• Where to go in Sri Lanka

Our guide on the best places to visit in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a tropical island paradise that is full of surprises. Blessed with groves of coconut palms, teeming rainforests, picturesque mountain ranges, the inviting waters of the Indian Ocean and incredible wildlife including its very own Big Five. An island steeped in history and culture, with exquisite beaches, extreme nature, mesmerizing landscapes, and a mouthwatering and little-known cuisine.

The middle belt of the island is a mix of open scrubland, patches of forest, tranquil paddy fields, and wide natural reservoirs which draw in elephants, crocs, and tropical birdlife. The very centre of this area, between the ancient sites of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya, is Sri Lanka’s famed ‘Cultural Triangle’, containing 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as opportunities for hiking, cycling, safari drives, and village tours. Most visitors spend at least three days here to explore the area properly.

Heading further south beyond alluring former capital Kandy you’ll find Sri Lanka’s Hill Country: this is the island at its most scenic, a mist-wrapped land of emerald peaks and fabulous views, of hillsides carpeted with tea plantations and dotted with spectacular waterfalls. With an incredibly varied landscape changing every few hours, it makes for some of the most scenic rail adventures around the world. With an ever-changing climate of warm sunshine, tropical rain, cold nights and mists, the Hill Country is a land unto itself, pulsating with adventure and charm.

On all sides the island is ringed by white-sand coastline, with the beach scene ranging from laidback and youthful (Hikkaduwa, Arugam Bay), well-developed and family-friendly (Galle, Beruwala), or secluded and serene (Tangalle, Koggola). Whatever your preference for resort and accommodation style there is a perfect choice for you!

Talk to the Expert


I am totally captivated by Asia. Having lived in Singapore, Nepal, South Korea and Hong Kong,  travelled extensively across all of our destinations in Asia, and worked in luxury travel for many years, curating exceptional trips comes naturally to me.


Asia Specialist

+1 844 879 7838

Best places to go in Sri Lanka

Our guide to Sri Lanka’s principal destinations is below. You’ll find there’s a lot to see and a great deal of variety on offer! Please speak to our specialists if you’d like more information on any of these locations.

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Western Sri Lanka


Colombo is home to Sri Lanka’s only international airport, which means all visits start and end here. This cosmopolitan city boasts a rich colonial heritage and diverse cultures, where you’ll see bustling street markets overflowing with colourful silks, aromatic spices, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Discover its diversity through temples, mosques and churches that congregate on the same streets, and explore iconic sites such as the Khan clock tower, Fort Station and the Red Mosque. Take a tuk-tuk ride around the city, sip high tea in a colonial-style hotel that overlooks the ocean and indulge in a mouth-watering array of cuisine.

Negombo, Sri Lanka

Western Sri Lanka

Negombo & Airport Area

Should the city centre not be your scene, opt instead to bookend your trip either in the beach resort town of Negombo – around 30 minutes; drive north of Colombo, but right on the doorstep of the airport – or in a peaceful rural lodge in the nearby countryside. Negombo has a good (but not exceptional) beach, numerous excellent hotels, and a busy town centre packs with shops, bars, and eateries. Our preferred airport-friendly lodges are out in peaceful countryside, providing high-class accommodation and a blissful retreat to begin or end a trip.

Polonnoruwa, Sri Lanka

Central Sri Lanka

The Cultural Triangle

Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’ contains five of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At its northern tip is the ancient city of Anuradhapura the Mihintale Buddhist centre, to the eastern corner the ruins of Polonnaruwa, and to the south and west the Dambulla cave monastery and legendary Sigiriya ‘Lion Rock’. The area also contains Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks, where huge herds of elephants can often be spotted. This broad low-land area is filled with lush paddy fields, rough patches of forest and scrub, and tranquil reservoirs, making it especially atmospheric.

Kandy, Sri Lanka

Central Sri Lanka


Kandy is Sri Lanka’s former capital and erstwhile seat of its ancient kings. This a bustling and picturesque city, ringed by hills and centred around the placid Bomgambara Lake. The city has managed to preserve its unique culture, customs and art, which can be seen in many historic and cultural sites like the Temple of the Tooth relic, the most important religious shrine in Buddhism, said to be the location of a portion of Buddha’s tooth. There are many ancient temples, beautiful gardens, colonial architecture, and delightfully chaotic streets to explore, making it worth spending time here.

Central Sri Lanka

The Hill Country

Sri Lanka’s emerald hill country is one of the most stunning tea growing areas in the world. The hills rolls between elevations of more than 2,300m around Horton Plains and Adam’s Peak to 1500m around the serene lakes of Castlereigh or Bogawantalawa. Throughout you’ll mist-enveloped rolling hills, usually carpeted in neat rings of tea, offering up outstanding hiking and possibly the most dramatic train rides in Asia. Popular destinations within the Hills include Ella, site of the iconic Nine Arch Bridge; Nuwara Eliya, a former hill station known as ‘Little England’, and Mihintale, with its connections to the Lipton tea empire.

Uda Walawe, Sri Lanka

Central Sri Lanka

National Parks

Sri Lanka’s national parks are one of the island’s biggest attractions, with wildlife-spotting here surpassed only by neighbouring India for the sheer variety of and access to exotic flora and fauna. Yala National Park, in the southeast corner of the island, is the most popular park due to its notable population of leopard. Nearby Uda Walawe sees fewer visitors and sadly less no leopards, but is great for sighting elephant, deer, crocs, and tropical birds. To the north, Wilpattu makes a great addition to Anuradhapura, a wide dusty park with very few visitors; while to the east Gal Oya is more of a nature reserve but boasts possibly the island’s best low-impact lodge, from where you’ll usually enjoy the whole park to yourselves.

Galle, Sri Lanka

South Coast Sri Lanka


Galle is the jewel in the crown of south coast Sri Lanka. The largest city in the south of the island, the historic bastion is a true melting pot, with the feel of a European city that’s been stolen and dropped into the tropics. Your time here will be centred around the late 16th-century Dutch Fort, with its perfectly preserved colonial streets now filled with charming hotels, cafes and boutiques. A popular choice is to stay in one of the quieter beach villages nearby but remain within touching distance of the Fort for all your dining and shopping needs. Further activities – such as cooking classes, rural cycling tours, whale-watching trips, or watersports – can be arranged locally.

Bentota, Sri Lanka

South Coast Sri Lanka

Bentota & Around

Sri Lanka’s southwest heel contains some of its most popular resort areas, offering golden sands, a range of activities, and convenient locations equidistant to both Galle and Colombo. Bentota is our personal favourite here, a small town catered more to high-class, boutique hotel accommodation. Hikkaduwa further south is livelier and more youthful, while Beruwala and Kalutara further north begin to creep into the Colombo suburbs and house many large family-friendly resorts. Nearby by you’ll find the alluring Lunuganga Gardens, the Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Project, and many ayurvedic spas.

Mirissa, Sri Lanka

South Coast Sri Lanka

Mirissa & Around

For many, the villages east of Galle are the sweet spot. The scenery becomes more picturesque, with tighter coves offering postcard-perfect beaches ideal for swimming and bathing, and development is usually ‘just so’ – busy enough to offer cafes, seafood restaurants, perhaps a small spa or boutique, but still mostly placid and well away from the over-developed resorts to the southwest. Mirissa and Weligama are the busiest towns here, while isolated upscale properties can also be found in Koggola, Dalawella, and Ahangama

Tangalle, Sri Lanka

South Coast Sri Lanka

Tangalle & Around

East of Mirissa the development starts to really drop off and the scenery becomes truly sumptuous. This is tropical island scenery at its finest: near-deserted white sand beaches, overhanging palm trees, fresh seafood, and here and there the odd boutique luxury beach resort. If you’re looking for local amenities it’s best to base yourselves around Tangalle, the only major town in the area; otherwise, pick your secluded retreat, kick back, and soak it all in.

Tangalle, Sri Lanka

East Coast Sri Lanka

The East Coast

Sri Lanka’s east coast comes into its own during the summer months of May through to September. During this time the weather across the south and west is changeable, but out here it’s gloriously clear and warm. The historic naval city of Trincomalee is an interesting visit with beaches Nilaveli and Uppuveli nearby; further down the coast the newly developed resort areas Passekudah and Kalkudah offer excellent family and honeymoon accommodation; while at the bottom of the coast Arugam Bay is Sri Lanka’s most famous surf hangout.

Get in touch with our travel experts today.

+1 844 879 7838OR

Why book with Unforgettable Travel Co.

  • 100% Financial Protection

    We are a licensed and fully bonded tour operator financially protected by both the Civil Aviation Authority (ATOL) and the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT). All clients that travel with us are fully financially protected.

  • Destination Experts

    Our travel experts live and breathe the destinations they specialise in. This shows in their passionate to create hand crafted trips for our clients. We don’t offer cookie cutter trips, just truly unforgettable journeys unlike any other.

  • The Best Guides

    What makes our trips extraordinary is the unique immersive experiences we include. We pride ourselves in our black book of sought after expert guides, game rangers and local contacts who believe in our philosophy, unforgettable.

  • We Care

    From the moment you book your trip, we are on hand 24/7 to assist you throughout your journey. With regional offices around the world, we have ground logistics teams on hand to help you every step of the way.