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Anuradhapura city, Sri Lanka

Climbing with pilgrims from around the world to the sacred mountains, praying under the oldest tree in the country (2,400 years old!), enjoying fresh aroma tea while gazing at the tea hills or whale watching. These are just a few experiences that are excitingly unique to the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. Let’s explore Sri Lanka travel experience: My trip to Sri Lanka blog — Top 7 unique and best things to do in Sri Lanka every traveler should do.

I have travelled extensively to many parts of the world but rarely did I find a land with such amazing historical and natural attractions like Sri Lanka. What are you waiting for? Check the weather forecast, pack your bag and let’s go!

Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya Rock seen from above. Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.
elephant-shower-kandy
Elephant Bath at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.

These are the list of best things to do in Sri Lanka.

1. Cycle in the holy city of Anuradhapura

Ruwanwelisaya

If you want to see how Sri Lanka looked like 200 years ago, visit the city of Anuradhapura, 220km from the capital city Colombo. Founded in the 6th century BC, Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka for over 1,000 years. The historic remains of the old city are one of the most impressive sights in South Asia. It is home to more than 10,000 architectural and Buddhist archaeological wonders with enormous brick stupas, built by hand by ancient dwellers, and crumbling temples and pools surrounded by monasteries covering an area of ​​40 square kilometers.

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Ruwanwelisaya. Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.

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Lankarama and pillars
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Anuradhapura City – Ancient stupa Anuradhapura City – Stupa
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The Buddhist stupa in Anuradhapura

Deemed the world’s largest brick structures, the Jetavanaramaya, Abhayagiriya or Ruwanvalisaya are often compared to the pyramids in Giza. The 2,000-year-old Jetavanaramaya stupa is considered the tallest structure in the ancient world with a height of 122m (approximately equivalent to a skyscraper of 40 floors). Today the structure is no longer the tallest, but it is still the largest, with a base area of ​​233 square meters and built purely out of bricks. The construction techniques used in Anuradhapura at the time are so outstanding that many architects of the modern world have never ceased to be amazed. The stone statues of the Buddha located here are some of the world’s most classic icons of south Asia.

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Jetavanaramaya stupa
Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.
Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.
Jetavanaramaya
Jetavanaramaya. Image: top things to do in sri lanka blog.

Buddha Statue
Buddha Statue

Another important site to visit in Anuradhapura is the Bodhi Tree (Sri Maha Bodhi), where the Buddha is said to have obtained enlightenment under. Sri Maha Bodhi was brought from India and planted in the 3rd century BC. The Bodhi Tree has since been considered the most sacred and revered place, worshiped by Buddhists from all over the world.

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Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi a Sacred Fig tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi a Sacred Fig tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.

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+ Transportation: The best way to explore the monuments of Anuradhapura is by Tuktuk or renting a bike. Bicycles can be rented from most hotels and homestays.

+ Note: Do not forget to bring water and wear a hat as the weather is very hot. You could also bring along some sandwiches to eat. A few pairs of socks are necessary for when you enter a number of temples, tourists are required to take off their shoes. The socks will allow you to safely go barefoot on the tiles without burning your feet on the hot stone.

+ Sightseeing: Admission is $25 per day. It will however take you 3 days to explore all of the monuments. To get the most out of your day, you should always visit the furthest temples first.

2. Watch sunrise from Adam’s Peak

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Adam Peak

You would feel a lot more holy if you visit Adam’s Peak, known as Sri Pada in Sri Lanka, a 2,234m high mountain located in the beautiful region of the Central Highlands with unique rock structures at the top. The summit has attracted large numbers of pilgrims for over 1,000 years. According to legend, this place marks the Buddha’s footprints when he entered Nirvana. The Hindus consider it the footprint of Lord Shiva. The Christians and Muslim however think it belongs to Adam, the first person to set foot on earth after having been exiled from heaven. These different beliefs are precisely the reason why this mountain attracts large numbers of pilgrims all year round.

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Sunrise at Adam Peak. Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.

ADAM PEAK sri lanka attractions things to do guide 2

ADAM PEAK sri lanka attractions things to do guide 2
Buddha statue

A climb to the top of the mountain will reward you with spectacular panoramic views. The mountain can be accessed by numerous trails. Visitors take on average about 2.5-4 hours to climb to the top. Although the trails to the mountain are very steep, the climb will certainly be one of the most exciting and unforgettable experiences of your life.

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Climbing to Adam Peak. Image: top things to do in sri lanka blog.

ADAM PEAK sri lanka attractions things to do guide 2

Many Sri Lankans consider the climb to Adam’s Peak a task to be completed at least once in a lifetime. You will easily find local families taking the mountain trails along with their parents and children. Many people climb the summit early in the morning at 2 am to catch the sun. It is a truly worthwhile experience.

ADAM PEAK sri lanka attractions things to do guide 2 Picture: unique things to do in sri lanka blog.
Picture: unique things to do in sri lanka blog.

ADAM PEAK sri lanka attractions things to do guide 2

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Pray at Buddha stone foot.

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+ Time: The trails are crowded from January to March and less crowded on other months.

+ Note: Be sure to bring food, especially drinking water, as you may need it as there are no shops around during the low season. Also bring along a coat and a hat as the weather can get quite cold at the top. Do not forget to bring torches if you want to climb in the evening. Although climbing is generally safe for tourists, group travel is always recommended.

3. Relax on the white pristine beach of Mirissa

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Mirissa beach

Put your mobile phone away, bring a book and order a fresh coconut or a glass of beer to lie on a hammock at the beach and relax. This is truly a sweet experience at Mirissa, a beautiful semi-secluded beach where your dream of a tropical paradise turns into reality.

beaches-sri-lanka-mirissa-beach (1) Picture: unique things to do in sri lanka blog.
Picture: unique things to do in sri lanka blog.

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Hotels on Mirissa beach. Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.

Hotels and guest houses are built right on the beach, giving you the impression of a deserted island. There are many cafes and small restaurants serving fresh seafood along the beach. The particularly relaxed atmosphere can be felt in the evening, when tables are set up on the beach and lightened with candles and lanterns. This is a great destination for romantic dates.

beaches-sri-lanka-mirissa-beach (1) Palm tree on Mirissa Beach, South Coast, Southern Province, Sri Lanka, Asia
Palm tree on Mirissa Beach, South Coast, Southern Province, Sri Lanka, Asia
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Calm waters
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Beach Paradise – Mirissa

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Three things not to be missed in Mirissa

+ Activity: In Mirissa there is a number of exciting activities such as scuba diving or surfing in the blue clear water. Thanks to stable waves and the lack of tourists, Mirissa attracts surfers from all over the world. The best surfing time is from October to March.

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Surfing

+ Dolphin watching: Whale and dolphin tours are very popular with tourists. Be sure to choose reputable tour operators, ensure that the boat is not too crowded and have enough life jackets for all passengers. If you want to see the blue whale, come here from mid-December to March.

Whale watching Mirissa Foto: cool things to do in sri lanka blog.
Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.
Whales & Dolphin in Mirissa or Kalpitiya Sri Lanka
Whales & Dolphin in Mirissa or Kalpitiya Sri Lanka. Photo by: sri lanka travel experience blog.
Whale watching Mirissa
Whale watching Mirissa

+ Ayurvedic traditional medicine: Mirissa has many spas, traditional Ayurvedic and yoga centers with various herbal body massages and aromatherapy all at good prices.

Ayurvedic traditional medicine
Ayurvedic traditional medicine

4. Visit the tea hills of Nuwara Eliya

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Nuwara Eliya Tea Plantations, Sri Lanka. Photo by: sri lanka travel experience blog.

Another ideal destination in Sri Lanka to enjoy and breathe in the cool air is the city surrounded by mountains, Nuwara Eliya. With its cool climate and colonial-style architecture, lovely parks and gardens with neatly trimmed grasses, visitors are reminded of the English countryside’s sense of tranquility. In the 19th century, British pioneers in the tea industry often came to this retreat and immersed themselves in pastimes such as deer hunting, fox hunting, golf and cricket.

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harvesting tea Foto: cool things to do in sri lanka blog.
Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.

harvesting tea

harvesting tea Image by: fun things to do in sri lanka blog.
Image by: fun things to do in sri lanka blog.

Take a walk around the picturesque tea hills around the city and you will find the local women carrying baskets full of tea leaves on their back. It is an equally impressive sight to see. Despite having a long day of hard work, the local people still give the visitors their best smiles.

nuwara-eliya sri lanka train ride

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Riding beside the tea plantations, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

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+ Activity: One of the activities that cannot be missed when visiting Nuwara Eliya is to visit the tea factory. You can go on a tour or go alone to find out about tea processing, tea growing techniques, different types of tea and why some types of tea have an orange color…

nuwara-eliya tea factory
Nuwara Eliya tea factory

+ Tea indulgence: After the tour is a tea ceremony where visitors are invited to taste different kinds of tea.

Tea at Pedro's Tea Factory, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Tea at Pedro’s Tea Factory, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. Image by: fun things to do in sri lanka blog.

5. Visit the spectacular Sigiriya Rock Lion

Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya Rock seen from above. Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.

Meaning “lion stone”, Sigiriya is the most remarkable landmark of Sri Lanka, famous for its palace ruins at the top of a 200m high rock surrounded by a system of water gardens, fountains, pools, ponds, courtyards and other structures. All beautifully show the exceptional skills of ancient landscape architects.

Sigiriya Rock and around. Image: top things to do in sri lanka blog.
Sigiriya Rock Foto: cool things to do in sri lanka blog.
Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.

Sigiriya Rock
Climbing Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya Rock: Climbing the Lion Rock in Sri Lanka

1600 years ago, King Kasyapa turned this natural rock into a royal fortress. The movie makers of the famous HBO series “Game of Thrones” must have been inspired by the story of this scheming and treacherous king. The king’s palace on the summit has only one entrance, through the mouth of a lion statue with its huge footprints carved into the rock. You will see a lot of mural paintings and worship caves along the way up. During the 2.5-4 hour period trek, tour guides can answer all of your questions about each of the artifacts you encounter.

Stairs at Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Stairs at Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.

Image: top things to do in sri lanka blog.
Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.

Sigiriya Rock

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+ Visit: Tickets to the Sigiriya monument which is recognised by UNESCO as the 8th wonder of the world cost $30 per person. If this ticket is too pricey for you, you can also visit the nearby Pidurangala ruins. This rocky spot is about the same height as Sigiriya and give visitors breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

+ Note: It is not easy to climb the spiral stairs attached to the standing wall in Sigiriya. You should consider this if traveling with children. Do not forget to bring drinks, snacks and a hat.

6. Shopping at Galle Fort

Barefoot, Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka | Photo Credits: Barefoot, Sri Lanka
A restaurant and antique shop. Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.

It is extremely difficult to control oneself when you go passing through jewelry and gems stores and dozens of handcrafted shops.

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The beautiful 90 hectare Galle Fort is the best preserved port in South Asia. For the past hundred years, Persian, Greek, Indian and Chinese traders traded in this seaport, mainly trading spices. But Galle’s “modern” history dates back to 1505, when the Portuguese took over the fort and 100 years later the Dutch took over and built the present fort with an extensive map of roads and houses.

Funky Shop in Galle Fort
Funky Shop in Galle Fort
galle fort shop Picture: unique things to do in sri lanka blog.
Picture: My trip to Sri Lanka blog.

Spice shop, Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka
Spice shop, Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka

Today, the fortress is considered a cultural heritage site of UNESCO, becoming a source of inspiration and an ideal destination for many foreign artists, writers, designers and photographers. The combination of small shops, colonial-style hotels, cozy restaurants, unique museums and art galleries is what makes it stand out.

Inside the Galle Fort.
Inside the Galle Fort. Photo by: sri lanka travel experience blog.

Streets of the Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka
Streets of the Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka
Lighthouse in Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka
Lighthouse in Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka. Photo by: sri lanka travel experience blog.

Inside Galle Fort, you can buy travel and movie posters from the late 1800s, fabrics, handicrafts, household accessories, hand-painted posters and masks. Once you get tired of shopping, you can visit one of the most prominent landmarks of the fort, the Dutch Protestant Church with its 300 year old organ. You could alternatively visit the hourly lighthouse, Meera Mosque, All Saints Church or the former Dutch government house.

A coffee shop in Galle Fort
Barefoot, Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka | Photo Credits: Barefoot, Sri Lanka
Barefoot, Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka | Photo Credits: Barefoot, Sri Lanka

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+ Sightseeing: The fortress is open to tourists. The best way to explore the fort is to walk inside the wall just before sunset. Local people and visitors often take a stroll and enjoy a drink or watch sunset over the Indian Ocean.

+ Special note: If you are lucky, you can actually find the giant lizards sunbathing along the walls. They look like crocodiles, but are not dangerous.

7. Watch elephants bathe in Kandy

Elephant Bath at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Elephant Bath at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Protected by UNESCO, Kandy city has countless activities to astound visitors whether you are a nature lover or enjoy exploring temples and museums. You can visit a temple that is considered one of the holiest sites in Sri Lanka bearing the tooth relics of the Buddha.

Image: top things to do in sri lanka blog.
Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.

Bathing Elephant
Bathing Elephant. Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.

If you want to find a less touristy and quiet place, the Royal Botanic Garden is an ideal destination. It is one of the most magnificent (60ha) gardens in the world and is easily accessed by taxi or bus. There are over 10,000 types of plants of different ages, shapes and species. Among them are rare trees such as banyan trees, 40m tall Burmese bamboo, and Javan fig trees with roots up to 1,800m2. The blooming of various kinds of orchids and roses also make the garden extremely attractive.

Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya
Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya. Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.
Image by: fun things to do in sri lanka blog.
Image by: fun things to do in sri lanka blog.

Cabbage Palm Avenue
Cabbage Palm Avenue. Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.
Royal Botanical Garden; Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Royal Botanical Garden; Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

But one of most wonderful experiences that you will find is watching a bunch of elephants bathe in the river. One hundred of them! This is the estimated number of elephants currently living in the Pinnewala Orphanage (40 km from Kandy). The elephants have a very boring daily habit, that is, eat and bathe twice a day. They are fortunately not forced to entertain tourists by playing football or drawing, unlike their brethren on some elephant farms in Thailand.

elephant-shower-kandy Image by: fun things to do in sri lanka blog.
Image by: fun things to do in sri lanka blog.
elephant-shower-kandy Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.
Credit image: best things to do in sri lanka blog.

It’s fun to watch them bathe and move to the river. When they cross the street, all the traffic will stop to give way. They will then follow one another along the narrow road between the souvenir shops. Crowds of tourists would exclaim in amazement and try to capture images of the elephants from a safe distance. Watching the elephants bathe is a very interesting experience. Visitors may also bottle-feed baby elephants but you will have to pay extra.

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Pinnawela-Bathing Photo by: sri lanka travel experience blog.
Photo by: sri lanka travel experience blog.

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Admission for this fun activity is $16 but it is really worth it, especially when you travel with children.

Are you looking for more best things to do in Sri Lanka: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out at here.

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