Places to visit in Sri Lanka – Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Places to visit in Sri Lanka – Pearl of the Indian Ocean

So much to see and for us, so little time! So many places to visit in Sri Lanka! We had only booked to spend one week visiting Sri Lanka, before travelling onto The Maldives and we quickly realised that despite a busy 7 days and visiting at least 16 tourist sites, there are so any places to visit in Sri Lanka!Once we had decided the best time to visit Sri Lanka we started to explore into accommodation options. Being quite new to independent travelling, we let go of the reins and safety of the travel agent and booked our accommodation ourselves through AirBnB. We found this site to be quite easy to navigate and managed to find 3 very different properties in Negombo, Kandy and Ella. Top tip – start with the properties with lots of reviews! Communication with the hosts is vital, all of ours were really friendly and were keen to help us.

We planned to travel from place to place via train and websites like ‘The Man in Seat 61 were really useful. We discovered that you are unable to buy train tickets online from the UK and need to use an agent or someone in Sri Lanka to buy them at the station for you. That’s where our hosts were brilliant – they were able to buy our tickets on our behalf! However, you need to plan ahead as trying to buy tickets close to the day of travel can be difficult as the trains are always full.

With lots of  places to visit in Sri Lanka we we chose the following for our itinerary:





Negombo is on the west coast and the city closest to Bandaranaike International Airport. Our host arranged a tuktuk and driver to take us out for a couple of hours (1000 rupees = £5). Highlights of the tour included Negombo Fish Market – obviously busier during the morning but we still managed to see lots of freshly caught fish and watched them being laid out in the hot sun to dry.

negombo - places to visit in Sri Lanka



Angurukaramulla Temple – the most important temple in Negombo for Buddhists. We learnt a lot here from the guide who told us all about the amazing murals, sculptures and paintings on the ceiling which depicted the Buddha’s journey to enlightenment. (Entrance is free but a donation is welcome.)

angurukaramulla-temple-4 angurukaramulla-temple-3

Lords Restaurant – a restaurant well worth a visit (we visited twice!). Owned by an English guy who has been living in Sri Lanka for 14 years. The food was amazing!!


Our host organised a taxi to Colombo Fort Railway Station where we caught our train to Kandy. He had managed to get us First Class Air Conditioned seats. We were disappointed, however, as despite being comfortable, this carriage had sealed windows, air conditioning but there was no atmosphere at all! The good news was the 4-hour journey only cost 400 rupees each (about £2).


What you need to know about booking AirBnb in Sri Lanka



We were lucky as our stay in Kandy coincided with the Kandy Esala Perahera – an important festival for Buddhists which falls during a full moon in July/August. There was lots of dancing, drums and elephants parade through the streets of Kandy.


We hired a car and driver for the day for $50 and we set off for a full day of sight-seeing. Our first stop was the famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. However, as the previous night was the start of the Festival season, there were about 5000 more people in Kandy than normal! This meant the Temple of the Tooth, even at 9.30 am was packed!! Luckily guides were available (tip required at the end) to show you around and explain everything. The casket containing the tooth was only open at certain times of the day so we weren’t able to see it but the guide was really helpful and I don’t think we would have seen and understood as much as we did in the hour we were there, without him. Entrance fee 1000 rupees each = £5.




After that we took the 3-hour drive to Sigiriya, known as Lions Rock, the ruins of an ancient rock fortress built 1600 years ago. The climb to the top is a challenging one – about 1200 steps. Early morning is the recommended time to visit, before it gets too hot! Once at the top you can marvel at the 360° views and wonder how on earth they managed to build anything up there all those years ago! Entrance fee a bit steep (like the steps) – $30 per person!

One of the best things to do in the area is to hike up Pidurangala Rock for fantastic views of Sigiriya Rock.




We then continued onto the Dambula Cave Temple which is the largest cave temple in Sri Lanka. There are about 100 steps to climb to reach the 5 caves which house over 150 statues of Buddha and many rock paintings which are amazing. Remember to cover shoulders and knees and remove your shoes before entering. Free to enter.

dambala-cave-temple-2 dambala-cave-temple-3


A guide to two beautiful Sri Lanka train journeys



Our third place we stayed in Sri Lanka was in the beautiful town of Ella. The train ride from Kandy took a little over 6 hours and we had reserved seats in third class (cost 800 rupees for 2 adults = £4.00). We were a little apprehensive of what they would be like but they were better than we could have expected. We sat amongst locals with open windows and ceiling fans. The doorways at the end of the carriages were open and we were able to enjoy the scenery as we climbed higher and higher into the Hill Country.


Our host in Ella was brilliant and took us out for the day to see the sights. We start off at 9 Arch Bridge. Built by the British in 1921, it is one of the most iconic bridges in Sri Lanka and is still part of the railway network today. Quite by chance we timed our visit perfectly and saw a train come trundling over the bridge – perfect!!


We continued onto Ravana Falls. Now you can see quite a few waterfalls in Sri Lanka but this one is just by the roadside so is perfect for a closer look. We visited on a Saturday so it was busy with local families enjoying a swim in the lagoon at the bottom. Apparently in the wet season it’s a lot more spectacular with a huge amount of water pouring over the top. Just be careful of the rocks onto the way up to the lagoon, they were very slippery!



Our last place to visit was Dowa Rock Temple. One of the oldest and most sacred temples in Sri Lanka.   You have to go down steps (made a change from climbing loads!) to the temple and there you can see the 38ft high statue of Buddha carved into the rock face. The temple is quite small but the paintings and statues are amazing.

dowa-rock-temple-4 dosa-rock-temple-sri-lanka dowa-rock-temple-2


Our top ten tips for visiting Sri Lanka



visiting Sri lankasri-lanka

Have you been or are you thinking of visiting Sri Lanka? Is it on your bucket list? What places to visit in Sri Lanka do you want to see?

Author: Tracy

Tracy is your expert expat!

She has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)

Through down-to-earth stories, tips and advice (based on her own extensive knowledge and experience of life as an expat) she aims to support new and prospective expats to survive and thrive in Australia.

With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.


Leave a Reply

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

CommentLuv badge

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


  1. October 7, 2016 / 4:52 pm

    Woah! That view from the top of Lions Head is incredible!!! When I saw the thumbnail I thought the bridge looked very much like Viaducts in Scotland so it was interesting to read that it was built by the British!

    • Linda Tallett
      October 7, 2016 / 5:12 pm

      Hi Chiera, yes the view from the top of Sigiriya certainly is spectacular. I could have stayed up there for hours!! We were so lucky to visit 9 arch bridge at the right time, it was great to see the train pass by!

  2. October 7, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    Such beautiful pictures! Sri Lanka is on my list of places to visit. Thank you for all of the great info!

    • Linda Tallett
      October 7, 2016 / 5:14 pm

      Thank you! Definitely recommend a visit, it’s a beautiful country.

  3. October 7, 2016 / 5:04 pm

    Lovely photos! I went to Sri Lanka in my final year of high school and it was an amazing experience. I never got to go to Ella though; it looks incredible!

    • Linda Tallett
      October 7, 2016 / 5:40 pm

      Thanks Tao, I think Ella was my favourite part of our trip. I’ve never seen such beautiful scenery. If you ever go back, be sure to visit!

  4. October 7, 2016 / 5:11 pm

    Firstly what great photos. Since moving to the Middle East Sri Lanka is on our radar to visit, as so close. Everyone we know raves about it and your post only makes me want to visit more. Great info #flyawayfriday

    • Linda Tallett
      October 7, 2016 / 5:42 pm

      Thanks JerseyGirl, hope you get to visit soon, I’m sure you’ll love it!

  5. October 8, 2016 / 3:09 am

    Sri Lanka looks like such a beautiful country! I definitely want to visit some day. 🙂 #FlyAwayFriday

    • Linda Tallett
      October 8, 2016 / 6:01 pm

      It definitely is a beautiful place, hope you get to visit it one day 🙂

  6. October 8, 2016 / 9:31 am

    I clicked on this right away! We plan to go to Sri Lanka within this year. I love the pics!!! Can’t wait and enjoyed this. #flyawayfriday

  7. Linda Tallett
    October 8, 2016 / 6:06 pm

    Thanks Tiffany, theres more info on Sri Lanka to come, so be sure to check every Thursday for the next three weeks! 🙂

  8. October 8, 2016 / 9:16 pm

    Wow you packed a lot into your week, so I can tell you put a lot of planning into it. That ancient rock fortress is really impressive. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • Linda Tallett
      October 9, 2016 / 7:05 am

      Thanks Anisa, planning the trip was made so much easier by reading blogs from people who had already been there. We got loads of tips and information which sometimes the travel books don’t give you!

  9. October 9, 2016 / 6:21 am

    Awesome photos! Sri Lanka is one of my favorite countries of all time – in fact I’m flying there again tonight! 🙂 Sigiriya truly is a magical monument, must have been amazing when the Lion’s head was still intact! #flyawayFriday

    • Linda Tallett
      October 9, 2016 / 7:06 am

      Have a great time Flo!! 🙂

  10. October 9, 2016 / 4:55 pm

    This all looks great, I would love to travel to Sri Lanka one day. Sigiriya is somewhere I would really like to go and it does look like getting around by train is the way to do it. One day! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Linda
      October 10, 2016 / 5:54 am

      David, we couldnt believe how inexpensive the train travel was!! In fact, so much of our trip was a bargain, check in here for the next three weeks (on Thursdays) when Tracy will be posting more of my reports on Sri Lanka!

  11. October 9, 2016 / 8:53 pm

    I’ve been hearing so much about Sri Lanka in the past couple of years and it’s definitely on my list of places I want to go now. I’m hoping to make a visit by the end of next year, thanks for all the great tips – I’ll be bookmarking this post to reference for later. 🙂 #flyawayfriday

  12. Linda
    October 10, 2016 / 5:49 am

    My husband loves photography and was in his element in Sri Lanka!! Its a beautiful country with so much to see. More info on our trip to come over the next three weeks!

  13. October 10, 2016 / 2:33 pm

    The buddhist festival in Kandy looks as such an interesting and local experience! Would love to visit Sri Lanka one day! Thanks for sharing your travel story #flyawayfriday
    Anna recently posted…Blog Story: Netherlands Through American EyesMy Profile

  14. October 11, 2016 / 10:56 am

    I’ve heard great things about Sri Lanka, it looks beautiful. Great tips about the train bookings, too. The train ride over 9 arch bridge looks absolutely stunning! What interesting experiences you had. Thanks for sharing 😉
    Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad recently posted…Recent Reads September: 2 books for 2 yearsMy Profile