FromAdam's Peak to Yala
We have collected both the well-known and the lesser known attractions and landmarks of Sri Lanka for you. Please contact us if you would like to book a tour, but also if you need help in compiling your own tour. We have a team of local German and English-speaking tour guides.
The name of Mount Sri Pada actually only names the footprint on top of the mountain (Sri Pada is Sanskrit for “holy foot”). Sri Pada is a separate rock in central Sri Lanka. It is located in the district of Ratnapura and is 2243m high. There is a monastery on the summit of Adam’s Peak. It’s thus a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims. The Buddhists believe that the footprint is from the holy foot of Buddha himself, thus the name “Sri Pada”. For the Hindus, it is the footprint of their God Shiva. The Christians say it’s the foot of St. Thomas and the Muslims believe it’s Adam’s footprint, thus the English name “Adam’s Peak”. The mountain also has a Singhalese name, which is “Samalea Kanda”. This means “Butterfly Mountain” because of the countless butterflies that fly up to the summit in spring.
Traditionally, people mount Sri Pada at night. This lets hikers and pilgrims avoid the heat while enjoying a unique sunrise. The standard route starts from Dalhousie in the North (3 km in the South East of Hatton). It starts right at the foot of the mountain and takes several hours to complete.
Climbing the approx. 2244m high, steep mountain at night:
Get up shortly after midnight, 3 – 4 hours hike that gets steeper and steeper as one approaches the peak; climbing approx. 700 m altitude, meeting fellow hikers in the light of the torch lights: local families, couples from Sri Lanka, Asia and from the West, everybody takes a break from time to time to have a sip of water, sometimes they exchange a few words in English, “steep and tough”, everybody at his or her own pace to get to the final stairs; climbing them together with locals and tourists in the early morning, to watch the natural spectacle of the sun rising – everyone together; enjoying the grandeur of the moment and marvelling at the shadows the rock casts on the clouds.
Today, Anuradhapura is one of the most important pilgrimage sites of the country. It’s the capital city of Sri Lanka’s Northern Central Province and it is located approx. 205 km North Eastern of Colombo. The city was founded during the 4th century AD. It was built around the Sri Mahobodhi tree and was the original capital of Sri Lanka.
Anuradhapura was the centre of Royal Sinhalese dynasties over the course of several thousand years. Today, there are many historically relevant monuments as well as numerous large Dagobas in the city. Anuradhapura has reclaimed its status as an important centre of Sri Lanka after substantial excavations of palaces, monasteries and monuments.
Aukama is located approximately 50 km Southern of Anuradhapura. The erect Aukama-Buddha is one of the most beautiful statues of Sri Lanka. The statue was carved out of the rock during the 5th century and is approx. 13 meters high. The statue appears to be standing on a lotus-podium, which was built and plead under the statue’s feet later on. In full, the monument is 14 meters high. With the right hand raised in blessing, the statue impresses each and every visitor. In total, its weight is 80 tons. The Akuna-Buddha is famous for its internalized facial expression.
Colombo is Sri Lanka’s contemporary capital and counts roughly 650’000 inhabitants. Not only is the city fascinating because of its cosy mix of past and present times, but also due to the fact that it is the commercial city of Sri Lanka.
Colombo became the political centre of the country when it gained independence in 1948. Today, the combination of colonial and modern architecture is appealing to visitors. The city offers a heap of stores, markets of all kinds, unique restaurants and many modern shopping malls. Colombo thus offers opportunities for everyone who wants to do some extensive shopping.
Dambulla, Golden Temple
Dambulla is located in Sri Lanka’s central province. It is 148 km North Eastern of Colombo and 19 km from Sigiriya. Dambulla is known for its Buddhist high temple, but also for the largest rose quartz occurrence in Southern Asia and for Namal Uyane (ironwood forest).
There are roughly 80 high temples in Dambulla, five of which are of substantial size. With a total area of 2100m2, it is Sri Lanka’s biggest temple. There are historical drawings as well as statues in most of the temples. The longest cave is home to the most precious sanctuaries, including almost 60 Buddha-statues in various positions, Hindu Gods as well as two Singhalese kings. The ceiling is ornamented with 1500 colourful scenes from Buddha’s life.
In total, there are 153 Buddha-statues, three are kings and four Gods. The latter are two Hindu Gods (Vishnu and Ganesh) from the 12th century. The drawings describe Buddha’s life, including the scene in which Buddha is tempted by Mara, the demon. Buddha’s first sermon is also illustrated in the drawings.
Since 1992, the temples are part of the UNESCO world heritage.
Hiking Trail Near Ella
Ella is situated in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, at an altitude of 1050 m above sea level. The distance between Ella and Nuware Eliya amounts to approx. 95 km. In Singhalese, Ella means “waterfall”. Accordingly, Ella is named after the countless waterfalls nearby. It’s famous for the spectacular panoramic view of the mountainous regions, which can be enjoyed from the terrace of the Grand Ella Motel. Around Ella, mountains and canyons, tea plantations, waterfalls and caves invite visitors to hike and discover.
No matter where you go, it’s going to be stunning!
The Lighthouse of Galle
Galle lies 115 km to the South of Colombo and it is the most important coastal city of the South. Both the Galle fortress and the Old Town were built by the Dutch in 1663. Today, both sites belong to the UNESCO world heritage. Moreover, Galle is home to the biggest intact fortress in Southern Asia. It combines elements of European and Asian architecture.
Galle used to be an important sea harbour at the time when the Persians, Arabs, Romans, Malians and the Indians were not yet colonized. In 1640, when the Portuguese were defeated by the Dutch, Galle became the seat of Governor and thus the capital of Dutch-Ceylon. The British took the territory from the Dutch in 1796 and they used the castle as their administrative centre.
Tip: In Galle’s Dutch museum, you will find a lot of paintings, manuscripts as well as furniture and ceramics from the Dutch era.
Matale, Aluvihara Rock Temple
142 km North Eastern of Colombo within Sri Lanka’s Central Province lies Matale, 26 km away from Kandy. The town lies at an altitude of 470 meters above sea level and counts about 41’000 inhabitants.
Matale is the centre of the most important plantation regions. There, rubber, cinnamon, pepper, chillies, tea, rice, vegetables and herbs all find a place to grow. The reason why such a wide variety of plants can grow there is the humid and tropical climate of the region, which occurs due to its location within Knuckles Range, a mountain range which is only interrupted in the North. In the heart of Matalo lies the famous Hindu temple Sri Muthumariamman Thevasthaman. This temple is particularly interesting because it is colourful and contains a beautiful collection of sculptures and statues. Moreover, the rock temple of Aluvihana is located Northern of Matale. This temple is considered to be one of the most important Buddhist sites of Sri Lanka.
Kandy, Temple of the Tooth
Kandy is located almost in the middle of the island at an altitude of approx. 500 m above sea level. It’s surrounded by hills and valleys, lakes, rivers and waterfalls of different sizes. In proximity to the town, tea plantations start lining the hills. The history of Kandy is a rich one. It used to be inhabited by several former Singhalese kings. However, the centre of the town is definitely the Temple of the Tooth. It is said that the top left canine of Buddha himself is kept there. The entire temple district belongs to the UNESCO world heritage since 1988. Kandy is a highlight on any tourist’s journey because it is the most beautiful and picturesque city of Sri Lanka – you cannot miss it.
Attractions: the Temple of the Tooth, Gadaladeniya Temple, the Royal Botanic Garden Peradeniya, Kandy-Dancing, the Old Town of Kandy
Mihintale belongs to the oldest of all Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist monastery is located on Mount Missaka, which lies 7 km to the East of Anuradhapura. Monk Mahinda was sent by the Indian king Ashoka to spread Buddhism on the island of Sri Lanka.
When king Devanampia Tissa was on the hunt for deer, Mahinda suddenly appeared in front of him. The two men had a discussion and in the end, the king converted to Buddhism. He gave orders to build a large temple on the hill with a Dagoba from the 2nd century AD.
Nuwara Eliya, Railway Ride
Nuwara Eliya is the Singhalese term for “City of Light”. Nuwara Eliya lies at approximately 2000 meters above sea level in the central mountains of Sri Lanka. It is the highest-lying city of the entire country. Samuel Becker founded the town in the 19th century as a retreat for British colonial civil servants. Many of the houses built in English style survive until today. Nuwara Eliya is the heart of the mountainous region and it thus sits amidst the tea industry, surrounded by beautiful tea plantations. What is typical for the region is its fertility. Due to the chilled climate, a lot of uncommon fruit and vegetables grow there. Nuwara Eliya is also a good place to take a cool break from the tropical beaches.
Attractions and activities: visit a tea plantation, guided tour through a tea factory, Victoria Park, Hindu temple Sita Eliya, horseback riding, golf, hiking.
Pinnawela, Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawela is a town that lies roughly 80 km away from Colombo and 40 km Western of Kandy. The elephant orphanage is among Sri Lanka’s most visited tourist attractions. Elephants are highly respected animals on the island. At the orphanage, motherless baby elephants are raised and injured ones receive treatment. Today, the herd counts over 70 animals, which makes it the biggest herd of domesticated elephants in the world.
A daily highlight is the feeding of the elephants in the morning, whereafter the numerous pachyderms can be observed during their bathing in the river. In Pinnawela, approx. 110 employees are looking after the elephant herd, which needs daily food portions of 15’000 kg. The elephant orphanage of Pinnawela is funded both by tourism and by the government.
Polonnaruwa, Country Residence
Polonnaruwa lies 215 km away from Colombo in the Northeast. As of the 7th century, the kings inhabited Polonnaruwa as their country residence. In the 11th century PD, Polonnaruwa became Sri Lanka’s capital city. The intricate archaeological park has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1982.
Thanks to the ruins of large stupas (Singhalese “Dagoba”) and temples with countless Buddha pieces and gardens, parks as well as palaces, the archaeological park is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the island. The monuments of Polonnaruwa are younger and better preserved than those in Anuradhapura.
Sigiriya, Lion Rock
Sigiriya is a monolith which rises up to 200 m from the plane of the jungle. The rock fortress, which is also called Lion Rock, is steeped in history and belongs to the most notable places in Sri Lanka. It is thus considered the 8th world wonder. Climbing Lion Rock may be strenuous in the heat, but the view rewards every effort. With each step, one is climbing higher and the view is getting more breath-taking. In the middle of the climb, beautiful frescos of the cloud maidens are waiting for you. Sigiriya is truly worth a journey.
If you don’t think you can climb 1’200 stairs, you can have a good long look at the antique garden at the foot of the rock alternatively. The pleasure gardens are now renovated, but they still contain the remainings of pavilions, a monastery and a water fountain that is still running in spite of being several centuries old.
Conclusion: Visiting Sigiriya is an absolute must for every tourist.
Ratnapura, Moonstone Mine
In Singhalese, Ratnapura means “City of Jewels”. The town, which is famous for its gem stones and jewels, lies 103 km away from Colombo. Sri Lanka has the largest concentration of gem stones in the world. Ratnapura is the country’s most important gem stone centre. Most of the mining activities are focussed on ruby, sapphire and cat eyes, which are a variant of the Chrysoberyll. Furthermore, the mines of Ratnapura also contain topaz, tourmaline, alexandrite, aquamarine, garnet, amethyst, spinel, zircon and moonstone.
At Ratnapura’s Gems National Museum, the model of a gem mine can be examined. The museum also exhibits prehistoric fossils from the mines of Ratnapura. Visitors can see demonstrations of the digging and processing of gem stones. Ratnapura lies between the Southern planes and the Eastern mountains. It’s also where the pilgrim’s way to Adam’s Peak is located. The last remaining rainforest of the island, Sinharaja National Park, also lies in proximity. Rice, fruits and tea are harvested in and around Ratnapura.
Trincomalee, the capital of the Eastern province, lies in the North East of Sri Lanka, a rough 260 km away from Colombo. “Trinco”, as Trincomalee is popularly called, has one of the largest natural deep sea ports. The symbol of the town is the Tirukoneswaram temple, which is among the most important Shiva temples in Sri Lanka.Not far from Trincomalee lies the miracle of the hot wells: several tightly spaced wells which have completely different temperatures in spite of being so close to each other. There are a lot of empty beaches around Trincomalee. They invite visitors to go swimming, diving or snorkelling. The bathing island Pigeon Island, which has a coral beach, is especially popular among tourists. However, it can only be reached by boat.
Tangalla (also Tangalle) means “protruding rock”. Tangalle is a small fishing harbour in one of Sri Lanka’s largest bays. If you are on your way from the Yala National Park to Galle, having a break at one of the beautiful sandy beaches of Tangalla is worthwhile. It’s also a good idea to visit the nearby rock temples of Mulkirigala. The climb brings you to a line of natural caves containing many wall paintings and Buddha statues. A rough 10 km in the direction of Matara in Dikwella, one can find one of the most colourful Buddhist temples of Sri Lanka, Wewurukannala Vihara. One of the biggest Buddha-statues on the island is located right next to the temple. From the top of the Buddha, visitors have a nice view of the plane. Another attraction: the blowhole. There is a crevasse in the rock which blows water fountains into the air. This natural spectacle is particularly fascinating if observed during the rainy season.
A place which still needs discovering. The small town lies at the Bay of Bengal and is hardly ever visited by tourists. Nevertheless, it has retained its original charm and it is located beautifully. With a length of over 50 km, the lagoon of Batticaloa is the biggest in Sri Lanka. Of course, there is a legend about it: It is said that, in nights of a full moon, the songs of the fish can be heard from Kallady bridge. According to the legend, in order to experience this phenomenon, one should immerse a paddle into the water and put the paddle’s end to one’s ear. However, this can only be done on a moonlit night and if the water is calm. Then, one can supposedly hear different sounds. The phenomenon of the singing fish, which were not proven to exist yet, is even mentioned in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However, it is not the city’s only attraction. The earliest historical pieces of art are a Buddhist Dagaba and Chatra which originate from the kingdom of Ruhuna. The kingdom belonged to king Kavantissa and the pieces were found at the Dutch fortress. Fortress Batticaloa was built in 1628 by the Portuguese and was the first to be taken over by the Dutch on May 18, 1638. It’s one of the most picturesque fortresses of Sri Lanka. The well preserved fortress is located on an island. Inside the fortress, visitors can see the historical colonial buildings or walk around on the fortress wall.
Another highlight of Batticaloa is Lady Manning Bridge, which connects the headland with the island. The bridge, which is among the longest in Sri Lanka, originates from Britain’s colonial era and is made of steel. The new Kallady bridge brings you to a beach with a nearby pine forest. What is special about the pine forest is that it was planted after the tsunami in order to protect local civilization. Starting from the lighthouse, visitors can take boat tours to the mangrove forests, nearby beaches and also to the city centre for approx. 3500 rupees.
If you are looking for peace and quiet, the beautiful beaches of Batticaloa, as for example Kallady beach, are a great place to go. The Japanese Air Force sunk the British aircraft carrier “Hermes” in 1942 right in front of Batticaloas coastline. The wrack still lies on the ground, 55 m deep and provides an interesting site for divers. You can join a tour if you are an experienced diver.
Uda Walawe National Park
The Uda Walawe National Park lies in the South of the island between Ratnapura and Kataragama. The area was declared as a national park in 1972 in order to protect its biodiversity. A typical feature of the park is its rather long dry season. Monsoon only lasts from May to September.
The national park is famous for its substantial elephant population. Further species are water buffaloes, muntjaks, mongeese, deer, wild boars and a small number of leopards.
The Horton Plains National Park lies in Sri Lanka’s highlands within the district of Nuwara Eliya. The most popular attraction of the park is World’s End, where the high plateau suddenly falls off almost 700 m. The steep slope is more than 1050 meters high and on a clear morning, one can see as far as the coastline.
The second main attraction of the national park are the Baker waterfalls. They were named after their discoverer Samuel Baker who founded the town of Nuwara Eliya. The biodiversity of the park includes leopards and sambar deer.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the best known, largest and also oldest nature reserve of Sri Lanka. It is located in the South East of the island within the territory of the Southern Province Uva. Numerous mammal and bird species inhabit the 1512 km2 and make the National Park a popular attraction. The park is divided into five blocks, but only block 1 (Yala West) is open for day tourists. Yala offers different kinds of habitats; large parts of it are like African savannah, while the outer regions of the park are populated by dense monsoon forests instead. Yala is the best place to observe the wildlife of, for example, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, deer, crocodiles, mongoose or hanuman monkeys. The park is closed during the dry season from September 1 to October 15.
Tip: The best time to visit the park is between December and July.
Sinharaja Forest is a tropical lowland rainforest in the Southwest of the island. The Sinharaja National Park has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1988. It is the last remaining wide-area forest of Sri Lanka. The area is known for its impressive biodiversity.
Conclusion: A guided tour through Sinharaja Forest is a highlight for all nature-lovers!
Wales at the South Coast, Mirissa
The small town of Mirissa is the perfect location for whale watching tours. From December to April, your changes of seeing the world’s largest mammals in the wild are high. Tours usually start in the early morning. The good thing about starting early is that countless dolphins accompany the boat, causing great joy to the visitors.
The boats return to the port of Mirissa between 11am and 1pm, no matter whether blue or sperm whales were observed.
Conclusion: A Whale & Dolphin Tour is certainly worthwhile and won’t be forgotten too quickly.