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A Guide to Sri Lanka for First-Timers

| Words by Ashley Diterlizzi |

Sri Lanka is known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean for its rich array of attractions and welcoming people. The tropical climate has created a beautiful coast and endless palm-fringed golden beaches. Beyond the coast lie ancient Buddhist cities, lush tea-covered hills, colourful temples and unique wildlife experiences. It’s time to visit Sri Lanka.

Map of Sri Lanka

1. Spend the night in luxury

Sri Lanka is home to some of the most unique boutique accommodation from architecturally designed contemporary rooms to refurbished colonial hill stations and family-run tea plantations. Our top pick is Heritance Tea Factory in Nuwara Eliya.

2. Travel through the countryside

Departing Kandy by train, travel through scenic fields of sugar, tea plantations and waterfalls before arriving in the colonial tea centre at Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is often referred to as “Little England” for its vintage English country village feel.

3. Go wild

Sri Lanka is home to an abundance of wildlife and incredible National Parks. Yala National Park, known for its jeep safari experiences is home to the highest density of leopards in the world. Spot buffalo in Uda Walawe, watch elephants gather in Mineriya National Park and whale watch at the tropical beach town of Mirissa.

4. Lose yourself in the culture

Immerse yourself in the diverse culture of Sri Lanka which combines traditional aspects from its heritage with modern elements. The British, Dutch and Portuguese left their mark on Sri Lanka’s identity which is most prevalent in the country’s hill stations and tea plantations.

Galle Stilt Fishermen

5. Explore the south coast

Home to the infamous stilt fishermen, the south coast of Sri Lanka offers popular beach resort towns, white sandy beaches and pristine ocean. Explore south coast hot spot Galle, with its fort ramparts fronting the Arabian Sea and its quaint cobbled lanes home to old trading houses, mosques and temples, antique shops and cafes.

6. Dine on the local cuisine

Sri Lanka isn’t known as the Spice Island for nothing! Also known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has a rich history and culture when it comes to culinary delights. Using fresh and local ingredients, Sri Lankan cuisine is likely to be the highlight of your trip. Here are the five dishes you’ll go hungry without…

7. Get in touch with your spiritual side

Historical relics are abundant across Sri Lanka. Explore the spiritual and historical significance of the dome shaped stupas of Anuradhapura and the rock cave temples of Dambulla before climbing to the top of a fifth century rock fortress.

8. Drink up!

Sri Lanka is renowned worldwide for its tea. The birthplace of Ceylon Tea in Kandy, known for producing a stronger and deeper coloured beverage. At a much higher altitude, the cool climate of Nuwara Eliya helps to produce a fine quality tea known for being much lighter.

9. Celebrate the night sky

As a Buddhist country, Sri Lanka place importance on the full moon. Poya festivals are held on the night of the full moon each month and often feature a parade. During the festivals many shops and restaurants remain closed.

10. Uncover the best of the capital

Familiarise yourself with the Sri Lankan capital city, Colombo. Visit Galle, stroll through the national museum and get in touch with your spiritual side in a Buddhist temple.It only takes two days to discover Colombo, what are you waiting for?

Elephants in Yala National Park

Tips and tricks

Where to stay

For the best hotels in Sri Lanka, check out our latest brochure.

Getting there

Flights operate directly between Australia and Sri Lanka.


The Sri Lankan climate is tropical but is subject to two monsoon seasons due to its position. The average daily temperature is consistent year round.

Sri Lanka's climate

When to go

The best time to visit Sri Lanka is generally December to April. For more information, read our guide on when to visit Sri Lanka.


The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee.

Did you know?

Sri Lanka’s national sport isn’t cricket as many people think. It’s actually volleyball which was introduced in 1916.

Top Tip

Be patient! Transport and infrastructure is still being improved across the country, making it slow going to get around.

Experience Sri Lanka now on one of our small group journeys or check out our range of private tours.