Unlike its neighbouring countries, this tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean called Sri Lanka remains to be under the radar. But that is its charm—the calm beaches, unspoiled greeneries, and relatively uncrowded tourist attractions. Sri Lanka is the go-to destination for wanderers who are craving for a luxury but an out-of-the-ordinary tropical vacation. Though a bit small, you’ll be surprised by how packed this beautiful island is when it comes to activities, tourist attractions, and whatnot. Wondering what to choose? Check out our top 10 activities in Sri Lanka for some inspiration!

1. Indulge in Sri Lankan Cuisine

Must-do in sri lanka - try local food
Credit: Amila Tennakoon on Flickr

First things first—food! Sri Lankan cuisine is a melting pot of different cultures, brought about by its rich colonial history. Needless to say, the local food is one of the most delicious contributions to the Asian food scene.

Sri Lankan and Indian cuisine have many similarities. Other ones are Dutch and Indonesian cuisines. From these, you may have already had an idea of how diverse the range is when it comes to the local food offering. So go ahead and check out yourself!

Villa Finder’s tip: You wouldn’t want to miss out on their rice and curry. The locals love it and they have a wide selection of it! Ever tasted jackfruit curry?

Related: 9 Sri Lanka restaurants that will definitely satisfy your taste buds

2. Explore the Ancient Galle

must- do in Sri Lanka - visit Galle
Credit: Francisco Anzola

Tucked away in the southwest coast of Sri Lanka is a chic town called Galle. The city is so well-preserved that establishment from way back Portuguese and Dutch colonial periods are still very much apparent. Here in this UNESCO World Heritage Site is where you will find the famous Galle lighthouse a.k.a. the perfect spot to catch the world-renowned Sri Lanka sunset. Check out the National Maritime Museum as well, situated at the Dutch Warehouse above the Old Gate of Galle Fort.

We also recommend dining in at a few of our go-to food spots—the instagrammable Poonie’s Kitchen, the British-inspired Pedlar’s Inn Cafe, and the laid-back A Minute by Tuk Tuk. And while you’re there, you may also want to do a little bit of shopping at Galle’s cute little boutiques. Barefoot and Stick No Bills are some of our favourites when it comes to souvenir shopping!

Looking to stay in Galle? Great choice! Check out our Galle villas here.

3. Beach Hop at South Coast

beaches in Sri Lanka - Unawatuna
Credit: Sissssou2 on Flickr

No one flies out of the island without getting a little bit of sand in their toes and salt in their hair. A huge part of your tropical holiday in Sri Lanka should be spent in the waters—lazing around, listening to the cool breeze of the ocean, reading a feel-good book, and sippin’ your favourite cocktail. As Sri Lanka is sitting right in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there’s automatically a wide array of options for palm-fringed golden beaches. Just make sure to include Unawatuna and Mirissa if you want to take the less crowded and off-the-beaten-track. Check out our beach villas in Sri Lanka.

4. Ride the Waves of Sri Lanka

what to do in Sri Lanka - surfing
Credit: sasha set on Unsplash

While you’re already in the waters, why not give water sports a try? Sri Lanka is a famous surfing spot in Asia. Many beginners and pro surfers alike are visiting the island for its high-quality waves and warm waters. Get on your board and ride the rhythm of the waves! If you’ve never tried it, that’s no problem. There are many surf schools around every area, with expert locals who are more than willing to teach tourists how to do it. Check it out yourself and you’ll be surfing like a pro in no time!

5. Enjoy a Scenic Train Ride

train ride Sri Lanka
Credit Gabor Redling on Unsplash

Yes, you read that ride. A train ride is part of our don’t-miss-list in Sri Lanka. You might not know it yet but train rides on the island are considered the most scenic ones there is in the whole world. Specifically talking about the route from Kandy to Ella, the ride itself is an attraction. During the six-hour journey, the train will pass by some lush tea plantations, farming fields, tunnels, villages, and other more greeneries. In order to enjoy this, we suggest booking a first-class observation deck with air-conditioning and a large window.

Villa Finder’s tip: You might want to book your ticket one or two days in advance as seats get sold out easily.

6. Trek Your Way Through a Tea Plantation

things to do in Sri Lanka - hiking amongst tea terraces
Credit: Mal B on Flickr

Did you know that tea production is one of the main sources of income in Sri Lanka? As a matter of fact, the island is the fourth largest producer in the world!

Nuwara Eliya is a stunning place in the island layered with sprawling tea estates. Located in here are tea factories offering tours to visitors. It usually involves a mini hike through the tea terraces. You also get an up-close experience of how the famous Sri Lankan tea is made, from the extraction of tea leaves, its refinement, and then its conversion into the aromatic tea that we get to enjoy every day.

7. Go on an Affordable Safari

safari in sri lanka - happy elephants

Sri Lanka may be small but it sure boasts a rich population of wildlife. If you’re looking for a safari experience on a budget, this is the perfect place to have it ticked off of your bucket list.

The most popular safari in Sri Lanka is Yala National Park, as it offers the chance for guests to spot some leopards, this beautiful big cat species. Just like the safari experience in Africa, this one requires you to ride a jeep, which is used to get around the park’s different zones. Other animals that you might encounter are sambar deers, spotted deers, buffalos, wild pigs, mongooses, langur monkeys, toque monkeys, golden jackals, and Indian palm civets.

Villa Finder’s tip: It’s highly recommended to get a tour guide, as most jeep drivers don’t speak the English language.
Your length of stay depends on how much you really want to maximise your chances of seeing the animals. One night is enough for some, while others choose to stay longer at a camp for more safari trips.

8. Climb to the Top of Sigiriya Rock

sigiriya rock, sri lanka

There is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can visit and it’s called the Sigiriya Fortress. This ancient fortress actually has an interesting story behind it. To start with, Sigiriya Fortress was actually chosen by King Kasyapa as his royal residence, to protect himself from potential attacks from his brother Moggallana, the rightful heir to the throne. The rest is for you to find out!

Also called the Lion’s Rock, this attraction is arguably the most popular one in Sri Lanka, and so you haven’t really been to the island if you haven’t climbed the fortress yet.

9. Pay Respect at the Temples

Temples Sri Lanka
Credit: Sarah Nichols on Flickr

A huge part of Sri Lanka’s population is Buddhists and Hindus. With this, the island features several interesting temples where both Buddhists, Hindus, and visitors of other faiths can enter. We believe that the only way to experience a country to its core is by immersing oneself into its culture. This, in particular, is a perfect opportunity to get to know Sri Lanka better.

There are many magnificent temples on the island. But the ones that really piqued our curiosities are Dambulla Royal Cave Temple, the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, where the actual relic of the Lord Buddha’s tooth is resting.

10. Catch the Sunrise on a Hot Air Balloon

Aerial view of Sri Lanka
Credit: Tomáš Malík on Unsplash

We already expect Sri Lanka’s sunrise to be nothing but dreamy. But how about taking it a notch higher by catching this golden moment on a hot air balloon, with the view of lush mountains and puffy clouds?

Won’t you agree when we say that this is probably the best way to cap off your ultimate tropical getaway? This one-of-a-kind experience will easily be the highlight of your trip!

Related: Transportation in Sri Lanka: Your options to getting around

Did these get you more excited? Now you’re ready to plan your itinerary!

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