All of Sri Lanka’s 24 parks are different to one another, and Yala National Park being one of the most prominent is home to the beauty of the land, and a bounty of fauna, flora and foliage. Found in the southern regions of the island, the Ruhunu Yala National Park is home to jumbo pachyderms, majestic peacocks and skilled leopards roaming the wilderness that is. Yala also boasts of many other attractions found within, from the varying species of animals who have made it’s home at the park to the ancient monastery caves found as well as the Salt Pans of the Palapatuna Sea are all things to look out for, or rather go in search of when you make your way there.
A towering rock fortress is a beautiful sight as you wake and walk out of your lodgings, powerful and ever reminiscent of the culture and history of the land and that is why Sigiriya is one UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Built in the 5th century by King Kassapa and inhabited for 18 years, this rocky royal citadel is a true wonder and testament to the skills of that era of Sri Lanka.
A near perfect location for the nature loving and adventurous, the picturesque valley of Ella offers stunning views of the southern mountains and highlands. Famous for the main nature trails that lead through it, Ella provides an excellent hiking opportunity regardless of how experienced you are. It also features Ravana falls which is one of the main waterfalls in the island for that like going off the beaten path, the highlights are Mini Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock.
Sri Lanka’s very own rain forest, Sinharaja translated to the ‘Kingdom of the Lion’. Home to many endemic species, this national park and biodiversity hotspot, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. As a biologically unique lowland rain forest, the treasures found within it includes the likes of the Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lankan Blue Magpie, White-faced Starling and Scaly Thrust to name a few. Many bird watching expeditions are carried out year round, with one being the Mixed Species Bird Flock study, which has been ongoing since 1981. A trek through the dense vegetation with binoculars, a camera and a guide is the way to take In Sinharaja.
The country’s metropolis, former capital and commercial hub, that boasts 400 years of history from tiny fishing hamlet at the mouth of a river to what it is today.
Once the capital of Ruhunu, a kingdom of yesteryear, this town in the south eastern regions of Sri Lanka, it is famous for Tissa Wewa, Tissamaharama Stupa and an entry point into Katharagama and Yala National Park. The Tissa Wewa Lake was built in the ancient rule of King Dewanampiyatissa and is an artificial lake purposed as irrigation system where the lake and town was named after him.
A fan of pristine beaches, heritage and history will find Tangalle a treat. The beaches are sandy with rock formations for waves to splash, there are some best-kept secrets of the island, in this coastal town. Bordering Yala National Park, a wilderness safari is the ideal predecessor for some time at the beach or even the Tangalle lagoon, to cool down.
The capital of the last kingdom of Sri Lanka, Kandy is situated in the central highlands of the island and overflows with culture and history. Famous for the Temple of Tooth that houses Lord Buddha’s sacred tooth relic, home of the Esala Perahera, the beauteous scenes of Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, and much more, Kandy is ideal for relaxation and recreation whilst indulging in the sights, culture and traditions of this quaint yet mighty hilltop capital. With panoramic views overlooking the Temple of the Tooth, the Kandyan Cultural Shows and sights and sounds of the Market Place and Arts & Crafts show room, Kandy comes alive beckoning you to join in.
atharagama is a known place of worship for Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims alike, nestled in the southern regions of Sri Lanka; it is flocked by pilgrims all year round, offering prayers and worship. The Kirivehera being the main attraction of this quaint religious town for Buddhists, the Katharagama Temple and Sella Katharagama also beckon forth many pilgrims to visit on a yearly basis.
One of the ancient kingdoms of the island, Polonnaruwa was the capital of the north central province for 3 centuries, from the 11th to the 13th, and the archaeological ruins left behind at this UNESCO World Heritage Site tells us tales of the times. From ruins of royal palaces to bathing pools and ponds, temples, to the fauna and foliage of the area, this quaint historical city is ideal for a sightseeing adventure.
Situated in the district of Anuradhapura, Habarana is the centre point for those who want to see everything; the cultural triangle and the national parks with their elephants. It’s the place to go for elephant rides and safaris and boasts some of the best resorts in town, including one designed by the late Geoffrey Bawa.
Rafters and adventure seekers alive, make way to the white waters of Kithulagala for some exhilarating rushes of adrenaline as you take to your oars and battle through the waters. However, Kithulagala is famous for another attraction. The setting for the famed World War II film “The Bridge on The River Kwai” which starred Sir Alec Guinness, the featuring bridge still stands in Kithulagala with the Kelani River passing under it.
One of the main attractions down south for the beach lovers, Hikkaduwa provides a laid back location where the eternal music of the waves combing the sandy coast sets the scene for a lazy holiday by the sea coloured by beer, hammocks and a lot of interesting people. ‘Hikka’ as it is more fondly known, is a hotspot for rave parties and plays host to an annual festival of dance and music that happens every summer.
Breathtaking beautiful views, blue waters, white waves lapping at the sandy beaches is what Mirissa is known for. The odd island to conquer or the cool natural rock pools are just some of bonus points offered by Mother Nature herself, but this beautiful destination is best known as a surfing and snorkelling spot. However, Mirissa has more to offer than the sights and waters sports.
Trincomalee, the port city with heavenly sights from the turquoise waters to the golden sandy beaches, the British and Dutch heritage to the most recent additions to the land that make it worth the journey. From sightseeing to recreational and relaxation, Trincomalee is the place to be.
The island’s gem country, Ratnapura is a city full of life and energy, and a bountiful source of gems and precious stones. The city of gems can be reached via Kitulgala that is famous for certain attractions catering to adventure seekers, movie enthusiasts and even explorers. From the white waters of Kelani River, to the bridge that was the setting for the World War II movie ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ to the ‘Balangoda Man’ being the 12,000-year-old skeletal remains found in Belilena.
Unawatuna is a favoured holiday destination of many who make their way to party or relax their worries away. With the spray of the waves and the sun of their faces, this coastal village in the Galle province is a major tourist attraction and famed for its beautiful beaches and corals. A dip at the Unawatuna Beach is heavenly, especially when catching it at dawn or dusk, the skies tells tales of the seas. Whether you have come here for recreation or relaxation, there is something for everyone, from the parties hosted by many of the establishments on the coastal area to the attractions found in the vicinity.
One part of Sri Lanka’s world famous ‘Cultural Triangle’, and considered one of the most important cities in the country because of its historical, cultural and agricultural value. The area is said to have the largest deposits of rose-quartz in South Asia, and the main highlight is the Dambulla Rock Temple. Built in 1BC by King Walagambahu, the monastic complex is cut right into the rock and consists of five main caverns which contain over 150 statues of the Buddha, ranging in composition, posture and size.
Little England of Sri Lanka sits high atop the inner highlands blanketed with cool air and misty clouds, the perfect blend of relaxation that comes with a hot cup of tea nipped from the heart of Tea Country. This beauteous town is a continuing memory of Sri Lanka’s British past, as the houses of Nuwara Eliya hold the architectural design elements and look of an English countryside. 1890 meters above sea level, this town is ideal for tea cultivation, which is the usual sight when making your way to the top.
Make a pit stop at Pinnawala on your way to the hills and take in the sight of the only elephant orphanage on the island. Filled with pachyderms of many shapes and sizes, it is an ideal place to watch these majestic beasts as they take to their daily routines, whether it is feeding or bathing in the river nearby.
Home of the 400 Asian Elephants of Sri Lanka, Udawalawe is found in the southern province of the island. One of the most important in the region, this dry zone game park, is ideal for a 4WD safari expedition to watch the leopards, sambar deer, water buffalos, birds and of course, elephants roam the land they call home. Bird enthusiasts flock to Udawalawe to catch sight of the endemic Red Face Malkoha, Serpent Eagles, Malabar Pied Horn Bills and much more.
The Galle Dutch Fort is a rare historical jewel protected by dark, thick stone walls – with the endless ocean on one side. The roads inside the Galle Fort have hardly changed, like the squares on a chess board crisscrossing in regular patches. Straight and narrow lanes branch in and out inviting the visitor to a delightful walk into the 17th century.