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Where to go in Sri Lanka – Planning your Sri Lanka itinerary

As petite as it is pretty, if you’ve got 32 days of annual leave to spare you could fit nigh on all of Sri Lanka’s hotspots into the one trip. But alas, few are so lucky. So if you’re struggling with where to visit in Sri Lanka, not to worry because we’ve got your back. Crazy for elephants? Add a night in Udawalawe.  All about a good ol’ cuppa? Nuwara Eliya’s tea plantations are just a click of a button away. We’ve sifted out the best from the rest when it comes to Sri Lanka’s must-see locations so that you don’t have to.

If you opt to see it, Colombo will be a surefire way to begin your holiday with a bang – look past the urban high rises and traffic congested streets, and you’ll discover a whole lot of heritage. And there’s no better way to explore this sprawling city than by tuk tuk, simply hop in and soak up the myriad sights. From grand temples and elegant colonial architecture to vibrant markets and delicious street food, you’re in for a treat. 

But few come to Sri Lanka for its city offerings alone, so it’s likely that the word ‘beach’ will grab your attention. And boy, does this country do beaches well. Whether you go for Passikudah or Bentota, swathes of palm-fringed, golden sands are guaranteed. Or, add Galle to combine beautiful beaches with bijou boutiques and a breathtaking boat ride out to see the blue whales that swim in nearby Mirissa’s shores. 

Kandy Lake with Temple of the Tooth in the background

Then there’s every savvy travellers favourite haunt, Kandy. And yes, with its tropical hills, oh so pretty lake and captivating Temple of the Tooth, this destination really is as sweet as it sounds. Add all the tea plantation excellence of Nuwara Eliya onto your itinerary and you’ll climb even further into Sri Lanka’s lucious hill country – trust us when we say that this old, colonial hill station is one not to be missed. 

But are we forgetting something? Ah that’s right, the elephants! Number one on any travellers Sri Lanka bucket-list will obviously be watching elephants roam their natural habitat. And if you haven’t caught a glimpse of one on your travels already, in Yala National Park you’ll come across these majestic creatures in their hundreds. Plus, with leopards, crocodiles and birdlife galore to see too, you won’t be short on wildlife viewings – just don’t forget your camera.

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Locations to add to your Sri Lanka itinerary


The thriving food scene and lively nightlife is enough of a reason to visit Sri Lanka’s vibrant capital, but there’s plenty more cultural treasures to discover if you dig a little deeper. Think colonial-era architecture, hectic markets and ancient temples.

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Habarana is the gateway to Sri Lanka’s wildlife-rich national parks and ‘Cultural Triangle’ attractions. Watch hundreds of migrating elephants at Minneriya National Park, climb to the top of Sigiriya Rock for spectacular views and explore the ancient Dambulla Cave Temples.

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Nestled in the jungle-clad mountains, Kandy is the ideal base for exploring Sri Lanka’s lush scenery and tea plantations. But don’t miss the city’s star attraction - the Sacred Temple of the Tooth.

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Nuwara Eliya

Dubbed ‘Little England’, Nuwara Eliya was once a popular bolthole for the British. The mock-Tudor buildings and rose gardens give it a traditional English town look and feel, but the bustling markets, spice-infused cuisine and manicured tea plantations are pure Sri Lankan.

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Go to Galle for the historic attractions and wonderful wildlife. Spend the day browsing the chic shops and colonial architecture in the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort before heading along the coast for golden beaches, turtle sanctuaries and whale watching.

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Ready for some R&R? In Passikudah, lazy beach days are always on the agenda. Sink your toes into soft sand, float in the crystalline water and soak up the tropical scenery. Pure bliss.

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Arugam Bay

Striking the perfect balance between tourist-friendly and traditional, Arugam Bay is a rustic beach town on Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast that boasts some of the world’s best surf. Yep, this is a surfer’s paradise, but it’s also one for the yogis, night-owls – and by that we mean party-goers – and general beach-bums. Say hello to beach seclusion at its sumptuously authentic best.

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The most popular wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is brimming with unique flora and fauna. Spot elephants, leopards, deer, crocodile and a host of other mammals and bird life in the park’s lush forests and grasslands.

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Udawalawe National Park is known for its large population of elephants, so your chances of seeing these majestic mammals are pretty high. Visit the Elephant Transit Home and look out for wild cats, deer, crocodiles, water buffaloes and multiple bird species.  

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A popular beach resort, Bentota is the place to go for some much-needed ‘me time’. Sink your toes into powdery sands, paddle along the Bentota Ganga in a canoe and explore the tropical gardens.

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Welcome to Deniyaya: nature’s greatest escape. A magical, mystical, fairytale land of endemic forest canopies, housing rare species within their layered folds. It’s here that you’ll enter the dense thicket of the evergreen Sinharaja Rainforest – Sri Lanka’s last remaining virgin forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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