For such a small island, Sri Lanka has got it covered when it comes to fantastic holidays. No matter your tastes or interests, you are sure to find a trip to suit you. Whether you’re venturing out solo, as a couple or with the kids, Sri Lanka really is the dream destination.
The best time to visit varies depending on where in the country you are heading, as the west and east coast experience rainy season at different times of the year. The west & south are dry and not too hot from December to March, whereas the east coast really comes into its own from April through to September. This means Sri Lanka is a year-round winner when it comes to sun-seeking. If you’re planning to explore the whole island, (and why wouldn’t you!) we recommend March or April to enjoy the best of both climates.
We’ve divided our top picks by interest, however for a real taste of this diverse country, try combining a couple of the below for the ultimate trip.
For Nature Immersion
Sri Lanka is a nature lover’s paradise. The island is home to almost 6000 wild elephants, rubbing shoulders with leopards, crocodiles, and buffalo. Yala National Park is the best place to seek these incredible animals. A five-day safari tour will give you plenty of opportunities to photograph the wildlife close up. By night, you’ll be enjoying meals under the stars and sleeping in luxury park lodges. Here’s a guide to where to see Elephants in the Wild on Safari in Sri Lanka.
Sadly, elephants haven’t always been as revered, and many animals who suffered years of abuse at the hands of owners have now found themselves in sanctuaries. Spend the day caring for, feeding and washing these magnificent creatures, who will repay you with affection that belies the suffering they have endured.
For Insta-worthy Culture
The so-called cultural triangle of Sri Lanka comprises the cities of Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. Get your camera ready and prepare to wow your followers with photos of the temples, palaces, rock carvings, gardens, and monasteries. Almost lost to the jungle, these beautiful relics have now been uncovered and preserved for future generations.
Time your trip to Sri Lanka around the full-moon festival of Poya in June to witness the annual pilgrimage to the sacred. Wearing white and carrying torches, the procession weaving up the foothills is a magical sight. Celebrations stretch into the surrounding days, with performances, light shows, and towns bedecked in lanterns.
For Active Adventure
If the thought of lazing on a sun lounger for two weeks gives you itchy feet, Sri Lanka has so much to offer. Your first stop should be the central highlands, where the slightly cooler weather makes for perfect hiking conditions. The Sinharaja Rainforest is famed for its beautiful treks allowing you to experience the pristine nature of the island first hand. After a long day walking, nothing could be more rewarding than a dip in one of the forest’s many idyllic waterfalls.
To experience a different side of the country, a hike through the Nuwara Eliya tea plantations will reward you with majestic views and a lovely cup of Ceylon. When those legs start to ache, take the old railway line from Kandy to Ella, to witness more gorgeous landscape and a taste of old colonial Sri Lanka.
For High-Octane Fun
For those who like their holidays with a bit of adrenaline thrown in, look no further than Arugam Bay. In the surf capital of a country famed for awesome waves, enroll yourself at surf school and get to work conquering that board.
To see more of the country whilst you get your kicks, a canoe expedition down the Maheveli river or a motorcycle off-road tour through the highlands will not disappoint. A chance to get close to nature, meet the locals and still have the thrill of a self-powered adventure. You choose the route, you choose the pace, and your bags will be at your next hotel waiting for you.
For Beach Chillers
If all this sounds too much like hard work, there’s some great news: Sri Lanka is home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. Planning a multi-destination holiday involving some activities plus a few days beachside is becoming increasingly popular. Domestic travel is easy and affordable, and wherever you are in the country, there is a stunning stretch of sand nearby.
In the North East, Uppuveli has picture-perfect shoreline you’re guaranteed not to want to leave. On the East, we recommend Passekudah to beat the crowds and enjoy some serious relaxation. Or in the North West, Kalpitiya offers some postcard-worthy stretches, populated with gorgeous resorts.
No matter your holiday style, Sri Lanka has plenty to offer, just be sure to pack your camera to capture all those life-changing moments.
Sally is a freelance writer who left Britain’s cold shores in search of sun and adventure. Promising loved ones she’d be home within a few months, she’s still on the road over a year later. You’ll usually find her browsing local markets, photographing fabulous temples, or seeking out the coolest spot to watch the sunset.