A local's guide to Sri Lanka's highlights

Local expert and Insight Guides trip planner Imran shares his insider secrets on what not to miss during your holiday in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan coast. Photo: Shutterstock
Sri Lankan coast. Photo: Shutterstock

The Sri Lankan coast and its beautiful beaches are an obvious highlight. Photo: Shutterstock


From where to watch sunrise to the island's best beaches, Insight Guides trip planner Imran shares his five favourite spots you shouldn't miss on your holiday to Sri Lanka


1. Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is a laid back beach town on Sri Lanka’s south-east coast. Renowned as one of the top ten surf spots in the world, Arugam Bay is a popular haunt for surfers across the globe, particularly between July and August when there are thrilling waves and competitions.

If surfing isn’t your thing, simply chill out on the beach and listen to the soothing sounds of the waves lapping the shore. For those looking to escape the stresses of their daily lives, this slow-paced coastal town is an ideal choice.

Adding Arugam Bay to your Insight Guides' trip itinerary is easy: take a look at my suggested trips or submit a trip request now.


Sunset seen from Elephant Rock near Arugam Bay. Photo: ShutterstockThe sunset from Elephant Rock, near Arugam Bay, is unmissable on your Sri Lanka holiday. Photo: Shutterstock


2. Gal Oya National Park

Escape the crowds at Yala National Park and instead head to Gal Oya in the east, an extensive wildlife sanctuary edged by a lake that is inhabited by herds of elephants, water buffalo, deer, crocodile and numerous species of birds. Here you can wonder at Sri Lanka’s incredible wildlife in peace.

Go on a boat safari along the lake and, if you’re lucky, you might even spot a wild elephant swimming alongside you as it moves between the different islands.

Whichever national park you want to visit on your trip to Sri Lanka, we can add it to your Insight Guides' holiday: take a look at my suggested trips or submit a trip request now.


Wild deer in Sri Lanka. Photo: ShutterstockWild deer in Sri Lanka. Photo: Shutterstock


3. Koneswaram Hindu Kovil

Once the site of an ancient Hindu Kovil, said to have been destroyed by the Portuguese, Koneswaram is a modern yet truly mesmerising Hindu temple in Trincomalee. At dusk each day, poojas or religious services are conducted here. Adorned with colourful statues of Hindu gods, Koneswaram is positioned on Swami Rock – also referred to as ‘Lover’s Leap’ – a sheer cliff that is about 350ft above sea level. It is said that the name `Lovers Leap’ was coined after an incident involving a Dutch Officer's daughter, who leapt from the rock into the sea following a broken love affair. The views of Trincomalee’s natural harbour and the Indian Ocean are magnificent.


Close up of God Shiva statue at Hindu temple in Trincomalee. Photo: ShutterstockClose up of God Shiva statue at Hindu temple in Trincomalee. Photo: Shutterstock


4. Adam’s Peak

This 2,234m mountain is a sacred site and common pilgrimage for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, who variously believe that the footprint at the top of the peak is from Adam, Lord Buddha and Lord Shiva.

Most people begin the ascent in the middle of the night following pathways lit up with lights, aiming to get to the summit before the sun comes up. The sunrise here, is said to be one of the most spectacular in Asia. It is a tiring experience, but well worth the effort: the beauty of the dawn and the awe-inspiring views across the island are unmissable.


Mountain Adam's Peak (Sri Pada) covered by thick fog highlighted by illumination of the temple. Photo: ShutterstockMountain Adam's Peak (Sri Pada) covered by thick fog highlighted by illumination of the temple. Photo: Shutterstock


5. Tangalle

If you're looking for Sri Lanka's best beaches and for privacy away from the common tourist traps, the southern coastal belt is your best bet. Stunning beaches with unspoiled golden sands and glimmering turquoise seas are separated by charming rural fishing villages and stretches of lush wilderness; discover them all on my suggested Sri Lanka: Culture and Coast holiday. Tangalle, with its laidback atmosphere and secluded bays, is the perfect place to have some peace and quiet.


Tropical beach near Tangalle. Photo: ShutterstockTropical beach near Tangalle. Photo: Shutterstock


How to take a trip to Sri Lanka:

Let our Insight Guides travel expert create your ultimate holiday now

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The definitive guide to Sri Lanka's best beaches 

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