9 Best places to visit in Sri Lanka for first-timers

Sri Lanka, located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of India, is an amazing country to visit and you should consider it for your next trip.

From an interesting blend of cultures and history in Colombo, the country’s capital, to amazing waves at Hikkaduwa Beach and one of the best places to see elephants in the wild worldwide, Udawalawe National Park, and the several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there are plenty of things to see and do in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has reopened to tourists: eVisa services restarted on October 1, 2021

As the pandemic forced many people to postpone their travels and as many countries had travel restrictions, it’s good to know that Sri Lanka has reopened to tourists.

In order to visit Sri Lanka, you’ll most likely need a visa. The good news is that you can obtain one rather easy – and you can find here further information.

9 Best places to visit in Sri Lanka for first-timers

Let’s see the best places to visit in Sri Lanka and the best things to do in Sri Lanka!


The country’s capital, Colombo, is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.

Here you’ll see the mix of the several countries that has Sri Lanka as a colony (Portugal, the Netherlands, and the UK) along with the local culture and food.

Make sure to visit the great museums in Colombo, such as the Colombo National Museum, National Art Gallery, or even the Central Bank Currency Museum.

You should also make time to stroll the streets and admire the architecture, discovering different influences and the local history.

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Don’t miss the Lotus Tower (350 metres in height). This is a landmark of Sri Lanka and the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia. You can admire it during the day, but also at night when it is lit. It can also be visited.

Lotus Tower, Colombo is a Sri Lanka landmark
Lotus Tower, Colombo

Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura

They are located in different parts of the country, but if you want to go deeper into the country’s culture, then you should check at least one of these two sites with ancient ruins.

Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka and one of the best attractions in Sri Lanka

The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and you’ll be able to see here “Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.” Polonnaruwa was the second capital after the destruction of Anuradhapura.

The Sacred City of Anuradhapura is also a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and you’ll be able to admire here the huge bell-shaped dagobas (Buddhist commemorative shrines, also known as stupas), along with palaces, temples, and more.

These two places are a great trip through time and will allow you to discover the past of the country and to learn more about the religion and culture.

Yala National Park, Udawalawe National Park and/or Bundala National Park

Sri Lanka is home to several wonderful national parks that will allow you to enjoy the splendid scenery and spot impressive animals in the wild.

Elephant in Sri Lanka National Park

Udawalawe National Park, located in the southern part of the country and opened year-round, offers the amazing opportunity to see elephants in the wild. Other mammals, birds, and many plants can also be admired here.

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Yala National Park is, perhaps, the most famous park in Sri Lanka and lures many tourists each year. There is a big population of leopards here – but you can also spot elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, and more. You can go here during the summer – as part of a longer Sri Lanka vacation.

Bundala National Park is less famous than Yala – and less crowded. From December to March, this park is the best place to visit for birdwatchers.


Sigiriya is one of the top places to visit in Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is one of the top places to visit in Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya is one of the top tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.

This rock formation, located in the central part of the island, is impressive in itself.

Add to that the fact that it has been carved into a palace – with a lion-shaped entry – and you get even more reasons to visit it and understand why it is one of the most popular attractions in Sri Lanka.

If you like museums, palaces, and discovering a special city complex that amazingly combines gardens and residential areas, then this is a must-visit in Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya - lion-shaped entrance
Sigiriya – lion-shaped entrance

Kandy and Ella

Kandy is the former capital city of the Sri Lankan royal dynasty and offers a trip back in time, before the colonial period.

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is one of the top attractions in Kandy, Sri Lanka
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, part of the fourth-century royal palace complex, is a Buddhist shrine and gives you the chance to learn more about the local religion.

It is said that here there is a tooth of the Buddha himself, and this temple is the holiest part of the island for the Sinhalese.

The National Museum of Kandy completes the information about the city and area and provides an in-depth journey to the past of the region and it is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.

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Kandy to Ella train trip in Sri Lanka
Train trip

If you want to go to a more remote place – in the tea plantations area, then head from Kandy to Ella. The trip with the train will be an amazing experience in itself – it is considered one of the best train trips in the world, allowing you to admire great landscapes.

Ella, a small, hill-country town, offers the great opportunity to meet the locals, stay at a guesthouse, and enjoy the local food.

The best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Discover the top Sri Lankan attractions from this article. Where to go in Sri Lanka if you are visiting Sri Lanka for the first time. #srilanka #travelmomentsintime #srilankathingstodo #asiatravel

Sri Lanka: best things to do for first timers. If you plan a trip to Sri Lanka, then you should include these Sri Lanka attractions on your Sri Lanka itinerary. #srilanka #travelmomentsintime #srilankathingstodo #asiatravel

What to do in Sri Lanka. Discover the top attractions in Sri Lanka and the best places to visit in Sri Lanka from this article. From national parks in Sri Lanka to ancient ruins and to #Colombo, the capital, everything is included. #srilanka #travelmomentsintime #srilankathingstodo #asiatravel

photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7


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