Sri Lanka is bursting with centuries of tradition, a rich culture and some incredible sights. The teardrop shaped island has a lot to be discovered and in recent years has shot to the top of the list of many travellers dream destinations. It’s perfect for those who want a beach holiday, paired with some beautiful national parks and interesting cultural sites. Sri Lankan tourism was flourishing until April, when the country had a string of bombings that saw tourism drop significantly. Four months on, Sri Lanka is rebuilding and it’s now more important than ever to support local communities and those working in the tourism sector to help restore this wonderful country. We have compiled a list of the top five experiences every traveller should have in Sri Lanka.
Take the train ride to Ella through the Hill Country
The train journey from Kandy to Ella is considered to be one of the most breathtaking rail journeys in the world. The seven hour long journey snakes through tea plantations, lush forests, vast rice paddies and tumbling waterfalls. Look out for the stunning mountain peaks looming in the distance and make sure you have your camera on hand – you’ll want to capture every moment. At each station, local vendors hop on selling a variety of fresh pineapple, sweet mango and salted corn, all adding to this amazing experience. If you don’t fancy doing the whole journey, you can always cut it down by doing Kandy to Nuwara Eliya or Nuwara Eliya to Ella.
Climb Sigiriya Rock
The famous Sigiriya Rock is one of the most popular sites on the island. It was named “Lion Rock” due to the enormous lions feet that you see halfway. Located around 15 kilometres from Dambulla, in the heart of Sri Lanka, the 200 meter high rock will literally leave you breathless, between its 1200 steps and beautiful views. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built around 1600 years ago and is a wonderful example of Sri Lankan architecture. Half way up you’ll find gorgeous gardens and frescoes where you can rest, before tackling the last section that brings you to some of the best panoramic views in the country.
Hike Adam’s Peak at sunrise
Adam’s Peak is the fourth highest point in Sri Lanka and shrouded in legend due to the unusual findings on the mountain. Known for the “Sri Pada”, the sacred footprint, it’s a popular spot for travellers, locals and families alike. Buddhist’s believe the footprint belongs to Buddha himself, Hindus claim it is that of Lord Shiva while Christian’s think it’s the spot Adam took his first step after being banished from Eden. The climb to the top will take anything from two to four hours, and if you want to reach the summit for sunrise that means setting off around midnight. The atmosphere at the top is truly special, as incense fills the air and people sit around waiting for the morning spectacle.
Walk to World’s End in Horton Plains
Located near Nuwaya Ella, Horton Plains National Park is the only national park in Sri Lanka that can be explored on foot. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by the tallest mountains in Sri Lanka, providing stunning views as you walk through the park. Don’t miss out on hiking the 2000 metre plateau to “World’s End” where you can see some of the best panoramas of the valley as the ledge drops 880 metres below you. The trail then loops back to Baker’s Falls, a famous waterfall in Sri Lanka. You are also likely to spot some wildlife in the park, including the sambar deer and mongoose.
Visit a tea plantation
Sri Lanka is well known for its tea production and has plenty of plantations and excursions for you to have a hands on experience. The area is known as the “Hill Country” and is located in the middle of Sri Lanka. This is where you find the majority of tea plantations as well as some stunning waterfalls. Not only are the tea plantations beautiful, with their verdant rolling hills and misty hilltops, but they offer a true insight into one of the biggest exports of Sri Lanka. Uva Halpewatte is the largest tea factory in the Uva region, offering guided tours and tea tasting experiences. Once you get to the top of the factory, you’ll be amazed by the sweeping views of the plantations below.
Matt Gannan is the CEO and Owner of Tucan Travel. Tucan Travel operate cultural tours in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, Asia and Europe, as well as tailor-made holidays in Latin America, Africa and Asia.