Top Tourist Attractions in Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka is becoming a tourist haven especially for budget travelers. Traveling around Sri Lanka is affordable and easy. Train schedule around the country is reliable and fare is cheap. Whether you like mountains, nature, wildlife, beaches or heritage and culture, Sri Lanka has something to offer you. Below are the top Tourist Attractions in Sri Lanka.


1. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy
Located in the City of Kandy, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is one of the city's sacred Buddhist sites. It is believed to house the left upper canine tooth of the Lord Buddha himself. This sacred site attracts hundred of pilgrims and tourist each day. It is recommended to spend an evening in the temple and be mesmerized by its stunning interiors. Entrance Fee is USD15.

Temple of the Tooth | Photo licensed under CC

2. Yala National Park
Yala National Park is Sri Lanka's most famous wildlife park. It is a premier ecotourism destination in the country and is the most visited and the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It is home to 44 varieties of mammals and  215 bird species. It is situated in the south eastern region of Sri Lanka and is about 305 kilometers from the capital city of Colombo. Entrance Fee is USD15 for foreigners.

A leopard at Yala National Park | Photo by: Mahoora Tented Safari Camps under CC

3. The Tea Plantations in Nuwara Eliya
There's quite a lot of things you can do in Nuwara Eliya but most of the tourists go there to experience the tea factory and see the vastness of the town's tea plantation. The temperature is quite cold so be prepared to bring a jacket if you are not used to low temperature. There is no entrance fee, you can pretty much take your selfie in the tea plantation. It's everywhere in Nuwara Eliya. [Read: Cheap Places to Stay in Nuwara Eliya]


4. Nine Arch Bridge in Ella
The Nine Arch Bridge is the most visited tourist attraction in Ella. It's one of the iconic bridges in Sri Lanka built during the British occupation in the country. The best time to go there is when there is a train passing the bridge. A train is expected to pass by the bridge at 6:06am, 6:40am, 9:24am, 10:57am, 12:06pm, 1:25pm, 3:15pm, 5:28pm, 6:23pm and 6:55pm. If you are flying a drone, make sure you fly it maybe 3-5 minutes ahead of time so you can catch the the train. I didn't expect that the train would pass on time so I wasn't able to capture it with my drone. I was still prepping up and the train passed by already. Bummer! Haha [Read: Cheap Places to Stay in Ella]


5. Mirissa Beach in Mirissa
Mirissa Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Sri Lanka located in the beach town of Mirissa. Enjoy the beach and the waves, watch the sunset, and chill all the way at Mirissa Beach. It's very accessible. It's situated along Matara - Weligama - Galle Road. [Read: Cheap Places to Stay in Mirissa]


6. Golden Temple of Dambulla
Located about 142 kms from the capital city of Colombo, the Golden temple of Dambulla also known as the Cave Temple of Dambulla is among the interesting places to visit in the country. It is a popular landmark in the ancient city and is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. Entrance Fee is USD10.


7. Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anaradhapura (The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka)
If you love culture and heritage, these places are a must-visit for you. You can explore the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and visit the archaeological and heritages sites in Polonnaruwa and Anaradhapura . Entrance fee to the Ancient City of Sigiriya is USD30 while the entrance fee to the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura is USD25.

Sigiriya Rock | Photo by: Bernard Gagnon

8. Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay is a bay situated about 320kms east of Colombo. It's one of Sri Lanka's popular beach and surfing destinations. The area was badly hit by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. 

Arugam Bay | Photo by: Sarah Owermohle

Going to Arugam Bay is a bit tricky and it is advisable to do overnight stops. But, if you must travel straight, you can take a tourist bus or non-ac bus from Colombo bus station to Pottuvil. From Pottuvil you can take a tuktuk to Arugam Bay. Some buses go to Panama, if so, you do not need to get off in Pottuvil because it will pass by Arugam Bay. The fare for the tourist/ac bus is about LKR1,000 while the non-ac is about LKR500. The whole journey takes about 7-10 hours. 

9. The Fortified City of Galle
The Fortified City of Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by the Dutch and is labelled as Asia's best preserved fortified harbor town from the colonial period. Entrance to the Galle is free.


This blog post is part of our comprehensive BACKPACKING IN SRI LANKA TRAVEL GUIDE. This will help you explore Sri Lanka on a budget.

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