Located in southern India, in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has an impressive variety of landscapes. The mountains and hills of its highlands contrast with the beautiful beaches that line its coastline, with sparkling waterfalls, sparkling lagoons and tumultuous rivers. Torn apart for decades by civil war, Sri Lanka is now an increasingly popular tourist destination, and for good reason; a multitude of impressive historical monuments, cultural monuments and archaeological sites are dotted here and there among its picturesque landscapes. The country has over 2,500 years of history, and that’s what makes exploring cities like Anuradhapura, Galle and Kandy so fascinating.
1. Central Province
Located in the heart of the country, the central province is predominantly mountainous, with rolling hills, rainforests and wetlands between the hills. Due to its topography and magnificent landscapes, the central highlands are an ideal place for hiking. The Knuckles Range and Horton Plains National Park are particularly popular destinations, while the sparkling Devon Falls are also worth a visit. Culture is also present, and the city of Kandy is full of incredible historical and cultural landmarks, with the Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Royal Palace among its most awe-inspiring places. Nuwara Eliya is known as “Little England” for its Victorian architecture and picturesque setting amidst endless tea plantations. Besides its fabulous natural landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the central province is steeped in history. The century-old cave temple of Dambulla and the ancient city of Sigirya are fascinating to explore, the latter featuring an impressive fortress and red stone palace.
2. Northern Province
The northern province of Sri Lanka, so long ravaged by war, still bears the scars. Bombed and riddled buildings dot their towns, while landmines remain hidden in their disarmingly beautiful and peaceful jungles. Due to its many beautiful beaches, sparkling lagoons and tropical forests, not to mention its temples, forts and rich cultural heritage, the Tamil-dominated Northern Province is slowly opening up to tourists. Now that he’s safe again, there are tons of places to visit. Although many flock to its awe-inspiring scenery, Jaffna – the region’s main city – and Mannar, located near Adam’s Bridge, are worth a visit; Both are home to many interesting historical sites and proudly display the rich Tamil culture and customs. In addition, the beautiful islands of Velanai and Neduntheevu are pleasant to explore, with many idyllic beaches.
3. Center-North Province
The seat of two of Sri Lanka’s oldest kingdoms, the North Central Province has over 2,500 years of history, and it is not for nothing that it is known as the Cultural Triangle. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are two amazing places to visit. Both cities are full of impressive archaeological sites, with amazing ruins of palaces and temples everywhere. Among the many places of interest to visit are the Bodhi Tree Temple in Anuradhapura and the King Parakramabahu I Statue in Polonnaruwa. If the wealth of historical monuments rightly dominates the routes of most visitors, the province also has enchanting nature and fauna. Kaudulla and Minneriya National Parks are home to the majestic Sri Lankan elephants, which happily roam among the spectacular landscapes. Seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat is an unforgettable experience.
4. Eastern Province
This beautiful part of the country, which stretches across most of Sri Lanka’s east coast, is home to some of the best beaches in the country, with Nilaveli, Passikudah and Uppuveli being the most popular. Thanks to its long and picturesque coastline, the Province Orientale is an ideal place for water sports enthusiasts; Arugam Bay is famous for its many surf spots. As the surroundings are teeming with swamps and forests that are home to an impressive variety of flora and fauna, Arugam Bay is also an ideal base if you wish to explore the southern part of the region, as Kumana National Park is also nearby. . Further north are the towns of Batticaloa and Trincomalee, both located in absolutely stunning oceanfront surroundings. Filled with historic landmarks such as Fort Batticaloa and Fort Frederick, both are worth seeing for their beautiful beaches and rich cultural heritage. If you fancy seeing the abundant marine life, you can also go snorkelling or whale watching offshore.
5. North West Province
On the shores of the Gulf of Mannar, the North West Province has it all. Glorious golden beaches rub shoulders with historic sites from the colonial era and amazing archaeological sites with a wide variety of impressive ruins. It is a wonderful region to explore; History buffs in particular will appreciate the ancient rock temples of Kurunegala and Wayamba, which feature exquisite frescoes and centuries-old carvings. Since the province was once home to four of Sri Lanka’s medieval kingdoms, the archaeological sites of Dambadeniya, Kurunegala, Panduwasnuwara, and Yapahuwa are also fascinating to explore; they are home to incredible ruins of citadels, palaces and temples, among others. Although the Dutch fort of Kalpitiya is also worth a visit, the other great attraction of the North West Province is its divine coastline, full of beautiful beaches and charming fishing villages; those in Marawila, Talwila and Waikkal are among the best.
Known for the sparkling gems that sprout from its lands, Sabaragamuwa in southwest Sri Lanka often goes unnoticed by visitors to the country; this makes it perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and traditions. Although it does not have a beautiful coastline or fascinating historical monuments, Sabaragamuwa has more than enough to keep you entertained. Sinharaja Forest Reserve and Udawalawe National Park are two beautiful areas of the country that you can explore, with impressive flora and fauna and impressive waterfalls to discover. Ratnapura, which means “City of Gems”, is the capital of the region. This bustling market town has some interesting temples to visit, while many people also flock to contemplate the alluring gems in one of its exhibition halls. In addition, it is a good starting point for the hike, with the imposing Adam’s Peak as the main destination.
7. Southern Province
The Southern Province, which encompasses the southern coast of Sri Lanka, is famous for its beautiful beaches. While each is more beautiful than the last, those of Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna are particularly charming. The golden shores and the sparkling sea offer endless water sports, including swimming, scuba diving and surfing. Equally charming is the historic town of Galle. Walk through its fascinating colonial-era monuments and immerse yourself in history. Matara and Tissamaharama are also beautiful places, with a lovely landscape. In addition to its impressive coastline, the province has Yala National Park, the most visited in the country. Here you will find a wide variety of plants, as well as a multitude of fascinating animals, such as elephants, leopards, monkeys and crocodiles. Nature lovers will find no better place in the country to satisfy their urge to observe wildlife.
Nestled in the south-east of the country, Uva is mainly mountainous. The Haputale and Namunukula mountain ranges cross it, and several rivers and reservoirs also dot its landscape. This is why the highlands are a great getaway if you want to escape the sunny coast of Sri Lanka. Among all the tea plantations that cover the slopes of the mountains, there are picturesque villages such as Badulla and Ella, both located in very romantic settings. Because a plethora of sparkling waterfalls are hidden within the stunning scenery of the province, Uva is also a popular spot for hill and plantation trekking. Maduru Oya and Udawalawe National Parks are home to incredible flora and fauna, the former home to the Vedda tribes. Visiting Aboriginal villages offers fascinating insight into their rich culture and heritage.
9. Western Province
The country’s most populous province, Western Province, is home to both Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte – the capital of Sri Lanka – and Colombo – the island’s commercial hub and largest city. Although much of its territory is made up of urban areas and satellite towns, the province has a beautiful coastline that you can explore. Negombo’s beautiful beaches, fascinating canal system, and colonial-era monuments make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. Although the capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, does not have many places of interest, Colombo is worth a visit for its multitude of temples and museums, as well as for its interesting historical monuments.