There are countless things to do in Sri Lanka. And as our first South Asian country that we visited together, our whole month of trip was very special. Today, we want to show you 50 things to do in Sri Lanka and why this is a country that needs to be in your bucket list. Make sure you let us know what you think in the comments and if you have questions, we’d love to hear them.
1. Insta Famous Train Kandy to Ella
One of the most popular bucket list items in Sri Lanka is the Insta-famous train ride from Kandy to Ella, or vice-versa. We hopped on for a ride for 7 hours but we couldn’t take as many pictures as we liked as the train was too crowded. The view of the Sri Lankan landscape from the train was so awe-inspiring, and the tea plantations that you pass by for hours and hours were great as well.
Unfortunately for us, however, we forgot to book our train trip in advance, so we had to ride second class—that meant you could spend a few hours on your feet, depending on your luck. We recommend taking the route from Ella to Kandy due to it being less-crowded than the other routes, especially if taking splendid photos is what you’re up to. You can get on in this spectacular adventure for 7 hours at the price of 2-3 USD.
2. Visit a Nature Park
For this adventure, we chose to explore the Kumana National Park—just a few kilometers away from Arugam Bay—in a Tuk Tuk Safari. We were graced with the sight of fascinating creatures such as peacocks, crocodiles, deer, and buffalo. We even ran into an elephant along the way, which prompted us to stop for a few minutes since elephants are apparently dangerous when they’re afraid, like when they hear the noise of a Tuk Tuk. Still, we had an amazing time marveling at the humongous beast from a few meters away. You better believe we didn’t leave without taking snapshots and videos for keeps!
3. Try Pineapple Curry
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Pineapple curry? For dessert?? But why?!
Well, this may come as a surprise, but it was actually very delicious. We’ve never heard of this delicacy before this trip, but we have to say that it was so good that we tried it not only once, but a few more times during our stay. That’s how delicious this unlikely food combination is.
4. Visit Tea Plantations in Sri Lanka
Visiting a tea plantation is definitely a must for those traveling in Sri Lanka, even if you’re not really big on tea. Just the experience alone of hiking around the area and having the opportunity to witness how hard the locals work to collect tea leaves is worth the visit. You will find some of these plantations around the Nuwara Eliya area, which is composed of a stunning landscape. But make sure to bring a comfy jacket or sweater because the mountains are close to 2000 meters above sea level, so it’s really cold.
5. The Fishermen in Unawatuna
As mentioned earlier, one of the other popular attractions in Sri Lankan beaches is checking out this unique method of fishing called “stilt fishing”, which basically consists of fishermen standing on sticks to catch fish. We witnessed this in different places and despite of it being so “touristic” of us, we decided to take their photos. Dalawella Beach (where the Palm Tree Swing is) and Koggala Beach are some of the well-known places where you can see stilt fishers.
6. Drink Arrack
Sri Lankans love drinking arrack. It’s a very strong alcoholic beverage produced in the country and also South India. Made from fermented coconut flower sap, and sugarcane or fruit, this stuff is actually very cheap but also very intoxicating, so ease on the shots with this one!
Side note: the Filipino term for “arrack” is, well, alak. Also, its Pinoy counterpart is lambanog.
7. Lion Beer
Apart from consuming an abundance of local dishes, we also tried some local beers. Our top pick was Lion Beer Lager and Lion Beer Strong, both of which we liked so much. These cost about 1 USD, which pleased us as we got to drink such good beer for only a small price.
One interesting thing that we learned: you can only purchase beers in wineries and big supermarkets. However, beer is also served in bars and restaurants in tourist spots. We tried to stray from this area and had a hard time finding a place to buy beer.
8. See The Turtles
There are a number of places where you’ll be able to see turtles. One is a turtle sanctuary near Unawatuna, but the one that we went to was in Hikkaduwa Beach, close to the seashore. You can watch giant turtles swimming around, and you don’t even need to go too far to actually peep them out.
9. Couchsurfing in Sri Lanka
As seen in our other articles, we really love Couchsurfing. In fact, this is how Rachel and I met. This is the reason why we love having these experiences when travelling the world. We stayed in in a local house in Colombo and we got to try different local dishes here, thanks to our amazing hosts Budhi and Su. We also got to visit some places that we couldn’t have otherwise gotten to had it not been for their advice. Needless to say, they provided us with a perfect introduction for our trip around Sri Lanka—with great food, and only the best recommendations for our travel itinerary.
10. Glamping in Sri Lanka
Short for “glamorous camping” for those of you who are scratching their heads right now. It was in this country of Sri Lanka that we had our first glamping experience, and it was a very good first impression. Our favorite was the one that we had in Maldukelle Tea and Eco Lodge, just an hour from north of Kandy. You’ll definitely enjoy the amazing sights from the tea plantation, which provided us with the best tea we’ve ever had and all the luxury that you need.
Our “tent” had its own swimming pool, a bathtub, high-speed internet connection, and most of all, insanely fantastic views. The service was great; the staff made us feel so special and at home.
We also have to give a big thanks to Ruzaika, who is one of our followers, who invited us and arranged everything to our maximum enjoyment in Madulkelle. Click here, if you want to enjoy our favorite place to sleep in Sri Lanka.
Looking for accommodation in Sri Lanka? Check here and book the best places to stay in Sri Lanka.
11. Surfing in Arugam Bay
We aren’t really surfers, but a lot of other people in Sri Lanka were, as seen in the beaches that we came to. There was this one place that we stayed at for a few days and really liked where you can go surfing: Arugam Bay, located in a fisherman town in the eastern part of the country which was very quiet during the low season. To get there, you have to take a bus from either Colombo or Matara and it would take you about 7 hours to reach the destination. Prices start at 5 USD. Man, transportation is very cheap in Sri Lanka!
12. Visit Local Beaches in Colombo on the Weekends
Colombo beaches tend to get super crowded during the weekends, with mostly locals taking this time to enjoy a swim. We spent one day in the city and were so astounded to find out that the beach was just nearby. That said, the atmosphere was great, mostly due to the local street food vendors, and we had fun shooting with our drone as well.
13. Go to Sigiriya
The Sigiriya (or Sinhagiri) rock fortress is located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, and is a long climb spanning almost 2 hours, requires climbing 1200 steps, and costs 30 USD. Still, the views that you’re going to see once you reach the top are one of a kind, so I’d say that’s a fair deal.
14. Visit Polonnaruwa
The town of Polonnaruwa is located in the North Central Province in Sri Lanka and remains as one of the best archaeological relic cities in the country. You can visit temples here and also the many monkeys that dwell here, if that’s your vision of a fun experience.
15. Visit Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura is the major city of North Central Province and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This place is most famous for the well-preserved ruins dating back to the ancient Sri Lankan civilization. It’s a real treat if you’re interested in temples and other historical sites, not to mention a great place for strolling around on a bicycle or motorbike.
16. Try Local Kothu
Kothu was one of the best dishes that we had and we made sure that we got to eat it for dinner every day. There are different ways to enjoy this food: vegetarian, chicken, and/or parotta mixed with vegetables and meat if you want. We had a blast watching how noisy this dish is prepared. By the way, kothu only costs around 1-2 USD.
17. Luxury Hotels
Athulya Villas (near Kandy) made it a point that they provide us with luxury the best way that they can. There are only 8 small villas, but the place is really nice and naturalistic, with a great view of the lake and the area around the area of Kandy. The restaurant in the villa is a colonial house, where we tried some local spices and curry that were extremely delicious. The best one for us was—yes, you guessed it—pineapple curry.
If you want to have an awesome experience in Athulya Villas, book here your staying.
For more accommodations in Sri Lanka click here.
18. Staying at a Local Guesthouse
You can book yourself a room at a hotel like Airbnb, but you can also stay in a local guesthouse when visiting Sri Lanka. Prices range from $10-15 USD depending on the season, and it may also include breakfast and a private bathroom. The guesthouses are clean and comfortable, and most of them have Wi-Fi—perfect for those who are traveling on a budget.
Click here and get the best deals to book guesthouses in Sri Lanka.
19. Taking a Stroll on a Tuk-tuk—For a Price!
If you’re travelling short distances and/or finding new directions for your trips, then you have to get on a Tuk-tuk, one of the most popular modes of transportation in Sri Lanka. In simple terms, this vehicle is a weird hybrid between a cab and a tricycle; in even simpler terms, it’s a motorized pedicab, but it is definitely a must-try for tourists in this country.
However, as a foreigner, one might have a hard time with this one, as being scammed in a Tuk-tuk is commonplace when traveling in Sri Lanka because some drivers like to rip you off of the amount that you have to pay for your fare. For the most part, riding a Tuk-tuk is a nice and fun experience for us, except when we were being overcharged.
20. Riding Local Buses
The local bus ride experience in Sri Lanka was crazy enjoyable, although you might have to stand up and use your balancing skills for the entirety of the trip as they are really crowded and really fast. Bus rides are really cheap and convenient—you can get a long (7 hours) ride for 5 USD, and an overnight ride as well. We rode on these vehicles mostly for going to beaches in Sri Lanka, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, and Mirissa.
21. Airbnb in Sri Lanka
Airbnb (click this link if you want to have 25 Euros disccount coupon in your next booking) is getting really popular in Sri Lanka, and it offers a lot of options. This is where we found our ideal place: a villa near Unawatuna with a amazing pool for relaxation, and fast internet connection for doing our work online. Check out the photos of our villa here.
This is our favorite part of Sri Lanka, out of all the other awesome things on our list. We enjoyed viewing beautiful sunsets on the beach, especially the one in Midigama Beach. The colors were really vibrant, and that the place wasn’t that crowded was a plus as well.
If you’re an early bird with a penchant for watching the rising sun, then you’re really going to like the sunrise here. The most ideal place for this is Little Adam’s Peak, although you’ll have to wake up extra early due to the hour-long hike to get there. But that’s okay, because the view is truly worth the time and the effort.
24. The Palm Tree Swing at Dalawella Beach
You can visit this well-known swing in Unawatuna, one of our favorite beaches in Sri Lanka. The swing ride costs 3 USD but it’s free if you’re staying at the Dream Cabana guesthouse on the beach. Other than that, you can go for a walk on the long seashore, or simply marvel over the local fishermen’s unique fishing technique called “stilt fishing”.
25. Taking Photos Climbing Coconut Trees
Sri Lanka is brimmed with coconut trees. You can practice your tree-climbing skills with them, as the locals do, and you might be awarded with a fresh coconut for your troubles.
26. Galle Fort
Galle is the main city around the Sri Lankan beaches, and it’s worth a visit if you are within the areas of Mirissa, Unawatuna, and Hikkaduwa. As with most beaches here, the view of the sunset is top-notch. It can get a bit crowded, but that takes nothing away from its majesty
27. Climbing Parrot Rock
If you’re visiting or staying at Mirissa Beach, then you might come across Parrot Rock. All you have to do is walk the sand bar and climb up the rocky steps to get to the top of the small island, and the next thing you know is you’re standing atop a great place to watch the crashing waves, enjoy and take pictures of the beach view, or just relax and have a serene moment. As is the pattern, during sunset is the ideal time to go, mostly because this is when it’s the least hot. Another awesome plan todo is whale watching in Mirissa.
28. Trying Local Fruits
There are plenty of delightful fruits in Sri Lanka such as the typical mango, papaya, and—of course—coconut, but you can also find exotic ones like rambutan and dragon fruit.
However, the most interesting fruit that we came across with was the one that we’ve never heard of and have only found out just then—the wood apple. On the outside, it’s got a really tough shell and quite an interestingly fragrant smell; it’s got a weird, brownish appearance on the inside, but if you can get past this, it’s actually really tasty. “Why is it called a ‘wood apple?” Well, you’re gonna have to Google that one.
29. Trying Sri Lankan Omelette
We loved Sri Lankan Omelette so much that it became our favorite breakfast item immediately after tasting it. The dish is made with vegetables and some spicy ingredients, which actually improved it for us. Served with papaya juice with lime, this makes for a great breakfast!
30. Climbing Adam´s Peak
One of the most exciting and challenging things on our bucket list for Sri Lanka was climbing Adam’s Peak, and the awe-inspiring sunset once you’ve reached the top is the cherry on top on this activity. So make sure you wear the proper hiking clothes and shoes if you’re up for this adventure. Oh, hopefully the weather is on your side. Good luck!
31. Try Hoppers
If you’re dining at local places, then you should definitely try these things called Hoppers, which are bowl-shaped pancakes made from rice flour and served with various toppings. The best one that we tried was the one with egg and vegetables, but there are also sweet hoppers if that’s what you’re into. This Sri Lankan delicacy tastes so good that we might just study how to prepare them ourselves.
32. Papaya Juice with Lime
We’re big fans of fresh fruits and juices, and our favorite one from this leg of our travel was the papaya juice with lime. As we’ve stated above, it’s a perfect partner to a Sri Lankan Omelette, but you’ll still love to drink this everyday even without that dish.
33. Trying Roti with Curry
The locals in Sri Lanka eat roti with curry all the time. The word roti is of Sanskrit origin meaning “bread”, and curry is, well, curry. Put these two together and you’ve got one hell of a Sri Lankan delicacy. People in this country eat this snack frequently it’s basically a part of their culture—so why not try a taste of this piece of their culture? Plus, you can even learn how to make it yourself just by watching it being prepared.
34. Drinking Tea from the Plantation
We visited Madulkelle during our stay, and I can honestly say that the tea that we had here was one of the best that we’ve ever had. We’re actually coffee persons, but the tea that we drank on this day was too good to pass upon, and the stunning view of the place only accentuated to the whole experience.
35. Flying Our Drone in the Beaches
If you’re big on photography as much as we are, then you’re in for a treat in Sri Lanka, especially for those with drones. It’s completely safe and allowed to fly your drone here and you’ll be really satisfied with the photos and videos that you’ll end up with. Also, based on our experience, a lot of locals will approach you when you’re flying your drone, so get ready to make new friends.
It´s allowed to fly the drone in Sri Lanka and we didn´t have any problem to do it! There are a few countries where isn´t allowed to fly the drone. So, if you are planning to fly the drone in Sri Lanka. We let you know that´s possible!
Sri Lankan beaches are very popular, which is why we spent most of our time there. They’re also great places for snorkeling. The water on the beaches is crystal-clear, which is a huge positive if you want to see the turtles on the seashore up-close. You can join a tour with other beach-goers, or just rent your own mask and go it alone.
37. Shopping for Saris
A sari (or saree) is the dress code for Sri Lankan women. It is a long garment usually worn around the waist and draped over the shoulder. This clothing actually symbolizes grace and pride in the Sri Lankan culture, so if you’re invited to a local celebration, you can never go wrong with a sari.
Wear a longyi when visiting Sri Lanka. It’s a type of sarong that’s worn around the waist running to the feet, and it’s really comfortable and common among men in Sri Lanka. You can find these in local markets
39. Medicinal Herbs in Sri Lanka
If you ever fall under the weather or feel something as much as a stomach ache while on your travels in Sri Lanka, worry not—you can find a lot of medicinal herbs here, as the locals use them as treatments to their ailments.
40. Hiking around Ella
If you’re the type of person who’s really into trekking, then the marvellous mountain town of Ella has got you covered. You can go for a hike, climb Little Adam’s Peak for the sunrise, and visit tea plantations. Or, why not try and search for those famous Instagram-able places around Ella and take a few snapshots as well?
41. Infinity pools
Who wouldn’t enjoy infinity pools? We had a few opportunities to experience these while travelling in Sri Lanka. It’s always great to watch the sunset while relaxing, swimming and enjoying some of Sri Lanka’s amazing views!
42. Breakfast on a boat
We had a great romantic experience cruising in Mahaweli River. We savoured a wonderful breakfast while sailing around
We could see a couple of swans and flamingos swimming in the river. It is a very peaceful experience that you can do and we recommend this when visiting Kandy. The service was really great and we had loads of fun!
43. Renting a bicycle/Motorbike to go around
While visiting the beaches in Sri Lanka it would be nice to ride a motorbike. There are many beaches around and if you have the chance to rent a motorbike you can visit a few of them, the distances are just really short. You will find empty beaches and beaches with fishermen around. You will certainly love the experience!
44. Vegetarian Roti
One of the most popular breakfasts in Sri Lanka is the vegetarian roti and you can have it with egg or without egg. It was actually very delicious and the price starts at only 33 US cents! You can easily find them in street food and in local restaurants.
45. Romantic walk along the beach
It is said that Sri Lankan beaches are the nirvana for beach lovers and we couldn’t express how much we agree on that. The beaches are so beautiful and packed with tall palm trees. The scenery is perfect for those who love taking pictures while enjoying long walks along the shore. The area is very quiet in general with only a few tourist areas with bars and restaurants. After your walk, you can enjoy a smoothie or a cold beer while watching the sunset.
46. Getting kicked out of the bus
You’re probably wondering… “Kicked out of the bus in Sri Lanka. Why?” Well, unfortunately, it happened a couple of times, we were riding the same distance and the bus tried to charge us 3-4 times the usual price. And yes, even if the fare is cheap I complained because I don’t like experiencing those kinds of things. I asked why is it so expensive while during our previous day in Sri Lanka, I only paid less than half of what they were charging us. The answer we get? We get kicked out of the bus! Though this only happened twice, it was not a big problem for us we just opted for the next bus that arrives and the price was normal luckily. It’s part of traveling and you have to take note that it can sometimes happen.
47. Playing Cricket
Cricket is the national sports in Sri Lanka, it shares some similarity with baseball. You will see kids and adults playing it everywhere. It’s definitely worth it to try if you come visit, I tried it and it really wasn’t that difficult. It’s super fun and local people will be super happy to meet you and get to know you a little. They asked me about Spain and also asked about soccer teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona.
48. Visiting Local Markets
We always make sure that we visit local markets everytime we travel. You always have the chance to try their local food and fruits. We also love the vibe in the local markets, we usually go there after we arrive and before our departure. The people are always so busy and it’s easier to haggle for affordable food and items at local markets.
49. Visit a Public Park
We got surprised at how modern and how full of life public parks were in Sri Lanka. Some of them even offer boat rides around the lake though it gets too crowded during the weekends. It’s a perfect scenery to mix with local people.
50. Rooftop Views
Watching Colombo from a rooftop! The perfect time is during sunset since you can see the wies with light and enjoy the sunset. And a few minutes later you will enjoy the views at night with the lights on the city. Check them out Movenpick Colombo amazing place for stay!
And yes, if you’re planning on visiting Sri Lanka on a low budget, transportation will not be an issue. And you can find accommodation starting from $10 USD. Click here to find those deals!
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