A paradise isle sits calmly to the east of India brimming with sunshine and even brighter smiles. For many, Sri Lanka remains a palm-speckled question mark familiarized by its iconic teardrop shape and maybe even a Nicki Minaj verse. However, adventure travelers are beginning to unravel this island nation as a hidden haven of thrills and opportunity. The beauty of Sri Lanka is candid. It’s a barefoot playground; a world of bright colors, early mornings, and restful breaths awaiting to be seized on the back of a scooter or atop your new favorite mountain.
Best Places to Travel in Sri Lanka
Isolated climates and distinct topography have transformed Sri Lanka into one vast natural wonder. From the rugged terrain of the highlands to world-class waves and reefs near every shoreline, awes are bountiful underneath the Ceylon sun.
For those who like their overseas adventure travel to be a bit sandy and a little salty, there’s nowhere better than Sri Lanka’s unforgettable southern coast. In fact, the coastal belt from the capital city of Colombo to the crescent-shaped Arugam Bay boasts all your favorite ocean activities. Year-round reef breaks and seasonal swells make Sri Lanka the best-kept secret in surfing while a serene world of tropical fish, vast reefs, and once-forgotten shipwrecks hide just beneath. Ashore, a budding scene of ecotourism and impressive Buddhist temples await travellers.
Travel a few hours inland and you’ll trade sapphire shorelines for montane jungles and ancient landmarks in the central highlands in Kandy. A UNESCO world heritage site, this is a region that’ll justify that selfie stick. If anything, the multitude of hiking trails, national parks, waterfalls, and biodiversity is enough to keep any nature lover bewildered. Just be sure to refuel at one of the many tea plantations you’ll find along the way.
Popular Adventures in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is the personification of the spirit of adventure travel — uninhibited, mindful, and a bit relentless. It’s a nation that continues to endure and invite, so whatever you choose, programs in Sri Lanka will be the perfect mix of cultural immersion, natural splendor, and cheap curry.
The most popular adventure activity in Sri Lanka is backpacking thanks to a comprehensive train network, inexpensive accommodations, and friendly faces at every passage. This emphasis on the outdoors is ideal for experiential adventurers looking to try a little bit of everything. For instance, a simple sunrise can be spent practicing yoga, ascending peaks in the hill country, catching your best wave EVER, or greeting the day with jaguars and monkeys at a national park. Now what to do with your afternoon?
Okay, now we can talk about the elephant in the room. Elephants. Emblematic of the culture, history, and tourism in Sri Lanka, the conservation of Sri Lankan elephant species is a vital and common program placement for travellers. Although Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephant species in all of Asia, expanding human populations, deforestation, and poaching makes the protection of Sri Lankan elephants an ongoing pursuit.
Costs of Traveling in Sri Lanka
When it comes to affordability, it doesn’t get much better for overseas adventure travel than Sri Lanka. Hydrate with roadside coconuts and glass bottle soda for roughly 1 USD or splurge on a western meal, like a burger and fries, for less than 10. Most programs cover the cost of in-country transportation and accomodation with meals and excursions often being supplementary.
Accommodations in Sri Lanka
Alright, now let’s quickly cover the info you’re parents are going to interrogate you about. The most popular accommodations are guest housing, homestays, and hostels. Trust us, the simply luxury of sleeping under a mosquito net among friends in a dormitory is not to be understated. Local Sri Lankans are wonderfully warm-hearted and you’ll never feel more welcomed, or well-fed, in homestays. This is highly recommended as it’s the best way to experience the culture of Sri Lanka but be prepared to handle some deliciously spicy meals!
Visas for Sri Lanka
If you’re planning on travelling for less than 30 days, a short-term tourist visa can be accessed almost immediately online for less than 50 USD. Longer stays can be extended in-country in the capital city of Colombo but it’s best to send your passport and visa application to your nearest consulate beforehand. This will save you a bit of time and money in the long run. As always, make sure your passport is valid for six months after your departure.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
There’s something utterly freeing about train travel in Sri Lanka. Rarely is transportation such a joy as it is efficient, breathtaking, and a catalyst for conversation among travelers and locals. In fact, the trains to and from Ella are considered some of the most beautiful train rides in the world. Although mosquito bites are inevitable, Sri Lanka has been declared a malaria-free country by the World Health Organization, adding an extra ease to travelling and the concerns of grandparents everywhere.
Compared to other tropical and touristed destinations in Asia, Sri Lanka remains uncrowded, fostering a greater sense of undisturbed beauty. Although Sri Lanka paved the way for all nations by electing the first female Prime Minister back in 1960, women, especially solo travelers, should be extra cautious as harassment isn’t uncommon.
The beauty of adventure travel programs in Sri Lanka is that everyday is its own adventure. You’ll earn those post-adrenaline exhales and slap-happy giggles no matter which direction you choose. The humble brag about experiencing the wonder of Asia before most won’t match the untamed sense of self you’ll find here in the jungle.