Places To Visit Off The Beaten Path In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has drawn intrepid explorers from across the world for centuries – from Marco Polo to the Instagram influencer who’s been flooding your feed, they have all been captured by the island’s timeless mystique and charm. As Sri Lanka is regarded a must-visit destination, it can be quite hard to escape throngs of other explorers; especially when you’re looking for a slice of paradise all to yourself.
Here’s the good news, there are still some spots which are relatively less busy, as they lie off the beaten path. If you are looking for a bit of solitude and privacy during your Sri Lankan holiday, we suggest you add some of the following destinations to your itinerary.
Mannar is one of the most underrated towns in Sri Lanka that’s wrapped in history. Located on Mannar Island, the main town is nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Mannar, and joined to the mainland by a narrow strip of land.
Mannar was once an important seaport and was occupied by all three colonising nations (the Portuguese, Dutch and British). The town was also the hub of the legendary Sri Lankan pearl fisheries, a practice that no longer exists. Today, the town is scattered with ruins of old colonial structures. Whether you’ve got a few days here or just one day to explore; drop by the Mannar Fort that was built by the Portuguese in 1560 – it is a great place to catch the sunset.
Need more convincing? Here’s 5 reasons to visit Mannar.
Kitulgala and its surroundings are known as one of the wettest regions in Sri Lanka. The small town sits on the cusp of the Kitulgala Forest Reserve, and is the ideal location for adrenaline seekers. Also home to a number of adventure camps that offer many exciting outdoor activities from ziplining to abseiling and canyoning. The main attraction though is white water rafting; as Kitulgala is the country’s #1 white water rafting destination since the Kelani River flows through the jungle and creates a series of rapids that will suit any level of rafter.
Follow this solo guide for travelling through Kitulgala.
Hambantota is a vibrant town on the south coast of Sri Lanka, and it’s considered to be the heart of the ‘deep south’. The town was a vital agricultural location for the Ruhuna Kingdom (one of the country’s ancient kingdoms). It is also believed to have been an important maritime town, with ships from as far as China and Thailand stopping here. While you’re in Hambantota, visit Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya, a Buddhist temple built by King Kavan Tissa. Hambantota is also an excellent place to base your trip so you can explore the rest of the south, like visiting the famed Yala National Park, a recommended experience for any first time traveller.
Gal Oya National Park
Overshadowed by far more popular national parks like Yala and Wilpattu, Gal Oya National Park found in the Uva and Eastern Provinces is a hidden gem. This massive national park was established in 1954 and serves as the main catchment area for Sri Lanka’s largest manmade reservoir. If you’re looking for some solitude, then Gal Oya is the place for you. The park is home to endemic species of flora and fauna, including elephants, sambar deer, mugger crocodiles and leopards. Also, the park is one of the last few places inhabited by Sri Lanka’s indigenous people, the Veddas – you can visit their tribe and learn about their way of life.
If you’re travelling to Sri Lanka on a budget, read this first.