Sri Lanka is a popular backpacking destination. Experience the below10 highlights and sights on the island.
Sri Lanka is a backpacker destination for adventurers as well as culture and beach lovers. On the beautiful island in the Indian Ocean, you can perfectly surf, hike or just relax. Sri Lanka offers not only beautiful leisure activities but also an interesting culture and sights. Valentin and Jasmin von Vakuya travelled individually for 3 weeks as backpackers through the island.
In this guest article, they share their 10 highlights in Sri Lanka with us.
10 highlights in Sri Lanka
1. Ella’s Landscapes: Hiking in Sri Lanka’s Highlands
If you want to travel to the highlands of Sri Lanka, you must love hiking and nature. Here you can see and discover so much. Ella is a small upland town popular with backpackers.
The most famous mountains are on the one hand the Ella Rock and on the other hand the Little Adam’s Peak or Adam’s Peak. In terms of difficulty, Little Adam’s Peak is the easiest to master. This is followed by the Ella Rock and the heaviest is the climb to Adam’s Peak.
Coupled with the climate and the pristine nature that is simply beautiful. If you want to know more about the sights and excursion destinations in the highlands, then you are welcome to read our contribution to the small village of Ella in Sri Lanka.
2. Tangalle Beach & Beaches on Sri Lanka’s West Coast
Sri Lanka is known as a surfing paradise. For swimming, the beaches are rarely suitable due to the high waves, but they are terrific for relaxing or surfing.
We love Southeast Asia and its beaches, but in Sri Lanka, we have seen the most beautiful beaches so far. White sand, turquoise water and lush green palm trees are easy to find on Sri Lanka’s west coast. Even remote, quiet and deserted beaches are there. They are perfect for experiencing sunrises or even sunsets all by you.
Our favourite beach in Sri Lanka is the Silent Beach at Tangalle. On this dream beach, you will find only a small bar, where you can get cold drinks. Otherwise, you see white sand and can listen to the waves.
If you prefer a larger selection of bars, we recommend the Hikkaduwa Beach. This is located on the west coast and is only 98 kilometres south of the capital Colombo in the colonial town of Galle. Nevertheless, he is not overcrowded. Especially for surfers, the Hikkaduwa Beach is probably the first address.
3. Sri Lanka’s famous train ride through the highlands
In Sri Lanka, the way is the way. Through the highlands in the middle of the island, the train travels at a leisurely 30 kilometres per hour. Left and right, a beautiful landscape opens up with mountains, tea plantations and waterfalls.
Instagram-known is the photos, as someone sticks his head out of the beautiful blue train and admires the green landscape. You can alternatively secure a seat at the door. This is open during the entire ride and you can let your legs dangle and simply enjoy. However, this place is also sought after by other tourists.
The passengers were quite mixed with us. Of course, many tourists are travelling by train, but also some locals. It is very interesting to see how young people play Sri Lankans on the train with their bongos, singing and spreading good spirits. In our article about Ella, we have some tips on the train ride in Sri Lanka.
4. Pure nature: Sri Lanka’s botanical gardens in Kandy
So far we have not seen many botanical gardens, but one blew us away, namely the Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy. This covers an area of 80 hectares of green space.
A swinging iron bridge is the entrance to the botanical garden. There you will find biodiversity of about 4000 different plant species. These include orchids, giant bamboo, cacti and many more. We were impressed by the sequoias with their huge roots.
Kandy has many other great destinations in addition to the botanical garden. Here you will learn all about the sights in Kandy.
5. Sri Lanka Elephant Safari: Udawale & Yala National Park
Do you like elephants? Do not miss a safari in one of the many national parks. We were in Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka. He is known for his large elephant herds.
For leopard sightings, you’ll be more fortunate in Yala National Park. But he is also very overrun by his reputation. It’s all about the search for the coveted leopard.
We would rather have a relaxed safari through a quiet national park. Nevertheless, we were very excited about biodiversity. The creativity of nature is especially evident in the many different species of birds.
6. Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle: 4 old capitals & landmarks
Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle encloses 4 ancient capitals. The most famous of these and a landmark of Sri Lanka is the rock city Sigiriya (Lion Rock). Avoid Sigiriya yourself best. Instead, enjoy the better view from neighbouring Pidurangala Rock. So you save yourself tourist hordes and the expensive entry.
The oldest capital of Sri Lanka is Anuradhapura. The huge Buddhist stupas there together with the pyramids belonged to the largest buildings in the world. Every day many pilgrims come to see an offshoot of the bodhi tree under which Buddha found enlightenment. See also in the near Mihintale, where forest monks in primitive Buddhism live in small rock huts.
If you do not have enough culture, check out the second oldest capital Polonnaruwa. The ruins there are not as huge as in Anuradhapura, but more detailed and artful. When changing direction Sigiriya worth a stop in the cave temples of Dambulla.
7. Backpacking costs: Are prices in Sri Lanka cheap?
Of course, the prices play a big role in a backpacking trip. Cheap Southeast Asia is, therefore, a very popular destination for backpackers.
In Sri Lanka, as a traveller, you have low costs and still comparatively high quality. The island is generally a bit more expensive than Southeast Asia.
All details about the cost of a trip to Sri Lanka can be found in our article: Travel Costs and Itinerary in Sri Lanka.
8. Food for Foodies: Sri Lanka’s Spicy Food
There is no dispute about taste, but the food in Sri Lanka is something special. At least you should have tried it to know if it’s for you.
Sri Lanka was colonized as a spice island by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The locals also love many and especially strong spices in their food – similar to South India.
The food in Sri Lanka is certainly not as spicy as in Thailand. But most dishes are flavorful. If you like spicy food, you will not starve in Sri Lanka.
9. Ceylon tea experience with a factory tour
The tea island is known for its Ceylon tea. Until 1972, Sri Lanka was even called Ceylon. Tea plantations can be found almost everywhere in Sri Lanka.
In many places, there are also tea factories. You can visit these on your journey through Sri Lanka. There, the staff will explain how the production of the famous tea works and what you should pay attention to when buying it. The tours in the tea factories are mostly free, but of course, the staff is happy about a donation after the tour. In the end, you can buy the tea directly in a shop in the factory.
We are absolute tea lovers anyway and have rarely drunk so much tea as in these 3 weeks. You were only in Sri Lanka if you tried the fresh tea there!
10. Residents of Sri Lanka: friendly locals
The Sri Lankans were the most enthusiastic about their openness. Especially as a backpacker in Sri Lanka you get in contact with the locals, who are incredibly interested in the European culture and the German way of life. This is how you get to know and love the country easily, quickly and personally.
We’ve met all sorts of locals, from Sri Lankan IT students to simple sellers and traders. Everyone was extremely friendly and accommodating.
Of course, we are talking about our experiences, which were really positive throughout. Certainly, there are also black sheep in Sri Lanka and things happen that you cannot understand.