Captivating and enigmatic, this tropical tear-drop island is bursting with diverse and often unexpected treasures
Perhaps best known for the beach resorts that line its extensive coast, Sri Lanka is also a culture lover’s paradise. There are rock temples and fortresses, ruins of ancient and sacred cities, and relics of a colonial age. And if that’s not quite enough to tempt you, Sri Lanka also has a naturally spectacular interior that’s home to rolling tea plantations, and wildlife-rich parks and reserves where elephants, leopards, crocodiles and sloth bears roam free. Sri Lanka holidays take on a slower pace. This is an island where time takes on a different meaning; it may take a little longer to get from A to B, but that only adds to its charm. It gives you more time to take in your surroundings and discover the country from a local’s perspective as your guide proudly regales you with tales of their homeland. Whether you’re seeking a beach escape or a bespoke Sri Lanka adventure, talk to us and we'll help create the right Sri Lanka holiday for you.
Sri Lanka is a combination of so many spectacular aspects that its visitors return time and time again. This is a country that has everything from vast stretches of coastline to rolling tea plantations and dense rainforest to ancient relics. Here, you can embark on a journey guided by locals who will open your eyes to their culture and share their heritage with you.
Where is Sri Lanka?
The tear drop-shaped island of Sri Lanka is located in the heart of the Indian Ocean and is separated from the south-east coast of India by the Gulf of Munnar and the Palk Strait. Check out our best time to visit guide to find out when to travel to Sri Lanka.
It’s often Sri Lanka’s beaches that first spring to mind… this little island does have some magnificent stretches of golden sand. The south-west coast is especially popular, with resorts such as Negombo and Bentota providing an excellent choice of beautiful hotels from old colonial favourites to modern resorts with extensive facilities. The district of Trincomalee and the resort town of Passikudah on the east coast provide a quieter option, slightly off the tourist trail. The sloping beaches and largely sheltered bays make the east coast an excellent choice for families, while the handful of luxury properties makes it an unbeatable honeymoon setting.
History - the Cultural Triangle
If it’s the history of Sri Lanka that draws you in, an exploration of central Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle is a must. One of the country’s most famous sights is Sigiriya, which is also known as Lion Rock. This monument of stone rises up from plains that are scattered with the remnants of an ancient city. The two lion paws at the foot of the rock mark the entrance to the steps that lead to the summit, where a royal palace once stood. The climb is a bit of a challenge; however the views when you reach the top are well worth the effort. Nearby you’ll find the Golden Temple of Dambulla, a series of caves which play host to a large collection of Buddhist paintings and statues. Marking the northern and eastern points of the Cultural Triangle are the ruined cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa which were Sri Lanka’s first and second capital cities. The city of Kandy marks the southern point of the triangle. Sitting in the country’s verdant Hill Country, this former capital of the country’s last remaining Kingdom is one of the real gems in the country’s crown. A mix of Kandyan and colonial architecture sit side by side on the slopes of mist covered hills, and the city is home to one of the world’s most sacred Buddhist sites – the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The rolling countryside that surrounds Kandy is covered by tea plantations, and a visit to one of these is an unmissable Sri Lankan experience.
From Wilpattu in the northwest and Minneriya in central Sri Lanka to world-famous Yala on the south-east coast, Sri Lanka’s National Parks are rich in flora and fauna, providing you with the opportunity to experience the island’s wild side. We love how close Minneriya is to the major sights of the Cultural Triangle – it means that you can get a good balance of heritage, history and nature in just one region. It is particularly known for the vast numbers of elephants that pass through the park as they make their way along the elephant corridor between Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa National Parks. If you are more of a big cat fan then head to southern Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park, which has the world’s highest concentrations of leopards. Although the island has quickly grown in popularity, there are still parts of Sri Lanka that have an off-the-beaten-track feel. As a Tamil Tiger stronghold during the civil war, much of the north of the country was isolated until only recently. Less than a decade ago, travellers had yet to return to the town of Jaffna and its beautiful surroundings, today however, it has become one of the best destinations for adventurous travellers looking for a different side to Sri Lanka. Visit the beautiful local temples, take in the views from the city’s fort and try some locally-produced ice-cream; an unexpected Jaffna delicacy.
Car and driver Our car and driver option is ideal if you’re looking to create your own itinerary, to see what you want to see, when you want to see it. It’s flexible, so though your driver/guide will pick you up each morning and follow your itinerary before dropping you off at your chosen accommodation, you can choose to amend your itinerary at any time, as long as you still make it to your next hotel. Exploring Sri Lanka with a car and driver is getting more and more popular as the Sri Lankan government pushes ahead with building highways to speed up land transfers between their most popular regions. With a highway already in place from the airport down the west coast, there are also plans to link Colombo with the Cultural Triangle and the east coast. Cinnamon Air If you’re looking for a luxurious experience, avoid the roads entirely and fly to your chosen destination. Cinnamon Air offers daily domestic flights from Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport to a selection of Sri Lanka’s most popular destinations. The flights have been synchronized to coincide with the arrival and departure schedules of international airlines. This means connecting your flights is easy and convenient with minimum time spent waiting around. You can of course add domestic flights at any point during your itinerary and there is even the possibility to charter flights to suit your own itinerary
Diving & snorkelling
Sri Lanka’s 1000-mile coastline is dotted with fantastic dive sites, in particular a number of wrecks that are rich in marine life. The warm waters are inviting and the visibility ranges from 10 to 25 metres at its best. The island’s varied climate means the weather and sea conditions on one side of the island can often be very different from the other. The diving season on the south and west coast typically runs from November to April while on the east coast it’s from May to October. A few of the most popular sites include the Gorgonian Garden off the coast of Colombo, the wreck of a British Merchant Navy vessel and the HMS Hermes aircraft carrier, the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. This one-of-a-kind dive is located off the east coast and is only accessible to those with technical diver qualifications due to its depth.
The Complete Dubai Tour Planned by Experts
- Beaches, culture and natural beauty all combine to create one of the most diverse countries on Earth
- There are still largely off-the-beaten-track destinations that you can discover before many other travellers
- You can create your own unique itinerary and travel with your own private driver/guide
- Yala National Park has one of the highest concentration of leopards in the world
- A great family-friendly destination, especially on the quieter eastern coast.
Resorts & hotels in Sri Lanka
Uncover the best Sri Lanka hotels with Kuoni – from hidden-away luxury lodges that have just a handful of rooms to all-inclusive beach resorts
With a country as diverse as this, it should come as no surprise that Sri Lanka hotels come in all shapes and sizes. There are laid-back beach resorts, many of which provide the opportunity to upgrade to all inclusive, as well as locally-owned-and-run luxury hotels and lodges tucked away on the edge of National Parks, high up in the Hill Country and in the heart of the Cultural Triangle.
Combine safari, sand, seaplanes and temples on a Sri Lanka multi-centre holiday, pairing this exotic paradise with a luxurious Maldives island or Arabian Desert adventure.Our Sri Lanka multi-centre holidays can take you through an emerald green interior of waterfalls and mountains, on game drives through wilderness parks and past Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples. With us you can create a unique multi-centre itinerary of breathtaking culture and indulgent relaxation, exploring Sri Lanka before landing on one of the Maldives lush white-sand islands or ending with a desert retreat in Abu Dhabi or a gilded stay in Dubai. Whether you fancy visiting two very different destinations in the Indian Ocean or want to combine an exotic paradise with cool city vibes, vibrant souks and some of the tallest buildings in the world, our tailor-made itineraries can make sure you make the most of seeing more than one intoxicating destination on your holiday. Give us a call or book an appointment in your local store and we can start creating your bespoke Sri Lanka multi-centre holiday.
Shout out to Nature Lover! This park is one of the places to embrace nature and its beauty. Visitors with their family and friends spend hours over and love exploring the park, waterfalls, and thrilling rides. Viharamahadevi Park is the place where you can relax and enjoy the peace.
When it comes to art and culture every temple in Colombo is worth a visit! And Gangaramaya Temple is one of them. This Buddhist temple displays the fusion of Chinese, Indian, and Thai style of architecture. Visiting this beautiful temple is one of the best things you can do on this trip.
Floating Market In Pettah
One of the best things you can do in Pettah is exploring the floating market! Needless to say, a trip is incomplete without shopping. Here you can buy clothes, bags, accessories, footwear, even fruits and vegetables. It is located on a bridge situated above the popular Beira Lake. If you are looking for some fun and enjoyment, you must visit the floating market.
Nightlife in Colombo
Entertaining night including music, dance, casino, food, and nightclubs makes the nightlife in Colombo most enjoyable and amazing. Here you can try your luck at the gambling table which is a legal activity in this magical island nation! Whether you are a visitor or local, this is one the favourite thing for every individual in Colombo.
Sinhalese. Tamil and English are also widely spoken, and newspapers are printed in all three languages.
All foreign nationals staying in Sri Lanka must have an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation).
The ETA is issued online and no passport copies or photographs are required. To apply please visit www.eta.gov.lk.
The ETA is only valid for six months from the date of issue so please do not apply too early.
The cost to obtain an ETA is US$35 for tourists staying up to 30 days. This fee is payable online using Visa, MasterCard or American Express. A minimum of 24 hours prior notice is required.
Transit passengers and children under 12 do not need to apply for a visa.
Should you be travelling on honeymoon, the name you arrange your ETA in must match the name on the valid passport you are travelling on.
Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.
Tipping is usually around 10-15% and a service charge (approx. 12%) is often included in the bill, even in markets. As a general guide, tip around Rs 1500-2300 per day for driver guides, Rs 200-400 for waiters and porters and Rs 1000 for housekeeping.
Climate & Weather
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Best time to visit Sri Lanka
The best time of year to visit Sri Lanka depends on where you wish to travel to – for a relatively small island, there are wide variations in climate, depending on the time of year. There are two monsoons that affect the island’s climate – the north-east monsoon which can affect the whole island, and the south-west monsoon which is less intense and impacts the south and west coasts as well as the Hill Country. Despite the rainfall, the temperature around the coast rarely drops below 25 degrees; up in the Hill Country it is a little cooler due to the higher altitude. Generally, the best time to visit the west and south coasts as well as the Cultural Triangle is between December and April, while on the east coast the climate is at its finest from May through to October.
Sri Lanka in January
Sri Lanka’s weather in January is generally warm and dry, especially in the central, western and southern regions. If you are looking to explore the Cultural Triangle and then spend some time on the beaches of Negombo, Bentota or Tangalle, this is a great time to travel. The north-east (maha) monsoon will still be affecting the east coast, although the period of the heaviest, most prolonged rains will be coming to an end.
Sri Lanka in February
The weather in February remains pleasant, with beautiful sunny days on the west and south coasts and in central Sri Lanka. There is minimal rainfall in these regions and temperatures can rise to over 30 degrees. There are still rains in the east coast; however, these are beginning to become more sporadic and less intense. Independence Day is an annual, country-wide celebration that takes place on 4th February.
Sri Lanka in March
March is one of the best times of year to visit Sri Lanka. The north-east monsoon is almost over and the temperatures on the east coast are starting to rise. The beach resorts of the west and south coasts tend to be basking in glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid-30s, although towards the end of the month there may be some rain. The Hill Country also experiences a rise in temperature during March.
Sri Lanka in April
Another good month to visit the island, April continues the trend of a warm and sunny Sri Lanka climate, particularly at the beginning of the month. As it’s the end of the dry season in the west and south, humidity is relatively high, especially in the Cultural Triangle. If you are looking to visit the Hill Country – including the city of Kandy and beautiful Nuwara Eliya, then this is one of the best times to visit. The mornings and evenings are not so chilly, the daytime temperatures hover around the mid-20s and rainfall is below average. The Sinhalese/Tamil New Year also takes place in mid-April.
Sri Lanka in May
This is the month where the focus really starts to shift from the resorts of the south and west to the beaches of the east. Here, the sun starts to consistently shine and the temperatures rise to the high-20s. The south-west, or ‘yala’, monsoon reaches the south, west and central regions this month. The rains tend to be short and sharp, and there are often gloriously sunny interludes. Swimming in the sea along the south and west coastlines is usually discouraged during this period as winds that accompany the monsoon can create large waves. The Vesak Full Moon Poya Day, or Festival of Lights, is celebrated in May.
Sri Lanka in June
The south-west monsoon continues to affect the southern and western regions of the island, with increased rainfall and lower temperatures in the Hill Country.If you’re seeking an idyllic beach, the east coast is the place to go. The temperatures rise in to the low-30s and days are usually gloriously sunny. This is a good time of year to combine an exploration of the Cultural Triangle with a relaxing stay at one of Passikudah’s or Trincomalee’s luxury resorts. The Poson Poya is celebrated in the Cultural Triangle.
Sri Lanka in July
Sri Lanka’s weather in July is similar to June – the monsoon is still affecting resorts such as Negombo, Bentota and Weligama, while the beautiful east coast is warm and sunny. There are lots of religious festivals that take place throughout the summer months including the Hindu festival of Vel, and Esala Perahera, also known as the Festival of the Tooth, which falls in either July or August.
Sri Lanka in August
Unlike many of our other Asia destinations, Sri Lanka is an excellent choice during the school summer holidays. The rainfall amounts in the south and west drop significantly in comparison to the previous months (they’re also lower than the following months, too) while the east coast climate remains very pleasant. The previously mentioned Esala Perahera may fall in August and is celebrated with parades and fire-lit dances in the city of Kandy.
Sri Lanka in September
The rains of the south-west monsoon increase again this month, especially in the western, southern and Hill Country regions. September also sees the last of the really good weather on the east coast – you may even experience rainfall during the latter half of the month. If you are staying in Trincomalee, we recommend heading out on a whale-watching trip as blue whales pass the east coast on their migration around the island.
Sri Lanka in October
Sri Lanka weather in October can be changeable – it is one of the wettest months across the whole island. The south-west monsoon is still affecting the south and west for most of the month, although this does start to fade later in the month. While one monsoon is ending, another is beginning its approach towards the north and east regions.
Sri Lanka in November
The number of sunshine hours increases in the south and west, however there still may be some downpours. The best time to visit these regions is later in the month. The Hill Country and Cultural Triangle will be experiencing high levels of rainfall this month, and the arrival of north-east monsoon means rainfall is increasing along the west coast. The Hindu festival of Deepavali, also known as the Festival of Lights, takes place in late October or November.
Sri Lanka in December
December in Sri Lanka marks the start of the high season for the beach resorts on the south and west coasts. The weather is also starting to improve in the Hill Country and the Cultural Triangle, although rain can still be expected. This month also sees the beginning of the whale-watching season off the south coast. The north-east monsoon continues to bring intense rainfall to the island’s north and east regions.