17 Reasons to visit Sri Lanka

Exotic, captivating and colourful, Sri Lanka is one of the most fascinating countries I have visited. My trip was whirlwind adventure across multiple destinations and although I wasn’t there for long, it definitely gave me an authentic taste of what Sri Lanka has to offer. So if you’re after a little travel inspiration for 2020, you’re in the right place. Let me tell you 17 reasons to visit Sri Lanka in 2020…

1. It’s India for Beginners

Located below the southern tip of India and the Bay of Bengal, Sri Lanka draws many cultural ties with India, but the similarities stop there. Sri Lanka is known to be a much safer, relaxed and hassle-free place to travel compared to India. From card payments to transport, everything runs more smoothly in Sri Lanka.


2. A great place for a multi-stop trip

Did you know that Sri Lanka is an island smaller than Scotland? Its compact and manageable size makes it the perfect place for a multi-stop holiday, allowing you to see all the highlights in just 1 trip. A great option is to combine in-land Kandy with a popular beach resort such as Bentota, Ahungalla or Hikkaduwa.

Image credit: HandLuggageOnly.com

3. See Elephants in the Wild

Sri Lanka is home to a handful of eco-friendly nature reserves where elephants and other wild animals roam-free. At 130,000 hectares, the largest is Yala Nature Park, where visitors can go in search of Sri Lanka’s ‘big four’; the leopard, elephant, sloth bear and buffalo. Udawalawe National Park is also another popular nature reserve for elephant and wildlife spotting.


4. You can Go Whale Watching

Another plus point for nature lovers: Sri Lanka is a hot spot for the mighty blue whale. Head out on a boat trip to catch a glimpse of the world’s largest animal. You can see their spurts of water from a distance and hear their song from a mile away. Your whale watching trip could also be combined with dolphin spotting and a trip to a turtle sanctuary.


5. The Traditional Sri Lankan Dancing

Traditional Sri Lankan dancing is at the heart of the culture in this beautiful country and you’ll never be far from the next performance. The costumes are ornate, the performers are very talented and some of the jaw-dropping dances seem to defy gravity. The Sri Lankan Cultural Show in Kandy is a ticketed event and is one of the best, but you’ll find lots of hotels hosting their own shows.


6. Take on Spicy Sri Lankan curries

Sri Lanka’s firey curries are not for the faint hearted. They’re commonly spicier than the curries found in India and are often paired with sweet caramelized onion relishes, bitter melon and spicy scraped coconut. Samosas, dhal, rotis and palm-sugar sweetened desserts are also popular.


7. Meet the friendly locals

Sri Lankans are known for being incredibly friendly and warm to visitors. Don’t be surprised to have people come up to you in the street for a chat. ‘Where from?’ is a phrase you’ll hear dozens of times. Some simply do just want a chat and to find out where you’re from, others may be trying to sell something (but it’s never a hard sell).


8. Discover the World-Famous Tea Plantations

Thanks to Scotland’s James Taylor, Sri Lanka was one of the first places in the world to begin tea production and it is where the famous Ceylon tea originates (Sri Lanka was previously called Ceylon until 1972). The tea-making process in Sri Lanka is fascinating and best understood by visiting one of the many tea plantations in Kandy province. Check out Loolecondera Estate and Tea factory if you’re staying in Kandy.


9. Step inside fascinating Temples

Sri Lanka has a diverse religious landscape with Buddhism being the majority religion, followed by Hinduism then Islam. Buddhist temples dominate and make up some of the most fascinating attractions in the country, including Kandy’s Temple of the Scared Tooth. Visitors are welcomed into the temples but remember to dress modestly and remove your shoes.


10. English is Widely Spoken

English is widely spoken in Sri Lanka, which makes it a hell of a lot easier when travelling around. That in itself is a reason to visit Sri Lanka, especially if you’re visiting for the first time.


11. Visit the trending town of Galle

Conde Nast Traveller recently published a guide online all about Galle, stating that ‘The boho-chic set is heading to Galle in south-west Sri Lanka for stylish relaxation’. With boutique hotels, chic shops, colonial architecture and a coffee culture to boot, this 18th century Dutch walled town is an Instagrammer’s dream. Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the coastal views are spectacular. (Check out my Instagram photos of Sri Lanka after reading this post)


12. Travel by Train from Colombo to Jaffna

Trains are an inherent part of Sri Lankan way of life. Many train routes pass through lush landscapes and intense greenery, making it a mini adventure in itself. A new train route has recently opened up from Colombo to Jaffna, which has luxury carriages, costs around 1500 rupees and takes 6-7 hours.


Photo of me, taken by Hand Luggage Only

13. You can visit a Turtle Sanctuary and see Baby Hatchlings

There are a handful of turtle hatcherys and conservation projects in the South West of Sri Lanka close to Ahungalla, Bentota and Hikkaduwa. Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project is one of the most well known, which incubates eggs, houses baby turtles and releases them back into the ocean. They also care for injured and disabled turtles.


14. It’s a Surfers Paradise

It’s said that the best time for surfers to visit Sri Lanka is between April and October. During this time surfers flock to Arugam Bay on the East Coast, but most of the beaches in South West Sri Lanka have strong wave breaks and warm water, also making it a surfers paradise. Ocean swells can reach between 4 and 7 feet in season.


15. Be part of a Sri Lankan Festival

If you happen to be visiting Sri Lanka during on of its many festivals, you can expect to see a bit of the unexpected. Every year thousands of Sri Lankans gather in Anuradhapura to pay hommage to the sacred Bodhi Tree and Poya is a celebration that takes place every full moon (as Buddhists follow the lunar calendar).

16. Watch the ancient art form of Stilt Fishing

Stilt fishing is an intrinsic part of Sri Lankan culture and the fishing economy is still thriving. Many fishermen still use this ancient technique, which can be seen on the beaches of Galle Province. The stilt fishermen have become an attraction in themselves and some allow tourists to pose on their stilts for a fee.


17. Direct UK flights to Colombo

Although Sri Lanka is very much an exotic and long-haul destination for UK travellers, there is a great selection of direct flights to Colombo to make the journey as easy as possible. Thomson Airways have recently launched a new direct flight path from Gatwick to Thomson on their 787 Dreamliner


What did you think of my 17 reasons to visit Sri Lanka? Is Sri Lanka firmly fixed on your bucket list or do you already have plans to go? I’d love to hear what you thought so please leave me a comment in the box below!

Want more reasons to visit Sri Lanka? Check out my other post How to Spend 1 Week in Sri Lanka; An Itinerary.

My trip to Sri Lanka was complimentary courtesy of Thomson Holidays. This blog post has been sponsored by Thomson Holidays. All views are my own



Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.


  • I really like the idea of Sri Lanka being India for beginners. The culture seems fascinating and I’ve never been anywhere like it. I know I say about everywhere, but it’s definitely on my list!

    • Yes exactly! I’ve never been to India but really want to go, and I feel like Sri Lanka was a nice introduction to what I could expect. Probably just much more busy and hectic. It’s a great inbetween destination xx

  • I’m really intrigued to visit Sri Lanka now after hearing from you, Jaime and Lauren! Plus my colleague’s recommended it as well! I’m so intrigued to see the stilt fishing and whale watching! x

    Honey x The Girl Next Shore

    • Hi Honey! Thanks for you’re comment 🙂 it really is a fascinating country with loads to do. I’d reccommend it for a cultural trip as opposed to a beach break as I didn’t think the beaches were that impressive, but over all it’s so worth a visit! Hope you’re well xxx

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