Top tourist attractions in Sri Lanka
Here is a list of top tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Only the topmost tourist destinations are presented here. To see other destinations, please check the images from Sri Lanka section.
Curious if any of these place from Sri Lanka made it our best tourist attractions in the world list? Read the aformentioned article in order to find out.
You can also view all tourist attracctions in Sri Lanka and other countries on our tourist attractions map.
World Heritage Site
Sigiriya is located in the central Matale District of the Central Province, Sri Lanka in an area dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 meters high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa the site was selected by King Kasyapa for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace were abandoned after the king's death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning. It is the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public, and also adjoining parks. The blocks have individual names such as, Ruhuna National Park and Kumana National Park or 'Yala East' for the adjoining area. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometres and is located about 300 kilometres from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan Elephants and aquatic birds. There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala. The park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka. Yala harbours 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
Adam's Peak, is a 2,243 m tall conical mountain located in central Sri Lanka. It is well known for the Sri Pada, i.e., "sacred footprint", a 1.8 m rock formation near the summit, which in Buddhist tradition is held to be the footprint of the Buddha, in Hindu tradition that of Shiva and in Islamic and Christian tradition that of Adam, or that of St. Thomas.
Temple of the Tooth
Buddhist Place of Worship website
Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a UNESCO world heritage site partly due to the temple. Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing of the Sacred Relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers, called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present. The temple sustained damage from bombings at various times but was fully restored each time.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains National Park is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is covered by montane grassland and cloud forest. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. This region was designated a national park in 1988. It is also a popular tourist destination and is situated 32 kilometres from Nuwara Eliya and 8 kilometres from Ohiya. The Horton Plains are the headwaters of three major Sri Lankan rivers, the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe. In Sinhala the plains are known as Maha Eliya Plains. Stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture have been found here. The plains' vegetation is grasslands interspersed with montane forest, and includes many endemic woody plants. Large herds of Sri Lankan Sambar Deer feature as typical mammals, and the park is also an Important Bird Area with many species not only endemic to Sri Lanka but restricted to the Horton Plains. Forest dieback is one of the major threats to the park and some studies suggest that it is caused by a natural phenomenon. The sheer precipice of World's End and Baker's Falls are among the tourist attractions of the park.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a national park and a biodiversity hotspot in Sri Lanka. It is of international significance and has been designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests ecoregion, was saved from the worst of commercial logging by its inaccessibility, and was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988. The reserve's name translates as Kingdom of the Lion. The reserve is only 21 km from east to west, and a maximum of 7 km from north to south, but it is a treasure trove of endemic species, including trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Because of the dense vegetation, wildlife is not as easily seen as at dry-zone national parks such as Yala. There are about 3 elephants and the 15 or so leopards are rarely seen. The most common larger mammal is the endemic Purple-faced Langur. An interesting phenomenon is that birds tend to move in mixed feeding flocks, invariably led by the fearless Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and the noisy Orange-billed Babbler. Of Sri Lanka's 26 endemic birds, the 20 rainforest species all occur here, including the elusive Red-faced Malkoha, Green-billed Coucal and Sri Lanka Blue Magpie.
Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, in Sri Lanka. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir. The reserve covers 30,821 hectares of land area and was established on 30 June 1972. Before the designation of the national park, the area was used for shifting cultivation. The farmers were gradually removed once the national park was declared. The park is 165 kilometres from Colombo. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan Elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country.
National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka
National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka is a zoological garden in Dehiwala, Sri Lanka, founded in 1936. Its sprawling areas are host to a variety of animals and birds. The zoo exhibits animals but also places an emphasis on animal conservation and welfare, and education. Visions for the zoo include, "To create one of the world’s outstanding zoological institutions, that is a centre of the excellence for conservation, research and education" and mission is "Resourceful conservation of animals by means of a learning, achieved through the exhibition of species which were adopted with loving care". The zoo has 3000 animals and 350 species as of 2005. The annual revenue is LKR 40 million. The zoo exchanges its residents with other zoological gardens for breeding purposes.
Dambulla cave temple
Buddhist Place of Worship
Dambulla cave temple also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka, situated in the central part of the country. This site is situated 148 km east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. It is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains.There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Lord Buddha and his life. There total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include two statues of Hindu gods, the god Vishnu and the god Ganesh. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square metres. Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara, and Buddha's first sermon. Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area, at Ibbankatuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village, 13 km northwest of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. Pinnawalla is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 37 males and 51 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala. The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to many of the orphaned unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. Bundala harbors 197 species of Birds, the highlight being the Greater Flamingo, which migrate in large flocks. Bundala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and redesignated to a national park on 4 January 1993. In 1991 Bundala became the first wetland to be declared as a Ramsar site in Sri Lanka. In 2005 the national park was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the fourth biosphere reserve in Sri Lanka. The national park is situated 245 kilometres southeast of Colombo.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya
Royal Botanical Garden, Peradeniya is situated about 5.5 km to the west from the city of Kandy in the Central Province of Sri Lanka and attracts 2 million visitors annually. It is renowned for its collection of a variety of orchids. It includes more than 4000 species of plants, including of orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees. Attached to it is the National Herbarium of Sri Lanka. The total area of the botanical garden is 147 acres, at 460 meters above sea level, and with a 200-day annual rainfall. It is managed by the Division of National Botanic Gardens of the Department of Agriculture.
Pidurutalagala, or Mount Pedro in English, is an ultra prominent peak, and the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka, at 2,524 m. Mount Pedro is located close to the city of Nuwara Eliya, and is easily visible from most areas of the Central Province. It is situated North-North-East from the town of Nuwara Eliya Its summit is home to the central communications array of the Government of Sri Lanka and armed forces, and serves as an important point in the country's radar system. The peak is currently designated as an "Ultra-high security zone", and is protected by a large military base; being strictly off limits to the general public. On 1 March 2010, a small wildfire broke out over the mountain's forest cover. The fire destroyed 3 acres of forest, before being doused by the Sri Lanka Air Force and nearly 300 local residents.
Kumana National Park
Kumana National Park in Sri Lanka is renowned for its avifauna, particularly its large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds. The park is 391 kilometres southeast of Colombo on Sri Lanka's southeastern coast. Kumana is contiguous with Yala National Park. Kumana was formerly known as Yala East National Park, but changed to its present name in 5 September 2006. The park was closed from 1985 to March 2003 because of the Sri Lankan Civil War. It was also affected by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.
Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu National Park is a park located on the island of Sri Lanka. The unique feature of this park is the existence of "Willus" - Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. Located in the Northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka. The park is located 30 km west Anuradhapura and located 26 km north of Puttalam. The park is 131, 693 hectares and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Nearly sixty lakes and tanks are found spread throughout Wilpattu. Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka. Wilpattu is among the top national parks world renowned for its Leopard population. The Leopard population in Wilpattu is still not yet known.
Udawatta Kele Sanctuary
Udawatta Kele Sanctuary, often spelled as Udawattakele, is a historic forest reserve on a hill-ridge in the city of Kandy. During the days of the Kandyan kingdom, Udawatta Kele was known as "Uda Wasala Watta" in Sinhalese meaning, "the garden situated above the royal palace". The sanctuary is famous for its extensive avifauna. The reserve also contains a great variety of plant species, especially lianas, shrubs and small trees. There are several giant lianas. Many of small and medium size mammals that inhabit Sri Lanka can be seen here. Several kinds of snakes and other reptiles might also be seen. Udawatta Kele was designated as a forest reserve in 1856, and it became a sanctuary in 1938. The Sri Lanka Forest Department has two offices in the reserve, one of which has a nature education centre with a display of pictures, posters, stuffed animals, etc. Being easily accessible and containing a great variety of flora and fauna the forest has a great educational and recreational value. Groups of school children and students regularly visit the forest and the education centre. The forest is also popular with foreign tourists, especially bird watchers. The forest is also of religious importance as there are three Buddhist meditation hermitages and three rock shelter dwellings for Buddhist monk hermits.
The Kelani River is a 145-kilometre-long river in Sri Lanka. Ranking as the fourth longest river in the country, it stretches from the Sri Pada Mountain Range to Colombo.
Hakgala Botanical Garden
Hakgala Botanical Garden is one of the three botanical gardens in Sri Lanka. The other two being Peradeniya Botanical Garden and Henarathgoda Botanical Garden. It is the second largest garden in Sri Lanka. The garden is contiguous to Hakgala Strict Nature Reserve.
Water reservoir Lake
Beira Lake is a lake in the heart of the city of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The lake is surrounded by many large businesses in the city. It occupied approximately 165 hectares of land 100 years ago and has been reduced to mere 65 hectares today due to various reasons. During the colonial era of the Portuguese, and the English the lake was used to transport goods within the city. The lake was originally built before the colonization of the country and connected to many intricate canals providing easy way of transporting goods within the city and suburban cities. The lake has two distinct bodies of water, the smaller lake bordering Navam Mawatha and the larger lake bordering D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha the two bodies are connected by narrow canal which runs through Slave Island and the Sri Lanka Army Headquarters. The lake spills to the Indian Ocean at Galle Face.
The Viharamahadevi Park is a public park located in Colombo, next to the National Museum in Sri Lanka. It is the oldest and largest park of the Port of Colombo. Situated in front of the colonial-style Town Hall building, the park is named after Queen Viharamahadevi, the mother of King Dutugamunu. The park was built during the British rule of Sri Lanka, and was originally named "Victoria Park" after Queen Victoria. The park features include a huge Buddha statue and a series of water fountains. It also includes a mini zoo, a children's play area and a BAC Jet Provost. The Viharamahadevi Park is the only large-scale public park in Colombo, and is maintained by the Colombo Municipal Council. Located at its western end is the Cenotaph War Memorial, Colombo and the Colombo Public Library. The Vihara Maha Devi Park Open Air Stadium is a venue for concerts and public events.
Asgiriya International Stadium, is a cricket stadium situated in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Asgiriya Stadium is the private property of Trinity College, Kandy. It is around a 10-minute walk from the centre of the city. The venue would usually be used when an international team toured Sri Lanka for a Test Match. Asgiriya became Sri Lanka's the second Test venue, after the Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu Stadium, when it hosted Greg Chappell’s Australian cricket team in Sri Lanka in 1982–83.
Water reservoir Lake
Kandy Lake is a lake in the heart of the hill city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, built in 1807 by King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha of Sri Lanka next to the Temple of the Tooth. Over the years, it was reduced in size. It is a protected lake, with fishing banned. There are many legends and folklore regarding the lake. One such is that the small island at its center was used by the king's helm for bathing and was connected to the palace by secret tunnel. Kandy Lake, the main body of water in the city of Kandy in central Sri Lanka, is a man-made lake created in 1807 by the last Sinhalese king of Kandy, using forced labor. The king used land which was a paddy field to create the lake. It stands as an indictment of the excesses of the Kandyan monarchy for wasting away national resources to build an ornamental lake at a time when the kingdom was under serious threat. When a hundred of his advisors advised King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe against building the lake, he had them impaled on the reservoir bund of the paddy field which he was converting into the ornamental lake. It was not long before the British captured him, with help from his own noblemen disgruntled by his irrational policies. Kandy Lake has a perimeter of 2.1 miles and a maximum depth of 60 feet. A decorative wall, called Walakulu wall, runs for 2060 feet along the banks of the Kandy Lake. In the middle of the lake is an island housing the Royal Summer House. Sri Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth Relic, is located beside the lake across the road. On the opposite side of the road from the Temple of the Tooth Relic is the Royal Bathhouse, which is used by the king's wives and concubines as a bathhouse. The British added one more story to the structure to house a library.
Aberdeen, Sri Lanka
Body Of Water
Aberdeen, Sri Lanka is a tea estate in Sri Lanka, is famous for its picturesque waterfall Aberdeen Falls which situated in Ginigathhena, Nuwara Eliya District. Aberdeen is named after Aberdeen, the third largest city of Scotland and the capital of Aberdeenshire.
Body Of Water
Devon Falls is a waterfall in Sri Lanka, situated 6 km west of Talawakele, Nuwara Eliya District on A7 highway. The falls is named after a pioneer English coffee planter called Devon, whose plantation is situated nearby the falls. The Waterfall is 97 metres high and ranked 19th highest in the Island. The Falls formed by Kothmale Oya, a tributary of Mahaweli River. Altitude of Devon falls is 1,140m above sea level.
National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum in Galle, Sri Lanka is located within the Galle fort. On March 2010, it was reopened at the Dutch warehouse of the Galle fort as the National Maritime Archaeology Museum. Exhibits of marine artifacts found in underwater explorations are show cased in the Museum. There are maps, naval craft, ropes, earthenware, beer mugs, smoking pipes, barrels, vast amount of articles including artillery guns and sailor shoes. Ship wrecks in the sea off the Southern coast is where these artifacts were recovered from, some of which are nearly 800 years old.
St. Clairs Falls
Body Of Water
'''St. Clair's Falls''' is one the widest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. St. Clair's Falls is called the "Little Niagara of Sri Lanka” and it is one of the most politically discussed environmental entities in Sri Lanka. It is situated 3 km west of the town of Talawakele on the Hatton-Talawakele Highway in Nuwara Eliya District. The falls derived its name from a nearby tea estate. The Falls is 80m high and hence 20th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. St. Clair's falls comprises two falls called "Maha Ella" and "Kuda Ella," which is 50m high and was created by a tributary of Kotmale Oya.