Sri Lanka is a Southern Eastern island country formerly named Ceylon! (Rings a bell?). Often referred to as the (Pearl of the Indian Ocean), its wide sandy beaches attract millions of tourists every year. We won’t be speaking beaches here (or at least we’ll try to). We’d rather talk picturesque scenery and captivating ancient ruins that’ll take you on a spell bounding journey you’ll never forget! Here are 5 fun things to do in Sri Lanka.
1. The Wildlife
You’ve probably heard about Sri Lanka’s leopards. They say Sri Lanka has more leopards than any other country. If you want to see those exquisite big cats, then Yala National Park is your perfect destination. If you’re more of a subtle wild-life lover and are into the descendants of mammoths, Udawalawe National Park is your pick. The 600 elephants in Udawalawe make it a key attraction for elephant lovers. Interestingly, Sri Lanka’s elephants are smaller in size than their African counterparts and their ears are smaller too. Only 7% of Sri Lanka male elephants have front teeth (poor things 🙂 ).
If you like birds, you’d be glad to know that Sri Lanka has many hot spots for bird watching. Thirty-three bird species including owls are restricted to Sri Lanka which means you won’t find them elsewhere.
Whale and dolphin watching cruises are very popular there too; Trincomalee is famous for dolphins, though Dondra Point (accessible from Mirissa) is known best for blue whale watching.
Beware small lizards though as they’re everywhere. But thankfully, they’re harmless and feed on mosquitoes, ants, and moths! (Very useful, right?)
2.Teas & Smoothies
You can’t be in Sri Lanka and not do some tea-tasting!
Nuwara Eliya is where you should head to. The city is a blend of English architecture, Swiss landscape, but the tea will soon bring you back to enchanting Sri Lanka. Tea plantations are literally everywhere (one of which is Lipton tea estate). You’ll be amazed at how many people take this incredible journey by foot merely to tour the plantations, watch pickers do their job, and buy some tea samples for their loved ones. Next time you take a tea bag out of your kitchen cupboard won’t be the same.
For smoothie fanatics, Shady Lane in Mirissa is the real deal. First of all, smoothies are served in bowls (true story). Secondly, the ingredients are clean and super healthy. Lastly, people swear by it. They say it’s hard to put the taste into words, so you’ll have to try it for yourself.
3. Kandy to Ella
The train journey from Kandy to Ella and vice versa will be the highlight of your vacation. You might think traveling is a lot of hassle, but this train trip is one of a kind. What’s so special about it, I hear you asking?
Okay… you’ll feel submerged in green tea fields and mountains. Whatever your eyes lay upon is green! And the trains are really cool. Most of them are in blue but the old ones (the steam trains) are red in color and they have a rustic feel to them.
Throughout the journey, you can watch the people in local villages outside their homes and the ladies in the fields picking tea leaves. You’re guaranteed to enjoy the spectacular scenery and learn about the people and culture.
Don’t go for air-conditioned cabins because you’ll want to open the windows. You can also hang out the windows and doors (perfect for having photos taken of yourself). Make sure though the grass isn’t too long or it will hurt your feet!
Note: Purchase your ticket a month before through a tour agency just in case they’re sold out at stations.
4. The Veddhas
Whether Veddhas are the descendants of Sri Lanka’s first king or date back to the Stone Age, Veddhas or (people of the forest) are the only aboriginal people of Sri Lanka that haven’t gone extinct. You’ll be amazed to know that tourists come from everywhere to visit the jungles they live in. As the early man did, Veddhas rely on hunting and gathering, but sadly the future of their culture remains unknown.
In your visit, you can watch them hunting for food or fishing as they’re known to be experts at it. To acquire what they need, they use the ancient method of exchange as they gather bee’s honey and exchange it with the locals for cloth and ax blades.
You’ll find Veddhas very friendly and they’ll happily show you what their everyday life is like. They use bows and arrows for hunting and often walk around carrying their axes on their shoulders. Amazing, isn’t it?
5. Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Part rock, part fortress, and now a Buddhist temple, Sigiriya Rock Fortress is Sri Lanka’s most iconic site. To give you a heads up, Sigiriya is also known as Lion Fortress and the Eighth Wonder of the World. Now you know exactly what to expect!
Located in the center of the country at a height of 200 meters or 1,200 steps, Sigiriya is a huge column of rocks. As a matter of fact, the fortress isn’t built on top of the rock but within the rock’s walls and plateau. 1600-year-old paintings embellish the walls and two huge lion paws guard it. Believe it or not, the king’s swimming pools are on top of the rock!
As long as you’re not visiting in peak time and taking breaks every now and then, you can make it to the top in an hour or two most. Once you see the breathtaking view, however, you’ll know it’s worth it.
Note: If you want to see Sigiriya Rock from afar, you may climb the nearby Pidurangala Rock which is just a meter shorter.
Browse holiday accommodation options in Sri Lanka, here.
It’s your turn now…
Which of these five things to do in Sri Lanka do you find most exciting?