Sri Lanka Holidays
An island nation bursting with culture
Charming seaside towns, fashionable cuisine, beautiful beaches - a Sri Lanka holiday has all the ingredients of the perfect tropical island experience, with heaps of added culture.
Evocatively known as the Emerald Isle, Sri Lanka has far more going for it than your average tropical island nation. Whether you’re exploring the 16th century streets of the colonial Fort at Galle, or visiting one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites at Kandy, Sri Lanka is full of surprises.
Discover 2,000-year-old cities lying in ruins in the famous Cultural Triangle, and spot elephants, peacocks and elusive leopards in the exotic wilderness of Yala National Park. In the cities, sample the mouthwatering combination of papaya and chilli from a street food vendor in between touring gleaming temples and fascinating museums.
Said to have been built around a cutting from the Buddha's fig tree, the Tree of Enlightenment, the ancient city of Anuradhapura today lies in atmospheric ruins. After thriving for 1,300 years, the city was abandoned in 993 following an invasion, and was slowly enveloped by the jungle. Ramble around this extensive archaeological site discovering its incredible assortment of architectural wonders and you might even be lucky enough to witness a modern-day religious ceremony taking place at one of the holy sites.
Dambulla & Sigiriya
Delve deep into Sri Lanka's history by exploring the ancient Buddhist and Hindu art that adorns the fascinating complex of caves at Dambulla. Surrounded by lush forest and mountains, it's thought that the caves have been considered a place of worship for two millennia. From there, it's a short journey to the north-east to reach Sigiriya, the famed UNESCO World Heritage Site where the ruins of an ancient palace sit atop a vast column of rock. Be prepared for a steep climb up the steps to the top, but the frescoes you'll see along the way, not to mention the ruins and views that greet you at the summit, make the effort worthwhile.
This historic central Sri Lankan city is considered the country's cultural capital, its picturesque lakeside setting and refreshing climate making it a firm favourite with travellers and Sri Lankans alike. The last bastion of Sri Lanka's monarchy, Kandy is home to one of the most sacred of all Buddhist sites, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you'll also find a number of other fascinating temples and museums. Beyond the temple complex, delights such as the Ceylon Tea Museum, National Museum and Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage await.
Colombo's varied buildings reveal that Sri Lanka's capital has a rich cultural heritage, making it a place where Buddhist temples can be found alongside cathedrals, both contrasting sharply with modern architecture such as the World Trade Towers. This variety makes it a city where you never quite know what you're going to find around the corner of each leafy boulevard or historic street. Get a flavour of local life at the busy markets of Pettah, brush up on Sri Lankan history at the National Museum, and taste authentic local cuisine from a street food vendor on Galle Face Green, the park area by the ocean.
Beautifully preserved European architecture reveals Galle's 17th century Dutch colonial history and gives you a feeling of being transported back in time as you wander the streets of this historic seaside town. Get a taste of the sea in the mouthwatering flavours of the fresh local seafood, and explore the area's history with a visit to the military walls of the magnificently situated seafront fort. Around the Fort area, you'll also find lots of artist-run boutique shops and charming cafes, while street food vendors sell delicious snacks such as papaya and chilli. Watch the sunset from the viewing point at Flag Rock.
Yala National Park has one of the highest densities of leopards in the world, giving you the best possible chance of spotting one of these magnificent creatures on safari in this exotic wilderness. Birdwatchers will enjoy looking out for the park's 215 species of bird, such as the colourful painted stork and the crested serpent eagle. Herds of elephant and buffaloes are a popular sight on the grasslands, while the trees are inhabited by peacocks and screeching monkeys.
Swipe or use the arrows to scroll through
Climb the World Heritage-listed Sigiriya Rock
A steep set of steps takes you past ancient murals to the top of this enormous rock, where the ruins of an ancient palace look out over sweeping views of the jungle below.
Soak up some sun on deserted beaches
There’s no shortage of immaculate sandy beaches in Sri Lanka, and they’re the perfect place to soak up the sun and relax with a good book.
Tea Estates in the high country
Get a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s past by savouring the aroma of an Orange Pekoe tea on a picturesque tea estate.
Safari in Yala National Park
Look out for leopards on a jeep safari in Yala National Park, home to one of the largest numbers of these majestic big cats. The leopards share this captivating habitat with wildlife ranging from elephants and water buffaloes to the Red Slender Loris.
Feast on local delicacies
Sumptuous flavours are waiting for you to discover in the varied local cuisine, which takes inspiration from numerous international influences and ranges from flame-roasted seafood to aromatic curry.
Explore historic Galle by foot
Reminders of Sri Lanka’s Dutch colonial past abound at historic Galle, which is dominated by an impressive fort. Explore its network of old streets and ramparts to get a taste of the city’s interesting history.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy
The lakeside city of Kandy is home to one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics: a tooth of the Buddha, housed in the tranquil Temple of the Sacred Tooth.
Explore the ancient cities of the Cultural Triangle
The evocative ruins of ancient kingdoms lie waiting for you to explore in Sri Lanka’s renowned ‘Cultural Triangle’; don’t miss Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
Caves at Dambulla
The ornate Hindu and Buddhist art that adorns the caves at Dambulla is more than worth the effort of ascending hundreds of steps to get there
Observe the native wildlife
Take an early morning walk along the banks of one of the great man-made lakes of central Sri Lanka, watching the incredible birdlife, crocodiles and other wildlife.
From the blog
Elephant Tourism Policy
Due to urbanisation, deforestation, lack of reproductive opportunity and poaching, elephant populations in developing Asia have plummeted in recent decades, at alarming rates.
See Elephants in Asia
September 2015Learn the right and the wrong ways to see elephants in Asia
48 Hours in Colombo
Find out what to see and do in Colombo, the colonial capital of Sri Lanka, with this two-day itinerary that takes you to the city’s best bits.