Last updated 2020

From ancient ruins to a vibrant and welcoming contemporary culture; from lazy afternoons on glorious beaches, to hikes through the rolling hills of tea country and wild elephant spotting in untouched national parks; this is a destination that truly has it all.

Despite having its hard-won stability rocked by the tragic events of Easter 2019, Sri Lanka's tourism infrastructure is developing in leaps and bounds. Hospitality is warm and abundant, transport is convenient, and accommodation – particularly in the independent boutique sector – is world-class.

But there is a downside to the country’s tourism boom. Rampant commercialisation along parts of the southwestern coast has lead to a proliferation of awful resorts and crowded, dirty beaches. Many of the most popular locations are busy, polluted and poorly-managed. Animal tourism, especially involving captive elephants, leaves a dark stain on the country’s environmental credentials.

Fortunately, as this guide shows, it’s remarkably easy to get away from it all and experience what might be called the real Sri Lanka. While the crowds line up at hotel buffets and squabble for sun loungers, you can get well and truly off the tourist trail and enjoy the country in all its diverse and authentic glory.

It might take a little extra effort, and perhaps the assistance of an expert tour operator or travel agent, but an undiscovered Sri Lanka awaits. And it’s certain to be worth the effort.

Authors
Vidya Balachander, Ethan Gelber
Editors
Matthew Barker
Destinations Destinations
Sri Lanka

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