Sri Lanka is an absolute dream to travel. With super efficient transport, incredible landscapes and unique animals, here’s our Sri Lanka Bucket List.
The first stop on your Sri Lanka bucket list should be to get out and explore Colombo. With the airport being nearby, this will most likely be the first stop on your Sri Lanka bucket list.
A great way to tie in all of the city’s hot spots is to jump on a tour, and here are some of the most popular ones in the city:
Tours like this allow your to head down narrow streets, past monuments, and to some of the most popular areas, the way locals do.
With an experienced local guide by your side, these tours could be the best way to get the most out of your one day in Colombo itinerary.
Click HERE for our full One Day In Colombo Itinerary – How To Do Colombo In A Day blog.
Book your Colombo City Tour: Small-Group Tuk Tuk Tour with a Local Guide
After exploring for the majority of your whole day in Colombo, this scenic spot for sunset makes the evening a little more relaxed.
Galle Face Green is a 5 hectare ocean-side urban park, which stretches for 500m along the coast of Colombo.
Here you can see plenty of local kids playing, friends meeting for street food, and families strolling along the promenade.
You’ll get a glimpse of Galle Face Green if you take the Full-day Sightseeing Tour of Colombo, Sri Lanka. However we spent a couple of hours there in the evening, just giving our feet a break and taking in the atmosphere.
Not only is Galle Face Green one of the top places to see in Colombo, it is the perfect spot to grab a local delicacy whilst taking a beach front walk. We recommend stocking up on vegetable rottis or prawn vadai.
If you want to see the true culture of Colombo, then the vendors and sea breeze of Galle Face Green will capture it for you.
Book your Colombo Sight Seeing Tour: Full-day Sightseeing Tour of Colombo
An auto rickshaw is a motorized version of the pulled rickshaw or cycle rickshaw. Most have three wheels and do not tilt. They are known by many terms in various countries including auto, baby taxi, tuk-tuk, pedi-cab, 3wheel or tukxi.
If you’ve never been to Asia before and Sri Lanka is your first stop, you’ve probably never ridden a tuk tuk.
This is a must for your Sri Lanka bucket list. We remember our first time riding in a tuk tuk and it was certainly a memorable experience.
Once you’ve ridden one once, you’ll be sure to keep taxying around in them for your whole trip. It’s a fun and cheaper alternative for getting from A to B.
Be sure to negotiate a price for your journey before you get in the tuk tuk. You may even find some tuk tuk’s with metres on them, similar to taxis.
A Sri Lanka bucket list involves more than just the pristine, golden coastlines and tropical palm trees, it’s full of adventure, animals and local chaos.
A ride in one of the Sri Lanka buses will allow you experience (as close as it gets) to the life of a local.
The transportation system is not only fun and interesting but it’s super fast and efficient too.
Unlike a few other places we’ve visited in Asia, Sri Lanka buses are always on time and super speedy getting to your destination.
Not to mention the fast paced Sri Lankan music playing on your wondrous journey.
Each bus is uniquely decorated, but all are jazzy, colourful and celebrate some kind of meaning.
With culture all around you, the temples of Sri Lanka are some of the most popular and interesting places to visit.
With famous temples in each and every destination, get ready to learn Sri Lanka’s history and culture of religion.
There are four main religions in Sri Lanka, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.
70% of Sri Lanka’s population follow Buddhism so you will see lot’s of Buddhist temples and decorations around the country.
Not only is it interesting to study their beliefs and way of life, it’s incredible to see all the unique architecture and designs of the temples too.
Not to mention the beautiful churches and mosques in several parts of the county too. They really take pride in their places of worship and it shows.
A couple of our favourite temples are Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo and Pathrakali Amman Temple in Trincomalee.
A few hours inland on the bus and the most natural step to take from Colombo is to head to the centre.
Before arriving in Dambulla, of course Sigiriya Rock was at the top of our radar.
Sigiriya Rock, or Lion Rock as it’s also known, is famous for its palace ruins on top of a massive 200 meter high rock surrounded by the remains of gardens, reservoirs and other structures.
The rock itself is a lava plug left over from an ancient long extinct volcano, attracting thousands of tourists to Sigiriya to climb and take in the views from the summit.
It wasn’t until we arrived in the city and started talking to other travellers, that we found out about Pidurangala Rock. Another large, naturally formed tourist attraction with insane views! Views of the almighty Sigiriya Rock.
For those on a short schedule, there is also a highly rated Sigiriya and Dambulla Day Trip from Colombo tour.
This tour allows you to visit the historic rock fortress of Sigiriya, and explore the large cave temple complex of Dambulla on a full-day trip from Colombo with a private driver.
If you do have time, we certainly recommend spending a day or two in Dambulla to explore to your hearts content.
Click HERE for our full Pidurangala Rock Hike In Sigiriya – A Complete Guide To Visiting blog.
Book your Sigiriya Tours: Sigiriya: Top Tours & Activities
The food is one of the largest parts of Sri Lankan culture, so save some space on your Sri Lanka bucket list to get fully immersed into the local delicacies.
The most common Sri Lankan street food’s are hoppers, vadai, and kothu. All of which we ate way too much of!
A go to for us though, was a typical Sri Lankan vegetable curry. Usually served with a mixture of rice, pumpkin or root vegetable curry, popadoms and pol sambol.
When searching for local spots to eat at, we usually look for the busiest place. That way you know the food you’re getting is fresh, and the Sri Lankans approve of it!
Wherever you choose to eat, be sure to try something local, and we promise you’ll leave Sri Lanka fully satisfied.
If you’re looking for a great food tour in Colombo, the most popular seems to be: Eat, Eat, Repeat – a small group tour with a local.
Book your Colombo Food Tour: Eat, Eat, Repeat
An Udawalawe Safari is near the top of most people’s Sri Lanka bucket list.
It was one of THE most epic experiences of our travels.
There are a few options available in terms of Sri Lanka safaris. The most popular being: Yala National Park, Minneriya National Park or Udawalawe National Park. And after a lot research, we opted for the latter.
Udawalawe is a small town located in the southern part of the Ratnapura District in Sri Lanka.
It’s not only extremely habitant of elephants, but apparently not as crowded as Yala National Park, a popular destination for those on the hunt to find Sri Lankan leopards.
The most popular destination that tourists choose to visit Udawalawe from is Ella.
We booked onto the Udawalawe National Park: Private Safari Half Day (3 hours).
Cost: £15 per person.
Start time: 6:30am.
However, if you just wish to visit on a day trip safari from other areas of Sri Lanka, there are plenty of options on Get Your Guide such as:
All of these 1 day tours will all include hotel pickup and drop-off, national park fees, and a private Udawalawe jeep safari.
Click HERE for our full Udawalawe Safari Guide – Planning The Best Safari In Sri Lanka blog.
Book your Udawalawe Safari: Udawalawe National Park: Private Safari Half Day (3 hours)
There are three mains spots tourists learnt to surf in Sri Lanka.
For beginners, the best option is definitely Weligama Beach.
Located just 15 minutes up the road from Mirissa, this is the place for beginners to get stuck in and master the waves.
So if you’re a keen to learn, this will be one of the best surf spots in Sri Lanka for you.
There are a few quirky food spots around the area as well so keep your eyes peeled!
To find out more, check out The 3 Best Surf Spots In Sri Lanka – You MUST Visit.
Book your Weligama Surf Lesson: Weligama 1-Hour Beginner Learn to Surf Lesson
Ella is a town high in the mountainous region of Sri Lanka. The Ella Rock Hike in Sri Lanka is also well known spot, with breathtaking views.
Standing at an elevation of 1,041 metres above sea level, Ella Town is located right in the centre of the island, and you can start the Ella Rock hike directly from the main high street.
The not so strenuous walk is around 8km long, taking a couple of hours. The gradient isn’t too steep either. On the way up you pass through unique tea plantations, train tracks and the beautiful Sri Lankan countryside.
There’s the popular 2-Day Tour of 3 Iconic Ella Sites available, which includes Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak, and the Nine Arch Bridge.
Click HERE for our full Ella Rock Hike In Sri Lanka – A Complete Guide To Visiting blog.
Book your Ella Rock Tour: 2-Day Tour of 3 Iconic Ella Sites
The most popular place to spot whales in Sri Lanka is off the coast of Mirissa.
One thing Mirissa prides itself on is its marine life!
With blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins known to hover around the coastline from November until the end of April, whale watching is certainly one top priorities to add to your Sri Lanka bucket list.
The very best months are March and April for blue whale sightings. We also recommend heading out as early as possible as the sea is usually calm in the morning and rougher in the afternoon.
With so many companies to choose from, Island Breeze Mirissa is one of the highest rated in the area. And you can check availability, prices and book in advance with them here.
The duration of their trips are 4 hours long, starting at around 6am, and ‘’with a strong possibility of spotting whales and dolphins in their natural habitat’’ promised, you won’t be disappointed.
Book your Mirissa Whale Watching Tour: Mirissa: Morning Whale Watching Tour
A trip to Sri Lanka would not be complete without taking the scenic Kandy to Ella train.
There are 3 trains that depart from Kandy towards Ella everyday.
Times: 3.30am, 8.47am or 11.10am.
We heard that the 8.47am train is the best to catch because naturally, fewer people want to get up early. Plus it’s good to hit the road (well tracks) before the mid morning fog sets in.
If you can get a guaranteed seat then that’s a bonus. Chances are you’ll be fighting everyone on the platform just to get on the train, let alone sit down, so don’t worry too much.
Click HERE for our full Kandy To Ella Train In Sri Lanka – The Ultimate Guide blog.
The Nine Arch Bridge in Ella is one of the most iconic spots in the whole of Sri Lanka, so it’s very much worthy of a place on your Sri Lanka bucket list.
The bridge is one of those iconic images that best represent Sri Lanka.
This destination is the most picturesque spot we visited in the country, and we couldn’t put our cameras down once we were there!
The bridge is located right in the centre of the jungle, where tea is grown and the locals sell their coconuts.
Not only is it a beautiful bridge but a very scenic spot to watch the famous Sri Lanka pass through too. If you find out the time it should be passing through when you’re there, it’s definitely worth checking out!
For the Nine Arch Bridge there are a couple of tour options with the reputable company Ella Day Tours:
Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge (Half Day Tour )
Ella Rock & 9 Arch Bridge, Little Adams Peak with Transfer (Full Day Tour)
Both tours include hotel pickup and drop off, tuk tuk transport, and water bottles.
Click HERE for our full Nine Arch Bridge Ella – A Complete Guide To Visiting blog.
Book your Nine Arch Bridge Tour: Ella Rock & 9 Arch Bridge, Little Adams Peak with Transfer
Coconut Tree Hill is now probably one of the most popular and recognisable places in Mirissa.
It’s basically a large dirt mound that offers a unique viewpoint under quite the number of palm trees.
From this mini viewpoint elevated 4m (13ft) above sea level, you can witness the peace and serenity of the ocean that surrounds you as well as the severals bays of Mirissa Beach, bouncing in and out of the coastline.
You can chill under the sun, take some iconic photos and enjoy a well deserved coconut at Coconut Tree Hill Mirissa.
Coconut Tree Hill Mirissa has become quite the Instagram spot. Its no wonder, with it’s uniquely packed symmetrical palm trees and the fresh, crashing ocean as the backdrop.
You may have seen Coconut Tree Hill Mirissa in some of the picturesque photos that pop up of Sri Lanka. It’s certainly now one of the top things to do in Mirissa.
Click HERE for our full Coconut Tree Hill Mirissa – A Complete Guide To Visiting blog.
Famous for its rope swing and low bending palm trees, Dalawella Beach is a beautiful strip of sand just down the road from Unawatuna.
It has a few picture perfect spots and with water that’s perfect for swimming. We highly recommend an afternoon stroll along Dalawella Beach as we feel it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka.
The Dalawella Beach Swing in Sri Lanka is an example of how social media has driven local tourism through the roof!
In the last couple of years the insta-famous Dalawella Beach swing has become a huge tourist attraction.
It can be found directly in front of the Dream Cabana guesthouse, right on the beachfront.
With photos popping up all over social media, many travellers are adding it to their Sri Lanka bucket list. It’s one not to miss on your trip to this adventure packed island.
Click HERE for our full Dalawella Beach Swing Sri Lanka – A Complete Guide To Visiting blog.
Turtle Beach is located in Hikkaduwa, a seaside resort town in southwest of Sri Lanka.
The Hikkaduwa turtles can usually be found swimming around directly in front of the Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon Hotel.
The wild Hikkaduwa turtles are super local to this part of the coastline and can be spotted by snorkelling up and down the beaches all year round.
Although there is one point at Turtle Beach in particular where the big boys like to play.
These wild turtles in Hikkaduwa are completely free and they have been known to visit a certain point of the shore to feed on the seaweed and lay their eggs for many years.
There are conservation workers that hangs around the rocky area helping tourists gather seaweed, for those that want to feed the turtles, and to make sure nobody is touching or mistreating the animals.
There are also many turtle hatcheries around Hikkaduwa and the under water world is one of the towns main tourism points. So you can be sure that the locals take great care of their wildlife.
Click HERE for our full Turtle Beach Sri Lanka – A Guide To The Wild Hikkaduwa Turtles blog.
The traditional fisherman of Sri Lanka are a must see.
Sitting for hours on nothing but a large stick, with a line and pole, it’s a way for the poorer men in the community to earn a living, and a huge part of Sri Lankan culture.
You may visit and chat to the locals but please be wary of where you are walking. Remember they are hard at work and may have been sit there for hours waiting patiently for fish so don’t ruin their chances.
If you scooter along the coastline of Unawatuna in the morning they’re pretty hard to miss!
Some have turned the stilt fisherman into a tourist attraction along the coast, charging you to take photos with them.
We don’t advise again this just make sure that the money is going to the fisherman or to give them it directly.
Click HERE for our full 7 Best Things To Do In Unawatuna – The Ultimate Guide
Koggala Turtle Hatchery is a sanctuary that works on increasing the rate of survival of baby turtles in Sri Lanka.
Upon entry the local guide will give you a tour of the complex and educate you on the work they are doing there. As well as talk you through the size, weight and teach you a little bit about the difference species of turtles they look after.
We learned a lot about the turtles, and the young guide was extremely informative and enthusiastic about what he does.
After the short tour you are free to look around the sanctuary, which includes a huge enclosed hatching area, where the turtle eggs are protected and monitored from above the sand.
There are newly born hatchlings just days old, as well as injured and disabled turtles. Some have missing fins that sadly will never return to the wild.
If you enquire at the front desk, they will be able to tell you when they are expecting to do their next release of baby turtles into the ocean.
If you like, you can visit at these times and release your own baby turtle to begin it’s life in the wild.
Click HERE for our full Koggala Turtle Hatchery Sri Lanka – A Complete Guide To Visiting blog.
Your Sri Lanka bucket list is definitely worth of a trip to the famous Galle Fort. A historic Dutch landmark that has been transformed into a beautiful European like town.
If you’re really into Dutch history it might be worth staying over but we recommend renting a scooter for the day and exploring the fort and old town all in an afternoon.
Galle Fort is full of chic shops and beautiful cafes.
Most famous for photographers, is the Galle Lighthouse, built by the British just before WWII.
The Lighthouse is a must capture postcard shot, which you will have to take home and remember Galle Fort by.
There is a also a small bathing spot beside the lighthouse, almost like a natural safe swimming pool.
For those wishing take visit on a day trip from Colombo, we can recommend the Galle and Bentota Day-Tour From Colombo.
As far as tourist places go, Arugam Bay has some pretty cool shops, with a surf kind of vibe.
It’s home to some authentic local brands and local bikini tailors. So if you’re looking to get a dress made or replace your bikinis this is your place!
Be sure to check out ‘Maya’ for some awesome unique treats or gifts before you head out.
The beaches in Sri Lanka are nothing short of a golden, tropical paradise.
Each beach or bay has it’s own completely different atmosphere. From coastlines bustling with surfers, to long stretches of sand perfect for sunbathers. There are even cute private beaches too.
Sri Lanka is most certainly famous for it’s beaches, and rightly so.
The beautiful Sri Lankan beaches are the perfect place to rejuvenate and recharge completely.
If you are a beach baby and solely visitng Sri Lanka to explore its coastline, then you should add these beaches in Sri Lanka to your list.
Unawatuna – for tranquil blue waters.
Mirissa – sunbathing, adventure and whale watching.
Dickwella & Tangalle – romantic and private getaway.
Hikkaduwa – for epic sunsets and turtle beach.
Koggala – flash resorts and rare turtle species.
Galle – for picture perfect colonial architecture.
Weligama – surf practice and Instagram heaven.
Arugam Bay – pro surfing and chic shopping.
Trincomalee – stunning temples, pristine white beaches, and snorkel heaven.
Hiriketiya Bay – surf and chill.
If you’re lucky enough to be on the island when a cricket match is in play, we certainly recommend adding it to your Sri Lanka bucket list.
Sri Lanka is well known in the cricket world because they take the sport very seriously. Like England with football and America with NFL.
We were lucky enough to get cheap tickets to a Sri Lanka vs Pakistan match, whilst staying in Kandy.
The atmosphere was insane and it made for a great day with the guys from our hostel. We sat on the grass and enjoyed some beers whilst cheering on the island’s national team.
If you have a spare couple of days on your itinerary and you’re into the sport, there’s no better place to attend a cricket match than Sri Lanka.
Asia is generally known for its beautifully presented fruit stalls.
Not only is it a place to access freshly picked goods, but also a hit amongst photographers wanting to capture that iconic juicy shot.
No matter what town or city you visit in Sri Lanka, you’ll be sure to find a neatly packed fruit stall with some exotic fruits that you may have never even seen or tried.
Whilst you’re travelling or on vacation, trying the tropical, unusually quirky fruits is a must.
Some of our favourites are, dragonfruit, mangosteen and jackfruit.
Trincomalee is know for it’s incredibly pristine beaches and unique temples. It’s situated in the North East of Sri Lanka.
Broken into 3 nearby towns including Uppuveli and Nilaveli, its crystal beaches and snorkelling are a huge hit amongst visitors and definitely one of the ultimate places to add to your Sri Lanka bucket list.
Uppuveli is great if you’re f you’re in search of more of an upbeat atmosphere, with people and party opportunities.
Nilaveli however, is located around 15km (a 20 minute drive) North of Trincomalee town.
Overall we’d side with Nilaveli as our favourite, and it’s definitely worth taking the trip out of town for.
Nilaveli beach also backs on to Pigeon Island, which is rated one of the best things to do in Trincomalee too.
Pigeon Island is a National Park, and one of the two marine national parks of Sri Lanka.
It’s super famous for its snorkelling and one of the main reasons tourists flock there every year.
Be sure to visit Pathrakali Amman Temple too, as it’s one of Trincomalee’s most iconic temples.
Click HERE for our full 6 Best Things To Do In Trincomalee – A Complete Guide blog.
For pre-booking accommodation when travelling, we always recommend booking.com!
From 5 star hotels, to budget backpacker hostels, it’s got everything and the site is super easy to use.
So to compare deals, and pre-book all of your Sri Lanka accommodation, you can check the latest prices here.