutch Museum and National Museum, and the symbolic Colombo Lotus Tower. Get your shopping fix in the bustling Pettah bazaar region or the boutiques of Kollupitiya and Bambalapitiya for more upmarket shopping.

Statues of Buddha in Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka


Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second largest city and is best known for one of Asia’s most sacred objects, the ‘Tooth Relic’ of the Buddha. You’ll find this historic canine in the ‘Sacred Temple of the Tooth’ (Dalada Mahagana) where a special offering takes place three times a day.

Visit in summer to see Kandy’s spectacular 11-day Esala Perahera festival with its joyous midnight parade and the Tooth Relic Procession itself.

Dentistry aside, Kandy has a gorgeous lake, Ceylon Tea Museum, Peradeniya botanical gardens and the Gadaladeniya hilltop temple to visit.

Traditional Kandy Dance, Sri Lanka


The Ancient City of Sigiriya is an easy choice on our list of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. This ruined 5th century city echoes of previous grandeur with manicured gardens, mirror wall and monastery.

The focal point of Sigiriya is the 200m high granite Lion Rock fortress, adorned with beautiful murals including the “Maidens of the Clouds”. The primary attraction is the ruins of a royal palace at the summit.

Lion Rock Fortress, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka


As the capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, Jaffna has been a key harbour for centuries. The most visible monumnets are the enormous temple gateway towers soaring above the skyline, the largest belonging to Sri Lanka’s most respected and largest Hindu shrine.

Don’t miss the chance to visit the vibrant Chunnakam Market, a delightful mix of colour, commotion, and powerful fragrances.

Public Library, Jaffna, Sri Lanka


Translating from Sinhala as ‘Land of the Lakes’, Wilpattu National Park is the largest national park in Sri Lanka. It has up to 60 ‘willus’ which are natural, shallow basins on the open plains that collect rainwater making superb watering holes for wildlife and habitats for birds.

You might spot elephants, water buffalo, deer, leopards, sloth bears and crocodiles, alongside over 200 species of bird including the pompadour green pigeon, Ceylon grey hornbill and the Ceylon parakeet on a visit.

Wild Sloth Bear, Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka


Last but not least on our list of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka is Ella. The best way to reach enchanting Ella is via the ‘toy train’ from Kandy, classed as one of the most picturesque journeys in the world. This hill country village has an endless carpet of lush tea plantations and mountain ranges and is ideal for a relaxing stop on your tour. You can even get the chance to harvest Ceylon tea with local pluckers.

Nine Arch Bridge, Ella, Sri Lanka

Gal Oya National Park

Definitely one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka,  Gal Oya National Park is the only place in the country where you can take a water safari and watch Asian elephants swimming between the islands. The park’s unspoilt evergreen forests and open savannahs are home to 150 bird species, as well as leopards, water buffalo and wild boar, langur, sloths and toque macaque monkeys.

Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka

We hope that our selection of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka has inspired you to visit this magical island. If there are destinations you’d love to explore, please get in touch and we can craft a bespoke tour just for you.