Sri Lanka is fast becoming one of the world’s must-visit destinations, and this diverse tropical island has so much to offer for all varieties of traveller!

From iconic train rides, incredible wildlife and golden sandy beaches to mountainous regions with jaw-dropping views, there are so many epic things to do in Sri Lanka. 

That being said, with an almost endless list of activities to choose from it’s not always easy creating an itinerary of things to do while visiting Sri Lanka – so we’ve done it for you!

Here are 12 of our favourite things to do in Sri Lanka:

1. Take the train from Kandy to Ella

Hopping aboard the Kandy to Ella train, you’re not just embarking on any trip; you’re diving into one of the globe’s hottest tickets in town for thrill-seekers and those eager to flood their Instagram with envy-inducing snaps.

Clocking in at 9 to 10 hours, this journey isn’t just about getting from A to B. It’s a visual feast, serving up mist-kissed mountains, charming towns like Haputale and Nuwara Eliya, and tea plantations so lush, they practically sparkle under the kiss of sunlight.

Here’s a pro tip to elevate your scenic game: snag a seat on the train’s right side as you roll from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, then switch it up to the left from there to Ella. Trust us, it’s the move for those picture-perfect views.

Things To Do In Sri Lanka
The train ride through the tea plantations on route from Kandy to Ella | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

2. Visit the Demodara Nine Arches Bridge 

Nestled in one of Ella’s most breathtaking spots, making a stop at the Nine Arches Bridge tops the list of must-dos in Sri Lanka. Beneath this architectural marvel lies a verdant tea plantation, offering a view where the brilliant blue sky peeks through the bridge’s nine arches, earning it the nickname ‘The Bridge with Nine Skies’ among the locals.

Strategically positioned between Ella and Demodara Railway Stations, the bridge is a relic from the British colonial era, standing out for its all-brick and cement construction—a stark contrast to the metal-built bridges common during the period.

While exploring this iconic landmark, keep an eye out for the renowned Blue Train of Ella. It’s a sight to behold, but a heads-up on the train schedule might save you from missing out on this moving spectacle.

12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka
The view from below Demodora Nine Arches Bridge, Ella | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

3. Hike up Little Adam’s Peak 

If hiking sets your heart racing, then gear up for an unforgettable trek in Ella.

Scaling Little Adam’s Peak is an adventure that’s friendly for all ages, including kids. You’re looking at a breezy 1.5-hour journey, tops. For an unparalleled experience, kick off your hike just as dawn breaks. The early start rewards you with mesmerizing views of Ella Rock and the vast beauty beyond, a spectacle too majestic for mere words. Trust us, it’s a must-do for that summit high feeling!

For the trekking aficionados craving a steeper challenge, Ella Rock might just be your call to the wild. Embodying the essence of ‘no pain, no gain,’ the vistas from its peak are a testament to the effort required. The panoramas here are not just seen; they’re earned, offering a gratifying contrast to Little Adam’s Peak’s more accessible beauty.

View from Little Adam’s Peak. Mountain landscape in Sri Lanka | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka


4. Hike to the top of Diyaluma Falls

For those with a thirst for adventure, Diyaluma Falls offers a thrilling escapade as Sri Lanka‘s second tallest waterfall. Tailored for those with a moderate level of hiking experience, the ascent challenges adventurers with its height and slippery paths, adding an extra layer of excitement to the trek.

The journey to the summit can be conquered in roughly 2 hours, making it an ideal excursion from Ella. Consider hiring a local guide if you’re unsure about navigating the trails or if safety concerns arise, ensuring a smoother experience at Diyaluma Falls.

Reaching the pinnacle rewards you with spectacular vistas and the chance to unwind in nature’s own infinity pools, providing a serene spot to relax and rejuvenate after the hike.

The view from the pools at the top of Diyaluma Falls | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

5. Go whale watching in Mirissa

Heading to Sri Lanka’s southern shores? Make sure to add a whale watching excursion in Mirissa to your itinerary.

This adventure offers the thrilling chance to catch sight of blue whales, sperm whales, Bryde’s whales, and even playful bottlenose dolphins, ranking it high on our list of must-dos in Sri Lanka. These tours set sail in the cool early hours and prices start from around $70 each.

Whale enthusiasts should aim for December to April for the best sightings. However, if your travels don’t align with these months, don’t worry. Trincomalee offers a secondary whale watching window from July to October, ensuring you won’t miss out on these majestic sea creatures.

Aerial view of the beach town, Mirissa | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

6. Go on a safari at Yala National Park

Yala National Park ranks among the premier safari destinations in Sri Lanka.

While Udawalwe and Minneriya hold their own allure, Yala steals the spotlight for its claim to fame: boasting the world’s highest density of wild leopards.

Embark on a daytime safari here, and you’re met with an impressive 80% chance of laying eyes on these elusive felines. But Yala isn’t just a leopard haven; it’s also a haven for elephants, with herds often accompanied by adorable calves.

Beyond the big cats and gentle giants, the park teems with a vibrant array of wildlife. Keep your camera ready for sightings of peacocks strutting their stuff, water buffaloes cooling off, crocodiles lurking in the waters, sloth bears ambling through the foliage, and playful monkeys swinging from tree to tree, all under the watchful gaze of deer grazing in the distance.

Young leopard in Yala National Park | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

7. Climb to the top of Pidurangala Rock

If you’ve done your research around a vacation in Sri Lanka then you’ll have no doubt seen various Instagram photos showing travellers posing on a rock, with the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in the distance. This rock is known as Pidurangala Rock, and another must-do epic activity in Sri Lanka. Your social media will thank you! 

Pidurangala Rock also houses the Pidurangala Monastery, where you’ll find various Buddha statues.

The hike is best started around an hour before sunrise. There is a well-laid path at the beginning, however the hike becomes increasingly difficult as it goes on, and near the end you’ll have to use all four limbs to climb up certain paths.

The view of Sigiriya from Pidurangala Rock | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

8. Visit the Sigiriya Rock Fortress 

Sigiriya Rock Fortress, often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world is a 200, high rock formation in the Dambulla area of Sri Lanka. 

The fortress was built by King Kashyapa and was made to depict a giant lion-like figure. Unfortunately, today only the paws of the lion are visible as the head has broken down over time.

During the hike to the top you’ll pass beautiful gardens, the lion gate, Sigiriya frescoes (believed to be drawings of women in King Kashyapa’s harem), and the mirror wall with its ancient scribblings.

The view from the top is best during sunset, so our suggestion is to pair this with your morning hike up Pidurangala. By the time you get to the summit of Sigiriya, you shouldn’t be too far from the evening hours and arguable the most beautiful sunset you’ll ever see.

12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka
Aeriel view of the sunrise over Sigiriya rock fortress | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

9. Swim with sea turtles at Polhena Beach 

Polhena Beach is located just 10 km away from Mirissa Main Beach, and if you’re a wildlife enthusiast then swimming with massive sea turtles here is one of the most incredible things to do in Sri Lanka.

Polhena is one of the nicest beaches in Sri Lanka, particularly for swimmers as the water is very calm, which makes it an ideal natural habitat for these ancient sea creatures.

The best time to visit Polhena Beach is in the morning hours, and please remember to respect the turtles and not get too close despite how exciting the experience is.

A baby turtle makes its way into the ocean for the first time at Polhena Beach | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

10. Go snorkeling at Pigeon Island National Park

Pigeon Island National Park is located on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, around 1 km away from the coast of Nilaveli Beach. It is home to a large number of colourful coral species and more than 200 types of exotic fish. 

The best time to visit Pigeon Island National Park is in the early morning or late afternoon, and here you’ll also be able to swim with sea turtles – most notably Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles.

As if the turtles and coral wasn’t enough, one of the national park’s main attractions is its Blacktip Reef Sharks. Swimming with these small and non-aggressive sharks makes for an incredible experience, if you’re brave enough!

Tourists swimming at Pigeon Island National Park | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

11. Do some surfing at Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay, located on Sri Lanka’s east coast is known as the country’s surf mecca. 

It is one of the 10 most-visited surf destinations in the world, with more popularity among experienced surfers. For them, the Pottuvil Point, Main/Okanda Point, and the Panama Point are ideal spots.

Recently it has started gaining the attention of beginner and intermediate surfers as well, with Baby Point and Elephant Rock being more suitable surf spots for those still working on their skills.

The best time to surf at Argugam Bay is June through September, when the waves range between 6-8ft at Main Point.

12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka
Early morning surfing in Sri Lanka | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka

12. Enjoy a sunset at the Dalawella Beach

Dalawella Beach is situated near Unawatuna Beach on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. It is a popular spot among tourists who come down to enjoy a few beverages from Dream Cabana, while watching a picturesque sunset.

The best time to visit the beach is late afternoon, and be sure to checkout the palm rope swing. Dream Cabana do charge around $2.50 for a turn on the swing, but it is well worth-it for the social media cred!

Sri Lanka might be a small island country, but it is one of the most diverse destinations on earth where there is no shortage of things to do. There truly is something for every kind of traveller!

The iconic palm swing at Dalawella Beach | 12 Epic Things To Do In Sri Lanka