Best Adventurous Things to Do in Sri Lanka

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  • Sri Lanka

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Domestic Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Safari

  • Local Cusine

  • Outdoors

  • Wildlife

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Fora’s Take

Sri Lanka will wow you with its abundance of wildlife, storied culture, delicious food and endless array of adventurous things to do.

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Where to stay in Sri Lanka

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Earl's Regent Hotel

Post-modern hotel with traditional touches and service offering the best of Sri Lankan hospitality.

Royal Cocoon

This vintage-style hotel is located in beautifully landscaped gardens and within a picturesque view of the hills of Sri Lanka.

98 Acres Resort & Spa

The uniquely designed resort blends well with nature and consists of charming chalets mostly made of recyclable substances perched in the hills of Sri Lanka.

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Things to do in Sri Lanka

Palm trees and water on the beach during sunset

See Elephants in the wild: There are few places left in the world where you can see the largest land mammal on earth freely roaming around in such great numbers. This is one of the best reasons to visit Sri Lanka. You can often find posts of people riding (don’t do it!) or bathing elephants in places like Thailand or Bali. But here, hundreds of them are simply roaming around in their natural habitat. Visit Kaudulla or Minneriya in the north, or Udawalawa toward the south-coast towns of Mirissa and Unawatuna.

Spot leopards on safari: Leopards are notoriously hard to spot; the dense undergrowth of Yala National Park certainly doesn’t help. But with a bit of luck and a great guide, you have a pretty good chance to see one enjoying its morning stretch. Yala Wild Safaris will get you there before the leopards even wake up, way ahead of the other jeeps. They continually top Sri Lanka tour operator lists for their knowledgeable guides and devotion to sustainability. 

Wilpattu is a lesser known national park in Sri Lanka. It's also a lot quieter — meaning less noisy jeep engines to scare away all of the wildlife. Leopards, bears, monkeys and deer can all be found here, too.

Mirissa: With it’s wide, palm-fringed beach, trendy surf restaurants and thriving bars, it’s not hard to see why it’s become a hotspot for young backpackers. Surfing in Mirissa is the draw for most. The waves here are great for beginners, and there are some great spots for more experienced surfers, too. Lessons can be arranged on the beach, along with jet ski and snorkeling trips.

Blue whale watching: The Indian Ocean is abundant with sea life. Take a boat from Mirissa in search of the largest animal on the planet: the blue whale. Witnessing the brief moments when one of these giants comes to the surface for a breath before diving back into the deep is truly a bucket-list experience. You might even catch a few spinner dolphins leaping out of the water on the way. Check out Raja and the whales for a day trip.

Unawatuna: International cuisine with high standards, great dive operators and generally a good place to hop on a free sun bed and relax the day away. The beach here is the main attraction. Don't miss Frog Rock, Koggala Lake and the sea turtle hatchery.

Hikkaduwa: For diving in Sri Lanka, there are a few sites accessible from Hikkaduwa, including a shipwreck from the 1800s. Or jump on a local catamaran and snorkel around the rocky outcrops for some bigger fish varieties that you wouldn’t normally find at the beach.

Take the train from Kandy to Ella: The tea plantations roll past the window and give way to epic mountain views, earning it the title of one of the best train journeys in the world. For birders, Nuwara Eliya, or "Little England," is home to friendly kingfishers. Stop by at the botanical gardens to find these not-so-camera-shy birds, as well as many others before slowly chuffing your way to Ella to see Nine Arches Bridge, Ella Rock and Little Adams Peak.

Visit the Golden Triangle: Be taken aback by the ancient ruins of Polunnaruwa, Dambulla Cave and Sigiriya Rock. You won't believe the scale of these magnificent structures. Plus, there are monkeys everywhere.

Experience real Sri Lankan culture in Negombo, Kandy or Colombo. These cities are full of life. Visit a temple like the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy to get a true sense of this beautiful country's people.

Day trips from Sri Lanka

Venture out to Tissamaharama and visit Tissa Lake just before sunset. Jump on a boat for a sunset cruise around the lake, watching all of the birds coming in to roost for the night. The noise is deafening, but then, everything suddenly falls quiet. From the treetops, thousands of huge fruit bats start making their appearance. But just as quickly as they fill the night sky, they are gone. It's truly mesmerising.

Places to eat & drink in Sri Lanka

Plate of rice and vegetables on a wooden table

One of the best things to do in Sri Lanka is eat! Sri Lankan curry is a staple and comprises several distinct vegetarian dishes with rice and sambal. There is generally a tourist menu with options like pasta, pizza and burgers. But it's best to stick to local food in Sri Lanka, as it’s what locals know how to cook, and it is often the cheapest option. The south coast would be the exception to this rule. Places such as Unawatuna and Galle have amazing international cuisine brought from settlers from around the globe. The food scene in southern Sri Lanka is a total contrast to the north.

Cafe Chill, Ella: The place to be for anyone taking the train from Kandy to Ella. Great coffee and international snacks.

Ella Spice Garden cooking lessons: Tours of a garden growing spices like cloves and chili, plus lessons on how to cook a local curry.

The Smokehouse, Unawatuna: This gem emanates the smell of rotisserie chickens slowly cooking on the beach. The large tuna steak is freshly cooked to perfection on a BBQ right in front of you.

SkinnyTom's Deli, Unawatuna: For freshly baked cakes, meaty pies and delectable bacon and egg hoppers for breakfast, look no further than SkinnyTom's. The coffee is great, and if you sit out back in the garden, you may get lucky and spot monkeys running along the rooftops.

Happy Spice, Unawatuna: Local curry with great vegetarian options.

Le Café Français, Unawatuna: Fresh croissants!

The No.1 Roti Shop, Mirissa: Tucked away on a backstreet, you will find one of the best roti you will ever eat. The family that runs the shop used to have a small stall on the main street until demand grew so big they couldn’t keep up. They turned their humble home into a restaurant that is now one of the best-loved eateries in Mirissa.

O Mirissa Café and Bistro: If the heat, bugs and general delights of Asia get too much, escape to a little slice of Italy. Upstairs in O Mirissa Café and Bistro you will find an air conditioned oasis with delightful Italian décor and dishes. Try the pork or authentic al dente pesto fusilli pasta for a true taste of Mama Italia.

The Original Rocket Burger, Mirissa: A small franchise with just a few select burgers on the menu and maybe a couple soft drinks, if you’re lucky. Grab a beer from next door and indulge in one of the best burgers you’ll ever taste. The menu may be small, but every burger on the menu, from BBQ chicken to prime rib beef, is perfection.

The Pasta Factory, Galle: A great little slice of Italy with all of the pasta you could dream of.

Dao Krua Thai, Colombo: No-frills, amazing Thai food.

Park Street Mews, Colombo: A lively street with French, Thai and Sri Lankan cuisine, all near the must-visit Gangaramaya Temple.

T-lounge by Dilmah, Chatham Street, Colombo: Proper Ceylon tea and snacks in a beautiful setting.

Prego Italian Restaurant, Negombo: Italian food at its best.

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