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Thinking of visiting Sri Lanka for the first time? From the top sights and experiences to the weather, here's everything you need to know about Sri Lanka before you travel there.

Sri Lanka is a land of unparalleled beauty; a place where emerald tea plantations nudge shoulders with timeless ruins, rustling rainforests and unbelievably perfect beaches. Come here to see herds of elephants, technicolour flora and fauna and even the odd crocodile. It's a country so perfect, that Lonely Planet voted it as the number one country to travel to in 2019.

Desperate to visit? Here's everything you need to know about Sri Lanka before you go.


 

When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

For a country so small, Sri Lanka's climate is pretty varied. This is because the island is affected by two separate monsoons - one which hits the north/eastern sides of the island and another which affects the south/west. 

This means that there is usually good weather somewhere on the island all year round, but it does mean you have to plan your trip with these monsoons in mind - unless you don't mind sudden downpours, of course!

As a general guideline, if you're travelling to the west and south coasts and the hill country, November to March is the best time to visit, while April/May to September will give you the best weather if you're planning on holidaying in the east.

Houses in the Sri Lankan forest


 

Top 5 experiences in Sri Lanka

Previously off limits, Sri Lanka's eastern side is now becoming more and more accessible for visitors.

Generally though, tourists tend to stick to the south, west and central areas of the island, as the beaches, towns and villages here have historically been more geared towards tourism. Don't know where to begin? Here are the top 5 things to see in the south, west and centre of Sri Lanka:

 

1) Climb Sigiriya

The ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya is quite possibly Sri Lanka's single most striking attraction. Rising 200m out of the grassy plains, Sigiriya (or Lion Rock as it's also known) houses the ruins of an ancient stronghold that dates back as far as the 5th century.

Built by King Kasyapa, who saw the fortress as a testament to his powerful reign, Sigiriya is now recognised as one of the finest examples of ancient architecture in the world. The king lived there until his defeat in 495 BC, after which it became a pilgrimage destination and, later on, a tourist hot-spot.

Climb the staircase to the top, past fascinating frescoes and the colossal lion paws carved into the rock, to see the beautifully landscaped gardens and spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Sigiriya rock and locas riding an elephant

 

2) Visit Kandy

The city of Kandy, nestled amongst a bed of mountains in the heart of Sri Lanka's hill country, is a cross on many tourists' maps. Most people come here to get close to the city's sacred Buddhist sites, namely the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which is believed to guard the tooth of the Buddha himself.

When you're not quietly admiring the city's temples and shrines, take a stroll around Kandy Lake - a calming centrepiece in the midst of all the hustle and bustle.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy

 

3) Find herds of elephants

If elephants are your favourite animal, we have good news: Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to see elephants in their natural habitat. Over 6,000 elephants call the island home, many of which roam freely in national parks and nature reserves.

One of the best places to spot them is Minneriya National Park, especially in the dry season. From May until November, hundreds of elephants migrate to an ancient reservoir here. Come at the right time and you could be in for a chance of witnessing them drinking, playing and basking in the sun.

Two elephants playing in Minneriya

 

4) Admire Dambulla Cave Temple 

Dambulla Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Made up of five separate caves, which together contain about 150 ornate Buddha statues and paintings, the cave complex was made a World Heritage Site in 1991.

The Buddha images were first created here over 2,000 years ago, but subsequent kings continued to embellish the cave art for centuries after.

Outside the Dambulla Cave Temple

 

5) Take a scenic train journey

Sri Lanka is famous for having some of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.

One of the most popular is from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. Weaving through Sri Lanka's southern hill country, this train journey will take you through tea plantations and mountain tunnels, past waterfalls and banana trees, before soaring high up into the clouds. It's a journey we promise you'll never forget!

Scenic train journey through Sri Lanka's hill country

 


 

Sri Lanka dos & donts

Do: spend a day at the beach

You can't leave Sri Lanka without spending a day - or more - at one of the island's beautiful beaches.

One of the most popular resorts along the west coast is Bentota. Think powdery white sand, swaying palm trees, plenty of restaurants and enough space to find a quiet spot to sunbathe.

White sand beach in Sri Lanka

 

Do: dress appropriately

Make sure you bring loose clothing that covers your shoulders and legs for when you visit temples or other places of worship.

Doing so will make sure you avoid upsetting the locals who can often find revealing clothing offensive and disrespectful. 

 

Do: try the local food and drink 

The majority of Sri Lanka's signature dishes include rice, curry and roti-style flatbreads: simple but delicious! Don't leave without trying one of the many fish curries and - it goes without saying - a cup of Sri Lankan tea!

Traditional Sri Lankan cuisine 

Don't: drink the tap water

It might be okay for the locals to drink water straight from the tap, but the chances are your stomach won't be able to handle it. Don't risk it - buy bottled water and be wary of iced drinks!

 

Don't: forget to pack insect repellent 

Sri Lanka's hot and humid climate attracts plenty of insect life, including everyone's least favourite fly: the mosquito!

Save yourself the itch and pack a DEET-based insect repellent, and wear trousers and long sleeves in the evenings.

 

Don't: turn your back on a Buddha statue

Leave your selfie-stick at home: in Sri Lanka it's highly disrespectful to have your photograph taken with your back facing towards the Buddha. It's only acceptable to take photos if everyone in the picture is facing the statue.

Statue of the Buddha in Dambulla


Sri Lanka really is a land like no other. Seize the opportunity to visit this mesmerising country this November and join us on a singles holiday to Sri Lanka that you'll never forget. Click here to find out more.

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