Unleashing Five Thrilling Road Trips in Sri Lanka

Road trips are all about experiencing the journey; reconnecting with old friends, enjoying different cultures, a few quick pit stops for food and rest rooms, and most importantly, enjoying the beautiful roads and landscapes of Sri Lanka. From mountains to beaches to National Parks, and the Cultural Triangle, some of the best road trips in Sri Lanka are discussed below.

Mountains

Colombo – Nuwara Eliya – Horton Plains – Ella – Kandy

Endless mountains, lush tea plantations, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking scenery is what the roads of Sri Lanka’s hill country will display. Rent a car from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, and drive to Nuwara Eliya for a transformation from hustle bustle to a calm and serene environment. Also known as “Little England”, this beautiful town is abundant with remains from the British rule. Go for a hike at the Horton Plains National Park and visit the World’ End viewpoint there. Move on to Ella for more of these stunning views, particularly at the peak of Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. End your mountainous road trip to Sri Lanka with a stop at Kandy. Tucked on the edge of an artificial lake, Kandy is a beautiful town surrounded by green hills everywhere and an abundance of history and culture to explore.

The Cultural Triangle

Colombo – Kandy – Anhuradapura – Polonnaruwa – Sigiriya

Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya make up the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Begin your tour in the hill capital of Kandy, which is also very abundant with history and culture – The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandyan dances, Esala Perahera, etc. You can then make your way to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa – two of the most ancient cities in Sri Lanka. Dagobas, Buddha carvings, ancient temple remains, bathing tanks and more well-preserved ruins of the prehistoric era are what you will see here. Adding to the excitement of history lovers, the Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya is a must-visit destination. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this attraction boasts remnants of a rock fortress built by one of the ancient Kings of Sri Lanka, and a gorgeous view from the top.

National Parks

Colombo – Sinharaja – Udawalawe – Yala – Gal Oya

Apart from Africa, Sri Lanka is one of the best wildlife destinations that animal lovers must visit. For a country so small, it sure has an incredible diversity of wildlife. When planning this road trip to Sri Lanka, begin from Colombo and drive to the Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve – a UNESCO recognized site renowned as a biodiversity hotspot. From wild animals to birds, insects and a variety of flora, this rainforest reserve will give you an ideal wildlife camping experience. Your next Sri Lanka road trip destination should be the Udawalawe National Park where you will see a plethora of wild elephants. Being the 6th largest animal sanctuary in Sri Lanka, it also offers incredible bird watching opportunities. Moving on, Yala National Park is a not-to-miss destination on a wildlife tour of Sri Lanka. Enjoy a jeep safari through the most popular National Park in Sri Lanka and spot some of the most beautiful leopards, deer, sloth bears, water buffalos, jackals, and more! Your final road trip destination will be the Gal Oya National Park. Serving as the main catchment area for the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka, here you will experience a unique wildlife safari on a boat and an encounter with untouched nature!

Beaches

Colombo – Kalutara – Bentota – Galle – Weligama – Matara – Yala – Arugam Bay

Starting from Colombo in the west coast, rent a car and drive through the gorgeous southern coast, all the way up to the eastern coast of Sri Lanka to experience the most exotic beach life that the island nation boasts. Stop at Bentota for a day or two to indulge in some adrenaline-rush kind of water sports such as jet skiing, banana boats, deep sea diving, and para gliding. Explore the Galle Fort, try stilt fishing in Weligama, and a little further south is the town of Mirissa which is popular for whale watching. Also known as ‘surfer’s paradise’ is the final destination – Arugam Bay in the east coast. Make the most of your surf boards here while also capturing memories of the stunning sea view and indulging in some delicious sea food and cocktails by the beach.

The North

Negombo – Anhuradapura – Wilpattu – Mannar – Jaffna

Much of the Northern province has become easily accessible only after the civil war ended in 2009. So, if you have not yet visited Wilpattu, Mannar and Jaffna, now would be the right time! Explore the Dutch remnants in Negombo (Western Province) and move on to the ancient city of Anuradhapura for a feel of the pre-historic era. A touch of wildlife in Wilpattu will add to the excitement of your road trip to Sri Lanka. Go for a jeep safari game drive through the Wilpattu National Park and try to spot as much of the wild animals as you can. The ancient city of Mannar would be your next destination where you can visit the popular pilgrimage site – Ketheeswaram Temple, and several other ramparts of the Dutch era. Mannar Island and Kankensanturai in Jaffna offer jaw-dropping coastal views of the Indian Ocean. More to explore in Jaffna is the fort, Nallur Temple, St. Mary’s Cathedral and the archaeological museum.

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Dinesh N Perera
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