Explore Sri Lanka's best natural attractions

Hiking in the wilderness, spotting wildlife or strolling around in the tropical sunshine… Sri Lanka is home to all kinds of amazing nature experiences.

Wildlife in Sri Lanka
  • Alison Goh
  • February 2020
  • Updated July 2024

From a rugged rock fortress and landscaped gardens to national parks and idyllic beach towns, these must-visit spots in Sri Lanka are just hours away from the capital Colombo.

Yala and Wilpattu National Park

Yala National Park is home to over 40 species of mammals, including the endangered Sri Lankan elephant.

These are two of the largest national parks in Sri Lanka. Big game can be sighted in both places but Yala opens in new window — the further of the two from Colombo — has the highest density of leopards, while Wilpattu opens in new window is commonly associated with the sloth bear.


Sri Lanka’s southern coast is a surfer’s paradise.

The beach town of Mirissa opens in new window is worth visiting for its white-sand beaches alone, but it’s also a great place for whale-watching. It is best to go between November and April, when the seas are calmer and blue whales are passing by as they migrate from the southern hemisphere to warmer waters for breeding.


After climbing about 1,200 steps to the top of Sigiriya, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding jungle and countryside.

No trip to Sri Lanka would be complete without a visit to what is dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World. Perched atop a 200m-high rock plateau, Sigiriya opens in new window contains the ruins of a palace that dates back to the 5th century. With landscaped gardens and evidence of complex water engineering, it is an unparalleled example of ancient urban planning.

Royal Botanic Gardens of Peradeniya

Located just 5km outside the city of Kandy, it takes about three hours to drive here from Colombo.

Voted by Guardian as one of the 10 great botanical gardens in the world, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Peradeniya opens in new window is home to over 4,000 plant species. The century-old Javan fig tree is a hit, but don’t miss the collection of 40m-tall giant Burmese bamboo and the Orchid House, where you will find exhibits of rare species.

Laxapana Falls

According to legend, Buddha stopped by Laxapana Falls to mend his saffron robes en route to Adam’s Peak.

A world away from the balmy coastal lowlands, Sri Lanka’s cool central highlands is home to lush jungles, misty hills and more than one hundred waterfalls. A 3.5-hour drive from Colombo, the 126m Laxapana Falls opens in new window is one of the country’s most iconic (in fact, it’s featured on Sri Lanka’s 100 rupee note). While you can admire it from above, take the steps to the bottom of the falls for the most breathtaking views.