Sri Lanka Travel Guide – the Most Beautiful Country in South Asia

by | Apr 3, 2017

Sri Lanka is green, spicy and coconut-ty. The scenic train rides will fascinate you, the idyllic beaches will charm you, the lovely locals will make you smile, the food flavors will make you beg for more, the lush-ness of the hill country will make you forget Scotland and the sight of wild elephants crossing the road is something that you will remember for life.

Sri Lanka is so much like India, except it is so much cleaner.” – I say this as an Indian. [don’t hate me for saying this, my Indian brothers and sisters]

I love how Sri Lanka is so much like the South of India in terns of landscape, people, clothes, temples, buses, and food [and many other things]. However, it is clean! There’s hardly any pollution in the air and no trash in public areas.

View of the famous Sigiriya Lion Rock from Pidurangala rock

Sri Lanka Train Video

Go grab an easy chair, turn up the volume and enjoy this epic video of our train journey in Sri Lanka. It has the views, food, people, train coaches, stations and so much more. 

 

Sri Lanka has around 30 national parks, which is a big number for a small country. In fact, the entire country is like one big national park. If you travel for long enough here, you may not even need to visit a national park because at some point you will see a herd of wild elephants or a lone crocodile chilling in a lagoon.

Wild elephants in Kaudulla National Park - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Wild elephants in Kaudulla National Park – Sri Lanka Itinerary

The Many Historical Names of Sri Lanka

Did you know that Sri Lanka has had many names in the past? It was mentioned as “Lanka” in the Hindu epic Ramayana. It was called Ceylon under the British rule. It was also called Eelam by the Tamil population. Briefly, the country was also called Taprobana (or Tamraparni) when Prince Vijya arrived here. The name Sri Lanka was adopted only in 1972.

There are many blog posts about Sri Lanka on our website, but this page will give you all the travel information about Sri Lanka in an organized form.

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Top Places to Visit in Sri Lanka

I have written an article about top things to do in Sri Lanka that you should definitely check. Yes, it is a small country but there’s so much to see and do here. Here is a list of some of the top travel destinations in Sri Lanka.

  • Negombo – It is an excellent beach destination and the international airport is closer to Negombo than Colombo.
  • Colombo – It is a big city and the capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo has some interesting temples and local markets.
  • Sigiriya – Perhaps the most visited destination in Sri Lanka – this is the location of the Lion Rock, with a hill top fortress. Sigiriya Lion Rock and Pidurangala Rock aren’t the only attractions here. Right next to Sigiriya are the famous Dambulla cave temples and also two national parks – Kaudulla and Minneriya. If you’re visiting Sri Lanka for a short time, then visit Sigiriya to get the most out of Sri Lanka in just one location.
  • Kandy – Your gateway to Sri Lanka’s magical Hill Country. The famous Temple of the Tooth is here.
  • Arugam Bay – Top surfing destination of Sri Lanka during summer months. Amazing beaches, lagoons, relaxed vibes and a good party scene.
  • Nuwara Eliiya – It is called “Little England” and it is Sri Lanka’s coldest destination. Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by waterfalls, tea gardens and little hills. Hortons Plains National Park is near Nuwara Eliya.
  • Ella – It is a small backpacker destination and a more relaxed alternative to Nuwara Eliya. There are waterfalls, tea estates and two viewpoints – “little Adam’s Peak” and “Ella Rock”.
  • Anuradhapura – Temples, ruins of an ancient city and sacred Bodhi tree temple.
  • Adam’s Peak – One of the most famous peaks to climb in Sri Lanka, it is near Hatton train station.
  • Mirissa – Beach destination in the South of the country (near Matara) that has become popular over the years for whale watching tours.
  • Galle – Famous for its Dutch fort, light house, forest reserve and whale watching tours.
  • Jaffna – Cultural town in the North of Sri Lanka with Tamil population. Geographically, it is very close to India.

 

Suggested Itineraries for Sri Lanka

Flexible 2 weeks to 4 weeks in Sri Lanka

Negombo – Sigiriya – Dambulla – Kandy – Adam’s Peak – Nuwara Eliya – Haputale – Ella – Arugam Bay – Yala National Park – Uda Walave – Mirissa – Colombo. Sounds exhausting? This itinerary is super flexible and can be modified as per your needs.

Infographic and Map - Sri Lanka Flexible 2 week to 4 week Itinerary

Sri Lanka Train Itinerary with Scenic Spots

Colombo – Kandy – Adam’s Peak – Nuwara Eliya – Haputale – Ella – Badulla. This is the most scenic train route of Sri Lanka and this article will give you information about how to book the train tickets, costs, time tables, etc.

Sri Lanka Train Itinerary - Kandy to Ella train route

Visa for Sri Lanka

There is no visa on arrival for Sri Lanka, but you can apply for an electronic travel authorization (kind of like an electronic visa) or an ETA for 30 days. It is a double entry tourist visa. It costs $35 USD for most of the countries but $20 for some South Asian countries (like India). Transit visa is free.

Sri Lankan Food – What to Eat in Sri Lanka

Eating Samosa on a train in Sri Lanka

Eating Samosa on a train in Sri Lanka

Samosa – It is a typical south Asian pastry like “dumpling” that’s triangular in shape. The filling can be spicy potatoes, egg, minced meat, etc. Samosas are popular snacks that you will find all over the country and are affordable. Samosas in Sri Lanka are usually more spicy than the ones in India.

Hoppers and Sting Hoppers: These are crispy pancakes that are made with fermented rice and coconut milk. They remind me of South India’s dosas and appams.

Rice and Curry – No matter where you go in Sri Lanka, you can never go wrong with a rice and curry meal. In many cases it will be daal, rice, dry vegetables and a meat curry (or a fish curry). You may also get a fried egg on top.

Sambol (or Sambhal): It is not a dish but something that’s consumed alongwith rice and curry, or hoppers and curry. It is dry, spicy and sometimes even crispy. It is mostly made with grated coconut, chilies and onions.

Egg Rice & Curry in Sri Lanka - things to do in Sri Lanka

Egg Rice & Curry in Sri Lanka – things to do in Sri Lanka

Paratha and Roti: If you have ever traveled in India, then you would have surely eaten a roti or a paratha at some point. Yup, the same is in Sri Lanka too! I hate to call these things “breads” but in a way they are. They’re made of whole wheat flour and are usually healthy. In many places in Sri Lanka, you will find “egg parathas“, which is just an omelette cooked on top of a paratha.

Kothu (or Kottu): Kothu is a grated roti that’s mixed with vegetables or meat or egg or shrimp – and sometimes with all of them. Kothu is to Sri Lanka what Pad Thai is to Thailand.

Dosa / Idli: Dosa and Idli are an important part of Sri Lankan cuisine because of Tamilian population. If you don’t know, Timilian culture and food comes from Tamil Nadu – a state in South India. Dosa is a crispy pancake that’s made with fermented rice. Idli is steamed cake that’s made with the same batter – although the consistency of the batter is usually different. they’re both consumed with coconut chutney and sambhar.

I have just mentioned the typical things you can eat in Sri Lanka, but of course there are so many more. Every area has it’s own kind of curries and as a result there are many different kind of curries. Eating in Sri Lanka is not expensive but is also not as cheap as India where there are too many street food options. Sri Lankan food is spicy and is really delicious.

Drinking in Sri Lanka

Drinking alcohol in Sri Lanka is not as cheap as its neighboring countries. You can only buy alcohol at specialized liquor stores and usually not in supermarkets.  In our experience, there was just one liquor shop per town. Beer normally costs 200 LKR in liquor stores and double in bars. Arrack is the local brew and is a little like rum. It is usually available for LKR 700.

Suggested Tours in Sri Lanka

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka for a short time and would like to experience the best of the country, then opting for a tour is a smart and hassle-free idea. We have handpicked a few tours for you:

  • Sigiriya and Dambulla tour from Colombo: Visit two of the most famous places to visit in Sri Lanka  – Sigiriya Lion Rock and Dambulla Cave temples . Enjoy a tour of these two ancient UNESCO world heritage sites – the tour includes the entry fee, lunch and transport from Colombo, Negombo or Mount Lavinia.
  • Kandy and Nuwara Eliya tour from Sri Lanka: See the best of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country in this 2 day tour from Colombo. In our experience the Hill Country (Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and around) is the most scenic part of the country, This tour includes transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fee.
  • Yala National Park 2 days all inclusive safari: Spend two days in Yala National Park, stay in a tree house, eat at Leopard Nest and enjoy a morning and an evening safari through the forest.
  • Tuk-tuk tour of Colombo: Enjoy the top sights, temples, markets and architecture of Colombo on a tuk tuk with a local English speaking guide. 
  • Negombo Tour: Enjoy a 6 hour tour of Negombo’s canals, Negombo lagoon and Muthurajawela wetland.
  • 6 Day Adventure Tour in Sri Lanka: Not only will you get to visit some top destinations in Sri Lanka, but also get to experience adventure activities like kayaking, rafting, trekking in rainforest, safari in Udawalave National Park and more.
  • Galle and Bentota from Colombo: Visit the famous UNESCO world Heritage Dutch fort in Galle, a turtle hatchery and a boat ride on Madu River from Colombo.
  • Full Day sightseeing tour of Colombo: this is the highest rated tour in Sri Lanka and it is perfect for those who want to experience the best of Colombo in a day.

Please read the terms and conditions of each tour properly so that you can get an idea of what is included.

Our Sri Lanka Travel Blog Posts and Articles

Here is a list of all our travel blog posts about Sri Lanka.

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