- Race around in a Tuk Tuk
It wouldn’t be a trip to Sri Lanka without a rollercoaster ride in one of the islands ubiquitous tuk-tuk’s. This is the most convenient and fun way to travel around- although be warned many tuk-tuk drivers seem to believe that they’ve missed their calling as Formula 1 drivers- so expect a white-knuckle ride! Tuk-tuk drivers put a lot of effort into customizing their vehicles, so keep a beady eye out for colourful stickers, fluffy cushions, boom boxes and even disco lights! In Colombo, Pick Me is the best app around for reliable metered tuk-tuk’s. In the more rural areas outside of Colombo, just walk down the street and a tuk-tuk is sure to stop soon- just be prepared to haggle a little on the price.
- These boots are made for walking
Sri Lanka isn’t just tropical beaches and lively cities, it’s also got some stunning scenery. Just off the road to Kandy, you can find magical waterfalls hidden in the jungle, just begging to be jumped in. In Matale, you will find imposing Sigiriya with magnificent views of the surrounding jungle and nearby you’ll find the ancient ruins city of Anuradhapura. And of course, no visit to Sri Lanka would be complete without climbing sacred Adam’s Peak to see the sunrise and offer blessings.
- Sample the local food
Maybe we’re a little biased but we think that Sri Lankan food is some of the most delicious food on the planet. From roadside vendors to gourmet fusion cuisine, Sri Lankans are passionate about delivering good hearty food chock full of spices. In Sri Lanka food is seen as a way of showing respect and friendship, so don’t be surprised if you’re welcomed into a stranger’s home for a cup of tea and enough snacks to sustain an army! Don’t leave the island without trying coconut prawn curry, string hoppers, pol sambol, chicken kottu, hot butter cuttlefish and vadais. Sri Lanka is also famous for its tea, and locals everywhere are always keen to share a pot of their legendary tea. Why not stop by the Mackwoods Tea Plantation in Nuwara Eliya to find out how your favourite cup of chai is made and enjoy the view over afternoon tea in their café?
- Go wildlife spotting
From monkeys to elephants and. even leopards’ Sri Lanka is teeming with interesting wildlife. You can see elephants and leopards in Yala, monkeys can be found all over the island but especially on the roadside on the way to Kandy and dolphins and whales can be found in Kalpitiya between November and April. Don’t forget to keep a keen eye on the shallows of rivers, as wild crocodiles and turtles will occasionally sneak out for a spot of sunbathing on the river bank!
- Get in touch with your spiritual side
One thing that you’ll notice the second you step off the plane, is that Sri Lanka is a very spiritual country. The three main religions are Buddhism, Catholicism and Hinduism. You’ll also be able to spot mosques in every town, alongside churches and temples. Even Yoga and Ayurveda are treated as spiritual pathways to enlightenment, so expect your Hatha Yoga class to be just as focused on stretching the limits of your mind as your muscles! Poya days, also known as full moon days, are alcohol-free days throughout Sri Lanka and are an opportunity for families to head to the nearest temple and offer blessings. If you time it right, you can also catch some of the big perehara’s, which are religious festivals filled with bright lights, food and celebrations. Kandy Perehara, which celebrates the sacred relic of Lord Buddha’s tooth, can be seen in July-August. Expect firewalkers, music, elephants, dancers, acrobatics and devotions expressed through feats of physical pain. Temples are nearly always very welcoming places and monks are usually very keen to offer blessings for your travels. Don’t be shy about walking in to show your respects. Just remember to take off your shoes, sunglasses and hat, cover your body from shoulders to knees and never take a photo of Lord Buddha or any religious icon with your back to the statue and you’ll be fine.
- Haggle at Pettah Market
If you’re looking for some local colour then Pettah Market is the place to go to. Pettah is bustling, noisy and filled to the brim with stalls selling teas, spices, antiques and souvenirs. Stop by here to pick up some mementoes of your trip and be prepared to barter. When the sun goes down join Dodgy Dee’s Dodgy Bar Crawl to discover some of the most charming dive bars Pettah has to offer.
- Surfs up!
Whether you prefer bodyboarding, kitesurfing, kayaking, whitewater rafting or longboarding, Sri Lanka has it all! Head to Arugam Bay on the East coast between May and September for chill vibes and killer waves and Hikkaduwa or Mirissa on the South West coast from November to March for nightlife as gnarly as the waves. If surfing isn’t your thing then swing by some of Sri Lanka’s world-class beaches for sunbathing and cocktails.
- Get chatting to a local
Sri Lankans are incredibly welcoming and hospitable people. They are always happy to strike up a conversation and offer some free travel advice whilst you’re visiting their country. From tuk-tuk drivers to waiters in hotels and even fellow diners in cafés, everyone is excited to start a conversation with a stranger and spark a new friendship. The way of life here is very relaxed and laidback and so a twenty-minute comfort break for a cup of tea will easily turn into a four-hour session swapping stories of the good old days and debating the big questions of life, love and art. It might take a little getting used to, especially if you’re from a more reserved culture, however, our advice is to just embrace the Sri Lankan way of life. Who knows maybe your seatmate on the train to Galle could end up being your new best friend? The three main languages in Sri Lanka are English, Sinhala and Tamil, and most people will know a smidgeon of all three. Take the time to learn a sentence or two in all three languages and we guarantee the smile you receive in return will be worth it! Just remember, “hello” in Sinhala is “Ayubowan” and “thank you” in Tamil is “Naṉṟi”.
- Travel back in time
Even if you’re not a history buff, it’s hard not to be amazed by some of the historic sights Sri Lanka has to offer. From ancient ruins in Anuradhapura to charming colonial-era buildings in the Fort area of Colombo, Sri Lanka has something to offer all tastes. Swing by the National Museum in Colombo on a rainy afternoon for a quick history lesson on Sri Lanka’s past or take a walking tour of the city for a taste of life in the olden days. Don’t forget to spend a lazy day wandering around the rambling and beautifully restored port city of Galle. While in Galle keep an eye out for the delicious gelato made in-house at Pedlar’s Inn- you’ll thank us later!
- Paint the town red!
Sri Lankans are big believers in embracing life to the fullest and enjoying the world’s pleasures wherever they can be found. Whether it is a family wedding, a beachside bar or one of the hottest clubs in Colombo, you’ll be sure to see people of all ages dancing the night away until the early hours of the morning! If you go to a ticketed event, it’s not unusual for breakfast to be included in the ticket price, as parties usually go to sunrise and beyond so be sure to bring your stamina! If you’re down South or in Arugam Bay, just wander along the main beach and you’ll be sure to find a party somewhere. If you’re in Colombo, some of our favourites include Love Bar, Clique and 41 Sugar. Don’t forget to try an Arrack cocktail (we recommend dark arrack mixed with ginger beer!) and if you still have the energy on the first Sunday of the month, head to Barefoot for live Jazz and brunch.
11. Get Crafty!
Sri Lanka has a bustling arts and crafts scene, with local artisans working hard to create quality unique pieces that you won’t find anywhere else in the world! From bright and colourful Batik fabrics to beautiful hand carved wooden masks and even sapphires just miles away from Ratnapura – you’ll be sure to find something special to take home to remind you of your time in the pearl of the Indian Ocean!