15 Incredible Things to Do in Sri Lanka, From Surfing to Scenic Train Rides

15 Incredible Things to Do in Sri Lanka, From Surfing to Scenic Train Rides

Welcome to the land of serendipity!

Named as the land of serendipity, Sri Lanka is renowned for its ancient temples and world-famous beaches. It also stands out as an island paradise overflowing with a captivating range of attractions that encompass its stunning landscapes, rich history, vibrant culture, and mouthwatering culinary treasures.

Sri Lanka’s rich history comes to life as we explore its ancient sites, which serve as enduring testaments to bygone civilizations. So, get ready for an enchanting journey through this incredibly lush country! Indulge in delicious local street food and embark on picturesque train journeys through stunning landscapes as you explore the finest experiences Sri Lanka has to offer. We’ve even listed them all down below for you. 

Also read: 10 Incredible Airbnbs in Sri Lanka That You’ll Never Want to Leave

Our Sri Lanka bucket list: incredible things to see and do

1. Experience the world’s largest gathering of wild Asian elephants

Things to do in Sri Lanka

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To kick off our list of awesome things to do in Sri Lanka, we’re off to chase majestic Asian elephants! The country is the dwelling place of approximately 4,000 wild Asian elephants. Thus, observing them in their natural habitat is one of the most rewarding things to do in Sri Lanka’s national parks.

During the dry season, which extends from July to September, the expansive reservoirs within Kaudulla and Minneriya National Parks attract herds of wild Asian elephants. Here, they engage in activities such as grazing on lush grass, taking refreshing baths, and even enjoying playful interactions.

TripZilla Tip: If you’re visiting elephant sanctuaries in Sri Lanka, then make sure you’re supporting and encouraging the safe and humane treatment of wildlife by visiting ones that are proven to be ethical elephant sanctuaries. 

2. Climb Pidurangala for a stunning sunrise view over the jungle

Things to do in Sri Lanka

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Exploring the top Sri Lanka tourist attractions is a must, and no trip is truly complete without a visit to Sigiriya. This iconic site boasts a massive rock fortress housing ancient palace ruins, serene water gardens, and mesmerising frescoes, all located in close proximity to the majestic Pidurangala Rock

For those who enjoy early mornings, don’t forget to lace up your hiking boots and ascend Pidurangala around 5am to catch the breathtaking sunrise. Trust us, the view will be so worth it! If early mornings aren’t your thing, consider arriving before the ticket office closes at 6pm to witness the spectacular sunset.

3. Get a taste of kottu roti

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Few dishes embody the essence of Sri Lanka as effectively as kottu roti. This beloved street food is a hearty combination of fresh vegetables, leftover roti (flatbread), eggs, and a selection of meat or seafood.

Building up an appetite? Don’t worry as this delicious treat is available all across the island! If you are an adventurous foodie, kottu roti has got to be on your bucket list of things to try in Sri Lanka.

Also read: What to Expect When Travelling to Sri Lanka: Expectations vs. Reality

4. Engage in bird-watching activities at Bundala National Park

Things to do in Sri Lanka

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With close to 200 native and migratory bird species, Bundala National Park, situated in the southern region of the country and recognized as a Ramsar wetland, offers an exceptional bird-watching experience. The park also has a very diverse wildlife habitat which is home to Asian elephants, spotted deer, and wild boar.

These guided bird-watching tours typically commence at 6am and span three to four hours, allowing visitors to witness the vibrant awakening of the park, characterised by sightings of Brahminy kites, numerous storks, whistling wild duck families, Asian green bee-eaters, enchanting peacocks, and tranquil crocodiles. It’s really a true testament to the rich wildlife Sri Lanka has to offer!

5. Catch some waves at Unawatuna Beach

Things to do in Sri Lanka

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Looking for fun under the sun? Unawatuna Beach is among the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Travellers can bask in the sun’s warm embrace on its powdery shores and take refreshing dips in the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Whether you’re looking to perfect your tan, build sandcastles with your kids, or simply laze around with a good book, Unawatuna Beach has got you covered.

Unawatuna Beach is a paradise for surf enthusiasts too! The friendly locals and vibrant surf community add to the charm of this beach, making it an unforgettable destination for those seeking sun, sea, and endless surf adventures. 

If you’re seeking a bit more adventure, Unawatuna won’t disappoint. The beach is a gateway to thrilling water sports such as snorkelling and scuba diving, allowing you to explore vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. You can also try paddleboarding for a fun workout on the water.

6. Embark on a train ride in Colombo

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Colombo, the vibrant capital of Sri Lanka, is a city brimming with an array of attractions that cater to every type of traveller. Be captivated by its detailed architecture, verdant gardens, and intriguing array of religious artefacts. It’s also a sanctuary where you can absorb the serene spiritual atmosphere and appreciate the magnificent temple complex.

Additionally, Colombo serves as the perfect starting point for picturesque train routes that lead to captivating destinations like Kandy, a city steeped in history and charm. You’ll be treated to breathtaking views of rolling hills, tea plantations, and charming villages along the way.

7. Conquer the heights of Haputale mountains

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Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Sri Lanka, the Haputale mountain range offers a tranquil retreat for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. One of the most rewarding things to do in Sri Lanka is to explore the Haputale mountains, where you can embark on unforgettable hiking expeditions. Put on your camping gear and enjoy the climb!

Take on the challenge of hiking through the stunning Horton Plains National Park and reach the iconic World’s End, a dramatic cliff that offers awe-inspiring views of lush valleys and rolling hills. If you prefer a more leisurely adventure, stroll through the charming tea plantations that adorn the region. Don’t forget to enjoy a freshly brewed cup of Ceylon tea along the way!

8. Taste the finest cinnamon in the world on Ganduwa Island


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Adding to our list of things to do in Sri Lanka, Ganduwa Island is renowned for producing some of the world’s most exquisite cinnamon. It is characterised by its lighter and sweeter flavour compared to varieties found in Indonesia and Vietnam. On this enchanting island, skilled peelers from generations past dedicate their days to the artful process of delicately shaving thin layers from the inner bark of cinnamon trees, crafting the coveted cinnamon quills.

After your cinnamon exploration, the boat offers the opportunity to explore other nearby islands like Taprobane Island, Ahangama, and Mirissa. Before departing, don’t forget to savour a refreshing glass of freshly squeezed kirala (mangrove apple) juice from a local vendor on the jetty. What a way to conclude your delightful island adventure!

9. Spend an afternoon relaxing at the Royal Botanic Gardens

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The Royal Botanic Gardens is more than just a lush haven; it’s a vibrant living museum that offers a multitude of things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka. From the towering royal palms to the fragrant orchids and exotic tropical plants, every step you take is a sensory delight.

The garden also features a tranquil lake, meandering pathways, and plenty of spots to have a leisurely picnic or simply relax amidst nature’s beauty. Whether you’re a plant enthusiast, a nature lover, or just seeking a peaceful escape from the bustling city, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kandy is an enchanting destination that promises a delightful experience for all.

10. Support sea turtle conservation

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A visit to the Sea Turtle Farm is an absolute treat for both animal lovers and those seeking unique things to do in Galle. This charming sanctuary not only provides a fascinating insight into the world of these incredible creatures but also plays a crucial role in their conservation.

It’s a heartwarming experience to watch these little hatchlings make their way to the sea, embarking on their lifelong journey. Keep in mind that the wonderful turtle nesting season usually occurs from November to May. Meanwhile, the adorable hatching season typically takes place between January to June, with the peak occurring from February to April.

The passionate staff at the Sea Turtle Farm are dedicated to educating visitors about the importance of protecting these endangered species and nurturing a love for marine life. 

11. Transport yourself to Little England

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If you’re looking for things to do in Sri Lanka that offer a refreshing escape from the tropical heat, then Nuwara Eliya is an exciting destination. Often referred to as “Little England”, this quaint town is renowned for its cool climate, rolling tea plantations, and enchanting landscapes that make you feel like you’ve stepped into a different world.

One of the top attractions in Nuwara Eliya is the lush tea plantations, where you can learn about the art of tea production, pluck tea leaves, and also enjoy a cup of the finest Ceylon tea.  Whether you’re sipping tea by a cosy fireplace, strolling through blooming gardens, or trekking through pristine nature, Nuwara Eliya promises a memorable and friendly retreat.

12. Surf with the locals at Arugam Bay

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Arugam Bay is a place for beach lovers and surf enthusiasts alike. It is more than just a surfing hotspot; it’s a place where you can soak in the laid-back vibe and connect with the local culture. It is also the home of Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club — a truly inspiring initiative that empowers local girls and women through surfing.

With its pristine beaches and welcoming atmosphere, Arugam Bay is undoubtedly a Sri Lanka must-see that will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for the local community. When you visit Arugam Bay, consider taking a surf lesson with these talented and passionate girls!

13. Snack on some hoppers

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While exploring the vibrant and diverse culinary scene of Sri Lanka, don’t miss the delightful experience of savouring hoppers. They are a type of pancake or crepe made from a fermented rice flour batter. Hoppers have a unique bowl-like shape, with a soft and slightly crispy edge and a thicker, spongy centre.

Picture yourself in a cosy local eatery, savouring freshly made hoppers that are crispy on the edges and delightfully soft in the centre. These tasty and crispy delights are a must-try when you visit this beautiful island nation.

Whether you prefer them plain, egg hoppers, or even sweet hoppers, each bite is a burst of flavour that will tantalise your taste buds and leave you craving for more. Exploring the culinary scene is just one of the many things to do in Sri Lanka, and enjoying hoppers is not just about satisfying your palate; it’s also about immersing yourself in the local culture. So, feel free to chat with the locals and learn the stories behind Sri Lanka’s rich culture.

14. Travel back in time in Polonnaruwa

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Polonnaruwa takes pride in being a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historical place invites you to step back in time and explore its fascinating ruins and archaeological wonders. The warm and welcoming locals add a friendly touch to your visit, making you feel like a part of their close-knit community. 

Don’t forget to visit the iconic Gal Vihara, home to stunning rock-cut Buddha statues, and marvel at the skill and artistry of the craftsmen from centuries ago. With its mix of history, culture, and hospitality, Polonnaruwa is undoubtedly one of the top Sri Lanka tourist attractions, offering a captivating experience that will stay with you long after your visit.

15. Go on a safari at Wilpattu National Park

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To top off our list of things to do in Sri Lanka, Wilpattu National Park is a true natural wonder and a must-visit! Keep your camera ready as you embark on thrilling safaris, where you can spot not only leopards but also elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, and a multitude of vibrant bird species. 

One of the unique aspects of Wilpattu National Park is its untouched and less crowded ambience, allowing you to truly connect with nature. The friendly and knowledgeable park rangers are there to guide you through this natural paradise and share fascinating insights about the flora and fauna that call Wilpattu home.

Also read: Discover the Beauty of Sri Lanka: Top 10 Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Sri Lanka offers a captivating tapestry of experiences and places to visit for every traveller. From exploring ancient cities like Polonnaruwa to savouring delectable hoppers and immersing yourself in the vibrant culture, there are undoubtedly endless things to do in Sri Lanka. Thus, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an unforgettable Sri Lankan escapade. Trust us when we say that it will leave you with a treasure trove of memories and a deep appreciation for this beautiful land.

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About Author

Anne Mercado
Anne Mercado

Anne is your go-to girl if you want to talk about all things beauty, fashion and adventure. Her creative expression would be through writing and curating photos. Exploring different places and immersing herself in diverse cultures is her idea of fun. If you ask her to describe what her perfect day is, her answer would be by the beach with a book on her hand enjoying a nice margarita.