What are the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka?

Train Ride Sri Lanka

For a small island of its size, Sri Lanka has a very large number of tourist attractions all across it. Both man-made and natural, these attractions tells the world the glory of a nation that has stood the test of time. Here is a list of some of the most popular destinations among them.

As these tourist attractions are scattered around the country one might not be able to cover them all in one visit during the stay of 2 weeks in Sri Lanka. Also, please note that these are not lined up based on a tourist route.


This is one of the most important historic sites in Sri Lanka, and one of the most fascinating places anywhere in the world. A rock fortress chosen by King Kashyapa in 477 CE, Sigiriya has many legends behind it. The ruins of the ancient palace tells us the wonderful talents of the Sinhalese engineers. Sigiriya is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.


Known as the Hill Capital, Kandy was the last kingdom of Sri Lanka. This is a highly popular tourist attraction, and the mild climate is another reason why many locals as well as foreigners choose Kandy as a holiday destination.


Ella wasn’t even known among tourists a decade or so ago. And then people “discovered” that Ella had everything a holiday maker wishes to experience. A mild climate, hills to climb, waterfalls to see, and nature to explore shot this place to its fame. The most beautiful train ride in the world is part of the Ella tour, and the viaduct knows as the “nine arch,” little Adam’s Peak, Ravana Falls, and Kithal Ella (waterfaill) are all there for you to enjoy after one unforgettable train ride. Having risen from being an unknown quantity to one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, Ella definitely worth a visit, or two.

Nuwara Eliya

This was one of the most popular tourist destinations long ago. And it still is, although places like Ella have stolen that fame from Nuwara Eliya. During April Nuwara Eliya gets extremely busy with millions of tourists, especially locals, and the summer festival. A boat ride in the Gregory Lake, and a visit to the Botanical Garden are some activities to do there, while visiting World’s End and Horton Plains should also be in your schedule. From Nuwara Eliya you can go to Nanu Oya, Haputale, Idalgashinna, etc. which are other attractions when it comes to nature.


This is one of the oldest kingdoms in Sri Lanka, and in the world. The Golden Age of Sri Lankan history, Anuradhapura unravels before you a thousand marvels the Sinhalese engineers and artists created. In a country surrounded by the sea, such masterpieces are unimaginable. But they happened, and you can witness them in Anuradhapura. Ruins of the ancient palaces, Ruvanweliseya, Ruins of the ancient temples, and Ancient artworks are some of the things that will keep you busy thinking about for years to come.


This is another ancient kingdom that tell you a lot about the magnificent past that was second to no other civilization. Especially the stone carvings that has stood the sun and rain for thousands of years displays a past that will never be forgotten. Having less visited during the civil war which ended in 2009, today Polonnaruwa has regained its place among the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.


If you are into diving then what better place on Earth can show you more colour and life than the coral reefs of Hikkaduwa? Hire your scuba kit from a hotel nearby and go down the waters for as long as you can stay, but it will never be enough to enjoy a fraction of it. And if you are not a diver then there are the glass-bottom boats that take you there so that you can admire the beautiful marine life.


Adorned with the magnificent Dutch fort left by an event filled past, Galle boasts of sandy beaches, history, and mouth-watering cuisine that invites thousands of visitors every year. Watch the sun go down from the fortress walls, sip your favourite drink at a café, and admire the ruins of a bygone era as you visit this mammoth structure.

You can also enjoy your time on the Unawatuna beach swimming or sunbathing that would invite you to stay yet another day.


This is similar to Mirissa in all its splendour as well as the atmosphere. Whale watching is popular here too, and surfers flock here to ride the never ending waves. Weligama and Mirissa being in the same area, either place will give you the same holidaying experience. We may have named them differently but the ocean knows no boundaries.


Whale watching could be the most popular activity here when you search on the internet but many tourists go there to surf. To take a long look at the heavenly skies while taking a good sunbath, or to enjoy the criss-crossing waves on a surf board, Mirissa is the chosen area. There are many hotels and hostels to choose from to suit your budget, and there are many places to eat at whatever you favourite cuisine is.


This is the sanctuary that has the highest density of leopards in the world. In other words, on a good day you have a much higher chance of spotting leopards here than you would anywhere else in the world.

There are many hotels around this area which would fit into your requirements, and you can hire a safari jeep very easily from the area. Your hotel staff will definitely help you in getting a reliable safari jeep for a reasonable price although you can also hire one from the safari jeep parks too. Once you are in the forest, you will know why Yala is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.


This is another forest reserve and sanctuary where you can see elephants in their natural habitat. Expanding across 3 districts, here you can be relatively free and less congested as well as explore a greater area of forest. You can also camp inside designated spots subject to early reservation and with a guide.


Perhaps the most famous sanctuary to watch elephants in their natural habitat, Minneriya is highly popular among tourists especially it is located on a main tourist route. You will also catch the sight of an elephant crossing the main road that runs across the Minneriya forest reserve. Hiring a safari vehicle and finding a guide is not difficult when you reach the entrance but you are advised to get them ready through your hotel.

What are the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka?

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