If you are looking for a destination where you can enjoy the best sunsets, never-ending beaches, hospitable locals, and breath-taking social media ready sights, then Sri Lanka is the place to be! After the civil war in 2009, visitors in this country tripled and is expected to keep growing in the next few years. Sri Lanka is kind of like a mix between India and Southeast Asia and combines the best of both worlds. It’s a more quiet and cheaper version of Southeast Asia and a more organized and punctual version of India. Hence, if you’re traveling on a budget, then this is a prime spot to spend your vacation but there are a lot of other reasons to visit Sri Lanka and this article will show you some of them.
1. It has 34,000 years of history
Perhaps one of the best reasons to visit Sri Lanka is its history. Throughout the years, Sri Lanka has seen ancient kingdoms come and go with the first signs of human civilization on the island dating back to 34,000 years ago. Many people forget that Sri Lanka had nine Sinhalese dynasties before it was colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. Sri Lanka has gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948 and has been a republic since 1972.
This long, varied history has made Sri Lanka what it is today; a melting pot of many different cultures, dynasties, and ethnicities with eight UNESCO heritage sites despite its relatively small size and a countless of other sites that are worth visiting.
However, just like going to any other place, you should plan and prepare before traveling. If it’s your first time visiting, it’s probably a good idea to hire a trusted travel agency that can help you make the most out of your trip.
2. The rich cultural heritage
Above I mentioned that Sri Lanka is a basin of different cultures, flavors and architectures and in this section, I’ll explain what I meant. Sri Lanka is a place where different architectural styles intertwine in every corner. You can see remnants of Colonial, Dutch, and Portuguese architectures, as well as ancient Sinhalese sites, palaces, and Buddhist temples. Hence, it’s no surprise that Sri Lanka has one UNESCO World Heritage Site in every part of the island. Some of these include the Ancient City of Kandy (an ancient pilgrimage Buddhist site), the Old Town of Galle (that dates back to the 16th century), Sigiriya (an ancient palace hanging off a cliff), Anuradhapura (the first ancient capital of Sri Lanka), Polonnaruwa (the second ancient capital of Sri Lanka), the cave temple of Dambulla, and Sinharaja Forest Reserve (the country’s most lush, hilly virgin rainforest).
In addition to the heritage sights, Sri Lanka also has a lot of religious festivities and a crowded festival calendar. The major religious highlight happens in April for the Aluth Avurudda (the traditional Sinhalese New Year) celebrations. Some other noteworthy festivals feature Vesak in May that marks the first month of the Buddhist calendar year and the Kandy Festival (July/August) that showcases the medieval past of Sri Lanka. All of these festivals are a great chance to see some of Sri Lanka’s vibrant dances and traditional clothes and to fully experience the rich tradition of the island.
This brings me to the third reason why you should visit Sri Lanka that’s directly responsible for the prior two…
3. The people
One of the main reasons to visit Sri Lanka are its people. The Civil War that ended in 2009 had made international news and most tourists were not very open to the idea of coming here, but Sri Lankan people were never intimidated by bad publicity. They kept silent and showed tourists how hospitable and kind the real people are. People here are willing to go out of their way just to accommodate travelers.
Sri Lankans don’t take advantage of tourists and are always straight-forward and honest. Tuk-Tuk Drivers, hotel staff, restaurant owners, and street vendors alike are very warm and welcoming and you don’t have to worry about getting hassled on the street as you would in, per se, India. It’s just fascinating to see that people can remain so friendly despite the fact that their country was torn apart by a civil war that lasted for more than 25 years.
However, people aren’t the only residents of the island…
4. You can see more Asian elephants than anywhere else
Sri Lanka is home to more than 5,000 Asian elephants. This makes the small island nation the country with the highest concentration of elephants in Asia. Furthermore, every year between May and September, you can see 350-400 elephants at the reservoir in Minneriya National Park that has been their dry season feeding ground for more than 1,700 years. How many other places on the planet can offer you the sight of 400 elephants socializing at one spot?
But that’s not all. Sri Lanka is also…
5. The best place to see the Asian leopard
It’s not just the elephants that found a fertile ground on this island. Sri Lanka also has the highest density of leopards in the world. Most of them live in Yala National Park and visiting this park between March and October on a three-day safari usually always results in a leopard encounter.
And speaking of encounters with rare species, you can also spot…
6. Whales and dolphins in the coastal waters
If seeing the most famous marine mammals is on your bucket list, a trip to Sri Lanka can help you tick this off your bucket list. In fact, Sri Lanka might very well be the only place in the world where you can see both, dolphins and whales. You can see dolphins and five different species of whales in the waters off Kalpitiya and at Mirissa. The best time to spot a whale is between December and March.
And if you think this finally completes the list of wildlife encounter opportunities, you’re wrong. Sri Lanka is also home to…
7. Five of the seven sea turtle species
Leatherback, Hawksbill, Green, Leatherback, and Olive Ridley turtles can often be seen laying their eggs along Sri Lanka’s coasts. Fortunately, there are organizations that aim to protect the turtles from hunters and pollution and offer you the unique experience of watching baby turtles hatch in exchange for nothing more than a small donation that helps them protect the turtles.
One of the reasons why turtles choose to visit Sri Lanka and lay their nests here is…
8. The miles of unspoiled beaches
Speaking of reasons to visit Sri Lanka, we have to mention the long stretches of breath-taking crystal-clear coastal waters and powdery white sand, that poofs every time you take a step. This fantastic scenery leads to some spectacular sunsets that will make your jaw drop every time! Sri Lanka’s unique geographical location makes sunsets in Sri Lanka special and very different from anything you saw before.
Whether you’re looking for solitude, a crowd, surfing or other activities, I’m sure you can find it somewhere on Sri Lanka’s beaches. If you’re looking for golden sand beaches and coral reefs, head to the southern coast. However, note that these beaches will probably be more crowded. Alternatively, if you’re looking for remote beaches, you’ll find a lot of them on the western tip of the island.
9. Emerging surfing destination
Even though it’s not a famous surfing destination yet, Sri Lanka is making a name for itself. Some people even refer to the island as ‘The New Bali’ and there’s a good reason for that; Sri Lanka has a lot of surfing spots that are great for beginners that are learning how to stand on a surfboard but it also has waves that can challenge even the most experienced surfers. The best surfing destination in Sri Lanka is probably Arugam Bay and the best season is during the summer (April-October).
But Sri Lanka isn’t all about beaches and wildlife. You should also experience…
10. Roadtripping through the countryside
Road-tripping is the best way to travel around Sri Lanka because this way, you can experience the island’s diverse landscapes. From never-ending coastal beaches and tea plantations to caves, waterfalls, and spectacular rock formations, traveling around the country is a real treat for one’s senses.
If you’re planning to take a road trip, you can get some great deals on rental cars in Sri Lanka but I would also advise you to experience Sri Lanka’s countryside through a train journey. The journey between Ella and Kandy covers some of the country’s most diverse landscapes and is considered to be one of the most scenic train rides in Asia.
Whatever you choose to do, you’ll probably feel tempted to conquer some of…
11. Sri Lanka’s most scenic hiking trails
With such a rich flora and fauna, it’s no wonder that Sri Lanka has some amazing nature trails dotted with stunning vistas, waterfalls, misty mountains, and picturesque tea estates. To put it simply, Sri Lanka’s hiking trails are absolutely breath-taking and if that’s your thing, this is probably one of the best reasons to visit Sri Lanka. Some of the country’s most scenic hiking trails include Ella Rock, Horton Plains, the Knuckles Mountain Range, Kirigalpotha, and we can’t forget to mention…
12. Adam’s Peak
Adam’s Peak might be only Sri Lanka’s fourth highest mountain but it’s a place that’s considered by many to be the world’s eighth wonder because of the mysterious foot-shaped mark at the summit. According to Buddhist legends, the footsteps belong to Buddha, Hindus claim the footprint belongs to Lord Shiva, while Christians believe that this was Adam’s first step after being expelled from Eden.
This trek usually takes between 3 and 4 hours and features a never-ending set of steps that will challenge even the fittest travelers. If you can, try to start the trek at midnight and reach on time for sunrise. It will be tough but experiencing the clouds lifting to uncover some of the most beautiful scenes you’ve ever seen while pilgrims are chanting in the background will surely be one of the highlights of your trip.
13. Magnificent tea plantations
In case you didn’t know, the tiny nation of Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth-largest producer of tea. Sri Lanka has more than 2,000 square kilometers of tea plantations that produce around 300 million kilograms of tea annually. This accounts for more than 2% of the country’s GDP! Sri Lanka’s tea county consists of endless green fields, rolling hills, and misty hills that are perfect for people who want to escape the heat and humidity while getting the chance to try original Ceylon and Lipton tea.
I don’t know about you, but drinking a good cup of tea always opens my appetite. Which leads me to my next point and one of the main reasons to visit Sri Lanka…
14. The mouth-tingling traditional cuisine
If there’s a way to describe Sri Lanka’s cuisine, I’d say it’s a unique mix of Indian, Chinese, Arabic, and Malay cuisines. Most traditional dishes are delicately flavored with a huge variety that can satisfy anyone’s cravings. You can find mild, moderate, hot, and fiery dishes that use a myriad of local herbs and spices, as well as a lot of delicious tropical foods and vegetables like rambutan, pawpaw, durian, etc.
Some must-try dishes feature the local version of burger- kothu, fish curry, clam chowders, and the famous curry with rice and fried vegetables. Additionally, since Sri Lanka is an island and its waters are rich in marine life, seafood is available everywhere, it’s delicious and ridiculously cheap.
15. Spiritual Experiences
Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country with a lot of beautiful temples and places of pilgrimage where you can embark on a spiritual journey that leaves even the savviest travelers speechless. Discovering Sri Lanka’s mystic past starts at the Cultural Triangle but there are a lot of other noteworthy attractions too. From hidden forest temples and awe-inspiring pilgrimage route to awe-inspiring palaces and spiritual retreats, spiritualism in Sri Lanka is always accompanied by a large dose of wow-factor.
And speaking of spiritual retreats, another great reason to visit Sri Lanka is…
16. Ayurveda & Spas
If you’re not familiar with it, Ayurveda is a 2,000-years old system of medicine that comes from the Indian subcontinent. Ayurveda is becoming increasingly popular among tourists, some of which come to the island specifically for ayurvedic treatments. You can get an Ayurveda massage in most hotels, resorts, and private massage parlors and add a dose of relaxation to your Sri Lanka holiday.
17. A lot of new luxury, yet affordable hotels
Just like any other country that sees a sudden spike in tourism, Sri Lanka is also home to a lot of new, luxurious hotels but their prices are adjusted to the local living standards that are still relatively low. This means that Sri Lanka is also a great value-for-money destination and you can stay in 5-star properties for as low as $90!
18. It’s not crowded; For now
Last but not least, one of the main reasons to visit Sri Lanka is that it’s not crowded (yet). Unlike some of the other popular tropical destinations in the region, Sri Lanka remains relatively unfrequented and unspoiled. Sure, there are parts of the island famous for beach parties and big crowds, but even those places are nothing in comparison to their counterparts in Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, and even Vietnam.
However, don’t expect things to remain unchanged for long. Most tourism experts are expecting tourism in Sri Lanka to explode over the course of the next decade, making today the perfect time to visit this beautiful island.
Helpful resources for visiting Sri Lanka
Are you looking for some cheap flights to Sri Lanka? Check out Qatar Airways’s Oh-la-la deals and save up to 20% on all flights to Sri Lanka.
Are you thinking about renting a car for your trip to Sri Lanka? Use this Auto Europe special offer and save up to 30% on all car rentals around the island.
For some great accommodation deals, use this Booking.com discount code to get up to 15% off on all properties in Sri Lanka.
And last but not least, don’t forget about travel insurance. You never know what might happen when traveling and if you really want to stay covered in all unpredictable situations, I warmly recommend World Nomads.
Did this list of reasons to visit Sri Lanka convince you that it’s a destination worth visiting? Let us know in the comments!
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