I’ve just returned from my third visit to the wonderful island of Sri Lanka and once again, I’m reminded how very unfit I am. The island has so much to offer specially for the adventurous travelers which unfortunately, isn’t me at all. I do however find myself pushing myself to the limit and doing every single activity that one must do in this island no matter how strenuous it can be. It’s part of the Sri Lanka experience and I believe that if I don’t do (or at least try) any of it, my visit to this island isn’t valid.
Not all activities are for the outdoorsy type though, the island caters to the needs of all types of travelers. The luxury, the backpackers, the outdoorsy and those who’d rather just lounge on the beach with a mojito in hand (that’s me!). There’s something for everyone and for every age. Having said that, it’s quite impossible to run out of things to do while in Sri Lanka.
Here’s a list of all the activities I’ve done myself which I do highly recommend:
1. Enjoy the calm waters of Pasikuda.
I’m not a very strong swimmer and for me, the beaches on the Southwest coast of Sri Lanka are not swimmable. Having said that, I do prefer the much calmer sea of the Eastern part of Sri Lanka – more specifically the beautiful Pasikuda. Due to its location, it’s not yet heavily exposed to the booming tourism industry of the island which I think what makes this place more special.
2. Luxury camping in Yala National Park.
My third trip to Sri Lanka was for work and I was lucky enough to experience some of the most luxurious properties in the island during that trip, one of which is Chena Huts by Uga which is located inside the famous Yala National Park itself. You are amongst the wildlife if you stay here and I had a first-hand experience of it when a wild elephant casually walked up to the pond near the reception area to eat all the plants in it. Some sightings of leopards were reported too but they only visit at night.
3. Visit the Dambulla Cave Temple.
The Dambulla Cave Temple is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. There are five caves in the site and 153 Buddha statues. Prehistoric Sri Lankans are said to have lived here before the arrival of Buddhism as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area. This is one of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
4. Step back in time in Galle.
One of my favorite places in Sri Lanka is Galle, the fortified old city in the southwest coast of the island founded by Portuguese colonists in the 16th century. You can find preserved architecture with Dutch, Portuguese and British influence in many buildings in this fortified city.
5. Go on an elephant safari.
When in Sri Lanka, skip the elephant orphanage and go see them in their natural habitat in one of the many national parks of the island. The two most popular places to see them are Udawalawe and Minneriya National Park.
6. Go whale watching in Mirissa.
My camera wasn’t advanced enough to capture the very elusive and quick whales in Mirissa so I was only able to take photos of the more playful dolphins swimming right beside our boat. The sea can be rough though and if you’re prone to motion sickness, you may want to take some medications with you.
7. Stay in one of the boutique hotels in Nuwara Eliya.
Pictured above is the beautiful Norwood Bungalow – one of the boutique hotels in Hatton, a town in the Nuwara Eliya District. It’s an amazing property with a scenic backdrop of the tea plantations around you. The weather here is much colder as well, a perfect escape from the hot and humid weather of the rest of the island.
If you’re a tea aficionado, you may also want to include tea-picking in your itinerary while in Nuwara Eliya.
8. Explore another UNESCO Heritage Site, the ancient Polonnaruwa.
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. Compared to Anuradhapura, the ruins in Polonnaruwa are more intact (but not completely). One of the most popular way of exploring it is by bicycle but you may want to check the weather before you do so as it can get hot and very humid during the day.
9. Chase some waterfalls.
There are over a hundred waterfalls in Sri Lanka offering a continuous stream of life to the villagers. Pictured above is Ravana Waeterfalls in the dry zone of Welimada. It provides much needed water for the cultivation of vegetables, the village’s main income.
10. Climb the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
Climbing the Sigiriya Rock Fortress was the most ambitious feat that I’ve ever done in Sri Lanka. I did it on my second trip to the island and when I saw that our itinerary on my third and most recent visit to Sri Lanka, I begged for it to be removed as I can’t possibly put myself in the same situation over again. The view from the top is amazing and the history of this place is worth all the 1,100 steps that you have to climb. Climbing up wasn’t the problem, it’s actually the way down which was more excruciating for me. I’m afraid of heights and seeing how high up I was on my way down made my knees shake uncontrollably. I still recommend it though, at least do it once in your life 🙂
There are a lot of other things you can do in Sri Lanka which I haven’t personally done as of yet. I have to say though that my personal favorite activity to do in Sri Lanka is eating Sri Lankan food. 🙂
Disclaimer: My second and third visit to Sri Lanka are both part of a familiarization trip by Emirates Holidays however as always, opinion stated and photos are my own.
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