19 best things to do in Sri Lanka
Did you know Contiki trips to Sri Lanka are BACK ON? This is one of our fave countries to visit, with its serene spice gardens, lush tea plantations and awesome National Parks. So, in honour of this irresistible island nation, here are the absolute best things to do in Sri Lanka this year.
1. Explore Negombo’s canals
North of Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, Negombo gives Amsterdam a run for its money with Dutch-style canals and 17th century Dutch Fort and fisherman-hut-lined canals. While very different from Amsterdam (AKA tropical vibes), there’s a definite similarity—everyone even rides bikes.
2. Street food tour
Jump in a tuk tuk and get eating! Curries abound in Sri Lanka with the full spectrum from chilli-packed varieties to sweet stews all accounted for. Be sure to eat an egg hopper while you’re there, which is a pancake style nest of eggy goodness.
3. Seek out the awe-inspiring monuments
From temples to ancient ruins, Sri Lanka has a wealth of historical spots to take in while you’re exploring. One of our favourites is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, which is a Buddhist temple in the royal palace complex. As the name suggests, the temple is home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha.
4. See a Kandyan folk dance
An important folk ritual in Sri Lanka, the Kandyan dances are vibrant and beautiful, telling stories and legends passed down by locals over the many generations.
5. Ride the famous Kandy to Ella train
You’ve seen the pics, now it’s time to live it yourself. The famous seven-hour train trip between Kandy and Ella is a quintessential bucket list experience where you’ll be treated to some amazing views of tea plantations, mountains and locals alike. We won’t suggest you do anything dangerous like take the iconic photo of yourself from the open doors, but also, it’s iconic for a reason.
6. Visit a tea plantation
Sri Lankan tea is some of the finest in the world and seeing the lush plantations (and maybe even picking some tea of your own) is one thing you cannot miss when you jet off to this country.
7. Gaze in wonder at elephants
There’s a right way to see Elephants and a definite wrong way, and at Contiki we’re all about doing it the right way. At the Udawalawe Elephant Transit home you can get up close and personal with orphaned elephants who are in need of some additional TLC before being released back into the wild.
8. Spend the night glamping
Glamping is firmly on the rise and one of the best places to do it is tropical, balmy Sri Lanka. Have a sleepover in luxe tents next to the Walawe riverbed and wake up surronded by the vibrant flora and fauna.
9. Go on a safari
Sri Lanka has a wealth of animals to discover and it’d basically be a crime not to do this while you’re there. Spot water buffalo, native birds and maybe even wild Sri Lankan elephants.
10. Hike the Horton Plains
Sri Lanka has plenty fo opportunities to get the blood pumping on hikes through truly incredible terrain. One of the best is the climb to see “Worlds End” in Horton Plains National Park—once at the peak, you’ll be well rewarded with epic views for your efforts.
11. Attend a cooking class
The food is 10/10 in Sri Lanka so you may as well master the art of cooking a little bit of classic Sri Lankan food yourself so you can wow your friends and family when you arrive back home. As part of our Pure Sri Lanka trip, you can do just that—prepare for an epic feast.
12. Visit the historic fort city of Galle
Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage listed fort city of Galle is a must-see when heading to the south west coast of Sri Lanka. The fortified old city was colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century and it’s known for its distinctly unique mishmash of European and South Asian traditional architecture.
13. Whale spotting
Many stunning whale species pass Sri Lanka each year and Mirissa, on the southern tip of the island, is considered to be the best place to catch a glimpse of these incredible animals. From sperm whales to blue whales, this is your chance for an unissable encounter.
14. Save the turtles
Turtles are so darn cute but they’re also sadly under threat for environmental and poaching reasons. At the Kosgoda Turtle Conservation centre in Unawatuna you can see these babies up close and do your bit to make sure they find their way to the ocean safely.
15. Try your hand at surfing
Sri Lanka has some of the best surfing beaches in the world and a great place for beginners and pros alike is Weligama. Sign yourself up for a surfing lesson and hang ten for the afternoon—at the very least you’ll get a good workout and swim in.
16. Paint your own Sri Lankan mask
Traditional Sri Lankan balsa-wood masks are bright and colourful, and painting your own and learning about their cultural significance while passing through Unawatuna is a great way to get a souvenier to take home that has meaning.
17. Go shopping at Pettah Bazaar
Pettah Bazaar in Colombo is famously chaotic and truly authentic. Brave the hot cobra chillies if you dare, or just shop for souveniers if chilli isn’t your thing. Either, way it’s a must-stop for a bargain.
18. Watch the sunset from a rooftop bar
Colombo has plenty of amazing rooftop bars and there’s no better way to end the day than to grab a beer and chill on a rooftop while the sun sinks below the horizon.
19. Unwind on the beach
Arguably one of the greatest things about Sri Lanka is its beaches. It is your duty to relax on them as much as possible between adventures. Tropical, palm-studded beaches with clear turquoise water await!