Best Adventurous Things to Do in Sri Lanka

For Travel Agent Joanna Williams wearing sunglasses and black shirt

Curated By

Joanna Williams

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Curator’s statement

One of my favorite countries in the world, Sri Lanka will wow you with its abundance of wildlife, storied culture, delicious food and endless adventurous things to do!

The Fora Difference

Book with Joanna to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.

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

Killer perks

Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you

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Personalized recs

Customized travel planning for your style

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Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay in 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 that 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 and why I will definitely return. You can often find posts of people riding (don’t do it!) or bathing elephants in places like Thailand or Bali. But here they are simply roaming around in their natural habitat —in the hundreds! Visit Kaudulla or Minneriya in the north or Udawalawa nearer to 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 matters. But with a bit of luck and a great guide you have a pretty good chance to spot one having his morning stretch! Yala Wild Safaris will get you there before the leopards even wake up and 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 and a lot quieter — meaning less noisy jeep engines to scare away all of the wildlife! Leopards, bear, 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. It truly is a bucket list experience witnessing the brief moments one of these giants comes to the surface for a breath before diving back into the deep. You might even catch a few spinner dolphins leaping out if 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 and when it’s this beautiful why go anywhere else?! 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 1800’s shipwreck. 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 giving it the title of one of the best train journeys in the world. For the 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. While slowly chuffing your way to Ella to see Nine Arches Bridge, Ella Rock and Little Adams Peak.

Visit the Golden Triangle: Be taken back by the ancient ruins of Polunnaruwa, Dambulla Cave and Sigiriya Rock. You won't believe the scale of these magnificent structure and 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 countries people.

Day Trips from Sri Lanka

Here's an unknown gem; one of the lesser known spectacles in Sri Lanka, yet easily one of the best wildlife experiences I’ve ever had. Venture out to Tissamaharama and visit Tissa lake just before sunset and no doubt a budding entrepreneur will find you. Jump on a boat for a sunset cruise around Tissa lake, watching all of the birds coming in to roost for the night. The noise is deafening before everything suddenly falls quiet. Then, from the treetops, huge fruit bats start making their appearance —in their thousands they emerge. But just as quickly as they fill the night sky, they are gone. Truly mezmerising.

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 of several distinct vegetarian dishes with rice and sambal. There is generally a tourist menu usually involving pasta, pizza and a burger. My advice though is 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 with settlers from around the globe. The food scene in southern Sri Lanka is a total contrast from the north.

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

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

The Smokehouse, Unawatuna: Lured in by the smell of rotisserie chickens slowly cooking on the beach, we found a true gem. The Tuna steak comes large and freshly cooked to perfection on the BBQ right in front of you! Heaven.

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

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

Le Cafe Francais, Unawatuna: Fresh croissants!

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

O Mirissa Cafe 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 Cafe and Bistro you will find an air conditioned oasis with delightfully 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 total perfection.

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

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

Park Streeet Mews, Colombo: Street with French, Thai and Sri Lankan cuisine. Near to 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. My Google Maps reviews reads: "I could live here and just eat bread and pasta for the rest of my life."

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Joanna Williams

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