Explore Sri Lanka

Planning a trip to Sri Lanka? Discover the best things to see and do, places to stay and more

Independence Square Walking Tracks
Things to do

Independence Square Walking Tracks

The Independence Square Walking Tracks meander around the Independence Arcade – one of the important cultural monuments of Colombo. This walking track provides a relief to Colombo’s health conscious who otherwise would have to exercise amidst smoke and jamming traffic of the city. The place lets everyone take a morning walk or stroll in the evenings in such tranquility. The track is spotted with two towering water fountains and a pool which are beautifully lit at nights. With sightings of green and blue everywhere it’s hard for one to imagine that such a beautiful spot sans traffic is actually inside the almost ever busy Colombo. As well as for exercising, the Independence Arcade also makes a lovely picnic spot with numerous shops and restaurants located there. 

Minneriya National Park
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Minneriya National Park

With just over 30 square miles, Minneriya National Park is a thrill-packed alternative to the more vast expanses of other wildlife sanctuaries.  Made of grasslands, thick scrub, and the wildlife that roam their particular territory, the Park is fed by its giant reservoir which is also its life-blood, especially in the dry months of June through September, which are the best times to visit. A diversity of animals roams within the vicinity of the reservoir, as food and water grow scarce elsewhere in the Park.  A must see spectacle is ‘The Gathering’ where countless herds of elephants congregate near the Minneriya reservoir. This is believed to be the highest number of elephants in one place, which is why it is a sight that is not to be missed. The Gathering is also known as the sixth greatest wildlife spectacle in the world and takes place between July and October.  Also deer, toque monkeys, and even the occasional leopard, are part of the sightings at Minneriya National Park. Migratory and indigenous birds are usually seen making good use of the environment.

Kitesurfing in Kalpitiya
Things to do

Kitesurfing in Kalpitiya

The beaches of Kalpitiya have been luring kite surfers from all corners of the world, its beautiful, rolling sandy stretches adding character to the excellent winds year-round. There are surfing spots tailor-made for anyone and everyone: flat water lagoons for beginners, wave riding spots in the Indian Ocean for the serious kiter, and fun kite surfing excursions to the more- than-a–dozen sandbanks and exciting little islands that sprinkle these lovely blue waters.  The scintillating summer season is the best, and opens a window for enthusiasts from May to October. Strong South-West winds buffet the sea daily, with an average of 20-25 knots, reaching a peak of 30. The winter season is from December to mid- March when the North-West monsoon provide about 15 to 20 knots, about 4 to 6 days a week. The kitesurfing spots in Kalpitiya can cater to beginners as well as to advanced kiters. There are two main surfing sites suitable for those who want flat water, freestyle, freeride and need instruction: the Kalpitiya lagoon and the Kappaladi lagoon. The lagoons are shallow, and will be perfect for your introduction to the sport, as well as for freestyle sessions with its ultra flat water even with strong winds. On the other side of the Kalpitiya peninsula is the Indian Ocean which offers an exhilarating 500m long wave that unrolls during the South West monsoon period, perfect for unforgettable wave riding sessions.  Available on this site are a large number of internatio

Yala National Park
Travel

Yala National Park

Wild yet powerfully majestic, Yala National Park is leopard country and is believed to have the highest concentration of these apex predators on earth. If the thrill of a safari through the rugged, unmerciful bush sounds elephant enough, then here’s the call of the wild with its truest dose of candour.  Moving on to the other love of the wilderness, the Asian elephant – a presence of sheer valour –amongst species of indigenous and migratory birds, ingeniously solitary reptiles, the crocodiles of course steal the show, and endemic plant life, are only a sneak peek into what’s in store.   Alongside pockets of thick shrub there are expanses of barren terrain, and just beyond beckons the rush of the Indian Ocean. Yala National Park teems with as much fauna as there is flora, set within a land extent of over 370 square miles.  With two separate main entrance gates, Katagamuwa and Palatupana, the Park is easily accessible from 6am to 6pm from the city of Kataragama. The Park is closed from September to mid October every year.

Royal Botanical Gardens Peradeniya
Things to do

Royal Botanical Gardens Peradeniya

Considered Sri Lanka’s largest botanical garden, with 147 acres and over 4000 species of plants, Peradeniya Botanical Garden is a well-known attraction in Sri Lanka. The lush garden estate, also referred to as the Royal Botanical Garden is famed for its collection of 300 species of orchids. Within the delightfully landscaped greenery, visitors will come across numerous birds including endemic species like the Yellow Fronted Barbet, Layards Parakeet, Sri Lankan Hanging Parrot, Brown Capped Babbler and a number endemic reptiles as well as 18 species of mammals. Among the 10,000 or more trees found in the park, are the Giant Bamboo of Burma, the century old giant Javan fig tree, the Cannonball tree and a range of exotic palms.

Beaches

Fill your vacation with laughter and ‘vitamin sea’
Attractions

Fill your vacation with laughter and ‘vitamin sea’

A visit to Sri Lanka is never complete without experiencing some of the most beautiful beaches the island has to offer. Whether it is sunbathing, swimming, surfing; relaxing or having fun; there will always be a shoreline that meets your requirements.

Unawatuna Beach

Unawatuna Beach

Unawatuna beach draws both local and foreign visitors who have come to love this paradise isle profoundly, as well as the newbies. Unawatuna brings to life incalculable resorts, hotels, restaurants and small kiosks selling various goodies from seafood to clothing. Although most Galle town beaches on the one hand lure visitors through its irresistible magnetism of  sun, sea, sand and relaxation, Unawatuna beach is all those and also an ideal place to take a dip in the ocean or indulge in some waters sports with family. Take the Southern Expressway from Colombo for a quick beach getaway or even a spot of sea turtle watching. For beautiful weather and calmer seas visit in November or April.   The beautiful bay of Unawatuna was formerly renowned worldwide for its beach but erosion has shrunk it, although its popularity for after-beach action remains undiminished.  

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Tangalle Beach
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Tangalle Beach

Hidden deep in the southern coast, the beaches of Tangalle are made for the visual admirer. With the ocean set in dark blue and you with a fresh drink in your hand ready for a relaxing stay, then you would be in the right place.  If you do fancy a spot of sea bathing then head west of Tangalle town to where a few naturally secured bays between rocky promontories caress calmer waters. Sunbathing on the other hand is recommend for the east part of town where the warm sandy beaches are far too irresistible to pass on a tan.  Take the Southern Expressway to Tangalle to cut your journeying time by half and be sure to keep these months in mind; November to April and May through October, for best climatic conditions.

KKS Beach Jaffna
Attractions

KKS Beach Jaffna

It is one that has been etched in Sri Lanka’s colourful history. In the past, the location was the country’s foremost naval hub with the Sri Lankan Navy Naval Base being located in the area. Today, it is a family beach with large groups seen basking in the sunny sands and cool waters. KKS is considered to be one of the best beaches in the Northern Province; the other being Casuarina Beach. Untouched and non- crowded this strip of shore provides unique experiences that one can only find in this northernmost coast. It is one where visitors step into pristine waters and enjoy a swim in the hopes of cooling off after a long day of exploring the town in the sun. Long strolls in the windy surroundings, boat rides and picnicking on the beach are the most popular activities here. The area, is fast becoming a hub for beach lovers. Aside from enjoying Kankesanthurai’s magnificent waters, there is also a number of things to see and explore while relaxing on the beach. The beach provides you with a clear view of the impressive Naval Port and KKS lighthouse. It also gives you great access to the areas fishery harbour. Head on out there to get a first hand look at how these villagers make their livelihood. Or walk along the streets of Kankesanthurai just a few miles away where one can marvel at the remnants of colonial architecture. Getting to Kankesanthurai is quite easy; it is the final stop of the Yal Devi service, which runs from the Fort railway station. So get on board and travel

National Parks and wildlife in Sri Lanka

Ten must visit national parks in Sri Lanka
Attractions

Ten must visit national parks in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is home to a variety of species which include elephants, leopards and majestic peacocks. Camp on safaris and let the adventure begin.

Chundikulam bird sanctuary
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Chundikulam bird sanctuary

The peninsula has a natural heart that throbs wildly, and you can discover it at its pristine best at Chundikulam. The name may ring a bell only for a few people. But Chundikulam National Park became a bird sanctuary as far as 1938. It is the best place to capture birds in their most unguarded, spontaneous, intimate or dramatic moments. Throw in some rare and elusive mammals like the fishing cat, the sloth bear and the jungle cat, and you will agree it is a naturalist’s paradise. Chundikulam sits in the middle of the strip of land that joins the Jaffna peninsula to the rest of the island. At its east is the Indian Ocean and at its west the Jaffna lagoon. In this arid, wild land, many kinds of habitats have evolved: beaches with sand-dunes, salt marshes, wetlands, thorny scrublands, dry forests, tanks, mangroves and of course the lagoon. This means that a great number of birds, favouring a great number of terrains, can flock and thrive within the area. 

A safari to Yala
Attractions

A safari to Yala

YALA is Sri Lanka’s most emblematic national park, set in the ancient Ruhunu kingdom in the Southern Province. Remnants of past civilizations, covered with the jungle tide, form the stamping grounds of wild animals of a great variety. Established as a national park in 1938, Yala comprises five blocks sprawling over 979 square kilometres. The attraction of the park lies in the arid, wild, open land which is punctuated by grasslands, shrubs, tanks, lagoons, water holes and sand dunes. Water gathers in the forms of streams, tanks, waterholes, rock pools, and lagoons. Each terrain, different in character, provides glimpses into wildlife in their most intimate, beautiful and dramatic moments. The most charismatic and sought after animals in Yala are the leopard, the elephant and the sloth bear. But there are 41 other mammal species, among them the jackal, the sambhur, the spotted deer, the loris, the crocodile, wild cats, wild boar and buffalo. Of birds there are 215 varieties, seven of them endemic to Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, crimson-fronted barbet, black-capped bulbul, blue- tailed bee-eater and brown-capped babbler. During the migrating season, birds flock in plenty and jostle for space in waterways, a display of rare, beautiful and unusual plumage. Raptors like the crested serpent eagle can be seen wheeling in high skies, perpetually looking for prey. There is also a teeming reptile population, the most charism

Kumana National Park
Attractions

Kumana National Park

Once known as Yala East National park, this naturally evergreen area situated in the district of Ampara was made into an independent wild life reserve fourteen years ago after being closed for an extensive period. Since then it has come to be considered one of the most important nesting and breeding grounds in the country with an awe inspiring 255 bird species having either been photographed or recorded there including a variety of rare species like the Black-necked stork and the Eurasian spoonbill. In addition to this Kumana National Park is also home to a large variety animals such as elephants, An elephant family On alert, a herd of deer, leopards, deer and mugger crocodiles. All wildlife at Kumana National Park as well as the extensive flora that grows there are supplied water by the Kumubukkan Oya that borders the western region of the park as well as 200 hectares mangrove swamp called Kumana Villu. The latter provides an excellent feeding and resting habitat to the various water birds that migrate to this place from April to July. The park also holds over 20 lagoons and man made tanks often used by the animals as watering holes. While not as well known as its neighbour Yala National Park, Kumana nevertheless provides its visitors with an authentic wildlife experience devoid of any artificiality. It is also a preferable spot for those who do not want to deal with large crowds. Kumana is the best place to observe animals in their natural habitat.

Spot the sloth bear
Attractions

Spot the sloth bear

The recluse of the jungle, the nocturnal sloth bear is scruffy in appearance. With much ado, grunting and snorting it goes about its daily chores of breaking down branches of fruit and searching for termites and beetles. The sloth bear can only be enticed to come out of hiding during the Palu berry season.  Springing forth in abundance, Palu season starts in May and goes on till end July, coinciding with the sloth bear watching season as this bear has a large appetite for the small fruits. Palu is a yellow fruit with a thick pulp that has an extremely sweet flavour the bears simply cannot resist. They will climb the tall trees in search of these berries and gobble as many. Dizzy from over-indulging, especially young greedy bears can be found slouched below these trees.  Yala is one of the best places to watch sloth bears in action as they are usually  seen picking fallen berries. Sri Lanka’s national parks have long attracted hordes of tourists for leopard and elephant sightings. The sloth bear is yet to receive such fame as it is difficult to spot these furry bears, a sighting during the day is rare unless during the Palu season. Unlike the leopard that has acute senses that help it to track a human from a distance, the sloth bear relies mostly on its eyesight and realises human presence, only when it is very close. The animal panics if it does not see a clear route of escape, and attacks as a defence mechanism. It has been listed as an endangered species by the Internati

Wild world in a park
Attractions

Wild world in a park

Set in the deep south of the country, in Ridiyagama Hambantota is Sri Lanka’s first man-made safari park, where animals from around the world roam freely while visitors travel around the landscape in guided tours. The Hambantota Ridiyagama Safari Park is 500 acres in extent and divided into several sections for different animals. The first segment of the park now opened to the public, has a 16-acre service station, a 35-acre lion enclosure, a 54-acre Sri Lankan elephant enclosure and 80 acres for herbivorous animal species of the world. Around 22 species of animals including African lions, zebras, giraffes, Bactrian camels, Arabian orix, lechwe, Indian blue bulls, African cape buffaloes and large birds such as ostriches roam freely in the park. Watching the king of the jungle cautiously treading the new found habitation while zebras and ostriches seemed to be quite at home. Reminiscent of the African savannah, the ever-vigilant lion roams while the zebra watches its back for the king of carnivores to pounce at any moment. The Hambantota Ridiyagama Safari Park has been carefully arranged to allow maximum view for visitors without the exhilarating game of the hunter and the hunted. It will be a leisurely trip of observing the animals behaving uninhibited in a natural surrounding created in the new park. Four of the park’s six zones have been reserved for carnivorous animals while the remaining two zones host the herbivores. Two zones of the carnivore section will be exclusive

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Sri Lanka visitor information

General information about Sri Lanka

General information about Sri Lanka

Planning on visiting Sri Lanka? It would seem wise to be aware of a few, general facts about Sri Lanka in order to avoid any surprises and be more familiar with the new and exotic environment that you will find yourself in. Read through to find out a little about the beautiful island nation.Currency: Rupee.  Coins: Rs1, Rs2, Rs5, Rs10.  Notes: Rs20, Rs50, Rs100, Rs500, Rs1,000, Rs2,000, Rs5,000. Electricity: 230 volts AC  Time: GMT plus 5 hours 30 minutes  International Dialing Code: + 94 Official name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka  Area: 65,525 sqkm Location: Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal. Ethnic groups: Sinhalese 74.5%, Sri Lankan Tamils 11.9%, Indian Tamils 4.6%, Moors 7.2%, other 1.8% Time zone: GMT +5 1/2. Daylight saving time is not observed Climate: No marked seasons—two monsoons; Northeast monsoon occurs from December to March and Southwest monsoon occurs from June to October. A tropical climate is observed throughout most of the island, whereas the hill country is cooler Languages: Sinhala, Tamil and English (English is widely spoken throughout Sri Lanka) Capital: Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte Commercial capital: Colombo Administrative divisions: Nine Provinces; Central, North Central, North, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western and Eastern Province Religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam Independence day: February 4 Holidays: Saturdays and Sundays are generally non working days. Shops and restaurants are open on weekends. Poya is a religious holiday in the Buddhist calendar and is a monthly public, bank and mercantile holiday for all. Most places (all liquor outlets including hotel bars)are closed on Poya Days Major exports: Tea, textiles, gems, rubber, and coconut products Highest peak: Pidurutalagala (Mt Pedro) at 2,524m National bird: Jungle Fowl (Gallus) National tree: Ironwood - Na tree (Mesua nagassarium) National flower: Blue water lily (Nymphaea stellata) Voltage requirements: 230/240 volts AC, 50Hz (Round three-pin plugs are common, with bayonet lamp fittings) Keep in Mind;         Credit cards: Accepted in main cities         ATM: Common in larger towns         Tipping:  A service charge of 10% is included in         restaurant and hotel bills. A tip above that is appreciated, but it is not compulsory and when tipping drivers use your discretion

Visiting Sri Lanka: tourist etiquette
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Visiting Sri Lanka: tourist etiquette

Sri Lankans are known for their hospitality towards visitors. However, to make your holiday more enjoyable, here are a few things to remember. Religious placesWhen visiting religious places remove hats and shoes. Dress with decorum. Shoulders should be covered and long pants or skirts should be worn rather than shorts. Religious statuesReligious statues at temples or any other place of worship are greatly revered. For this reason, make sure that you do not climb, sit or pose with the statues. Drive safeDrive within the speed limits: in the cities it’s 50kmh, out of the cities it’s 70kmph and on the Expressways it’s 80 kmh to 100 kmh. Mobile phone usage while driving is banned. Don’t drink and drive. SmokingSmoking is prohibited in public places. However most hotels, bars and eateries have designated smoking areas. WildlifeBe cautious when you are up close with wildlife. Don’t approach them and don’t feed them. When you see wildlife while driving try not to disturb them. Speak to your guide or locals for advice.  SwimmingBefore swimming in the sea and rivers check if the area is not a danger zone or if it’s too deep. Beware of crocodiles along the rivers; check with guides and locals before you dip in. ExploringBefore exploring speak to locals about the area and check with information centres. It is better to have a local accompany you. Historical sites and National Parks These are protected sites therefore treat them with respect and do not litter. Avoid touching artefacts. Don’t disturb the wildlife. Rest stopsNeed to make a pit stop on the road from Colombo to other hotspots? Here are some tried and tested spots along popular routes, which will surely satisy your taste buds or relax you with its welcoming ambience. Boost your energy before getting on the road! Heading to the Eastern and Southern coasts through Pelmadulla, Ratnapura – Silver Ray Restaurant, Dippitigala Elpitiya, Waddagala Southwards bound through Hambantota – Hela Bojun Hala, Ambalantota Cruising South via the Awissawella Highway (A4) - Fresh Way Bakers, Main Street, Puwakpitiya, Avissawella Travelling along the Colombo – Kandy Road – Ambepussa Rest House, Main Street, Warakapola Hela Bojun Hala, Peradeniya Heading further central – Hela Bojun Hala, Kundasale On route to Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa along the Trincomalee Highway – Hela Bojun Hala, Pelwehera. 

Transportation
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Transportation

Getting around in Sri Lanka shouldn't be too hard for anyone, regardless of age and gender. Sri Lanka has domestic flights to various parts of the island as well as international flights going and coming from all over the world. You can also make your way through the busy streets and rural terrains via buses, trains, cabs and tuk-tuks.Taxi: Taxis and chauffeur driven minivans can be hired directly or through hotels. Taxis can also be hailed directly or through hotels. Taxis can also be hailed directly from the roads. Auto-rickshaws (called tuk tuks) charge (before 9pm) Rs50 for the first kilometre and Rs40 for additional kilometres. Negotiate before boarding if there is no working metre. Aviation: IWS Aviation operates helicopters taking you around the island.  IWS Centre, 451, Kandy Road, Kelaniya; 011 594 9999 Tip: For surfers and beach lovers heading to the East and South coasts as well as those travelling to the central hills, the Mattala International Airport is quite convenient.  Bus: Air conditioned long distance luxury buses and city point-to-point non-AC buses operate throughout. Central Bus Stand, Pettah, Bodhiraja Mawatha and Olcott Mawatha, Colombo 11; 011 232 8081, 011 232 9606 Rail: Trains with 1st, 2nd and Economy Class carriages serve 164 stations and 155 substations. Private luxury carriages operating on some lines have seats bookable in advance online. Fort Railway Station; 011 243 4215; www.railway.gov.lk. Vehicles for rent: Luxury to comfortable budget cars, vans, SUVs and buses are available for hire on self-drive and with-driver basis with guaranteed safety. Ameri Rent-A-Car; School Lane, Colombo 3; 077 731 2848 Mal-Key Rent-A-Car; 58, Pamankada Road, Colombo 6; 011 236 5365 

General services

In case of an emergency

In case of an emergency

Noteworthy contact details to remember are,  The General Hospital: 011 269 1111  Fire incidents: 011 242 2222,  Ambulance: 011 242 2222,  Police: 011 243 3333,  Tourist Police: 011 243 3342  Emergencies: 119/118

Sri Lanka Tourism

Sri Lanka Tourism

The main information counters in Colombo and Kandy are staffed with experts on Sri Lanka who are happy to answer any queries. 80, Galle Road, Colombo 3, 011 243 7759. Kandy City Centre

Laundry

Laundry

Colombo Laundrette Treat your laundry to the high standard of this five-star hotel.Hilton Colombo Hotel: 011 254 4644 Galadari Hotel Easily accessed by car beside the hotel the Galadari laundry is good for dry cleaning formal wear as well as laundering household linen and curtains.64, Lotus Road, Echelon Square, Colombo 1; 011 254 4544 Laundrette by Galadari Hotel Located in Cargills Food City outlets in the city and residential suburbs. Nawala; 077 352 2120 Nugegoda; 077 352 2122 Rajagiriya; 077 352 2124 Staple Street, Colombo 2; 077 352 2125

Want to make a call or surf the net?

Want to make a call or surf the net?

Lanka Bell Provides telecommunication and internet services while offering CDMA ‘fixed-line-wireless’ technology. 011 537 5375, 24-hour customer service; Branches island-wide.  Mobitel National mobile service provider offering a range of mobile and internet packages and wide coverage. Dial 1717 from any network in Sri Lanka, 24-hour customer service; Branches island-wide. Sri Lanka Telecom National telecommunications, ICT solutions and broadband infrastructure service provider. Dial 1212 from any network in Sri Lanka 24-hour customer service; Branches island-wide.  

General services in Sri Lanka