Top 20 attractions in Sri Lanka - ranking lists with tips for travellers
Besides our list of Top 20 attractions of the entire island of Sri Lanka, we also present Top 20 destinations for day-trips in each specific holiday region
Lanka's Top 20 places of interest
20 famous sites for multi-day round-tours
20 more destinations off the beaten track
Top 20 attractions in Sri Lanka
1. Sigiriya Lion Rock
World Heritage Site Sigiriya is both a place of scenic beauty and a multi-faceted and unique excavated town. The "Lion Rock" is the most popular attraction in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle. More...
2. Yala National Park
Yala is Sri Lanka's most frequented wildlife park to due to its variety of landscape and vegetation forms and animal species and the record-breaking density of its leopard population. More...
3. Adam's Peak
Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka's landmark mountain, is one of the island's most sacred places for Buddhhists and Hindus and Muslims alike. The vistas from the top are breathtaking indeed. More...
Polonnaruwa is Sri Lanka's excavation site which comes closest to what is a picturebook dream city in ruins amidst the jungles. Its rock-cut Buddha statues of Gal Vihara are world-famous. More...
Anuradhapura is one of the most important ancient sites in South Asia. Its landmarks are three stupas that are unsurpassed in size, actually the world's largest bakestone-buildings. More...
6. Minneriya Elephant Gathering
During northern summer months, Minneriya Lake in the national park of the same name is the place with the largest amount of wild Asien elephants, an unforgettable wildlife experience. More...
7. Dambulla cave temple
The Golden Temple of Dambulla is the best example of a Sri Lankan cave temple, rock shelter transfrormed into image houses with Buddhist statue and decorated with Kandyan paintings. More...
Kandy, situated in a green valley in the northern part of the hillcountry, is the religious and also the cultural centre of traditional Sinhalese Buddhism, Kandy has numerous tourist attractions. More...
9. Horton Plains
Horton Plains is the only national park situated in the highlands of Sri Lanka. The most popular hiking destination of Horton Plains are Bakers Falls and two vistas known as "World's End". More...
Kithulgala is Sri Lanka's adventure holiday number one. White water river rafting is the main attraction. You can also do cayaking, waterfall abseiling, canyoning, hiking, birdwatching. More...
Ella is one of the loveliest place in Sri Lanka's hillcountry. The vistas to the Ella Gap are famous and hiking tours, easy or intermediate level, are rewarding in this scenic tea growing area. More...
The Fortress of Galle, the best-preserved Dutch colonial town in Asia, is the World Heritage Site which is situated close to the beach resorts of Sri Lanka's Southern Province. More...
13. Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawela near Kegalle is famous for the world's largest elephant orphanage. Bottle-feeding of baby elephants is possible. Seeing the large herd of elephants bathing is a must-see. More...
14. Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is both a tea region and a city. The town, which is the highest in the mountains of Sri Lanka, is proud to be called Little England" due to its colonial flair. More...
15. Sinharaja Rain Forest
Sinharaja is Sri Lanka's largest virgin rain forest in the wet monsoon region. The reserve is a perfect area for hiking tours, particularly in the dry main season between December and April. More...
Yapahuwa is Sri Lanka's only well-preserved citadel from the medieval period and full of great attractions for heritage tourists. Surprisingly, it's still a pretty undisturbed place, a hidden beauty. More...
17. Mirissa Whale Watching
Mirissa is a lovely beach resort at the south coast, which has recently become Sri Lanka's most beloved destination for whale watchoing enthusiasts. Blue whale season is from November to April. More...
Buduruwagala has both the tallest rock-cut Buddha statue and the largest group of such rock-carved sculptures in Sri Lanka. They have evidently Mahayanistic and Tantric features. More...
Trincomalee at the East Coast hasby far the best natural harbour of the Bay of Bengal. A major Hindu pilgrimage temple, Konneshvaram Kovil dedicated to Shiva, attracts devotees from India. More...
20. Nainativu Island
The small island of Nainativu to the northeast of Jaffna is a lgrimage site for both Buddhists and Hindus, a place visited by Buddha and nearby a huge Dravidian temple of the goddess, Shiva's consort. More...
Top 20 hidden gems in Sri Lanka
Many travellers, of course, know the World Heritage Site Sigiriya, but only few know that the neighbouring rock of Pidurangala has even more breathtaking vistas and lots of other attractions, too. More...
2. Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya is the only national Park in Sri Lanka which offers boat safaris, as the centrepiece of the park is the largest lake in Sri Lanka. Gal Oya is perfect for observing elephants and birds. More...
Pilikuttuwa is an ancient site that is still a living forest monastery. Situated not far away from the busy Colombo, Pilikuttuwa is a surprisingly quiet and lush green place off the beaten path. More...
4. Kumana National Park
Kumana is a less crowded national park east of the famous Yala NP. Kumana is known for Sri Lanka's largest variety of bird species. Chances to observe mugger crocodiles are high. More...
Deanston between Hunnasgiriya and Corbett's Gap and Meemure in the Knuckles Range is starting point for a small, but very rewarding hike to a vantage point known as "Mini World's End". More...
Tantirimale 37 km to the northwest of Anuradhapura has a large reclining Buddha cut from the rock and a very old Bo-tree and prehistoric rock paintings and much more in a very scenic setting. More...
Ridiviharaya, the "Siver Monastery", in Ridigama, rarely visited by foreign travellers, is a pilgrimage site and one of the most interesting and beautiful Buddhist cave temples in Sri Lanka. More...
Thiriyai, though less known among tourists, is the most important ancient site in the Eastern Province, due to the best-preserved typical Sri Lankan circular temple and its sculptural art. More...
9. Maduru Oya National Park
Among Sri Lanka's 3 largest national parks, Maduru Oya is by far the most remote one, almost undisturbed. This is why a wildlife safari in Maduru Oya is highly recommendable for nature lovers. More...
Mulkirigala is a monadnock rising vertically from the green jungles also the best example of a painted cave temple in the deep south, hence a little bit of both Sigiriya and Dambulla. More...
Embedded in a lush jungle and rocky outcrops, the site formerly known as Rayangana and now renamed "elephant belly", Hatthikucchi, is one of the quaintest heritage destination in Sri Lanka. More...
Dimbulagala, the largest mountain range near ancient Polonnaruwa, is crowded with nice heritage sites, such as a new museum, ruins of a monastery, caves and rock paintings. More...
13. Aberdeen Falls
Aberdeen Falls is one of the quaintest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. The stairway to the bottom of the waterfalls can be reached from Norton Bridge or from Kitulgala. Hiking tours start at Ginigathena. More...
14. Wilandagoda Aranya
Wilandagoda near Wilpattu National Park is a typical ancient monastery with several cave temples. The very picturesque site is almost unknown to most group or pocketguide travellers. More...
Madagama is a typical monadnock with rock shelters. Some of them are still inhabited by Buddhist monks. Its natural beauty makes Madagama an amazing site indeed, calm and undisturbed. More...
Sri Lanka's largest monolithic Buddha statue is not rock-carved but free-standing. The giant ancient Buddha statue of Maligawila was broken and has been restored and reerected only recently. More...
17. Rufus Kulam
Rufus Kulam is one of the most lovely reservoirs in Sri Lanka. Bordering Kanchikudi, the largest jungle that is not a national park, Rufus Kulam is a place to observe wildlife without fees. More...
18. Mannakethi Falls
The picturesque Mannakethi Falls not far away from Sri Lanka's major river rafting area in Kitulgala are almost unknown to tourists, because they are a little bit hidden and not easy to find. More...
Kiralagala is the first monastery in the Pamsukulika style. Though it's a relatively large heritage site, it is almost unknown to foreigners. Reason is the location apart from the main roads. More...
20. Bogoda Bridge
Bogoda in the Uva Bassin near Badulla has the oldest surviving wooden bridge of Sri Lanka, built in the 17th century. It served as piligrimm access to a cave temple and also as an Ambalama. More...
And where's Sri Lanka's largest National Park?
Lists of Sri Lanka's attractions...
... here you find them classified by topics
In the central of three columns on this page you will find links to overview pages to various categories of cultural and natural destinations. The left column has two Top 20 lists, firstly of most popular and, secondly those most recommendable sites that are less visited. The column to right presents numerous Top 20 lists of destinations for specific regions and cities in Sri Lanka. In the footer below our three columns, you can dind a list of more than 200 rewarding travel destinations in alphabetic order. But let's get started with the topics...
Sri Lanka's World Heritage Sites
Sri Lanka is prowd to have eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, six of them culturaland two of them natural, the latter being Sinharaja rain forest and the montane forest areas of the Central Highlands. Five World Heritage Sites are located in the Cultural Triangle, namely the ancient capitals Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, which form the "corners" of that triangle, and two spectacular sites in the centre of that area, namely Sigiriya Lion Rock and the Dambulla cave temples. The sixth cultural World Heritage Site is the fortified Old Town of Galle in the very southwest of the island, which is the best-preserved colonial town in Asia.
More about Sri Lanka's World Heritage Sites...
Sri Lanka's Cities
To be honest, Sri Lanka's cities are not the most amazing ones in Asia. Only Kandy, which is charming indeed, is a must-see for those who are interested in round tours. The largest city, of course, is Colombo. Though not a must-see, the sprawling city has variety of places of interest from the colonial past as well as from modern times.
Sri Lanka's Sacred Places
Sri Lanka's Ancient Temples
Sri Lanka's Historical Caves
Sri Lanka's Giant Stupas
Sri Lanka's Rock-cut Buddhas
Sri Lanka's Mountains
Sri Lanka's Waterfalls
Sri Lanka is the country with the highest density of waterfalls in the world.
Sri Lanka's National Parks
Sri Lanka's Activity Attractions
Sri Lanka's Beaches
Jaffna Peninsula of Sri Lanka
Top 20 attractions for 1-day-trips
day-excursions for holidays at only one place
Top 20 day-trips for holiday makers...
at southern coasts... or in the hillcountry... or in the Cultral Triangle... or in North and East...
Top 20 places of interest in great cities...
Kandy... Anuradhapura... Polonnaruwa... Colombo...
Southern & Southwestern Coasts
1. Yala National Park
3. Sinharaja Rain Forest
4. Mirissa Whale Watching
6. Udawalawa National Park
9. Rekawa Turtle Beach
10. Hoomaniya Blow Hole
11. Lunuganga Gardens
12. Bundala National Park
15. Unawatuna Beach
16. Wawulpane Cave
17. Meetiyagoda moonstone mine
18. Brief Gardens
19. Hikkaduwa Beach
20. Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery
Highlands of central Sri Lanka
1. Adam's Peak
3. Horton Plains
6. Nuwara Eliya
9. Aberdeen Falls
10. Peradeniya Gardens
12. Dunhinda Falls
16. Hakgala Botanical Gardens
18. Bogoda Bridge
Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle
4. Minneriya Elephant Gathering
8. Aukana Buddha
15. Kaudulla National Park
19. Namal Uyana
All places mentioned above are within day-trip distance from almost all hotels and guest houses in the Cultural Triangle. However, the best starting point for single-day excursions in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle is the Sigiriya-Dambulla area includung Habarana and Kandalama.
North and East of Sri Lanka
2. Nainativu Island
3. Kumana National Park
6. Arugam Bay
8. Delft Island
11. Mannar Island
16. Velgam Vehera
Lists of Top 20 places of interest
in major cities and heritage sites of Sri Lanka:
Top 20 attractions in Kandy
1. Tooth Temple
2. Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
3. View to the Kandy Lake
4. Malwatta Monastery
5. World Buddhism Museum
6. Kataragama Devale
10. Ceylon Tea Museum, Hantana
12. Natha Devale
14. Vishnu Devale
16. National Museum
17. Pattini Devale
18. Garrison Cemetery
19. Monte Fano monastery
20. Galmaduwa Temple
Top 20 sites in Anuradhapura
1. Jetavanarama Dagaba
5. Queens Palace moonstone
6. Eth Pokuna
7. Isurumuniya Temple
8. Abhayagiri Dagaba
9. Kuttam Pokuna
11. Ranmasu Uyana
12. Rice Boat
13. Western Monasteries
15. Archaeological Museum
16. Dakshina Dagoba
18. Gal Palama
Top 20 sites in Polonnaruwa
1. Gal Vihara
2. Quadrangle with Vatadage
3. Alahena Pirivena
4. Lotos Pond
5. Nissanka Malla's Palace
6. Tivanka Statue House
7. Parakramabahu Statue
8. Shiva Devale No.2
9. Parakramabahu Palace
10. Großer Stupa
11. Topa Wewa dam
12. Audience Hall
13. Shiva Devale 1
15. Princess Bath
16. Pothgul Vihara
17. Archaelological Museum
18. Menik Vihara
19. Hindu Devales
20. Demala Dagoba
Top 20 attractions in Colombo
1. Pettah Markets with Dutch Museum
2. National Museum
3. Kelaniya Temple
4. Nelum Pokuna Theatre
5. Galle Face Green
6. Beira Lake with Seema Malakaya
7. Independence Square & Independence Hall
8. Dehiwala Zoo
9. Mount Lavinia
10. Diyawanna Lake with Parliament
11. Gangarama Temple
12. Kailawasanathan Swami Kovil
13. Viharamahadevi Park with Town Hall
14. Wolvendaal Church
15. Number 11
16. Central Point - Economic History Museum
17. Colombo Lighthouse
18. Sri Ponnambelam Vanesar Kovil
19. Isipathanaramaya Temple
20. National Railway Museum