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      Sri Lanka Travel Guide. Tips, sights, recommended activities

      A remarkable combination of outstanding natural landscapes, idyllic beaches and a captivating cultural heritage, Sri Lanka is a fascinating tropical destination. Located in the Indian Ocean, the teardrop-shaped island impresses travellers with its exotic heritage and unique experiences. Here, the original soul of Buddhism still blooms, the temples exude magic, and everywhere deep notes of spices, specific aromas and vivid colours stand out.

      Wild, yet extremely welcoming, the small island country has an incredible beauty. If you intend to explore the riches of this land, here’s a travel guide to Sri Lanka that will help you find the recipe for a dream stay.

      Sri Lanka Travel Guide. Tips, sights, recommended activities 1


      About Sri Lanka 3

      Weather 4

      People 5

      Culture 6

      Language 7

      Top reasons why it’s worth visiting Sri Lanka 8

      Tea plantations 9

      Capital Colombo 10

      Sacred places 11

      Wildlife 12

      Beaches of Sri Lanka 13

      Must-see sights 14

      Pinnawala, elephant orphanage 15

      Ratnapura, the city of gemstones 16

      Sinharaja National Park 17

      Dambulla Temple Complex 18

      Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka 19

      Polonnaruwa, the second ancient capital of the country 20

      Kataragama, pilgrimage destination 21

      Nuwara Eliya, home of tea 22

      Yala National Park 23

      Adam’s Peak, symbol of all great religions 24

      Means of transport 25

      Unpublished activities 26

      Accommodation and meals 27

      Travel tips 28

      About Sri Lanka

      The most important thing to know about Sri Lanka is that it is the perfect destination to admire the spectacle of nature. With vast jungles, stunning stretches of sand, numerous tea plantations, botanical gardens, waterfalls and national parks, Sri Lanka offers one of the most beautiful exotic holidays.


      If you want to see where Sri Lanka is positioned on the map, you will notice the country is located in south-east Asia, between the parallels of 5° and 10° north latitude. Thus, due to its location, the island’s climate is tropical, influenced by monsoons, moderated by humidity and sea currents. Temperatures are good throughout the year, with average values ranging from 16°C in Nuwara Eliya, in the central part of the country, to 38°C in Trincomalee, on the northeast coast.

      Before looking for the best holiday deals in Sri Lanka it is important to establish which season suits you best. The best time to visit the south-west of the island is in January-April. If you plan to go to the north-east of the country, then opt for May-September. Rainfall is high throughout the island in September and October, with March and April having the least rainfall. Also, from June to September the highest temperatures are recorded.


      Whichever Sri Lanka travel guide you consult, you will find that there is vibrancy and exuberance, friendliness, hospitality and harmony in this part of the world. The enthusiasm and good mood of the inhabitants is infectious. In Sri Lanka people will pleasantly surprise you by worshipping nature, respecting trees and loving animals. They are hospitable, sanctimoniously preserve the richness of the places and perfectly complete the picture of unique holidays and experiences in one of the true paradises of the world.


      In ancient times, the island was a stopover point on one of the Silk Roads and an important centre of Buddhist religion and culture. The Arabs called it Serendib, from the origin of the word serendipity, which refers to the pleasure of discovering unexpected beauties, and the Greeks Taprobane. Instead Europeans, until 1972, knew it as Ceylon. Although the country became independent in 1948, only 24 years later it was christened Sri Lanka, a name derived from Sanskrit where Sri means venerable and Lanka – island.

      Proximity to the Indian subcontinent has led to a fairly close cultural interaction with India. At the same time, influences from other Asian and European civilizations have contributed to the island’s impressive cultural richness. In Sri Lanka, the people of the country are devoutly committed to the Buddhist faith, and there are few places in the world where there are so many temples or statues of Buddha. In addition, the tropical island is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and is also famous for the practice of Ayurveda.


      Sinhala and Tamil are spoken in this part of the world. Travel guides to Sri Lanka show the island as being divided into two by language. More specifically, in the northern part of the country they communicate in Tamil, while in the rest of the country the spoken language is Sinhala. As a former British colony, there are people in Sri Lanka who speak English at least at a basic level.

      Top reasons why it’s worth visiting Sri Lanka

      Named Lonely Planet’s Destination of the Year 2019, Sri Lanka offers an incredible experience. Here are some of the reasons why you should visit this wonderful place:

      Tea plantations

      If you go on a holiday to Sri Lanka, you will definitely take the famous Ceylon tea with you on your return. The country is world-famous for this liquor, but you must see the tea plantations and enjoy a unique tour where you can taste different kinds of tea.

      Capital Colombo

      In Sri Lanka, the capital Colombo is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Tourists discover here an exotic city, full of contrasts, with luxury restaurants and modern hotels, but also street food or colonial mansions. Galle Face Green, the five-hectare urban park on the outskirts of the city, is among Colombo’s most interesting attractions.

      Sacred places

      As already mentioned, every travel guide to Sri Lanka mentions Buddhist temples. The Buddhist religion is extremely important in the country, everywhere there are sacred places, temples built even inside natural caves, statues of Buddha, paintings with religious motifs.


      Elephants, leopards, bears or beautiful birds can all be seen on a jeep safari. Sri Lanka is home to a multitude of species, and a visit to Yala National Park will help you see many animals in their natural habitat.

      Beaches of Sri Lanka

      With 1,340 kilometres of coastline, Sri Lanka is even more attractive to tourists. The small island country’s beaches are surrounded by coconut palms, have fine white sand, and water like the Caribbean, only more affordable. Bentota and Beruwala can be considered the most popular beach destinations in Sri Lanka, with more action, and Nilaveli and Uppuveli are the places where tourists can have some peace and quiet.

      Must-see sights

      What do you have to visit when you arrive on the most beautiful island in the world, as the great explorer Marco Polo said? Well, in this travel guide to Sri Lanka you will discover a few must-see sights. From ancient cities and magical temples to tea plantations, gardens and sanctuaries, everything is spectacular.

      Pinnawala, the elephant orphanage

      Almost 90 kilometres from Colombo, in the Kegalle district, is Pinnawala – the Elephant Orphanage.

      The centre was established in 1972 to protect and conserve elephants as a species and now houses over 80 elephants living in the wild.

      Ratnapura, the city of gemstones

      A holiday in Sri Lanka must include a visit to Ratnapura. The area is famous for mining gemstones, especially rubies and sapphires. But Ratnapura has also been included in Sri Lanka’s tourist circuits because of its tea plantations, tropical trees and latex trees.

      Sinharaja National Park

      Designated by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, Sinharaja Park is representative of endemic species of trees, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

      Dambulla temple complex

      In the central part of the island lies Dambulla, a town famous for its rock temple complex and the prehistoric site of Ibbankatuwa where signs of ancient indigenous civilization remain. Also, if you choose to stay in the Hambantota area of Sri Lanka, you will be able to visit a modern construction, the Rangiri Stadium, which was built in just 167 days.

      Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka

      Travel guides to Sri Lanka mention Anuradhapura as an important tourist attraction that gives a detailed picture of urban life in the long gone eras.

      Capital of the country for almost 15 centuries, the city is sacred to Buddhists and is on the UNESCO list.

      Polonnaruwa, the second ancient capital of the country

      The ancient city stands out for its cleanliness and beauty, but also for the famous garden built during the time of King Parakramabahu I. As the first capital of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

      Kataragama, pilgrimage destination

      In Monaragala district there are numerous temples belonging to Buddhist, Hindu and Vedic communities. People from Sri Lanka, as well as southern India, come here on pilgrimage, the area being attested as inhabited since the Mesolithic and Neolithic.

      Nuwara Eliya, home of tea

      It has a special air, colonial hotels and world-famous golf courses. Nuwara Eliya is a town situated at almost 2,000 metres above sea level, and surrounded by tea plantations, waterfalls and beautiful gardens.

      Yala National Park

      Consisting of nine ecosystems that include outstanding species of flora and fauna specific to the island, this park is highlighted in any Sri Lanka travel guide. The area is home to an important population of elephants and waterfowl, as well as numerous archaeological sites.

      Adam’s Peak, symbol of all great religions

      It is a mountain over 2,200 metres high, just 40 kilometres from Ratnapura. Buddhists consider it to be the site of Buddha’s footprint, Hindus claim that Shiva walked here, and Christians and Muslims believe that Adam first walked here after being expelled from Eden. At the top of the mountain there is a temple and a rock formation that looks like a footprint.

      Means of transport

      In case you are wondering how to get to Sri Lanka, there are no direct flights from Bucharest. Depending on which airline you choose, you can make stopovers in Dubai, Istanbul or Doha. Whichever option you choose, you’ll land at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. From here, public transport options are plentiful, so you don’t have to worry about getting from place to place.

      For long distances, train and bus are recommended. Instead, in cities, the best transport option is a tuk tuk. Of course, you can also use taxis or even rent a car for your holiday in Sri Lanka.

      Unpublished activities

      Fascinating landscapes are some of the most beautiful things Sri Lanka has to offer. In the central part of the country, the views are breathtaking – mountains and valleys covered with tea plantations, and in places complemented by huge waterfalls. Without a doubt, you don’t need a person as a travel guide in Sri Lanka to enjoy nature! However, there are many other unique activities you can experience in this tropical destination.

      Tourists can feed and photograph elephants in Pinnawala, swim with sharks in Trincomalee or spot dolphins and whales in Kalpitiya. A tour of a few hours on the Madu river channels, formed by the mangrove beds, will give you an unparalleled experience. Floating skins are also an unrivalled attraction, as are safari expeditions in Sri Lanka’s national parks.

      Head to Nuwara Eliya for tea plantations that offer hiking opportunities or to Bentota to discover ancient Ayurvedic healing practices and indulge in drinks made from coconut nectar. Sri Lanka’s coastal waters offer excellent conditions for water sports, the performances of traditional dances and songs are very appealing, and climbing the thousands of steps in the middle of the night on Adam’s Peak is a unique activity.

      Accommodation and meals

      In Sri Lanka you will find plenty of comfortable accommodation. Prices don’t always reflect reality, but there are both modern hotels and acceptable and fairly cheap units. In terms of food, there are luxurious restaurants, various restaurants, terraces and street food. Everywhere you turn you’ll find curry, which means your dishes might be quite spicy. It’s just that curry always comes with rice or other side dishes that add freshness to the plate.

      Fish and seafood play an important role in Sri Lankan cuisine, and there are all sorts of delicious local fruits all over the island. The food has a mix of Arabic, Indian and South Asian influences, so the taste will be impossible to replicate at home. So don’t overlook dishes like Wambatu Moju, eggplant cake, Gotu Kola Mallum Sambola, green trout with coconut, or Polos, spicy jackfruit food.

      Travel tips

      It is important to take into account some recommendations and travel conditions in Sri Lanka if you want a peaceful holiday.

      • To go on holiday in Sri Lanka you need a travel visa;
      • A consultation with a doctor is recommended to indicate a specific vaccine base for travel to this tropical destination;
      • When visiting the temples, feet and shoulders must be covered and footwear left at the entrance;
      • Be careful not to consume tap water in Sri Lanka;
      • If you plan to dine out, be aware that most restaurants require shoes and do not accept casual attire such as an apron or t-shirt;
      • In coastal and lowland areas light cotton clothing is recommended;
      • Be prepared to spend a lot of time in traffic because the narrow, sloping roads will test your patience;
      • Go to the north of the country if you want to stay away from the crowds;
      • Avoid any possible discussion of the island’s political past;
      • Pay attention to traditional food and try to understand the local culture;
      • Don’t think of leaving Sri Lanka with live insects, birds, ornamental animals and fish or root crops as local regulations are strict.

      The former island of Ceylon is an incredible holiday destination. No doubt this Sri Lanka travel guide has whetted your appetite for a trip to the paradise of teas, temples and idyllic beaches. So, check out Activ Tours offers and dare to explore the small country in southern India to enjoy its natural and cultural riches at every step!

      Author Carmen Nicolescu

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