Things not to miss

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 17.05.2024

#01 Cricket

Take part in a knock-around on the beach, or join the crowds of cricket-crazy spectators for a Test match in Colombo or Kandy.

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#02 Adam’s Peak

One of Sri Lanka’s foremost pilgrimage sites, this soaring summit bears the revered impression of what is said to be the Buddha’s own footprint, and offers the island’s most magical – and enigmatic – views.


© Shutterstock

#03 Galle

Sri Lanka’s most perfectly preserved colonial townscape, with sedate streets of personable Dutch-era villas enclosed by a chain of imposing ramparts.

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Sri Lanka Fort Galle

© Shutterstock

#04 Yala National Park

Sri Lanka’s most popular and rewarding national park, home to birds, monkeys, crocodiles and elephants, as well as the island’s largest population of leopards.


© Shutterstock

#05 Rice and Curry

Eat your way through this classic Sri Lankan feast, with its mouthwatering selection of contrasting dishes and flavours.


© bonchan/Shutterstock

#06 Birds

Sri Lanka is one of Asia’s classic birdwatching destinations, with species ranging from delicate bee eaters and blue magpies to colourful kingfishers and majestic hornbills.


Kingfisher © Paul Tymon/Shutterstock

#07 Kataragama

Join the crowds thronging to the colourful nightly temple ceremonies at this remote pilgrimage town, held sacred by Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims alike.

Lord Ganesh Temple at Sella kataragama Sri Lanka © Lihil Sankalpa/Shutterstock

Lord Ganesh Temple at Sella Kataragama Sri Lanka © Lihil Sankalpa/Shutterstock

#08 Anuradhapura

This vast, mysterious ruined city bears witness to the great Sinhalese civilization that flourished here for some two thousand years.

ruwanweliseya -dagoba-buddhist-stupa-anuradhapura-sri-lanka-shutterstock_552476005

© shutterlk/Shutterstock

#09 Sigiriya

Climb the towering rock outcrop of Sigiriya, home to the fascinating remains of one of the island’s former capitals, complete with ancient graffiti and elaborate water gardens.


© Dominik Frings/Shutterstock

#10 The Pettah

Colombo’s colourful, chaotic bazaar district offers an exhilarating slice of Asian life.

View on Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque or Red Masjid Mosque is a historic mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka © streetflash/Shutterstock

View on Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque or Red Masjid Mosque is a historic mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka © streetflash/Shutterstock

#11 Whale and Dolphin Watching

Take to the waves in search of magnificent blue and sperm whales, or pods of acrobatic spinner dolphins.


© Shutterstock

#12 Polonnaruwa

Quite simply the island’s finest collection of ancient Sinhalese art and architecture.


© Khoroshunova Olga/Shutterstock

#13 Bentota

The unspoilt southern end of Bentota beach is home to a fine selection of luxury beachside hotels.

You will find more attractive beach options in our guide to the best beaches in Sri Lanka.


© Shutterstock

#14 Kandy Esala Perahera

One of Asia’s most spectacular festivals, with huge processions of magnificently caparisoned elephants, ear-splitting troupes of Kandyan drummers and assorted dancers and acrobats.


© DESIGNFACTS/Shutterstock

#15 Ayurveda

Sri Lanka’s ancient system of healthcare uses herbal medicines and traditional techniques to promote holistic well-being.


© Lukiyanova Natalia frenta/Shutterstock

#16 Arugam Bay

This remote east coast village has great sand and surf, lots of local wildlife and an appealingly chilled-out atmosphere.


© k86/Shutterstock

#17 Kandyan Dancing and Drumming

Traditional Sinhalese culture at its most exuberant, with brilliantly costumed dancers performing stylized dances to an accompaniment of explosively energetic drumming.


© DESIGNFACTS/Shutterstock

#18 Dambulla

These five magical cave temples are a treasure box of Sri Lankan Buddhist art, sumptuously decorated with a fascinating array of statues, shrines and the country’s finest collection of murals.


© Shutterstock

#19 Mirissa

Laid-back beachside village with a fine stretch of sand and world-class whale-watching.

Mirissa, Sri Lanka

© Klemen K. Misic/Shutterstock


#20 Beautifully situated amidst the central highlands, this historic city remains the island’s most important repository of traditional Sinhalese culture, exemplified by the great Esala Perahera festival and the Temple of the Tooth.


Temple of the Tooth © krivinis/Shutterstock

Top image: Sigiriya © Shutterstock

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 17.05.2024

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