Then there is the country’s immense natural beauty which is evident in its plentiful beaches, its diverse wildlife, its tea-sprinkled highlands and verdant rainforests. Indeed, the remaining two of its UNESCO recognised sites are natural – the Central Highlands and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
Away from the big cities, travellers can seek out an encounter, albeit a brief one, with the somewhat elusive leopard, see elephant herds take a river dip or take one of the many hikes and treks through the spectacular wilderness.
Then there is the food – less well-known globally than Indian cuisine but just as delicious. While the local cuisine has many similarities with that of its neighbour, it also has many differences. Expect fiery coconutty sauces, a huge emphasis on seafood, and quintessential dishes such as hoppers – crispy bowl-shaped pancakes made with rice flour.
And although tourism numbers are on the rise, generally the package holiday crew tend to stick to the more developed resort destinations of the west coast leaving the rest of the island relatively crowd-free and unspoilt.
Places to Visit in Sri Lanka
- Arugam Bay
Unique Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
- Search for the elusive leopard in the Yala National Park
- Roam the history soaked streets of Old Town of Galle
- Tackle the surf of Arugam Bay
- Witness the spectacular ceremonies at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy
- Sip tea fresh from the plantations in the highlands
Sri Lanka’s Tusked Giants at Risk
One of Sri Lanka’s main tourist drawcards is its population of elephants. The subspecies found here is the largest and darkest of the Asian elephants, also characterised by patches of depigmentation across their faces, ears, trunks and bellies. Found in herds ranging from 12 to 20, they are led by the oldest female of the group also known as the matriarch.
Traditionally, these animals have held great significance in Sri Lanka not only culturally but also economically thanks to their role in the logging industry.
But although these creatures were once found throughout the island, deforestation is seeing them pushed into ever decreasing areas. In fact, the country’s elephant population has dived by a staggering 65% since the 19th century. More recently, the decline has been hastened by increasing levels of conflict between the animals and humans as areas that were once the elephants’ domain become developed. Now, the mortality of the country’s wild elephants sits at around 6% each year.
So what does the future hold for the Sri Lankan elephant? Various not-for-profit organisations are working hard to ensure the pachyderm’s future and the government has also given them legal protection – those that are found guilty of killing one can face the death penalty.
Getting Around Sri Lanka
For a cheap and comfortable way of getting around Sri Lanka, consider using its trains. Many of the routes on the somewhat limited network offer spectacular scenery which make the journey a travel experience in itself. However, you may want to “splurge” on a first class ticket as second and third can be uncomfortable.
Otherwise, there are buses which are both cheap and frequent but can be pretty crowded and slow. Many travellers opt for a car rental, sometimes with a chauffeur included, for more flexibility.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Sri Lanka
Although temperatures are pretty constant year-round, the island is subjected to two separate monsoons each year which means a trip to Sri Lanka requires some planning.
From April to September, the southwest monsoon carries heavy rainfall to the west and southwest coasts as well as the hill country.
Weather can also be slightly unsettled across the island during the period between these two monsoons.
Ready to plan your visit to Sri Lanka? Check out these popular guides and trips.