Updated post: 18/11/18 | November 2018

Many of the package tourists relaxing in the palm-fringed resorts of Sri Lanka will be unaware of what lies beyond its beaches. For example, Polonnaruwa, its capital between the 11th and 13th centuries, with its serene reclining Buddha. Or the train descending through the heart of the tea-growing country from Pattipola, the highest station in Sri Lanka, to the colonial hill town of Bandarawela. The extravagant architecture of the ancient city of Kandy, encircled by lush tea plantations. And venturing south of Kandy, Horton Plains National Park with its vertigo-inducing views at World’s End.

This Sri Lanka photo essay reflects the teardrop island’s diversity and rich cultural heritage through a series of images of its landscapes and, especially, its people.

World's End Horton Plains Sri Lanka
World’s End Horton Plains, Sri Lanka

At the edge of Horton Plains National Park is the aptly named World’s End, a precipice with a 1050 meter drop. A few tourists have plunged to their death in an effort to capture that perfect shot.

Pattipola station sri lanka
Waiting to leave, Pattipola station

Close to Horton Plains is Pattipola, the highest station in Sri Lanka. The train winds its way downwards through lush tea plantations to the town of Bandarawela.

A novice monk at Polonnaruwa sri lanka
The Look. A novice monk at Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in the 10th Century. This compact site is stuffed with architectural treasures, with hundreds of tombs, temples, statues and stupas.

kandy sri lanka
Waiting for a fare, Kandy

Kandy, the capital of Sri Lanka’s highlands, was the last bastion of Buddhist political power against the colonial forces. Nowadays, visitors flock there for its pleasant climate and the World Heritage Site of The Temple of the Tooth.

Street vendor, Galle sri lanka
Street vendor, Galle

The town of Galle on Sri Lanka’s south-western coast, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1988, is known for its colonial architecture, its fort and its laid-back vibe.

Stilt fisherman, Unawatuna sri lanka
Stilt fisherman, Unawatuna

Stilt fishing, or ritipanna, is a traditional fishing method practised in the Galle district. Before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, this tradition was practised by around 500 families. However, the tsunami changed all that, and nowadays most of the stilt fishing that visitors see is enacted to create that perfect Instagram moment.

How I did it

I visited Sri Lanka in 2017 with Exodus on their Discover Sri Lanka tour. This small-group tour allowed us to experience the variety Sri Lanka has to offer, whilst staying in mostly excellent accommodation (I splashed the cash on their Premium tour).  Highly recommended.


Have you visited Sri Lanka? Are there any must-see sights that you would like to share?

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