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There are very few destinations that can match the sheer diversity of Sri Lanka. From white sand coastlines, misty hill stations, legendary temples to lush national parks, the tropical island packs in over 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 8,000 sq km of nature reserves.

So when you’re creating your tailor-made Sri Lanka adventure, how do you know where to start? Exodus is here to help you narrow down your ideas. With an incredible myriad of active, cultural and wildlife elements to discover, a trip to Sri Lanka can be tailor-made to suit your exact interests. You can cherry-pick the itinerary, pace and hotels to suit you, your friends and loved ones.

After my memorable and brilliant trip, below are the top 10 unmissable highlights of Sri Lanka to consider for your trip:

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Witness wild elephants at Minneriya or Kadulla National Park

Safari in Minneriya National ParkElephant safari

Both National Parks are home to hundreds of elephants. This paired with the backdrop of majestic bodies of water, evergreen forests and wide expanses of unspoilt scenery allow for a moving and unforgettable experience.

Take a Sri Lankan train ride

10 Unmissable Highlights of Sri LankaTrain ride through Sri Lanka

Mingle with local families and take a train in Sri Lanka. Two recommended routes are Nanu Oya to Bandawera and Kandy to Ella. The train travels through the cloud forest into the tea plantations, with breath-taking views of the lush valley. With open windows and doors on board, there is no greater feeling of freedom than on a train ride through the crisp mountain air.

See the legendary ruined city of Polonnaruwa

10 Unmissable Highlights of Sri LankaCity of Polonnaruwa

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Polonnaruwa is a medieval city of the 10th Century. From tombs and temples to palaces and former royal pools, Polonnaruwa is an archaeological delight.

Whitewater rafting at Kithugala

Rafting in Sri LankaWhite water rafting on the Kelani River

Float, boat and paddle along the grade III rapids of the Kelani River. Keep an eye out for the famous film location for “Bridge over the River Kwai” (1956).

Trek to World’s End

World's End, Sri LankaView over Horton Plains

Situated at 2100m and rich in biodiversity, enjoy a 9km trek across the Horton Plains to World’s End – a spectacular viewpoint where the ground drops 1050m to the plains.

Visit Nuwara Eliya, known as ‘Little England’

10 Unmissable Highlights of Sri LankaNuwara Eliya tea plantations

Nuwara Eliya is set within acres of undulating green tea plantations and misty mountains, a town that has been nicknamed ‘Little England’. Rich in colonial-era architecture, take the chance to marvel at the nostalgic racecourse, golf houses and the local post office, with the cool highland air of 1890m to add to the atmosphere.

Feast on Kottu in Kandy

As sweet as the name implies, Kandy is the thriving historic and cultural centre of Sri Lanka. Sample the most popular Sri Lankan street food, known as kottu, a godamba roti chopped finely and mixed with vegetables, cheese, egg or meat.

Summit Sigiriya Rock

Sri LankaSigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Rock is one of the most iconic sights of Sri Lanka! Rising dramatically from the plains, the distinctive rocky outcrop has a flat-topped summit that contains the ruins of an ancient city, previously known as Kassapa. Make your way up a series of stone steps and spiral staircases to reach the summit (approx 2 – 3 hours).

Surf, swim and snorkel the Indian Ocean

10 Unmissable Highlights of Sri LankaIndian Ocean

With the azure-blue Indian Ocean surrounding the coastline of the island, Sri Lanka marks itself as a world-class surfing and watersports destination. Surfers flock to the swell of Tallala or the Hikkaduwa coastline. For kayaking or snorkelling, venture to the Kalpitiya Penninsula, where the Talawila Reef is a perfect system of flatbed coral that supports beautiful marine life.

Marvel at the cave paintings of Dambulla

Buddha statues in Dambulla Cave TempleDambulla Cave Temple

Climb up to the well-preserved cave temple of Dambulla which houses colourful, well-preserved paintings and statues of Buddha inside the caves, dating back to 1st century BC.

Discover more highlights of Sri Lanka in our tour below.