Sri Lanka: Everything You Need to Know to Plan the Perfect Trip
Just off the southeast coast of India lies the island nation of Sri Lanka. It is a tropical paradise of white sand beaches, wildlife and delicious food.
Known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, it is the perfect destination for a vacation steeped in ancient history and a taste of South Asian culture, followed by mountain hikes and plenty of water sports.
In a matter of hours, you can travel through different ecosystems of Sri Lanka. Where else in the world can you visit a 300 BC city in the morning and go on an afternoon wildlife safari?
Sri Lanka is blessed with magnificent landscapes, historic capitals and temples so unique that they are considered to be of global significance. The country is even home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip.
Sri Lanka Travel Rules
Sri Lanka is open to visitors from the majority of countries, but all foreign travelers will need a visa, health insurance and a COVID-19 test result taken 72 hours before their arrival.
Fully vaccinated travelers from unrestricted countries also no longer have to be tested for COVID-19 on the seventh day.
For visitors from the UK, the island has recently been removed from the red list.
There is also a way for unvaccinated visitors to visit. They will have to test negative and then they will be part of a “biological bubble”. This concept allows tourists to travel the country in semi-isolated groups and allows them to do sightseeing without mingling with the local population.
While in a ‘bio bubble’ you should stay in an approved hotel, visit approved sites at specific times, travel by independent transport, undergo frequent COVID-19 testing, and refrain from mingling with locals. .
“Despite the unprecedented challenges we have faced since 2019, we are stronger than ever. The year 2021 to 2030 has been declared Sri Lanka’s ‘Decade of Growth’, ”Sri Lanka Tourism President Kimarli Fernando told Euronews Travel.
“Our country’s heritage, culture, wildlife, nature, beaches and more have always proven to be popular. Sri Lanka is a post COVID-19 traveler’s paradise and we are delighted to welcome tourists and grow the tourism industry. “
What are the best things to do in nature?
1. Enjoy the greatest number of leopards you will see anywhere in the world
It surprised us to learn that Sri Lanka has the highest density of leopards in the world. A safari in Yala National Park – Sri Lanka’s second largest park – is the best way to spy on the elusive leopard.
Going to Yala at sunrise is an epic experience and gives the best chance of spotting the leopard and an array of wildlife that inhabit this arid area.
2. See the largest land and sea mammals
Sri Lanka is the only country where you can see both the elephant and the blue whale – the largest land and sea mammals on the planet and all within hours of each other.
The country has its own “big five”: blue whales, sperm whales, leopards, Asian elephants and sloth bears, as well as one of the highest species densities in the world.
You can see elephants in Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park, Lunugamvehera National Park, Wilpattu National Park, and Minneriya National Park. They also live outside of protected areas – which can be a wonderful or terrifying experience.
The south coast around Galle and Mirissa is the best place for responsible blue whale watching.
3. Attend the largest gathering of elephants in Asia
The largest known gathering of Asian elephants takes place every year in Minneriya National Park. Lonely Planet ranked it among the top ten wildlife events in the world.
Watching these magnificent animals converge is a sight to behold. Different herds travel together with one goal in mind: water.
But make no mistake about it. This is not a migration but an annual gathering of wild animals that come to sip the waters of the Minneriya Tank at the end of the dry season.
4. Take part in one of the most beautiful train rides in the world
Selfies taken on trains driving through tea plantations are one of Sri Lanka’s most recognizable images. But there is a reason for this.
The train routes in Sri Lanka are some of the most beautiful in the world. A train through the hills gives you sweeping views, winding through thick verdant jungles and the aforementioned tea plantations.
Aim for the road from Kandy to Ella. It’s a 7 hour drive that may seem like a long time, but it will be one of the highlights of your trip.
Crossing the colossal Nine-Arch Bridge is another experience not to be missed. Also called “Bridge in the Sky”, it is a viaduct bridge and one of the best examples of colonial era railway construction in the country.
5. Sailing on the south coast
For those who want to see the southern coast of Sri Lanka in all its glory, while avoiding the tourist crowds, this seven day sailing trip with G Adventures is perfect.
Boarding a 53-foot catamaran, you’ll embark on a journey along the coast, stopping at historic port towns, tiny fishing villages, and coves along the way. With a chef and a skipper on board, you will be treated to delicious seafood meals.
With abundant marine life, you will also visit the Underwater Trench, frequented by dolphins and whales who use it for food.
What are the best regions?
If you want to surf, staying in beautiful Arugam Bay is a good option. It is a very relaxed area, with similar vibes to Goa in India.
The dry season and the best time to surf are from May to September. The best waves arrive in July, August and September.
While if you want a bit of nightlife, Galle is where it is. Some of the most famous bars are ‘The Lady Hill’, perched atop the highest hill in the area, ‘Taphouse’ and ‘The Tamarind Hill Bar’.
If you are looking for sunbathing, Pasikuda Beach comes highly recommended and also offers day trips, such as an elephant back safari. Pasikuda, which means ‘green algae bay’, is located about 35 kilometers from the town of Batticaloa and is famous for its turquoise blue waters.
Kandy, Anuradhapura and Jaffna are the best places to soak up Sri Lanka’s rich history. Kandy in particular is famous for its sacred Buddhist sites, most notably the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) shrine.