Sri Lanka Bucket List | 25+ unique experiences in Sri Lanka

Pitawala - Riverstone Peak Sri lanka protected parks

The pearl of the Indian ocean was always one of our top destinations to visit. We were so happy to have the chance to explore the country. In fact our Sri Lanka bucket list was full of things to do and see.

Considered by Lonely Planet one of the top places to visit in 2019, Sri Lanka is a busy country with so many things to offer. From the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Sigiriya and Kandy, to the delicious food made by locals, fine quality tea which grows just in this island, Sri Lanka will be forever in your heart.

Here you will find our personalized Sri Lanka bucket list, a catalog with all the things to do and see.

Are you ready for a new experience? Come and explore Sri Lanka with us.

25+ Unique experiences in Sri Lanka

  • Explore Colombo
  • Ride a tuk-tuk
  • Kandy Temple of the Tooth
  • Elephant Safari
  • Galle Fort
  • Climb up Pidurangala Rock
  • Learn to surf in Weligama
  • Experience Sri Lankan food
  • Hike UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya Fortress
  • Visit Jaffna
  • Enjoy the view from Pitawala
  • Hike Ella Rock
  • Take the famous blue train from Kandy to Ella
  • Visit Nine Arch Bridge
  • Climb up Adam’s Peak
  • Take a palm swing 
  • Visit coconut tree hill in Mirissa
  • Go whale watching 
  • Try delicious hoopers
  • Visit a Ceylon Tea Plantation
  • Explore Little England, Nuwara Eliya
  • Stroll around Negombo
  • Visit Dambulla Cave Temples
  • Stroll around the Royal Botanic Garden in Kandy 
  • Admire Red Mosque in Colombo

SRI LANKA BUCKET LIST EXPERIENCES


Explore Colombo

Colombo was the first stop of our Sri Lanka itinerary and it needs to be in your Sri Lanka bucket list. The big and chaotic city is a must-see as, with its particular charm, you will love spending some time around Colombo.

There are a couple of interesting spots worth visiting in Colombo like the impressive Red Mosque, the local market, the Galle Face Green and other more. 

If you are looking to spend 2 days in Colombo you can read our ultimate itinerary.

Colombo is the financial centre of the island and one of the top destinations for tourists with its vibrant atmosphere, a mixture of modern life, traditional colonial buildings and ruins, Colombo is absolutely unmissable.

If you don’t feel comfortable to stroll around by yourself, consider hiring a local guide. It is cheap and makes you feel safe, rather than just enrich your visit with insider tips. Check how to book a guided tour here.

MORE ABOUT COLOMBO | See how to spend two days in Colombo
WHERE TO STAY IN COLOMBO | Stay at the Cinnamon Lake Side in Colombo

Take a ride on a tuk-tuk

Colombo Market - Photos that will make you visit Sri Lanka-3
Go on a tuk tuk will be an awesome experience to tell to your friends. Locals are so friendly that you enjoy so much the lovely ride.

On the top of Toti’s Sri Lanka bucket list, it was having an incredible experience while riding a tuk-tuk.

If you have never been to Sri Lanka or to Asia you’re probably never heard about a tuk-tuk. 

It’s a common transport in south-east Asia, so more than just a tourist attraction is also a great way to commute from A to B in a short time, avoiding the local public transport.

The first time Toti was in a tuk-tuk he was super happy and excited. It is still vivid in his memory as a great experience. It’s an alternative and cheap way to get from one side to another of the city and if it will be your first time, you will love it.

TIPS | Make sure you negotiate the price for the journey before you get in. Sometimes you will find some tuk tuk’s with meters on them similar to taxies.
TOURS | Tuk-Tuk tour in Colombo with a local – Or Try This – Colombo Tuk-tuk tour

Kandy Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Sacred Temple of Buddha Temple in Kandy - Sri Lanka

One of the places which need to be in your Sri Lanka bucket list is Kandy. Home to a sacred tooth relic belonging to Buddha, the Temple of Tooth Relic is the most iconic place for tourists to visit. 

In the past, the relic played an important role in local politics. They believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of Sri Lankan kings and due to this temple, today is a World Heritage Site worth visiting. The tooth is kept in a gold casket, which is well protected and pilgrims are coming from all around the world only to pay their respect. It’s a really religious and emotional experience to have even if you are not particularly religious. 

MORE ABOUT KANDY | Discover all the things to do in Kandy
WHERE TO STAY IN KANDY | The Village HostelMahaweli Reach Hotel

Go on exciting Elephant Safari

One of the most amazing experiences we ever had in Sri Lanka was going on an Elephant safari and being able to see elephants.

It was an incredible adventure which we never thought we would be able to do. I have had this experience on my bucket list since I was a kid. The day they told me that I would be flying to Sri Lanka where I could go on a safari, I was so happy to cry.

It’s something that you don’t do every day and if you haven’t thought about it before, you should definitely put it on your Sri Lanka bucket list.

MORE ABOUT ELEPHANT SAFARI | Read our experience in Minneriya National Park.
BOOK YOUR SAFARI IN SRI LANKA! Check Availability and prices.

The ancient past at Galle Fort

If you want to plan a detailed itinerary in Sri Lanka you should consider spending some time in the south of the country. North and South of the country are completely different for many reasons, religion, culture, language and also because of landscapes. Galle Fort might not be in the top of your Sri Lanka bucket list, but we assure you that the fortress is absolutely worth visiting. 

Built by the Portuguese in 1588 and fortified by the Dutch, Galle Fort has a colourful history with a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. Known as Galle Dutch Fort, to be honest this town is a bit touristy, but it’s still a good idea if you want to learn more about Sri Lanka’s colonial history.

Don’t miss visiting the historic Galle Fort Lighthouse, a white tower against the blue sky, the interiors and the beautiful sunset from Galle Fort Wall.

Climb up Pidurangala Rock

Pidurangala Rock Hike - View

In our Sri Lanka itinerary, Pidurangala was not on our list. One day we asked our guide if it would be possible to climb Pidurangala rock and enjoy the sunrise over Sigiriya. 

It was an incredible experience despite the early wakeup. In order to be on the top of the monolith you should wake up around 3am depending on the distance from your hotel. The early bird will help you to be on the top on time for the sunrise.

Considered one of Sri Lanka’s best-kept secrets, Pidurangala is lesser-known compared to Sigiriya but the view from the top is absolutely worth it.

PRICE | 500 LKR ($3 USD)
MORE ABOUT PIDURANGALA | Hike Pidurangala Rock

Learn to surf in Weligama

One of the experiences that has been always on my bucket list was learning to surf. What’s better than learning it in Weligama?

The waves in Weligama bay are ideal for beginners, and even for those who know already how to surf. By many Weligama is a spot to visit in Sri Lanka, and discover even more than once. Grab your swimming suit and enjoy the beautiful waves of Weligama.

SURF LESSON | Book here your Weligama surf lesson. 

Experience Sri Lankan food

When it comes to food we are always up to everything. We love to try new things even if this time was different. As you might know, Sri Lankan food is spicy but tasty. In our 10 days in Sri Lanka, we tasted almost everything and even if it was a bit too spicy we really enjoyed it. From the hoopers and wadai to kothu and tropical fruit you have to taste and experience the delicious local food.

SRI LANKAN FOOD WITH A LOCAL | Explore Colombo city and enjoy the typical food with a local.Colombo Street food experience
TIPS | If you don’t like spicy food, have a backup plan with you (fruit, chicken, boiled rice and eggs are good as well)

Hike Sigiriya Fortress a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In your Sri Lanka bucket list, one of the experiences that should not be missed is hiking up the ancient fortress of Sigiriya. Known as the Lion Rock, Sigiriya is located a 4 hours drive from Colombo. 

In 1982 Sigiriya became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in fact when entering you have so many controls. For example, if you are bringing with you a plastic bottle of water they will remove the label as they want to avoid littering. The first part of the hike will bring you the beautiful ancient frescoes, those are paintings that adorning the walls of the formerly palace.

You can’t miss this part of Sigiriya as it’s a unique experience which you will keep in your mind forever. It’s not allowed to take any pictures or videos and this is one of the reasons why you should visit those stunning paintings.

The second part of the hike will bring you to a large open-air space where once an enormous lion stood to protect the fortress. Today you will see only the feet of the lion but those are enough for you to imagine the original size of the composition.

The final hike will be the most amazing part. Once on the top of Sigiriya, you will have a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside. 

COST | $30 USD
MORE ABOUT SIGIRIYA | Hiking Sigiriya Rock | Pidurangala vs Sigiriya which is the best hike.

Visit Jaffna in the North

Jaffna Fort view on sunset

Jaffna was the second stop of our Sri Lanka 10 days itinerary. We spent almost 8 hours in the car cutting the country, driving from Colombo to Jaffna. The long ride was absolutely worth it. 

Jaffna is an off the beaten path place to explore in Sri Lanka. You won’t find many tourists in the north of the island, even because the bloody civil war started by the Tamil Population, just ended around 10 years ago . 

During the civil war the majority of the monuments were damaged, despite that today you will still be able to visit the old Dutch Fort and the Library

However one of the most significant and important temples in Sri Lanka is Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. A Hindu temple that you can visit while in Jaffna. 

MORE ABOUT JAFFNA | Things to do in Jaffna

Enjoy the view from Pitawala

Have you ever visited a place where you felt to be at the top of the world? Maybe not yet. 

We felt over the cloud, but not just with the mind, but also with our body. Visiting Pitawala Riverston Peak, which is an awesome national park, you feel free, almost touching the sky. 

The breathtaking view and the clouds around made us feel we own the world. It’s a really unique experience to do in Sri Lanka and you can’t miss it.

Hike Ella Rock

The first thing that will come up to everyone’s mind when thinking about Ella is the famous Instagram spot of Nine Arch Bridge. Ella is a lot more than just that. You can’t visit Ella without hiking the famous rock. Hiking Ella rock might seem not easy but thanks to the locals your way up will be easier.

The hike itself will take you through towns, along the famous Kandy to Ella railway track, into a village and through a tea plantation until up a hilly forest trail. At the end of this amazing hike, you will have an awesome view opening just in front of you. 

It will be the best part of this complicated path and needs to be on your bucket list Sri Lanka.

BOOK YOUR ELLA ROCK TOUR | 2-day tour of 3 iconic Ella Sites.


THE MOST SCENIC RAIL JOURNEY


Take a ride on the famous blue train from Kandy to Ella

Sri Lanka Travel photography

What’s one of the most amazing things to do in Sri Lanka? If you take the famous blue train from Kandy to Ella you will have one of the most incredible experiences ever.

 If you type on your Instagram #EllaTrain you will see all the beautiful pictures of the blue train.

You will be able to enjoy a beautiful panorama through Sri Lanka tea plantations while trying to snap a few pictures. Book your ticket here in advance!

MORE ABOUT SRI LANKA | Photos that will inspire you to visit Sri Lanka

Include a visit to Nine Arch Bridge in your Sri Lanka bucket list

It’s so impressive to think that a bridge could become one of the most important places to visit in Sri Lanka. Known as Nine Arch Bridge located just outside Ella, today this bridge is a very popular spot. Created in 1921 with concrete, rock and stones, Nine Arch Bridge stands across the valley where the famous Kandy to Bandarawela via Ella train line passes

There are so many viewpoints where you can see the bridge from. The most popular one is the bridge itself as from the above the view overlooking the forests is really nice. If you are looking to take the famous Instagram shot from the tea plantation with the bridge behind you can but as it’s private land you need to ask permission before entering. 

Climb the Adam’s Peak and ring the bell at the top

Did you know that Adam’s Peak is actually a sacred holy mountain, more than just an awesome path and the highest mountain in Sri Lanka?

Considered one of the most iconic and natural landmarks in the country, Adam’s Peak or better known as Sri Pada needs to be in your Sri Lanka bucket list. It’s home to myth and legend for Islamic, Hindi, Christians and Buddhist believers. 

Even if you are religious or not, hiking to the top of Adam’s Peak is definitely one of the most mystic experiences you can have in Sri Lanka. By the legend, this is the first place where Adam set foot on earth after being cast out of paradise. The hike will take around 3 hours but it’s absolutely worth it.

Take a palm swing

A palm tree swing needs to be popped up from your Sri Lanka bucket list. For sure looking at the photos about the pearl of the Indian Ocean you have come across the insane feeling of freedom to be on a palm swing. To find this Instagram-worthy spot you need to go to Dalawella beach which is close to Unawatuna Beach, in the South of the country.

Remember when we told you to go to Galle? After exploring Galle, in your Sri Lanka itinerary, you can go forward discovering the beautiful Dalawella beach. You have to pay around $4 UDS for swinging as many times as you want and take the famous Instagram shot.

Visit coconut tree hill in Mirissa

Known as the home of the prettiest beaches in the southern coast, Mirissa is famous for its coconut tree hill. It’s really a unique place to see with your own eyes with palms extending out of this small and peaceful hill.

Be ready to witness the serenity of the ocean while watching Mirissa bay. As this place it’s getting popular quickly we suggest you visit it in the early morning to avoid crowds.

Go whale watching

The most popular place for watching whales in Sri Lanka is off the coast of Mirissa. It’s an incredible experience to do in the country and needs to be on the top of your schedule.

Plan your tour in advance and head out as early as you can as the sea will be usually calm. If you are visiting Sri Lanka in March and April those are the best months to spot whales in the ocean. Are you ready for this amazing experience?

WHALE WATCHING TOURS | Book here your tour in Mirissa

Try delicious hoopers | Sri Lanka foodie Adventures

Do you remember when we said that in your Sri Lanka bucket list you should try the local food? Hoopers are one of the things that you need to try. It’s like a pancake made out of coconut milk and rice. The ideal food for Alessia as she doesn’t like spicy!  There are many different types and you just need to choose your favourite. The egg hoppers were our favourite.


UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN SRI LANKA 


Visit a Ceylon Tea Plantation

Sri Lanka Bucket list: Visit a tea field

You can’t leave this beautiful country without paying a visit to a tea plantation.

The tea production in Sri Lanka has an old heritage history. The first field appears on the hills near Kandy during the British era. Since then the tea industry has been growing a lot and faster. Today Sri Lanka is one of the first tea exporters in the world

The well-known area where you can find the best tea plantation in the country is Nuwara Eliya. If you want to know more about Nuwara Eliya see our full post about the Little England of Sri Lanka.

MORE ABOUT TEA PLANTATION | Best Ceylon tea plantation in Sri Lanka.

Explore Little England, Nuwara Eliya

Known as the Little England of Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya is a little gem located between Kandy and Ella.

Why is better known as Little England? Britain preferred this area for its picturesque landscape and temperate climate. Due to the weather, they could grow the tea bushes in the best way ever.

MORE ABOUT NUWARA ELIYA | Things to do in Nuwara Eliya

Stroll around Negombo

Negombo Beach SRi Lanka

One of the best parts of our Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days was enjoying the sunset on a beach in Negombo while saying goodbye to this beautiful country.

Negombo is known for the beautiful coastline, but even more for the amazing things to do.

Usually, tourists prefer to head to Negombo first, landing from the plane, before going to explore Colombo. Instead it is a good idea to leave this city at the end, after exploring the country for a bit. The reason behind those tips is that Negombo is the closest location to the International Airport. Taking a room in a hotel resort on the beach is really cheap.

MORE ABOUT NEGOMBO | What to do in Negombo in 2 days

Visit Dambulla Cave Temple

In Sri Lanka, you will experience many religious cultures, from Buddhist, Hindu, Islamist and Christian. All the amazing temples that you will find along your way have their own history.

In this case, Dambulla Cave Temple is the best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, protected and valued a lot. Situated in the central part of the country, the Cave Temple is composed of 5 separate caves containing 100+ stunning statues and paintings of Buddha.

The artworks and the details are so impressive and absolutely worth visiting.

ENTRANCE | $10 USD

Visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Kandy

Bothanical Garden Kandy Sri Lanka

One of the most colourful and amazing places we visited in Kandy was the Royal Botanic Garden. It’s the greatest example of cultural mix in the island as it was built by the ancient Kings of Sri Lanka as a personal garden and then it was refurbished by the British. 

Once it was renovated, the British added more species and made it look like a proper garden. The things that you can’t miss while visiting the Botanical Garden in Kandy are the orchid house, the suspension bridge, the infinite bamboo forest and the incredible house of tea. Take a break in this traditional country house, the view of the immense meadow in front of view with a cup of fine Ceylon tea will be an image hard to delete from your memories.

ENTRANCE | $8 USD

Admire Red Mosque in Colombo

One of the most impressive and best Instagram spots in Colombo is the stunning Red Mosque. Considered an important landmark in the city, this building is one of the oldest in Colombo. 

The unusual architecture and red colour will attract you to go inside. The external facade is stunning but are the interns which will leave you breathless. 

Before entering there are some strict rules to follow in order to respect the culture. Remember to remove your shoes and if you are unsure of what to do follow what locals are doing.

PRICE | Free
MORE ABOUT COLOMBO | How to spend 2 days in Colombo 

What’s on your Sri Lanka bucket list?

When we first arrived in Sri Lanka, we did some research. List like this can help you a lot to plan in advance what you want to see. Toti was super excited to take pictures around this awesome country. I was so happy as well, ready to snap the famous pictures on the blue train from Kandy to Ella.

That experience is particularly loaded with memories. The journey was amazing as the view, passing by the tea fields was insane. We were so glad that we planned our bucket list Sri Lanka before our trip so we could easily spot where we wanted to go and wanted to see. What’s on your list instead? If you have more spots, just comment below with your experience!

This post may contain affiliate links, useful experiences that we love to suggest to you. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission (for which we are really grateful) at no extra cost to you. Click on it will help us run this website and continue to travel.

Spread the love
  • 154
    Shares

One thought on “Sri Lanka Bucket List | 25+ unique experiences in Sri Lanka

  1. Maria says:

    All the experiences on your list sound amazing! Sri Lanka has been on my list for so long. Hope to get the chance to travel there soon. Also, love your photos!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.