When we told friends that we were headed to Sri Lanka with our 3 kids in their 20’s for a 10-day visit we got a lot of blank stares and people asking how we chose Sri Lanka as a destination, and what one does while traveling there.
So now that we are back from an amazing family trip to this beautiful country, here is my list of Top 10 Things to Do in Sri Lanka. (You can see my detailed day-by-day Sri Lanka itinerary on my travel website JamboGuides.)
– Take one of the world’s most beautiful train rides, from Kandy to Ella. This 7-hour ride passes by in a flash as you travel through amazing lush countryside, tea plantations, forests, and villages. With the the open-air windows (as long as you are not in 1st class where windows don’t open) and open doors, you can lean out for your Instagram-worthy pics. Get tickets ahead of time and ask for 2nd class.
– Visit Galle fort Built by the Portuguese in 1588 and then fortified by the Dutch -1600s, the Galle fort sits on the ocean along the southern part of Sri Lanka. The fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, has charming streets and alleys to wander for restaurants and shopping, and also has hotels within it. It’s a great place to see the colonial history of Sri Lanka and to have lunch and pick up some souvenirs, then head to your beach location.
– Birdwatch. There are a couple of different locations in Sri Lanka that are known for their amazing bird-spotting opportunities. We opted for the area of Kitulgala where there are lots of bird life and you can get a guide. My son saw over 100 new species during our trip.
– White water raft. We actually didn’t raft, but the town Kitulgala, where we started our trip, is full of ‘adventure’ activities including rafting and canyoning (where you repel down into rivers/over waterfalls etc). This is where the Bridge Over the River Kwai was filmed. Hiked to an amazing water hole where we swam under a waterfall.
– Surf. From beginner to expert, Sri Lanka is a surf destination! The water is warm, the sun is hot and you can choose your beach based on the difficulty of waves you desire. Either rent a board (about $1/hr) or head out with an instructor. Follow up with some fresh coconut juice afterwards!
– Visit a temple with Buddha’s tooth in it – the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Buddhism is the primary religion of Sri Lanka, and this is the most important temple in the country and worth a visit while in the town of Kandy.
– Climb to the top of the ancient rock fortress Sigiriya with views for miles around Go early in the day to avoid the crowds (and the heat and/or rain), but the fortress on top of the HUGE rock is worth a visit! It’s a bit of a climb up (but only took us 30 minutes maybe to the top), but worth the effort.
– Walk on miles of sandy beaches.The beaches have soft, white sand, the temperature of the water is perfect and there is beach after beach waiting for you without high-rise hotels on them.
– Go on safari There are a couple options of where to go to see animals, and we chose Yala National Park where we saw leopard, and elephant and more.
– Hang out with kind people in a beautiful country that’s very affordable and not yet over-touristed.
See the full itineary here.