No matter if you are a surfer, a food lover, a culture vulture, or just looking to add another country to your holiday itinerary, Sri Lanka is an exotic island destination with plenty of attractions for you to enjoy.
Discover fantastic beaches, an abundance of wildlife, delicious cuisine, friendly locals, and absorbing historical and cultural sites – eight of which are World Heritage-listed.
Small in size but big in personality, the island is easily traversed. Hire a car or tuk tuk, jump abroad the leisurely regional train, or, if you're fit and adventurous, try cycling around the country's winding back roads to discover some 300 waterfalls – a highlight of many Sri Lanka tours.
Top 3 reasons to visit Sri Lanka
- Cycle around a tea plantation
- Make friends with an elephant
- Find your own deserted beach
Discover forts, temples and forests
Located near the south-western tip of India, many flights to Sri Lanka arrive in the capital Colombo. This bustling city is a great place to soak up the energetic side of Sri Lanka before heading to its many laidback locations.
Colombo is a city of many highlights, but atop the list are the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, National Museum, and Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, where Gautama Buddha is rumoured to have visited.
While you're in Colombo, also make sure to visit the popular Dehiwala Zoo in the city, or one of the beautiful suburban beaches beneath the shadow of Mount Lavinia. Sri Lanka is a relatively small and compact country, so you can pretty much take your pick of where to explore next.
All over the country there are plenty of places to get a temple fix, such as the Golden Temple of Dambulla in the central part of the country. Perhaps the most mesmerising of all is the rock citadel and ancient ruins of Sigirya in Polonnaruwa, the second oldest city in Sri Lanka.
Pick your perfect spot of sand
Renowned for its concerted conservation efforts, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and Uda Walawe National Reserve will appeal to animal lovers, while the Central Highlands rank top of the list for spectacular scenery in many a Sri Lanka travel guides.
Boasting an average water temperature of 27 degrees Celsius year round makes Sri Lanka an ideal place for a beachside getaway. Laze on golden sands, go snorkelling or diving, or hire a surfboard for some wave riding.
There are plenty of great surf locations in Sri Lanka, especially at the southern beaches. The most popular surfing spots include Hikkadua, Mirissa and Arugam Bay, but much of Sri Lanka's coastline is quiet. Hire a car with a GPS and find a perfect break for yourself!
If you've seen a travel brochure of Sri Lanka, one thing other than beaches and temples you'll recognise is tea plantations. Surrounding cultural capital Kandy is a sea of green, with tours providing a great insight into this much-loved beverage.
The centre for Sinhalese religious art, architecture and dance, Kandy's Amaya Hills are home to some of Sri Lanka's best boutique hotels and provide a welcome escape on a hot day.
Take time for tea – Sri Lankan style
As well as being able to sip world famous tea, in Sri Lanka you can also treat your taste buds to some unbelievably flavoursome food. Local dishes are similar to what you'll find in India and usually consist of rice and curry, but Sri Lanka cuisine benefits from the addition of fruits and greater use of seafood.
Shopping is another area where Sri Lanka shines with a fine selection of handicrafts available in markets and small towns, while shopping centres in Colombo and Kandy boast designer-wear you'd pay more than double for back home.
If you're coming for a beach holiday, keep in mind that winter (not summer) is the best time to visit coastal areas as, come summer, the monsoon season hits strikes.
Shoulder seasons, April and between September and November make good times to visit, with pleasant weather throughout the country and lower tourist numbers giving you greater flexibility to explore without advance reservations.
Lower seasons are also when you'll find the best deals on flights to Sri Lanka. December and January can be the priciest time to visit if you don't book in advance but, with some advance planning, it's easy to find cheap flights from Australia at most times of the year.