Top Things to Do in Sri Lanka
For the Active Traveller
The teardrop-shaped paradise of Sri Lanka is the perfect location for an adventurous, active holiday. With its diverse landscapes ranging from tropical sandy beaches, to the green highlands, wild jungles and raging rivers, for such a small country it certainly packs a lot in.
Climate here is pretty much year round if you plan well! Check out our guide to Sri Lanka’s weather.
Whether a long weekend exploring the southern beaches, a fast-paced 10 day stint driving around the classic loop, or a more slow-paced 1 month itinerary soaking up everything this vibrant country has to offer – there is a plethora of activities to keep you entertained. Here is a selection of our favourite things to do in Sri Lanka:
Being an island, Sri Lanka is not short of stunning beaches and this makes for the perfect setting for beach fitness bootcamps. Whether combining with surfing in the south, yoga and wellness or an all inclusive retreat on the beaches of Kalpitiya, you will be spoilt for choice.
The BNKR is the first ever dedicated beach gym and fitness bootcamp in Sri Lanka and the perfect place to go wild or just find privacy, tranquillity and beauty on your fitness boot camp holiday
The Kalpitiya peninsula was first put on the tourist map 10 years ago when it was discovered as a kite surfer’s paradise. Since then, kite schools have popped up all over the area offering trips to Vella Island for butter flat waters and consistent winds, lagoons for beginners and downwinders for the more advanced.
The new kid in town is Mannar, offering 16km of flat water conditions and the most consistent wind in the whole of Sri Lanka. One of the first resorts to open there is Vayu Resort
Hiking & Camping in the Knuckles Mountain Ranges
Named after its uncanny likeness to human knuckles (funnily enough), theses mystical mountain ranges and dense forests are a popular spot for hikers and campers, conveniently located close to Kandy.
Whether just admiring the scenery and lush vegetation from your cosy luxury tent or scrambling across one of the 34 trails on the hunt for waterfalls, hidden villages and breathtaking vistas, this truly is a nature lovers paradise. Take note that this is one of the toughest hiking trails in Sri Lanka and no matter how experienced you are, you must take a guide with you. Also watch out for leeches!
White Water Rafting in Kithulgala
As well as being known for its groves of kithul (delicious Sri Lankan treacle) and where the Bridge over the River Kwai was filmed, Kithulgala has become extremely popular for its White Water Rafting.
Expect to ride Grade 2 and 3 rapids between May and December with views of stunning tropical scenery of the region. If you are looking for higher grades, you can find up to grade 5 on the river between Hatton and Nuwara Eliya. Definitely not for the light hearted.
Cycling & Mountain Biking through the countryside
Whether as part of an organised tour or self-guided, you can cycle & mountain bike some of the most scenic and beautiful trails in the country.
Cycle Sri Lanka’s quiet back roads and coastal roads through picturesque rural villages discovering the rich history and culture, delicious cuisine, and welcoming people. If you fancy more heart racing stuff in cooler climes, tackle the hilly roads on mountain bikes passing manicured tea estates, starting from Kandy and meandering your way through the Central Highlands over the Hantana mountain range and onto the colonial hill station of Nuwara Eliya.
Whilst the busier resorts of Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa are good for beginners with plenty of PADI schools around, head to Trincomalee and off the coast of Pigeon Island Marine Life Sanctuary for some spectacular coral reefs and an 18th-century wreck dive close to the coast. For the more experienced divers, head to Kirinda in March and April to explore the Little and Great Basses wrecks.
Kalpitiya is also gaining in popularity for scuba diving in the winter months with The Kalpitiya Diving Centre now providing PADI courses.
Climb the Picturesque & Historic Adam’s Peak
Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) is Sri Lanka’s most sacred mountain standing at 2,243m situated in the central highlands. This is an extremely popular trek consisting of 5,000–6,000 gruelling steps and incline trekking but is not technically difficult. Depending on your fitness levels, the hike should take around 3-5 hours to get to the top and back down.
The best time to go is between January and May. To avoid queues to the top and to get the best views, start off in the dark to be at the summit at dawn as the view of the sunrise is sensational (remember a jumper! It can get chilly)
Dirt biking Devil’s Staircase
Driving around Sri Lanka is not for the faint hearted (or for someone who doesn’t like breaking rules!). But if you are seasoned to riding the crazy roads of Asia and you have some experience dirt biking, it is highly recommended you hire yourself a sturdy bike and head to the hills. Not only are there spectacular rides all around such as Horton Plains and around Kandy, make sure you don’t miss the twisting, turning, bumpy, windy, insane road that is the Devil’s Staircase.
The route goes from Ohiya to Kalupahana and pretty much looks like a path. Because it is. i won’t give away any spoilers. Just do it! And test your brakes first…
Tuk Tuk Adventures
Be a part of your very own crazy races! Tuk tuks - and the stickers and drawings on them affectionately referred to as tuk wisdom - are a staple of Sri Lanka, zipping around cities, towns and villages.
There are now lots of companies renting out tuk tuks so you can self-drive your way across the country in your very own sturdy three wheeler. Not for the faint-hearted I might add and make sure your horn works!
Surfing in Arugam Bay or the South
Depending on which time of year you find yourself in Sri Lanka, this small island hosts some of the best surf sites in Asia suitable for all levels, year round. Do not expect giant waves like in Hawaii, but the waves are exceptionally long so great fun.
Whilst the rains hit the south coast from April to October, head over to the popular area of Arugam Bay in the east. Whiskey Point is a particular favourite but you need to get there early before the crowds. Then as the monsoon sets in, head down to the south from November to May when the waves are utter perfection. Popular places are the hip Weligama good for beginners, the party town of Hikkaduwa and the more family friendly tourist bay of Unawatuna.
Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka
For such a small island, the weather in Sri Lanka can be forever changing although the temperatures are normally pretty constant. Not uncommon for a country situated in the tropics. Whilst the monsoons thrash at the East Coast, you can expect sunny days and perfect swells on the west coast. As the Hill Country cools and humidity fades, the north prepares for sweltering heat. And all the while the arid peninsula of Kalpitiya stays rather calm, pleasant and dry all year round. You really do have it all in Sri Lanka and the blessing in this is that it makes it a year round destination.
Kalpitiya: whilst we are biased, this really is a year round place to be! Our little peninsula has it’s own microclimate so we often escape the heavy rains of the monsoon season and instead get some powerful winds. Great for kitesurfing! The kiting Winter season runs from mid-December to mid-March. The nights are cool and there is very little rain, if any. The winds can blow up to around 25 knots. The best beach season here is March to April. With pancake flat waters, this is the perfect time for scuba diving, paddle boarding and dolphin/whale watching. Although it can get pretty hot and humid. The rains generally come in April and then in November/December although every year it changes. The kiting Summer season runs from mid-May to mid-October.
East Coast: if surfing is your thing, the best time to visit the likes of Arugam Bay is from April/May to September/October.
South & West Coast: mainly dictated by the surfing community, the best time to visit here is November to May. The popular beach resorts can get very busy during the Christmas period. If you are a general tourist looking for the best weather, December - March is your best bet. April gets a bit toasty!
Hill Country: if you are combining your trip with a visit to the West and South also, then December - March is the best time to visit.
It all depends on where you want to go and what you want to do but if you are looking for an active holiday to Sri Lanka combining kitesurfing, fitness, hiking and surfing then I’d recommend sticking to the West, South and Hill Country between the months of December - March.
Or just come to Kalpitiya anytime! :)