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If you’re looking for an adventurous destination full of hiking, history, wildlife, incredible food, and beautiful scenery, look no further than Sri Lanka! Spot leopards and elephants on safari, try surfing and diving, hike mountains and waterfalls for incredible views, and explore historic Buddhist relics.
For adventure lovers and thrill-seekers who are heading to Sri Lanka, this is my ultimate list of activities to try and places to visit on your Sri Lanka trip!
1. Hike Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock)
Sigiriya is a UNESCO heritage ancient rock fortress that you can visit in Dambulla, Matale, a district in Central Sri Lanka. One of the coolest things to do at the huge rock formation is to climb up its 1200 steps and take a breathtaking view of the dense jungle beneath. When you are done at Sigiriya, you can camp closeby and go over to Pidurangala Rock, which is next door, for another great climb.
Fun Fact: you can easily hike Sigiriya from Colombo it only takes about 2.5 hours to travel from Colombo to Matale by bus!
2. See Leopards on Safari at Yala National Park
If you dream of going on a safari in Sri Lanka, look no further than Yala National Park. Located in southeast Sri Lanka on the edge of the Indian Ocean, the massive park is full of forestry and wildlife and is a sanctuary for elephants, crocodiles, leopards, and hundreds of different bird species. However, Yala National Park is most famous for its leopards! Further inland, there are some old and ruined Buddhist monasteries that you can make a pilgrimage to.
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Awesome video by Nuwadu!
3. See the Waterfalls and Tea Plantations at Nuwara Eliya
Located in Sri Lanka’s Central Province, Nuwara Eliya is famous for its pleasantly cool climate and for its many old British colonial buildings. At Nuwara Eliya, enjoy the British architecture around town while also venturing out to the waterfalls and tea plantations located in the highlands. There, you can also get a look at Pidurutalagala, Sri Lanka’s tallest mountain.
Be sure to take the train here from Kandy for an incredible view of the highlands and tea plantations!
4. See the Buddhist Caves at Dambulla
When you go on a day trip from Colombo to Matale, you should definitely consider a stop in Dambulla. While the town is the hub for the country’s vegetable distribution, you might be interested in visiting to marvel at its complex of Buddhist cave temples, which are the biggest and best-preserved in the entire country. If you have the time, you might also want to visit Na Uyana Aranya or the Iron Wood Forest.
5. Take a Visit to the Ancient Capital of Anuradhapura
Another place worth visiting is the city of Anuradhapura. Anuradhapura is one of Sri Lanka’s old capitals and was once the capital city of the Rajarata Kingdom. It was also one of the seats of Theravada Buddhism for hundreds of years. With so much age and culture, it is no wonder that Anuradhapura is one of Sri Lanka’s eight World Heritage Sites. Prepare to be totally blown away by all the perfectly-preserved structures, with ruins from the age of the Sinhala and old Buddhist temples with beautiful wall paintings.
6. Hike Adam’s Peak
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If you are a real adventure lover, there is no way you can miss out on hiking the amazing Sri Pada, commonly known as Adam’s Peak or Butterfly Mountain. Situated in northeastern Ratnapura, Adam’s Peak is the fourth tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. At the top of its 2244m is a sacred rock formation, which many of the locals told me is either the footprint of Siddhartha Gautama himself or the first footprint of Adam, the first man. The hike takes about 3 hours to complete and it is advisable to go round between December – May when the weather is great.
7. Snorkel, Surf, and Scuba Dive on Hikkaduwa Beach
The small town of Hikkaduwa is located in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province, only 90 mins from the capital, Colombo. Prepare to be spellbound by soft sands and the beautiful waters of Hikkaduwa Beach. After spending some time on the beach, be sure to head straight for Hikkaduwa Coral Sanctuary, which is the best spot in the area to go snorkeling and diving. If you want to surf as well, the best time to go surfing at Hikkaduwa is between November and March!
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8. Ride the Train to Ella
Next on this list of adventurous places to visit is the picturesque little town of Ella. You will find her tucked away between dazzling waterfalls and rolling hills in the open Sri Lankan countryside. The first thing you should do is get on the train heading from Ella to Kandy. The vistas on the journey are magnificent, especially the view of the Nine Arch Bridge.
Once in Ella, you should also hike up to the top of Ella Rock for an incredible view of the surrounding countryside!
Love this video by Martin Soulhagen
9. Swim in Diyaluma Falls’ Natural Infinity Pool!
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If you are a truly adventurous traveler, then you’re probably on the lookout for the coolest off the beaten path places. If that’s you, look no further than Diyaluma Falls. One of the most breathtaking places you will find in Sri Lanka, this 220m high waterfall is Sri Lanka’s second tallest waterfall. Here you will not only find breathtaking views, but also a natural infinity pool!
Diyaluma Falls is located in the Badulla District and you can get to it via a 2-hour tuk-tuk from Ella.
10. Spot Elephants on Safari in Udawalawe National Park
Last but not least is Udawale National Park. Udawalawe is very far (about 5 hours) from Colombo, but there’s no way you can head to Souther Sri Lanka without visiting the magnificent elephants that call this park their home. With hundreds of elephants living in Udawalawe National Park, there’s no better place to go in all of Sri Lanka to see elephants in their natural habitat.
Of course, there are many other animals to see in Udawalawe, including the Sri Lankan leopard, the Asian palm civet, Bengal monitors, and various species of birds!
Let’s Hear From You!
Any other amazing adventurous activities in Sri Lanka you’d like to add to the list? Let me know in a comment below! I’m always checking for new comments and questions so I’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP!