Top 5 experiences to have in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is bursting with centuries of tradition, a rich culture and some incredible sights. The teardrop shaped island has a lot to be discovered and in recent years has shot to the top of the list of many travellers dream destinations. It’s perfect for those who want a beach holiday, paired with some beautiful national parks and interesting cultural sites. Sri Lankan tourism was flourishing until April, when the country had a string of bombings that saw tourism drop significantly. Four months on, Sri Lanka is rebuilding and it’s now more important than ever to support local communities and those working in the tourism sector to help restore this wonderful country. We have compiled a list of the top five experiences every traveller should have in Sri Lanka.

Take the train ride to Ella through the Hill Country

The train journey from Kandy to Ella is considered to be one of the most breathtaking rail journeys in the world. The seven hour long journey snakes through tea plantations, lush forests, vast rice paddies and tumbling waterfalls. Look out for the stunning mountain peaks looming in the distance and make sure you have your camera on hand – you’ll want to capture every moment. At each station, local vendors hop on selling a variety of fresh pineapple, sweet mango and salted corn, all adding to this amazing experience. If you don’t fancy doing the whole journey, you can always cut it down by doing Kandy to Nuwara Eliya or Nuwara Eliya to Ella.

Climb Sigiriya Rock

The famous Sigiriya Rock is one of the most popular sites on the island. It was named “Lion Rock” due to the enormous lions feet that you see halfway. Located around 15 kilometres from Dambulla, in the heart of Sri Lanka, the 200 meter high rock will literally leave you breathless, between its 1200 steps and beautiful views. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built around 1600 years ago and is a wonderful example of Sri Lankan architecture. Half way up you’ll find gorgeous gardens and frescoes where you can rest, before tackling the last section that brings you to some of the best panoramic views in the country.

Hike Adam’s Peak at sunrise

Adam’s Peak is the fourth highest point in Sri Lanka and shrouded in legend due to the unusual findings on the mountain. Known for the “Sri Pada”, the sacred footprint, it’s a popular spot for travellers, locals and families alike. Buddhist’s believe the footprint belongs to Buddha himself, Hindus claim it is that of Lord Shiva while Christian’s think it’s the spot Adam took his first step after being banished from Eden. The climb to the top will take anything from two to four hours, and if you want to reach the summit for sunrise that means setting off around midnight. The atmosphere at the top is truly special, as incense fills the air and people sit around waiting for the morning spectacle.

Walk to World’s End in Horton Plains

Located near Nuwaya Ella, Horton Plains National Park is the only national park in Sri Lanka that can be explored on foot. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by the tallest mountains in Sri Lanka, providing stunning views as you walk through the park. Don’t miss out on hiking the 2000 metre plateau to “World’s End” where you can see some of the best panoramas of the valley as the ledge drops 880 metres below you. The trail then loops back to Baker’s Falls, a famous waterfall in Sri Lanka. You are also likely to spot some wildlife in the park, including the sambar deer and mongoose.

Visit a tea plantation

Sri Lanka is well known for its tea production and has plenty of plantations and excursions for you to have a hands on experience. The area is known as the “Hill Country” and is located in the middle of Sri Lanka. This is where you find the majority of tea plantations as well as some stunning waterfalls. Not only are the tea plantations beautiful, with their verdant rolling hills and misty hilltops, but they offer a true insight into one of the biggest exports of Sri Lanka. Uva Halpewatte is the largest tea factory in the Uva region, offering guided tours and tea tasting experiences. Once you get to the top of the factory, you’ll be amazed by the sweeping views of the plantations below.

Matt Gannan is the CEO and Owner of Tucan Travel. Tucan Travel operate cultural tours in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, Asia and Europe, as well as tailor-made holidays in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

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Comments (11)

  1. Stephen says:

    I like the option to explore World’s End by foot. I spend too much of my life on the tube and in an office so I grab any opportunity to get out and get some fresh air. The last thing I want to do on holiday is to get into another vehicle. Also when you are walking you get the chance to to see the terrain close-up. Walking is my way of doing slow travel.

    • Matt Gannan says:

      Hi Stephen,

      Couldn’t agree more. Walking is often the best way to see a new destination, the slower pace means you see things you would miss from a car window. I hope you have many slow adventures planned for the future.

      All the best

  2. Gary Childerly says:

    It has always been a goal of mine to climb Adam’s Peak at dawn but I fear that age has taken its toll on my body. Though I’m a great believer in not letting age get me down. Taking that epic train journey in the picture and visiting a tea plantation would be just as exciting experiences in their own right. Although I am ageing it’s not going to stop me travelling, I just have to adapt to what I can do.

    • Matt Gannan says:

      Hi Gary,

      Adventure doesn’t have to mean taking on the highest mountain, it can be as simple as seeing a new place for the first time. You are absolutely right that age should never stop you travelling, there is something out there for everyone.

      All the best

  3. Sheila says:

    Only God knows how many cups of tea that I’ve drunk in my life. And to think that I’ve never been to a tea plantation. Makes me think that I ought to visit one.

    • Matt Gannan says:

      Hi Sheila,

      Sounds like it’s time you experienced a tea plantation to see how it’s really done! :)

      All the best

  4. Andy Ashby says:

    I’ve always had a great love of trains. That train journey through hill country looks amazing. Sign me up for the full 7 hour adventure. It’s even better that you get a taste of Sri Lanka from all the food vendors at the stations. No need to pack lunch for that journey. And I’m guessing that they sell very high quality cups of tea too?

    • Matt Gannan says:

      Hi Andy,

      I would agree, travelling by train is one of the best ways to explore a country with very rewarding views of the countryside. The journey in Sri Lanka is in a league of its own.

      All the best

  5. Emma Jane says:

    Sri Lanka is high on my list of places to see. What beautiful countryside and that train journey looks stunning.

  6. Kate says:

    I am an absolute tea addict. We’re probably talking somewhere around about 12 cups a day. Although I have travelled a lot, including 3 trips to India, I’m still yet to visit a tea plantation. As there is so much going on in Sri Lanka, it would be a good place to finally taste a cup of tea, just a few hundred yards from where the leaves were picked.

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