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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for 10 Most beautiful places in Sri Lanka -Sri Lanka, truly a land like no other
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Joanna James Joanna James
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10 Most beautiful places in Sri Lanka -Sri Lanka, truly a land like no other

If you think Sri Lanka is just beaches, palm trees and cocktails, think again. Possibly no other island nation has so much variety to offer in such a concentrated space. Be prepared to be amazed.

1

Sigiriya – a palace in the sky

The picture postcard famous rock fortress with its palace ruins is a must see and climb to the top (200 m) for the views leaves most visitors aghast with amazement. To think that an ancient king built a palace atop this rock many moons ago is mind-blowing! Most organised tours to Sri Lanka include a stop here. A UNESCO listed World Heritage Site, Sigiriya is one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning and architecture. You'll be dazzled by the Lion's Paw and Gate, rock wall paintings of beautiful damsels, remnants of the palace, pools, ponds and gardens.

2

Galle Fort - centuries of multicultural history

Built-in 1588 by the Portuguese, further fortified by the Dutch from 1649 onwards and taken over by the British in 1796, the Galle Fort lives on as the largest standing fortress in Asia built by European colonisers.

It's worth even a day trip from Colombo to visit the Fort with its bastions, ramparts, old churches, lighthouse, and quaint cobbled streets dotted with scores of restaurants, shops and residences.

3

Trincomalee – historic port city

Situated on the east coast, Trincomalee with its natural deep-water harbour, the fifth largest natural harbour in the world, has attracted colonisers, seafarers, traders and pilgrims from the earliest of times.

The Hindu Koneswaram temple has a recorded history dating to the 3rd century. The shrine was demolished in 1622 by the occupying Portuguese who used the rubble to fortify the Fort which was later rebuilt by the Dutch in 1665 and renamed Fort Fredrick. A sheer cliff face called 'Lover's Leap' is also found here.

The famous seven hot springs at Kanniya on the road to Trincomalee are also steeped in history and in 2011 together with other ruins were recognised by the government as an archaeological protected site. Each spring not more than four feet deep runs out of the water after 10-15 buckets of water have been extracted.

The beaches in this area, Nilaveli, for example, are wide and pristine, while the ocean is flat and calm.

4

Arugam Bay – surfer's paradise and more

Heading down the east coast you come to Arugam Bay, rated one of Sri Lanka's top windsurfing spots and highly ranked internationally too. Even if you're not a surfer the attraction in this hidden gem of a town is the choice of beaches, restaurants, nightlife, yoga and the general laid-back vibe of what was essentially a fishing town. You're quite likely to see wild elephants on roads in and out of Arugam Bay, while Kumana National Park, a bird paradise, is close by.

5

Kandy – city with a great heritage

After Colombo, Kandy the second largest city and hill capital is probably the best-known venue in the island. Located on a plateau (465 m), amidst lush mountain greenery, this is yet another designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6

Wilpathu National Park beckons animal lovers

Less frequented than Yala National Park in the south, Wilpathu on the north-west coast is more serene and spectacular. There is a high likelihood of seeing leopard and bear here, in addition to scores of other wildlife. Wilpathu is a good stop if you are heading north towards Jaffna.

7

Nuwara Eliya – holiday resort town with a history

Nestled in the mountainous tea-growing region of the island, Nuwara Eliya known as 'Little England' for its British colonial heritage is a charming and unique destination. Beautiful old building such as The Grand Hotel (a 'National Heritage Property', 1828), St Andrews Hotel (1875), Hill Club (1876) and the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club (1889), bear testament to the glory days of colonialism.

8

Ella by train preferably!

Also, in the breathtaking mountain region is Ella (1041 m), a gateway to hiking and nature tourism. Just a little town made famous by the spectacular train ride that gets you there, Ella has developed its own vibe in recent times. Things to see and experience nearby include Little Adam's Peak, 9 Arches Bridge, Ravana Falls, Ella Rock and of course the cafes and restaurants that visitors rave about.

9

Kalpitiya – a well-kept secret

Lesser known Kalpitiya is peninsular on the northwestern coast gaining fame for its resident whale and dolphin populations (take a boat ride to see them) and as a kite surfing and surfing hot spot thanks to its lagoons. The flat and partly arid landscape of this area is home to fishermen, farmers, wild donkeys and windmills. If you're looking for something different, this is it.

With so much to see and do planning your trip can be a daunting task. You can wing it or reach out to a travel agency like Connaissance de Ceylan to tailor make the perfect package for you. Good luck and safe travels... Sri Lanka awaits.