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Sri Lanka’s unmissable experiences
Whether you’re a culture vulture keen to explore the impressive temples and UNESCO sites of the Cultural Triangle, a wildlife fanatic who hopes to spot the elusive leopard in Yala National Park, or a fervent foodie whose mouth waters at the tantalizing aromas of cardamom and coriander, here's our pick of the top Sri Lankan experiences that are not to be missed...
Leopard safari, Yala National Park
Boasting the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world, Yala National Park is without a doubt the best place to go in search of these elusive creatures. Head out on a morning or afternoon jeep safari and keep your eyes peeled for these carefully camouflaged big cats, who use their distinctive fur to blend into the surroundings.
Train through the Tea Country
There can be no better way to traverse Sri Lanka’s Tea Country than by rail. Boarding the train in Kandy, you'll wind through lush green farmlands, tiny local villages and dense forest before plunging into the slopes of the tea plantations. A truly diverse route, the track is flanked by banana fronds, skirts rice terraces and veers across towering viaducts.
Birding, Uda Walawe National Park
Uda Walawe National Park is best known for being a lush haven for elephants, with large herds often seen roaming the dramatic grasslands. While this may be the main draw, the park is also a birder's paradise, and there is a plethora of both endemic and migrant species to be spotted, from green bee-eaters to black-capped kingfishers.
Traditional cooking class, Galle
To gain a real insight into local Sri Lankan life, you need to understand that food is at the heart of the culture. Meet your host chef in the vibrant lanes of Galle market, who will introduce you to the core ingredients of Sri Lankan cooking, including coconuts, curry leaves and local fruits and vegetables. You will then prepare eight traditional Sri Lankan dishes to enjoy together.
Boat safari, Gal Oya National Park
A secluded national park in the southeast of the country, Gal Oya is a wild Sri Lankan paradise which is home to large herds of elephants. Tourists here are few and far between, so you can get out and about on boat trips while scarcely encountering another person, with the chance to spot elephants swimming from island to island in search of food.
Bicycle tour, Polonnaruwa
Pedal amongst the enchanting 1,000-year-old ruins of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle, taking in the remnants of this ancient Buddhist city. Appreciate the giant Buddhas and vivid temples on an easy cycle ride around this immaculately preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site, hidden in the midst of enticing forests.
Whale watching, Mirissa
From December to April, large groups of whales can be spotted off Sri Lanka's south coast at Mirissa, as they make their annual migration from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Heading out on a half day boat trip at this time of year allows you the exciting opportunity to search for blue whales and sperm whales, as well as spinner dolphins.
Sunrise hike, Adam's Peak
Basked in moonlight, venture up the 5,200 steps to the summit of Adam’s Peak in the beautiful Tea Country. It is a challenging hike in the shadow of darkness, but well worth it for the phenomenal sunrise when you reach the top, which bathes the surrounding hills in glorious rays and casts an enigmatic shadow of the peak over the valley below.