10 great things to do in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka might top the list of my favorite countries of all time. Long beaches, great surf waves, high mountains, delicious food, rich wildlife and the world’s most beautiful train ride are just some of the things to do in Sri Lanka. Here is a list of 10 great things to do in Sri Lanka, and if you follow my 2-week travel itinerary you can do all of them!

The iconic Nine Arch Bridge in Ella

1. Visit the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella

Nine Arch Bridge is probably the most photogenic bridge in Asia. The bridge is located just outside of Ella, and is reachable with just a 30 minute walk from the village. The 25-meter high train track is hidden between green tea fields and bamboo forests. We combined our visit here with a hiking tour to Little Adam’s peak and a tea factory visit. You can walk on the bridge and then follow the track back to Ella train station. But be careful – the bridge is not only a tourist attraction but also an actual train track. Keep both eyes open while walking.

➳ Tips! Try to visit the bridge when there is actually a train estimated. Then you can take a really cool photo!

 Read more: 8 things to do in Ella – a guide to the most scenic village in Sri Lanka

Elephants at Udawalawe National Park.

2. Experience the wildlife on a safari

Sri Lanka is probably the best country in Asia to experience a variety of spectacular animals. The country has a great selection of wildlife, and over 26 national parks. Just west of Mirissa you will find Yala National Park, known to be one of the best places on earth to spot leopards. We visited Udawalawe National Park, famous for its many elephants. Seeing the majestic animal in it’s real habitat was both surreal and fantastic. I can really recommend a visit to Udawalawe National Park. And don’t miss the baby elephants at the Elephant Transit Home.

little adam's peak in sunrise

Little Adam’s Peak, one of my favorite hikes in Ella.

3. Hike through the mountains of Ella

Even though Ella is very popular and sometimes a bit crowded, it’s a must-stop when travelling through Sri Lanka. Nature is incredible! There are a lot of things to do in Ella, including hiking, visiting tea plantations and swimming in waterfalls. You can easily spend 4 days in Ella, but if you have a tight schedule I would recommend 1–2 days. Then you will have enough time to do the crucial activities like visiting Nine Arch Bridge, Little Adam’s Peak hike and Ella Rock hike.

Hiriketiya beach on Sri Lanka’s south coast offers great surfing. 

4. Surf and chill at the south coast of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka offers fantastic surfing with many of the world’s best surfing sites. There are beaches and waves for all difficulty levels, making it a perfect spot to try surfing for the first time or even attend a surf camp.

Sri Lanka has beautiful weather and great surf all year round. You just have to go to the right place, since the surf season changes depending on where you are. The south coast offers best surfing for beginners to intermediate surfers, and the season is best from October to February. 

Read more: My 2-week Sri Lanka travel itinerary will take you to the well-known surf spots Weligama, Mirissa and Hiriketiya. And hey: If you are not into surfing, I can assure you that these beaches are perfect for just chilling as well. 

The train ride from Ella to Kandy is concidered to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world.

5. Take the scenic train ride from Ella to Kandy

I can confirm – the train ride from Ella to Kandy must be the most beautiful one in the world. It is a 7 hour long train ride that will take you through a scenic landscape of tea plantation, cute villages and majestic mountains. Make sure to book your ticket in advance. We booked ours a few weeks before our trip and they were almost sold out! I suggest you get a first or second class ticket, to make sure you get a reserved seat. 

Read more: Book your ticket here

Swimming in the pools above Diyaluma Falls, Sri Lanka’s second largest waterfall.

6. Swim on top of the 220 meter high Diyaluma Waterfall

The Diyaluma Waterfall is Sri Lanka’s second largest waterfall, measuring 220 meters. At the top there are several levels with natural pools to swim in – but the last one, just before the 220 meter drop, is the coolest. The waterfall is located 1,5 hour away from Ella. I would say that Diyaluma Waterfall is by far the coolest experience during my Ella visit. You can arrange a driver to take you there from Ella center, or rent a scooter and drive by yourself (a scooter will cost you 1500–2000 LKR).

Read more: Hiking to Diyaluma Waterfall – the second largest waterfall in Sri Lanka

7. Experience the relaxing vibes in Mirissa

Mirissa is one of the main beach destinations in southern Sri Lanka. It is not as touristy as many other beach destinations in southern Sri Lanka, although it’s developing quickly. It is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the beautiful beaches, great restaurants, surf waves, diving and plenty of other water activities.

Read more: Top 10 things to do in Mirissa

8. Go diving and spot turtles in the ocean

The water outside of Mirissa is home to many turtles. If you are not into diving you can just rent snorkel equipment and spot them near the beach! Head over to Turtle bay, just east of Mirissa, for the best chances to spot one.

damros tea in nuwara eliya

The lush mountain village Nuwara Eliya is filled with tea plantations.

9. Tea plantation trekking in Nuwara Eliya

Did you know that Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea? The area around the small mountain village Nuwara Eliya is famous for its tea plantations. Hiking in the area means passing through plenty of them. I recommend going to Damro Labookellie Tea Centre, about 30 minutes from Nuwara Eliya city center. At Damro’s you can take a walk through the tea plantations, go for a guided tour or try our their tea assortment in the shop.

Read more: Explore the lush mountain village Nuwara Eliya: an ultimate travel guide

10. Visiting the many colonial monuments in Colombo

I have to admit: Colombo did not win us over in the 24 hours we were there. It might not be a fair judgement since we went there at the end of our trip and was already so inspired by all the other great experiences. But if you have a few days to spare I would recommend spending some time in Colombo. The capital plays a significant part of the history and culture of Sri Lanka. There are many impressive buildings from the colonial time, and also a few interesting temples.

On our 24 hours there we visited Gangaramaya Temple, took a walk along Galle Face Green, went to the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct and had drinks on the rooftop terrace of The Kingsbury hotel.

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