Sri Lanka is something of a secret in travel – with endless gold coastlines, numerous animal encounter opportunities and lush virgin rainforests, it is a country that you would expect to be much, much busier than it is.
People are finally starting to cotton on to how much of a paradise this gorgeous isle is, and numbers are growing year on year. Make the most out of these incredible natural sights whilst you can still feel like an explorer by doing so.
Here we bring you the best natural spots in Sri Lanka, based on what you’re looking for to ensure that you make the most out of a visit.
For incredible views
Adam’s Peak, otherwise known as Butterfly Mountain, is well known in Sri Lanka as the home place of the Buddha’s footprint and has also found fame due to the precious stones such as emeralds and rubies found here. Follow in the footsteps of Buddhist pilgrims, and climb to the summit of this famed hilltop. The best time to visit is between the months of November and April when the chances of a clear view from the top are much higher.
Sri Lanka has a wealth of great beaches – it is one of the closest countries to the Maldives and this is where that shows. With miles and miles of white sandy beaches fringed by lush green fauna this really is island paradise. Bentota beach is one of the very finest, with a long stretch of beach where you can get active with watersports or find a tranquil spot and sunbathe in relative solitude.
For bird watching
Bundala National Park is home to an array of wildlife including giant squirrels, crocodiles and turtles, but where this park really excels is in its bird population. There are over 200 species of birds which call this area home – large flocks of flamingos often migrate here in winter months. The park is open all year round meaning that should you want to you could come and experience this natural paradise in the rainy season.
For ancient palaces
The ancient palace of Sigiriya sits upon a 200-metre tall rock plateau created by the magma from a now extinct volcano. Its first incarnation was a monastery, built in the 3rd century BC. In the 5th century, a royal palace was built – replete with a vast lion statue at its entrance, detailed frescoes inside and a complex fountain system that was designed around chambers of water which collected during the rainy season. The remains of this palace still stand today, and visitors can look on in awe at this piece of ancient architechture.
Elephants are synonymous with Sri Lanka and can be seen across the island. However, one of the best places to see them is the Uda Walawe National Park where many herds live and the vegetation is sparse enough to make spotting them an easy task. Trips can be arranged in many hotels but it is also possible to buy tickets on arrival if you’re renting a four-wheel drive.
For virgin rainforest
This small spot of virgin rainforest in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve is precious in Sri Lanka (much like in the rest of the world) where there has been so much deforestation. There are leopards and elephants living here but they’re much harder to spot amidst the dense vegetation. However, there are several species of monkeys which are frequently spotted. Keep your eyes open for the purple-faced langur and a number of species of bird and reptiles which are endemic to the region.
Sri Lanka is incredibly diverse in its landscapes, and the grasslands on Horton Plains are a great place to spot the herds of Sambar deer who live here. This spot in the central highlands of Sri Lanka is also famed for its cloud forests, an area shrouded in cloud making for an atmospheric afternoon or day out. A day here should include a hike to the picturesque Baker’s Falls, a 20-metre waterfall surrounded by flowers.
Yala National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s most visited national parks and it is not hard to understand why – the park houses the highest density of leopards on the planet, making your chances of spotting one of these majestic creatures very likely. As well as being home to leopards, this national park is also home to the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, elephants, buffalos, jackals and much more.