Top Sri Lanka Tours & Vacations 2024/2025 [reviews & photos]

Sri Lanka Tours & Travel Packages 2024/2025

47 Sri Lanka trips. Compare tour itineraries from 15 tour companies. 664 reviews. 4.7/5 avg rating.

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Top Sri Lanka Attractions & Experiences

Top Sri Lanka Experiences

    • Climbing the 1,600-year-old “Lion Rock” of Sigiriya, a rock fortress “in the sky” that rises more than 600 feet out of the jungle. 
    • Visiting the emerald-green tea gardens in the cool air around the town of Nuwala Eliya, a British-colonial-era hill station. 
    • Searching for elephants, leopards, and monkeys in the Yala and Udawalawe national parks. 
    • Relaxing on sandy beaches at one of many resorts along the coasts. 
    • Discovering the capital of Colombo, a mix of colonial architecture and modern-day amenities. 
    • Marveling at the colossal rock sculptures of Buddha in the island’s medieval capital of Polonnaruwa.
    • Touring the old town of Galle, a Dutch-influenced seaport with a huge fort and a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

Sri Lanka Tours & Travel Guide

Sri Lanka Attractions & Landmarks Guide

Situated just south of India, the tropical island of Sri Lanka is home to ancient cities, temples, and rock carvings; tea estates; wildlife; rainforests; highlands, and a thousand miles of beaches. Honored with eight World Heritage Sites and dubbed the Jewel of the Indian Ocean, it’s a destination not to miss.

The late writer Arthur C. Clarke lived in Sri Lanka for decades and dubbed it the “Jewel of the Indian Ocean.” Marco Polo allegedly called it his favorite island. The word “serendipity” was even coined from one of its past names, Serendib. 

Formerly known as Ceylon when it was under British colonial rule, Sri Lanka has long been overshadowed by India, its giant neighbor to the north. Millions of years ago, the two countries were connected by a thin strip of land, but today they offer very different cultural experiences. Sri Lanka should by no means be just an afterthought in an Asian Subcontinent tour – it deserves to be ranked among the world’s top destinations in and of itself. 

Why Visit Sri Lanka on a Tour?

The country emerged from a brutal civil war in 2009 when the government defeated the Tamil Tigers – who hoped to carve out an independent state in the island’s north and east – after a 25-year insurrection. The Tamils surrendered and the country has been at peace ever since. 

While only the size of West Virginia and with a population of 25 million, the island sports such a variety of attractions and activities that it’s hard to squeeze everything into a one week tour, but a tour does offer the best chance to see as much as possible. 

Traveling with a tour group takes all the stress of planning out allowing you to sit back and enjoy the trip. Since Sri Lanka is still new to the travel scene, tour operations will know all the best places to see, what to visit and what to skip, which may not be clear if you’re planning on traveling by yourself.

Local guides can help you understand customs, answer your questions, help with translation, etc. The tourism “boom” is happening right now, which means some areas are not quite equipped for the tourism it’s receiving. Roads are unpaved, limited English, and quick shop stores for a snack or toiletries may be difficult to find. Traveling with a Sri Lanka tour allows for a fun, relaxing experience!

Key Sights and Activities in Sri Lanka

Ancient Sites (all UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the interior of the island):

Kandy, once a royal stronghold and the last capital of the island’s Sinhala kings, is a picturesque city in Sri Lanka’s hill country. This sacred city is home to the golden-domed Temple of the Tooth, containing a tooth relic of the Buddha. 

Anuradhapura, the island’s first capital, dates from the 5th century BC and is the place to see monasteries, stupas, and temples; one temple is larger than all but two of Egypt’s pyramids. It’s also home to the Sacred Bo Tree, which lays claim to being the world’s oldest living tree.

Dambulla is known for its caves containing temples and a Buddha, all carved from rock. Rock paintings there are over 2,000 years old. 

Polonnaruwa was the island’s medieval capital (from the 11th to 13th centuries) and is the site of colossal rock sculptures of the Buddha. 

Sigiriya is the site of the Lion Rock, a 650-foot-high rock fortress in the jungle dating from the 5th century. You can walk through its water gardens, view its rock paintings, and climb the rock itself.

Can't Miss Temples in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is known for it’s religious significance among Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. The country has a deep history with Hindu and Buddhism, which is why it’s home to many Buddhist and Hindu temples.

Below is a list of some of the most popular temples in Sri Lanka.

1. Dambulla Cave Temple - Golden Temple of Dambulla is the largest cave temple complex located in Dambulla. The cave sits under a 160 meter high rock. The cave is well preserved, and visitors can see cave paintings and Buddha statues. The cave features drip lines for the water to pass through, which help keep the cave drive, which resulted in the cave being preserved.

2. Gangaramaya Temple sits on an island in Beira lake in Colombo. The temple is one of the most visited sights in Colombo. has the main features of a Vihara, the Cetiya, the Bodhi tree, a Seema Malaka (where monks gather), the Relic Chamber and the Vihara Mandiraya. Beyond being a temple, the complex hosts an orphanage, an education center (with a library and a museum), and an old age home.

3. Hendeniya Rajamaha Viharaya sits outside Kandy in Uda Nuwara, and is where the city actually got its name from. The cave was built at the request of Henekanda Biso Bandara, for a resting place when she visited nearby areas, such as Embekke Devale and Lankatillake Vihara.

4. Isipathanaramaya Temple is famous for it’s carved walls and Buddha statues. A combination of a temple and museum, any visit to Isipathanaramaya is remembered for being a serene experience. Frescoes (watercolor mural paintings) are found at the temple, which add to it’s beauty.

5. The Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara Temple sits outside of Colombo in Viharaya. Dating back to 500 BC, this temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples. There is an 18 foot long bodhisattva Avolkitescvara statue found at the temple.

6. Koneswaram Temple is located in Sri Lanka's eastern province. This Hindu temple is vital because of it’s size and popularity. The temple has recorded history from 300 CE, and is one of the Sri Lankan temples based around the Hindu deity Shiva.

7. Sri Dalada Maligawa – The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is located in the royal palace complex in the city of Kandy. The tooth is kept in a golden box, and the tooth supposedly belonged to Buddha himself. This is one of the most visited and holiest shrines in Buddhism.

8. Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Temple is the oldest, and one of the biggest, Hindu temples in the country! Located in Captain’s Garden in the Maradana district, it’s sometimes referred to as the Captain’s Gardens Pillayar Kovil, or the Kovil Veediya. Celebrations are hosted here during the harvest festival of Thai Pongal, an annual festival every January. The temple is known for its architecture and history, too.

9. Sri Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Kovil is memorable with its colorful architecture. The temple was recently built, in 2011, but has quickly risen to be one of the most popular temples in Sri Lanka. Visit during the morning ceremony, filled with singing and chanting.

10. Sri Vajiraramaya Temple – Colombo is where monks have taken on the role of introducing and sharing the message of Buddhism to western countries. The temple is a great place to learn about Buddhism. The structure and architecture, along with the statues, of the temple are worth stopping for.

Other Cities and Towns

Colombo is Sri Lanka’s modern-day capital and commercial center and site of its international airport, so most tours would start and end here. There are colonial-era buildings to view as well as some excellent hotels, restaurants, and shops. 

Galle, a southern seaport, shows heavy influence from Dutch colonial days. It has a huge fort and its old town is another World Heritage Site. 

Nuwara Eliya, in the heart of Sri Lanka’s highlands tea country, displays Georgian and Queen Anne homes built by the British during the colonial era. It’s a good place to cool off and admire the tea estates some 6,000 feet Above sea level. 

Ratnapura is Sri Lanka’s gemstone central, where sapphires, rubies, topaz and other precious stones are mined. You can see them in a gemstone museum or consider making a purchase.

Outdoor Activities

Yala and Udalawale national parks, both in southern Sri Lanka, are rich in wildlife. It’s said you have a 100 percent chance of seeing wild Asian elephants there, and a 60 percent chance of spotting leopards. Monkeys, wild boar, sloth bears, and peacocks are other possible sightings. Throughout the island -- including in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a World Heritage Site -- more than 400 species of birds have been recorded. You can also go whale and dolphin watching in the ocean.  

Beaches. With a thousand miles of sandy beaches and warm, blue Indian Ocean waters, you could easily be tempted to add a beach resort to your tour. Two of the top beach regions are Bentota in the southwest and Trincomalee in the northeast.  

Adventurous Pursuits. Sri Lanka is blessed with diverse beauty: beaches, coral reefs, mangrove swamps, rainforest, mountains, tea estates, waterfalls, and more. Seeing at least part of it by mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, rafting, Scuba diving, and snorkeling adds an extra dimension to your travels.  

With all these things to see and do, a tour of Sri Lanka might seem overwhelming. But it’s said that there’s no word for “goodbye” in Sri Lanka, so, if true, you can simply assume you’ll be back to someday further explore this remarkable island.

Wildlife in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the top countries in the world for animal biodiversity.

Elephants are the most common animal that people see while visiting Sri Lanka. There are options to see them in both elephant orphanages, and out in the wild.

Leopards are another common animal found in Sri Lanka. In some countries, such as in Africa, leopards fall prey to lions and tigers. Without the threat of those animals, leopards in Sri Lanka are more relaxed and are often found lounging in the trees!

Red Slender Loris is known for it's huge eyes and slender limbs. The animal is only found in Sri Lankan rainforest. All of the development that is taking over the rainforest has led to a decline in popular, where the red slender loris is currently endangered.

Sambar is a type of deer, and Sri Lanka is home to the largest sambar in the world. Every year, sambar’s shed their antlers, which are turned into objects such as knife handles. Dry season is the best time to see them, when they are out looking for water.

Sloth Bears are a bit more difficult to find, but they are out there. Their coats are a bit shaggier than a black/brown bear, and they act a bit clumsy, but they are awesome climbers. The best opportunity to spot them is in June or July, when fruit trees are ripe and they come out to eat!

Sri Lanka National Parks

The best places to see wildlife in Sri Lanka are in the National Parks. These animals are free to roam and you get to see them in their most authentic behavior, while ensuring they aren’t being mistreated. The freedom and silence of animals in the wild is an experience unlike any other.

Below are some must visit parks for anyone heading to Sri Lanka!

1. Yala National Park

Animals found here include elephants, leopards (this park has the highest leopard density in Sri Lanka), sloth bears, and sambar, to name a few. There are 44 different mammals and 215 bird species in the park. Dry season (February-June) is a popular time to visit, since animals often come out to drink water.

2. Udawalawe National Park

Created to provide a sanctuary for the animals who were displaced while there was construction for the Udawalawe Reservoir, many visitors come to this park in hopes to see elephants. There are over 5,000 elephants in the park, so the likelihood of seeing an elephant is high. Other animals in the park include monkey, leopards, buffalo and various bird species.

3. Minneriya National Park 

Home to the elephant gathering in the months of August and September, Minneriya is located in the northern region of Sri Lanka. Minneriya National Park is part of the elephant corridor, where elephants migrate across Sri Lanka to Minneriya’s reservoir every year.

Sri Lanka Reviews & Ratings

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Anonymous

Aug 2018

Provided byExodus Travels

Highlands of Sri Lanka walking tour

Two weeks walking tour in Sri Lank. through cultural hotspots, mountain ranges, tea plantations, national parks. An excellent programme for a first discovery of th...

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Anonymous

Aug 2018

Provided byExodus Travels

Excellent

This was one of the best trips I have ever done. The country was beautiful and very varied with excellent walking. The superb local and historical knowledge of our...

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Anonymous

Aug 2018

Provided byExodus Travels

A Great Experience

A fantastic experience. The weather wasn't always with us, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway. The treks were varied and very interesting. The whale watching trip is ...

A

Anonymous

Aug 2018

Provided byExodus Travels

Highlands of Sri Lanka

A wonderful experience in a beautiful country. The welcoming smiles of the Sri Lankan people. Sujee was excellent - caring, helpful and knowledgeable with a passio...

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Anonymous

Aug 2018

Provided byExodus Travels

Highlands of sri lanka

A totally encompassing experience. Sujee the guide shared many different aspects of such a wonderful country. Not always easy =as in walking in the rain with leech...

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