Amazing spots for nature lovers in Sri Lanka

This teardrop-shaped island has no shortage of beautiful places. Source: Shutterstock.

ALTHOUGH Sri Lanka is a small country, this teardrop-shaped island has no shortage of beautiful places – natural, historical and cultural – to explore.

While a lot of focus is on the Unesco World Heritage Sites, comprising mostly ancient ruins and caves, there are amazing spots for nature lovers to enjoy picturesque landscape and panoramic vistas.

Take a trip to some of these places and you will find that Sri Lanka is nothing short of spectacular.

Adam’s Peak

Adam’s Peak is situated in the Central Highlands at 2,243 meters above sea level and this mountain is sacred to many faiths in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Buddhists believe that the mountain peak bears the footprints of Buddha whereas the Hindus believe that the footprints belong to Shiva. The Christians and Muslims believe that those were Adam’s first steps after being exiled from the Garden of Eden.

Being a commonality among four main religions, climbing Adam’s Peak is of spiritual significance to locals here.

This pilgrimage route requires climbing 5,500 steps and depending on one’s fitness levels, it can take approximately two to four hours to climb and one to two hours to descend the mountain. Many hikers climb Adam’s Peak at night in order to be at the peak for a spectacular sunrise.

Best time to climb: Between January and May. Avoid days nearing full moon and the Sinhalese New Year (April 13 or 14) as there are long queues to the peak.

Yala National Park

Yala National Park was the first national park established in Sri Lanka in 1938 and is home to the highest concentration of leopards in the world.

Its light forest, grassy plains, and brackish lagoons provide a natural environment for visitors to encounter elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes, monkeys, and aquatic birds.

Yala National Park is quite popular among tourists, therefore it is common to find the main tracks and viewing spots crowded. At the same time, try not to plan your safari hoping to spot leopards only, for sightings of the big cat are infrequent.

However, go on a safari in Yala to appreciate the biodiversity of various species of mammals, birds, and reptiles.

Best time to visit: All year round except September and October when the park is closed for maintenance.

Minneriya National Park

The main attraction of Minneriya National Park is elephants.

Minneriya National Park forms part of the “elephant corridor” that joins with Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa National Parks where as many as three hundred elephants can be seen here during their migrations between the various national parks particularly from July to October.

Water levels are low elsewhere during July to October, hence these elephants come to the lake in Minneriya to drink, bathe, feed, socialize and search for mates.

This is the largest meeting of Asian elephants in the world that is popularly dubbed as “The Gathering”.

Best time to visit: The elephants are most numerous from July to October, peaking in August and September when “The Gathering” happens.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage and nursery in Pinnawala village that cares for wild orphaned elephants found wandering in the jungles of Sri Lanka.

Established by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1975, the orphanage is also a captive breeding place for these elephants. When the orphanage was first established, there were only five elephants but through the project, they now have 78 elephants from three generations.

The main attraction of the elephant orphanage is to observe the elephants bathing and playing by the river bank.

Bathing times at the river: 10am and 2pm daily.

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is a plateau town surrounded by mountains and is often called “Little England” for its cool climate, mountain mist, colonial-era bungalows, Tudor-styled hotels, and pretty gardens.

Nuwara Eliya is one of many tea plantation areas in Sri Lanka and is considered the most important place for tea production in the country.

To enjoy stunning vistas of verdant hills of tea plantations, waterfalls, and the mountains, take the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.

Upon arrival, stay at a charming colonial-style hotel, go on a tuk-tuk tour of the plantations, drink lots of tea, and soak up the town’s unique bygone heritage.

Mirissa

Not forgetting those who love the waters, Sri Lanka has emerged tops as the destination for sun-kissed idyllic beaches

One of the most chilled beach destinations is Mirissa on the south coast where people come for relaxation by the beach and whale-watching as well.

Best time to visit: Between December and March when blue and sperm whales make their migratory journeys around the southern coast of Sri Lanka.