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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka - Top Attractions to Explore in Sri Lanka
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Joanna James Joanna James
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Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka - Top Attractions to Explore in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is not only one of Asia's best beach holiday hubs but a cultural epicentre as well. Here are some of the not-to-miss highlights all visitors must explore on a Sri Lankan vacation.

1

Kandy

As the second largest city in Sri Lanka, Kandy is not only a cultural hotspot but arguably one of the island's most scenic corners. Occupying the central hills, the area is the focal point of the Esala Perahera Festival which takes place in August each year. Kandy's main tourist attraction is the Temple of the Tooth or the Dalada Maligawa, where the dental remains of Lord Buddha are stored in a former palace compound. The Peradeniya Botanical Gardens is another point of interest in Kandy where one can sample a cup of Ceylon Tea and enjoy the British tradition of high tea as well.

2

Sigiriya

Sigiriya is another must-visit region in Sri Lanka, not only due to the UNESCO Heritage Site from which the town gets its name but also to witness the many other cultural highlights occupying the precinct. Dating back to the 5th Century B.C, the fortress among the clouds was built on a natural rock by King Kashyapa. Surrounded by water gardens and an extensive moat, the attraction takes at least a day to explore in its entirety. Don't forget to pop by the Sigiriya Museum to discover the architectural and engineering prowess of ancient Sri Lankans who constructed the heritage site. Visitors based at Sri Lanka resorts the likes of Theme Resorts & Spas or any other should plan their visit in the early morning hours as the enclosure is too exposed to climb in the midday heat.

3

Nuwara Eliya

Experience landscapes and weather conditions that are reminiscent of the Scottish highlands in Nuwara Eliya. With an altitude of nearly 2000 meters, the area is one of the country's most verdant and coldest regions. Tea plantations and factories are scattered across this part of the hill country while picturesque botanical highlights including the Hakgala Botanical Gardens are also found here alongside some of the island's top golf courses.

4

Polonnaruwa

Travellers with an interest in the history of the island nation and its ancient capitals should not miss the chance to explore the relics and remnants of Polonnaruwa. As a former capital, the city is home to countless ancient temples, palaces and Buddha sculptures. Hewn into stone, some of the most impressive points of interest in this part of the Cultural Triangle include Gal Viharaya which was also featured in a music video by British pop band Duran Duran in the 1980's.

5

Udawalawe National Park

Tipped to be the best wildlife sanctuary in the country to catch a glimpse of elephants in the wild, the Udawalawe National Park is a safari fan's dream destination. Home to herds of gentle giants, safari adventure of this park where sambar deer, crocodiles, buffalos, monkeys and leopards roam are organized by local tour operators. Visitors should also step inside the Elephant Transit Home within the park as it serves as an important conservation project which aids injured elephants return to the wild after rehabilitation.

6

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura was the island's capital as early as 3rd century B.C and remains a coveted attraction for Buddhists as well as history buffs. As the location in which the holy Sri Maha Bodhi is found, the most popular highlights in this ancient city are its iconic temples which include the "Eight Sacred Spots" according to local Buddhist heritage.

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