Sri Lanka is truly blessed with countless of amazing landscapes from lush rainforest, and golden beaches, to misty highlands and mountain ranges, there’s a little bit of everything here. If you’re looking for a quick escape from the city or a longer getaway, your choices are endless, and you’re always just a short drive away from something completely different! With so many choices, deciding what to see first, can be a nightmare so here’s a few must visit places you should head to on your next holiday.
The Dutch Fort or Galle Fort as it’s commonly known, is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the town of Galle. Situated 120 km from Colombo, you could easily make this a day trip, driving over there or hopping onto one of the many expressway buses to Galle. The Fort is packed with colonial buildings, boutiques and cafes hidden amid the narrow cobblestone streets and private homes. Ideally you need a full day to really explore the fort, and there are plenty of good budget guesthouses within the fort like Yoho Pedler Street. The main attraction of the fort is that it’s a living heritage site, and thus contains a vibrant, friendly community of locals and expats alike. Some important landmarks to check out are the National Maritime Museum, the Dutch Reformed Church and the clock tower. The best time to visit is between January and February when there’s the least chance of rain.
Located near the edge of the Hill Country, in the Ratnapura and Nuwara Eliya districts, this mighty peak, rising 7,360 ft high, has been a pilgrimage site for over a 1,000 years. Known locally as Sri Pada, it is believed that Lord Buddha left a footprint at the summit while heading towards paradise, whilst Christians and Muslims believe the footprint belongs to Adam. The best time to climb is between December and May, but do note this is also the pilgrimage season, so the trails to the summit can get quite crowded. During the rest of the year, the peak is covered in mist and rain, making it unsafe to climb. There are three trails that climbers can take, the most popular but longest trail being Ratnapura. Some 5,000 odd steps take you up the side of the peak, each level steeper and narrower than the previous. Start your trek around 11pm to reach the summit in time to watch the magnificent sunrise over the valley below. Entry to the trails are free and you don’t need a guide. The are several tea houses along the way up where you can buy refreshments and rest your tired feet.
The ancient city of Anuradhapura is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Located in the north central province, roughly 24km from Colombo, the old city was the centre of Buddhism for centuries, and is still considered a sacred city. Today, Anuradhapura is split between two main locations – the ancient city, famous for its sprawling compound of preserved ruins that include palaces, monasteries, stupas, and several royal pools and intricate gardens – and the modern city, located a few kilometres away. What makes the old city unique is that several of the stupas are still used as holy places, with pilgrims coming from all over the island to pray and offer pooja. Exploring the ruins and temples is more akin to walking around a cultural attraction than an archaeological site. Travellers can reach the city by bus or train from Colombo, and the new town has several affordable hotels like Yoho Kulama Road, that serve as an ideal base if you want to explore neighbouring cities like Dambulla or Polonnaruwa.
Prepare yourself for jaw-dropping panoramic views over the lush tea country at the summit of World’s End. Located in Horton Plains National Park, hike up to the Horton Plains plateau, a 4km hike which passes waterfalls, green valleys and forest before you come to a stop at World’s End, a spectacular escarpment that plunges 880m to the valley below. The round trip takes about 3 to 4 hours to completes and is not challenging enough to require hiking experience. The best time to visit is before 10am as the mist will come down after and block the views. The town of Nuwara Eliya is a short tuk tuk drive away and has plenty of affordable accommodation, making it ideal as your base location for your trip.