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10 Places That Will Make You Fall in Love With Sri Lanka

I didn’t travel to Sri Lanka in September 2019 just because it was voted the ‘Top Destination to Visit’ by The Lonely Planet. I was researching destinations I thought would be amazing to host my guests. I knew very little about the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, but having travelled more than 2000km across some of the most breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen, I was excited to return home and tell everyone how amazing this country truly is. From a scenic train journey through the lush, misty mountains of Hill Country to a leopard spotting safari along the wild coast of the Yala National Park, Sri Lanka is a nation of geographic, wildlife, culture and culinary diversity. In May of 2023, Storied Lands will be hosting its first exclusively hosted journey and Sri Lanka is our first stop. Come explore it’s well-preserved ancient kingdoms, sip tea at a historic plantation and learn about the nation’s colourful struggle and history. But first, here are a handful of the most unforgettable places to explore in Sri Lanka.

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Minneriya National Park 

Have you ever seen Asian elephants in the wild? During the months of July, August, September and October, Sri Lanka sees the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world. Some 400 elephants bring their families to drink, bathe and play in the lake, making it the perfect spot to watch one of Mother Nature’s greatest shows.

Tea Tasting & Plantation Tour – Hill Country

If you walk to your kitchen right now, and scan over your tea collection, you likely have a few that are from Sri Lanka. That’s because Sri Lanka is the world’s largest producer of tea, a crop that was brought over in the 1820’s. When you visit Hill Country, it’s customary to be a guest at any number of the picturesque plantations across the region. You’ll learn about the tea growing process, the history of tea in the region and meet some of the master tea pickers.

Sigiriya Fortress – Cultural Triangle

Sigiriya is home to an impressive eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it’s possible to explore of them in a single trip! But you can’t leave the resplendent isle without a visit to Sigiriya, a stunning fortress and palace perched atop a rock that overlooks the world’s most well-preserved water gardens. It’s best to visit this site as early as possible to beat the crowds (and the heat!)

Spa Escape – Central Sri Lanka

If you’re on the hunt for a wellness escape, Sri Lanka has hosted world dignitaries, yoga practioners, and ancient medicine seekers for some time. My personal stay at the Santani Wellness Centre was a rejuvenating and fascinating journey through the history of Ayurvedic medicine. Many of Sri Lanka’s wellness centres offer highly customized meal plans, tailored to your health needs, as well as unique fitness and yoga programs, all designed to give you a reset.

Leopard Safari – Wipattu National Park

Sri Lanka is often thought of as a safari destination, but it’s home to the highest concentration of leopards in the world. And if you’re like me and spent months in Africa without ever once spotting a leopard, you understand the disappoint! When the conservation team at Wipattu hosted me, we spotted a leopard within fifteen minutes of our safari! This particular national park is home to other fascinating species such as the the endangered star tortoise, crocodiles (yikes), the sloth bear, and the copper-eyed owl.

storied lands catamaran trip sri lanka

Blue Whale Watching – Mirissa

If you were born in the 1980’s (whoops, showing my age now!) you likely grew up with the sad fact that Blue Whales were likely extinct as no one had seen one since the 1970’s when they were placed on the endangered species list. And while the lifecycle of a Blue Whale is still a mystery, we do know their population is on the rise, and biologists are finding them in every major ocean around the world. But if you want a really good chance of seeing them, the warm ocean just off the southern tip of Sri Lanka has become a playground for the largest animal on earth.

Temple of the Tooth – Kandy

Buddhists do not necessarily feel the need to worship regularly in a temple, however, it is commonplace to visit shrines and sacred spaces to pay their respects. In Sri Lanka, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is the most sacred Buddhist site in the country. The temple is located in the royal complex in what was once known as the ‘Kingdom of Kandy.’ This is a must-see on your UNESCO World Heritage Site tour around Sri Lanka.

see Anuradhapura when you travel to sri lanka

Anuradhapura – North Central Sri Lanka

Founded in the 5th century, and functioning as the Singhalese capital of Sri Lanka until the 11th century CE, Anuradhapura holds the title for the world’s ‘oldest continuously-lived city’ in the world. This beautifully preserved complex is definitely worth a visit, with postcard perfect views of traditional dagobas and stupas off in the distance.

travel to sri lanka

Galle Forte- Southern Sri Lanka

Two and a half hours south of the capital of Colombo likes the beautiful seaside town of Galle. If you can swing it, an overnight stop will allow you to explore the city on foot, take in Dutch-style architecture, explore the 16th century Portuguese walls, and shop the high end boutiques and galleries. Travellers love wandering the picturesque laneways and you may want to hop in a tuk-tuk and get the local experience.

travel to sri lanka

Jaffna – North Sri Lanka

One of my personal motivations for travel, is to see places that were once off-limits to travelers. It’s why I’ve always been fascinated with places like Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Northern Ireland, South Africa and now, Sri Lanka. For three decades, the northern most region of the country was embroiled in a vicious civil war. In 2009, a ceasefire was declared, and as peace befell the region, travellers began trickling in to learn more about this culturally significant part of the world. Jaffna, the region’s capital remains one of the most under travelled places in the country, but reports from my past guests say locals are warm, excited to chat with travellers and eager to share their amazing food and traditions with visitors.

There are hundreds of places I would love my clients to see when they travel to Sri Lanka. Over the coming months, I will be highlighting them in future blog posts and podcast episodes. Have you ever travelled to Sri Lanka? And if not, what would you love to know about this incredible destination?

And if you’re to book your own trip to Sri Lanka or you want more information about our upcoming Hosted Journey in May 2023, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

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