Sri Lanka is one of the best countries you can go to as a traveller and is perfect for backpacking around for so many reasons. I’ll list a load of them here.

Sri Lanka is one of my favourite countries I have ever been to.

Now that statement is out of the way I’ll run through some of the reasons I loved my time there.

The Nature

It’s such a beautiful country. One minute you can be up in the mountains and a few hours later relaxing on paradise beaches.

The central highlands offer plenty of hiking opportunities, some with great religious significance. Join the throngs of pilgrims heading above the clouds to get up Adams Peak for sunrise. Yeah it kind of sucks getting up at 2 in the morning and climbing up steep stairs for a few hours but the view and experience is worth it.

Adams Peak sunrise.

Pilgrims on the way up to Adams Peak.

Then there is Horton’s Plain with it’s short but stunning hiking trails past waterfalls and steep cliff views.

Capturing the sunrise at Hortons Plain.

Sri Lanka is famous for its tea and there are plenty of plantations to visit in the highlands. Watch time slowly go by with a cup of tea at a guesthouse overlooking it all, or go hiking among the plantations yourself.

Woman picks tea leafs.

Cute little guesthouses to hang out on.

Away from the highlands you have national parks to visit where you can go on safari to spot the numerous wildlife around. My favourite place was Udawalawa where you can see the Sri Lankan elephant.

Sri Lanka is well known in the surfing community for its beaches, but you don’t have to surf to enjoy them. Just sit back and relax and enjoy life in paradise.

Out at sea you can easily spot whales and dolphins. The small town of Marissa is the main hub for doing this.  Again it is a very early morning thing getting up before sunrise, but hey some of the best experiences in travel happen then.

Meh, if you’re not a morning person like me multiple cups of coffee may be needed.

Whale watching.

The Trains

Have fun riding the trains.

This was probably the thing I enjoyed most about backpacking around Sri Lanka. I love train travel and there are trains all over the country.

But the best was the slow moving trains up in the central highlands. You can just sit down by the door entrances and dangle your legs out as you pass by tea plantations, mountain peaks, and forests.

If you love trains this is travel at its best.

You can also go hiking along the train tracks in the highlands as the trains are less frequent.

I didn’t get around to doing this myself as time wise I had to pick and choose the experiences I would have, but I met other travellers who did and they loved it. Just another excuse to head back there again sometime.

Hiking the train tracks.

The Food


Sri Lankan food is very similar to Indian food, being right next door. That means food heaven!

There’s nothing like a good curry or a dosa pancake meal. The fish curries are particularly tasty with the country being surrounded by sea and fresh seafood everywhere.

Shrimp curry.

Then there are the tasty lentil and vegetarian dishes.

My personal favourite was all the cheap samosa’s everywhere at the street stalls.


There are ayurvedic massage places everywhere and really good value for money. Get a cheap one or splash out and go for a full on spa day.

With a lot of Buddhist influences in Sri Lanka you can find some quiet places to retreat to and find peace in some meditation. Escaping into nature is the best way I find to relax the mind.

The History

There is so much historical things to see. You have hidden Buddhist rock caves and ancient cities, as well as old colonial towns by the sea.

Inside Buddhist rock cave.

Old Buddhist stupa.

The best town in Sri Lanka for me was Kandy. It’s peaceful enough with a chilled out lake in the centre of the city, and has plenty of temples to see and is a good base for getting to some of the rock caves and ancient city ruins like Sigiriya.

Lake in centre of Kandy.

Worshipping in a temple in Kandy.

In the centre and north of Sri Lanka you have some of the oldest ruins in the country.

At Polonnaruwa, the second most ancient of Sri Lanka kingdoms.

While in the south there is the old colonial town of Bile with its laid back streets full of cafes and a sea wall to walk around.


The People

Sri Lankans in general are friendly to meet, especially away from the bigger cities. If you get lucky you may be there to join in with the action at a festival.

It’s Small!

This is one of the things that makes the place great for the traveller. It’s not a very big country and you can see a lot in a short period of time.

Most people I met were there for 2 weeks and in that time you can get around easily. It’s only around 12 hours from the north to the south by train and bus. As mentioned before the train network is really good and will get you to most places.

It’s Cheap!

Yes, the cherry on top of the cake for the traveller backpacking around Sri Lanka is that all of this is really cheap to do. $3 for an awesome fish curry – need I say more?

Go See Sri Lanka

After over 20 years of travelling around the world I can tell you again that it’s one of the best places I have been.

I seriously can’t wait to go back again someday. Maybe just take out a simple hut by the beach for a month or a guesthouse up in the hills. I not only enjoy writing these posts to inspire you, but also because it reminds me how much I love a place.

I hope this has inspired you somewhat to think about Sri Lanka for one of your future adventures.

This is what I recommend you pack for a trip to Sri Lanka.

If you want to book any tours in Sri Lanka try Olanka Travels.

Guidebooks for Sri Lanka

I used the Lonely Planet guide for my trip and recommend that one to use, but I have included 2 others for variety.

These are affiliate links to Amazon and if you purchase through them I get a small commission at no extra cost to you which helps me keep this site running and keep on writing more articles. So win-win! 🙂


If you like Sri Lanka – share it! 🙂


Jonny Duncan is a travel blogger and freelance photographer. He specialises in adventure and budget travel with over 20 years of experience. He started blogging in 2013 to give advice for other travellers. He has lived in Japan, Amsterdam, Kiev, and more.

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