Sri Lanka 101: Where to Visit, Where to Stay and What You Need to Know Before You Go

Alison Rombough

Sri Lanka is a remarkable vacation spot with many popular tourist attractions. This island offers tourists an experience like none other.

There are so many cultural sites, historical landmarks, and natural places to explore and discover. The country’s nature reserves filled with a wide variety of flora and fauna provide amazing natural sceneries and safari excursions.

Sri Lanka is also a haven for people who love beaches. Palm trees along the sandy beaches and deep blue water make these beaches unparalleled.

In places like Kandy and Colombo, visitors may follow the island’s interesting history from early periods to the colonial days to the modern day.

What You Need to Know before you go

  • Sri Lanka is a relatively sunny island with clear blue skies. The rainfall varies from place to place. In the southern and western districts, the rainfall period is between May and September, while the rainfall is heavy between October and January in other areas.
  • The island can be visited at any time during the year, but the ideal time to explore central, southern, and western areas is between December to March. The eastern and northern areas of Sri Lanka have a more pleasant climate between May and September.
  • It is essential to ensure your COVID vaccinations before visiting Sri Lanka. Vaccinations are also preferable for common diseases such as rabies, hepatitis, tetanus, and typhoid.
  • A number of airlines such as Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, and Qatar Airways offer international flights in Sri Lanka. It is preferable to fly into Sri Lanka to a city closest to your destination to not get exhausted while traveling.
  • Since Sri Lanka is a relatively warm country, we recommend packing light clothes. Sunscreen is highly recommended, in addition to a mosquito repellant. It is advised to include some apparels such as a light jumper in case of lower temperatures.

Where to Stay in Sri Lanka

Accommodation in Sri Lanka primarily depends on your budget. Sri Lanka’s main tourist attractions offer a wide range of hotels and resorts. These include five-star hotels such as Mövenpick Hotel and Hilton in Colombo, Tamarind Hill and Villa Caterina in Galle, as well as low priced hotels and local resorts throughout the country.

Places to visit in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a magnificent island offering palm beaches, mountainous areas, lakes as well as extensive rainforests. Some of the top places to visit in Sri Lanka include:

  • Sigiriya
  • Galle Fort
  • Colombo
  • Kandy

Sigiriya

This fortress made with rocks was constructed by King Kashyapa somewhere around 477-495 AD. The gateway to this fortress was carved in the shape of a lion, thus also known as the Lion Rock. The irresistible view of the rock itself is a sight to behold. The Sigiriya castle has a number of water gardens, terraced gardens, and cave gardens that you can visit.

What to do in Sigiriya: Climb the Sigiriya rock to enjoy the mesmerizing view of the surroundings. Sigiriya Rock has another rock situated right next to it; Pidurangala Rock. Climb the Pidurangala Rock to enjoy a view of the Lion Rock as a whole. Visit the Sigiriya Museum to explore the history of Sigiriya and discover the archaeological remains of this place. 

Sigiriya also features Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park, where you can explore a wide variety of flora and fauna. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the surrounding jungles with hot air balloon rides offered by local companies in Sigiriya.

Galle Fort

Galle Fort is Sri Lanka’s most attractive seaside town. The specialty of the fort is accompanied by an outlandish sea with turquoise water on all sides. Locals play cricket near the beach, tourists wander along the historic fort walls, while market sellers offer exquisite tropical fruits. 

The fort is protected and maintained by UNESCO World Heritage Foundation. Its past has created a unique combination of European and Asian elements, as shown by the whitish Dutch-style houses that adorn the cobblestone streets.

What to do in Galle: Walk along the Galle Fort walls to relive the history, or visit one of the oldest lighthouses in Sri Lanka, the Galle Lighthouse. Explore the local markets at Galle for an exquisite variety of souvenirs, including apparel, little decorations, colorful postcards and posters. Visit the Galle Dutch Hospital to experience a masterpiece of Dutch architecture.

Watch the sunset from Galle Fort Walls and fall in love with the pastel colors of the sky. Enjoy the tantalizing cuisines of Galle in local markets and eat to your hearts full.

Colombo

Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, flawlessly blends the island’s amazing culture and heritage with contemporary tourist spots and facilities.

This incredible city and its architecture make Colombo a destination that simply cannot be missed when visiting Sri Lanka. The nation’s capital is home to several museums and tourist attractions that showcase Sri Lanka’s rich past.

Many tourists fly into Sri Lanka via Colombo to visit the country’s top vacation locations. International airlines, such as Cathay Pacific have made traveling to Sri Lanka easier with direct flights to Colombo.

What to do in Colombo:

Visit the Lotus Tower at night to enjoy an exquisite lighting show.

Explore the architecturally striking Sri Lanka Planetarium, or stop by the Sri Lanka National Museum to dive into a historical experience.

If you are an ardent history lover, the National Museum of Natural History might just be the place for you.

The Red Mosque in Colombo is a sight to see with its bright walls made with red and white stones. Viharamahadevi Park and National Zoological gardens in Sri Lanka are excellent sites for people who love to be close to nature.

Kandy

The second largest city in Sri Lanka, Kandy, is home to colonial architectural masterpieces, aristocratic gardens, widespread rainforests and several notable religious sites.

The city offers a remarkable combination of cultural preservation and modernity. Famous for its tea plantations and misty hills, Kandy is a must-see place to go for tourists.

What to do in Kandy:

Visit the Botanical Garden in Kandy to explore a wide range of exquisite flora and fauna.

Take a one-day trip to Temple of the Tooth. Situated just outside the city, this temple has a tooth relic of the Buddha.

Rainforest Resort offers a breathtaking view with balconies and pools overlooking the widespread forest.

Alternatively, you can also enjoy your day at Kandy Lake. Explore the local markets for souvenirs boasting of craftsmanship, as well as gastronomic delicacies.