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Sri Lanka may be a small island in the Indian Ocean, but there are a lot of best places to visit in Sri Lanka.

Ancient civilizations, golden sandy beaches with their swaying coconut palms, mountains, and rubber and tea plantations are found in the region, formerly known as Ceylon.

When visiting the island, from the days when the Portuguese, Dutch, and English dominated, you can see colonial architecture.

You’ll see plenty of elephants, some of which are taking part in local festivals, and maybe a leopard or two at a wildlife sanctuary if you’re lucky.

An overview of the best places in Sri Lanka to visit:

1. Sigiriya

Wannabe archaeologists need to position Sigiriya on their list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka.

Built on a steep slope, this ancient city is topped by a plateau nearly 180 meters (600 feet) high.

As it supervises the jungles below, this plateau is known as Lion’s Rock.

The site is accessed by staircases and rooms emanating from the mouth of the lion.

You can see ponds, parks, and fountains as well. Cool pretty! Locals consider the site the world’s eighth wonder.

This ancient rock fortress dates back to when it was a monastery in the third century.

Later, it was converted into a royal house.

2. The Galle

The most popular attraction in Galle is a fort founded by Dutch colonists in the 17th century.

The fort is known for its architectural architecture, sitting on a promontory overlooking the Indian ocean.

A prime example of a fortified city is known to be Galle.

The fortress, however, is not yet another magnificent place; the fort today houses courts and businesses.

Galle is recognized as a colony of arts and its ex-pat community-about a third of the homes in the city are occupied by foreigners.

Other top sights include a natural harbor, the oldest lighthouse in Sri Lanka, a maritime museum, a central temple of Shiva, and St. Mary’s Cathedral, founded by the Jesuits.

3. Kandy

The gateway to the Central Highlands and its tropical plantations, which grow both tea and rubber, is Kandy, Sri Lanka’s second-largest city and one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.

If you’re driving from Colombo, on a road that is considered one of the most scenic in the world, you’ll pass through rubber plantations. Kandy, the last capital of the ancient kingdoms, is home to the Tooth Relic Shrine, one of the world’s most sacred Buddhist temples.

An important, colorful festival includes bringing the city around the tooth relic.

Movie buffs might be interested in knowing that in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Kandy was a big spot.

4. Polonnaruwa

The words “beauty” and “beast” generally go well together, except in Polonnaruwa, where beauty goes better with “ruins.” Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s second oldest kingdom, is known for the ruins of this ancient garden city.

Some of the best-preserved in the country are the 12th-century ruins and also one of the best places to visit on Sri Lanka.

Polonnaruwa was a spot where, in the many temples, merchants of exotic goods mingled with worshipers.

Start your Polonnaruwa tour at the Archaeological Museum, then move on to the huge Royal Palace (50 buildings) with its well-preserved audience hall.

Another must-see here is the stunningly decorated Holy Quadrangle.

5. About Mirissa

Mirissa could just be the answer to your dreams if you’re looking for a holiday in a tropical paradise: swaying coconut palms, lovely golden sand beaches, days spent rocking away in a hammock.

It’s not getting a lot better than this.

This crescent-shaped slice of paradise is renowned for having Sri Lanka’s most beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

There are no luxury resorts to mar the scenery, so it’s just you, the sand, and daytime silence.

At night, the tempo picks up. Mirissa is the largest fishing port on the south coast and is a perfect location for watching dolphins and whales.

6. National Park of Yala

At Yala National Park, a wildlife sanctuary about 240 km (150 miles) from Colombo, animals rule the roost, the soil, and the sky.

Yala has a wealth of things to do. Your tour starts with a safari to see animals found here in higher densities than any other location in the world, including elephants, water buffaloes, and leopards.

Note: The park will close for the leopard breeding season in September.

The park is also home to 215 species of birds, seven of which are native to the park.

Sithulpauwwa, an ancient rock temple that once housed 12,000 monks, and Magul Maha Viharaya, once the setting for a royal marriage, are top sights, in addition to wild animals.

7. Colombo

For more than 2,000 years, since its great natural harbor made it popular with ancient trade from Italy to China, Colombo has been the commercial capital of Sri Lanka.

It’s sometimes referred to as the capital of the country, although in a neighboring area, the legislative capital is located.

Colombo is a popular tourist destination, ruled over by first Portuguese and then British settlers. Galle Face Green, a striped park along the Indian Ocean, is one of the most popular attractions.

Gangaramaya Temple, which is renowned for its blend of ethnic architectural styles, is also not to be missed.

8. Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is an ancient holy town founded around a cut from the fig tree of Buddha.

Dating back to the third century BC, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns founded Anuradhapura. For 1,300 years, this majestic city of palaces, temples, and monuments flourished.

But, after being conquered in the late 10th century, it was abandoned.

Locals were aware of it much like Peru’s Machu Picchu, but not many others, until it was “discovered” by Europeans many centuries later.

These wonderful ruins have since been excavated and are available to be enjoyed by the public.

You must visit Anuradhapura because it is one of the best places to visit on Sri Lanka.

9. Eliya Nuwara

Sri Lanka has a reputation for its tea. What better place than the source itself for learning more about tea: Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is the tea production capital of the world, with a temperate climate and an elevation of 1,900 meters (6,100 feet).

A tea plantation can be toured and you can see how tea is produced.

This hill country town, established in the 19th century, soon became a refuge for British colonists, earning the Little England nickname.

As tourists flock to see the blossoms and celebrate Sri Lanka’s New Year, April is a good time to visit.

Lake Gregory and Laxapana, Sri Lanka’s most popular waterfalls, are other sights.

10. Bentota

Bentota is a multi-tasking tourist town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka with coconut palms swaying in the breeze. It is one of the most popular beaches in Sri Lanka and the first and foremost an Indian Ocean beach resort.

Here you can do water activities abound, such as surfing, sailing, and snorkeling.

You should visit a sea turtle hatchery and conservation center when it’s time for a change of pace.

It tracks five out of the world’s seven species of sea turtles.

You can also enjoy a castle from the 17th century, lush gardens, and an ancient medieval Buddhist temple.

However, make sure to visit these places as these places has a lot to offer and some of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.