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18 Incredible Experiences to do in Sri Lanka

Out of the ordinary

Sri Lanka is a true gem in the Indian Ocean. A magic island with incredible natural landscapes, wildlife, ancient ruins, colonial forts, and among the most scenic roads in all of Asia. 

A perfect year-round travel destination, Sri Lanka will welcome you with the kindness and generosity of its inhabitants, delicious food, and a deeply spiritual atmosphere. 

Riding through untouched mountains, uninterrupted hillside tea plantations, and palm-tree-lined beaches wet by the crystal blue waters, is just a small part of what you will find in Sri Lanka.

Call it local knowledge or off the beaten track, these are incredible experiences you should do when visiting Sri Lanka.

18 Incredible Experiences to do in Sri Lanka

1. Stay a weekend at Halcyon Mawella 

Mawella is a gorgeous beach in Tangalle, where the jungle meets the sea. 

The boutique-hotel Halcyon Mawella is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for an oasis of tranquility after a long riding day.

The hotel is a perfect mix of traditional and luxury design, with a focus on sustainability. The in-home restaurant cooks locally grown and fresh ingredients to create delicious food.

Staying at Mawella will give you time to do plenty of activities during the day: SUP and diving are among the most popular. You can also go kayaking on the Mawella lagoon or join a fishing trip.

But Mawella is also a place where you can rest and recharge by lying at the beach and enjoying the incredibly blue waters of Sri Lanka’s southern coast. 

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2. Early Breakfast & Surf Lesson at The Shack Beach Cafe 

Hidden behind the hustle and bustle of Dewata, just 2 km from Galle Fort, you will find the Shack Beach Cafe. This cafe is the perfect place to spend a fun day eating, drinking, and surfing!

Dewata Beach is one of the best locations to learn to surf in Sri Lanka. The sand reef and the small to medium-sized waves make Dewata Beach ideal for beginners, and unlike many other beaches in Sri Lanka, Dewata is still quite unknown and not crowded

The Shack Beach Cafe offers complete surf lessons as well as a hire service for surfboards: whether you are a beginner or a sailed surfer, there is fun for everyone here!

Once you’ve done hitting the waves, have a late breakfast or lunch at Shack Beach Cafe. Admire the sea and enjoy a variety of delicious food: fusion breakfasts, burgers, local dishes or authentic Italian pizzas

But that’s not all! Shack Beach Cafe organizes expat gatherings every Thursday and an open-water swimming club every Sunday. 

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3. Rent a Luxury Home at Colonial Villas

Splendid beaches, atmospheric forts, and jungle-clad hilltops make Sri Lanka an incredible tropical escape. To make your vacation in Sri Lanka a next-level one, you should rent out a luxury colonial villa to stay in. 

Colonial Villas offers the opportunity to take a journey back in time and embrace the beauty and luxury of heritage homes.

So park your motorbike for a while and step into a world of charm and history: the traditional colonial villas reflect the unique destination that Sri Lanka is. 

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4. Take a Walking Tours of Galle Fort

Galle Fort. Credit - Nilanka Kariyawasam
Galle Fort. Credit: @Nilanka Kariyawasam, via Unsplash

The Galle Fort is the best-preserved colonial fortress in all of Asia. Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the top experiences to do in Sri Lanka! 

Take a walking tour through the narrow streets of the Fort while admiring the buildings’ enchanting facades. The Fort was built by the Portuguese at the end of the sixteenth century, and in the following century, the Dutch expanded it and polished up its colonial style. 

Nowadays, some of the beautiful old buildings are transformed into trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants. However, all the citadel’s buildings conserve their historical beauty. One of the most gorgeous ones is the church, with its white walls shining under the sun. 

Spend a day walking and exploring the beauty of Galle Fort to have an amazing time while in Sri Lanka!

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5.  Eat seafood at Elita Restaurant 

Exploring Galle Fort’s walls and the town will very likely make you hungry! If you would like to taste delicious seafood, there’s no better place than Elita Restaurant

The venue is located inside the Galle Fort but slightly off the beaten track: you won’t find it on one of the main streets with the other restaurants and cafes, which makes this restaurant a hidden gem.

Chef and Owner Krishantha will delight your palate with Sri Lankan products and recipes with Belgium and southeast Asian influences. The menu changes daily, depending on the freshly-catch seafood available at the local fish market. 

Eating at Elita Restaurant is one of the top experiences you should do in Sri Lanka!

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6. Watch the Sunset at Slightly Chilled Lounge

Sometimes everything you need is a place to chill while drinking a cold beer and watching a spectacular sunset. Slightly Chilled Lounge offers all this and much more: a great view of Kandy city and Kandy Lake, DJ music, and great food

After a long day of riding, you will love the laidback vibes of Slightly Chilled Lounge. The menu has many dishes from different international cuisines, like Italian and Chinese. The kitchen also offers many vegetarian options. The food is tasty, the portions are generous, and the staff is friendly and attentive.

You will have a great time at Slightly Chilled Lounge!

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7. Go Water Rafting with Borderlands

Sri Lanka has incredible natural landscapes, which are the perfect scenarios for sporty and adventurous activities. Have you ever tried water rafting? If not, Sri Lanka is a great place to try! 

Borderlands is Sri Lanka’s number one adventure camp, located in Kithulgala, a small town on the Kelani river. The river rafting stretches for 6.5 kilometers and hosts rapids between grades 2 and 3.

Borderlands organizes whitewater rafting with experts, leading you to try the special rapids “Killer Fall” and “Butter Crunch”. After these challenging rafters, you will have a chance to relax and unwind along the river banks.

Besides whitewater rafting and other fun activities, such as canyoning and hiking, Borderlands has an eco-lodge where you can spend the night.

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8. Take a Local Cooking Class in Galle Fort

One of the things you will love the most about Sri Lanka is its delicious food. So why don’t you learn how to make traditional Sri Lankan curry while in the country?

Taking a cooking class with teacher Angel Sanju in Galle Fort will be one of the highlights of your trip to Sri Lanka! 

Sanju will accompany you to the local market to get fresh vegetables and seafood before stopping at her husband’s spice shop to collect the spices you will need to cook.

The cooking lesson takes place in an outdoor garden, where Sanju will teach you all the secrets about the traditional way to cook Sri Lankan curries (vegetarian and seafood ones).

Once you’ve done cooking and tasting the delicious dishes Sanju taught you how to make, don’t forget to buy all the curry powders to take home!

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9. Trek at Horton Plains and World’s End

World's End. Credits - Visit Sri Lanka, facebook page
World’s End. Credits: Visit Sri lanka, Facebook page

Horton Plains National Park is a huge area of beautiful countryside in Sri Lanka’s hill country. The Horton Plains offers a stunning and easy trek that you really shouldn’t miss! 

The plains are home to a huge array of wildlife, including samba deer, many birds, and leopards, that you can sight during the trek.

The 9km looped track takes you to a stunning viewpoint called World’s End, a 4000-foot precipice. The view from here is astonishing! 

The view from World’s End is often obscured by mist, particularly during the rainy season from April to September. So it’d be best to start the trek at sunrise and arrive at the World’s End with the sunlight kissing the plains and valley below.

10 . Enjoy the hidden beach by Eva Lanka

Tangalle Beach is one of the best-hidden beaches on Sri Lanka’s southern coast: long stretches of soft white sand dotted with tall palm and mangrove trees and sparkling turquoise waters.

If you are looking for a tranquil and silent beach, Tangalle is a haven for peace seekers. To make your experience even more incredible, spend the night at Eva Lanka Hotel.

This rustic beach hotel is ideal for families and groups, with its mix of traditional architecture and contemporary design.

Every cottage and room has a wonderful garden or sea view, and the hotel offers many tours and activities, such as scuba diving and safaris in the Udawalawe National Park.

Eva Lanka is also home to one of the most renowned Ayurveda health centers in southern Sri Lanka, and the Hotel’s restaurants offer Ayurveda food as well as local, international, and Italian cuisine.

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12. Surf the East Coast or the South Coast depending on the time of year

Surfing in Mirissa Beach. Credits - Lush Palm, official website
Surfing in Mirissa Point. Credits: Lush Palm official website

Sri Lanka is an incredible surf destination year-round. Depending on which period you visit Sri Lanka, you should consider visiting the east or southwest coasts

On the east coast, the surf season is from May through September, when this dry region comes to life with the passing southeast and southwest swells. Among the best surfing spots on the east coast are Arugam Bay, Whiskey Point, and Elephant Rock.

On the southwest coast, the best surfing conditions are typically from November through April. On the southwest coast, you’ll find a variety of beaches where to hit the waves, like Rams Right, The Rock, and Mirissa Point.

The water temperature in Sri Lanka is warm all year round (it ranges from about 80 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit or 27 to 29 degrees Celsius), so you’ll have the best time surfing. Sri Lanka is a great place to learn to surf or to improve your skills if you’re an intermediate surfer. 

Surfing in Sri Lanka is one of the best experiences to do during your holidays!

13. Enjoy the Vibe at The Doctor’s House

The Doctor’s House is definitely one of the coolest spots of the whole island!

Situated on the southern coast in the beautiful beachside village of Madiha, this 200-year-old former Dutch Ayurvedic hospital hosts a bar, a restaurant, a shop, and a hotel.

Stop at The Doctor’s House for a bite, to drink a refreshing beer, or to hit the dancefloor on the note of a live band or a DJ performance. The Doctor’s House showcases DJ every Wednesday night and a live band performing every Saturday. 

During the peak season, you will also find a twilight market every fortnight where you can shop for everything, from clothes to jewelry to artwork. 

The market at Doctor’s House is undoubtedly one of the most popular events on the southern coast, and it is one of the best experiences to do while in Sri Lanka.

You will love the chill vibe!

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14. Play Golf at Nuwara Eliya Golf Club

If you are a golf lover, you might think Sri Lanka has nothing special to offer you. But actually, the city of Nuwara Eliya is home to one of the best and most historic golf courses in all of Asia.

Whether you’re a casual golfer or an enthusiastic amateur, playing at Nuwara Eliya Golf Club is one of the best experiences to do in Sri Lanka!

The Nuwara Eliya Golf Club is situated close to Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. It was founded in 1889 primarily for the recreation of the British planters who owned the land for tea in the Nuwara Eliya district. 

The Nuwara Eliya Golf Club is made of 18-hole courses and long, narrow fairways, bordered by rows of towering eucalyptus trees, cypresses, and acacia shrubbery.

The Nuwara Eliya Golf Club is an institution in Sri Lanka. By visiting it, you will get to know a part of the country’s colonial history. 

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15. Walk the Tea Trails with Pekoe Trails

Did you know that there is something called the Serendipity Trails Collection in Sri Lanka? It’s a 300km long-distance hiking trail in the Central Highlands that traverses the vast network of Sri Lanka’s tea trails.

The Pekoe Trail is part of the Serendipity Trails Collection, and it encapsulates the essence of the island’s diversity. By exploring it on foot, you will discover incredible wildlife, astonishing natural landscapes, and the local cultural heritage.

If you’re ready to hike steep terrains and face the unpredictable mountain weather, you definitely should hike the Pekoe Trail to have a unique experience while in Sri Lanka!

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16. Leopard Safaris with KK Collection

Have you ever wanted to sleep and walk in the wilderness? In the heart of the Yala National Parks and the Wilpattu National Park, you can take overnight expeditions to meet the most diverse Sri Lanka’s wildlife, including leopards!

The Leopard Safaris offered by KK Collection is an incredible experience you will not forget easily. 

The Leopard Safaris with KK Collection offers an eco-tourist glamping experience: fully-equipped ‘South African’ style tents, genuine Sri Lankan food, and organized safari trips in Toyota Jeeps.

The onboard guides will explain to you all about the environment and animals of the area, and you will have the chance to see Sri Lanka’s famous leopards, elephants, sloth bears, and deer.

The Leopard Safaris with KK Collection is an incredible environmental experience that will make your Sri Lankan holidays memorable!

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17. Have a Meal at Persian Kitchen 

Sri Lankan food is delicious, but you might need a break from spicy and hot meals after you’ve been in the country for a while. Authentic Persian food is a great pick and there’s no better place to do it than at Zohre & Pouyan’s Persian Kitchen

Away from the crowds and located in the hidden Thalpe Beach, at Persian Kitchen you will find an amazing beach-front location, super friendly owners and staff, kebabs, grilled meat, and other delicious middle-eastern dishes.

The restaurant also offers vegetarian and vegan options and a good selection of wines!

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18. Explore the island on a Mighty Royal Enfield Classic

Riding through the wonderful landscapes of Sri Lanka is the way to go to have a memorable holiday. But if you want to have the ultimate experience, jump on a Royal Enfield and take a tour with Extreme Bike Tours.

Extreme Bike Tours offers all-inclusive motorcycle adventures through some of the most amazing roads in Sri Lanka.

There is something for everyone: ride through the mountains of the interior and regions sculpted by tea plantations, or the national parks inhabited by amazing wildlife, like the Wilpattu National Park, or the Ancient Kingdoms of Sri Lanka.

Exploring Sri Lanka by riding a Royal Enfield with Extreme Bike Tours is one of the best experiences you can do while on the island!

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Marica Felici
Marica Felici
Writer at RnT, anthropologist and historian, I am a hopeless wanderluster. I've been traveling since I was a child, and growing up my desire to explore far and wide couldn't be stopped. My biggest dream was to travel in the United States, and I did it for a while – but, honestly, not enough. Next time, you will see me on a Harley-Davidson wandering Route 66. In the meantime, I work as a freelance writer and translator, and I do what my heart wants the most: traveling the world.

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