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A bucket list trip to Sri Lanka is full of history, culture, and adrenaline-pumping adventure. Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has been growing steadily, and local guides have cornered the exciting outdoor adventure market. This is a cultural crossroads – a place with Muslim fishing villages, Buddhist temples, towering rock formations, and abundant wildlife. And after you’ve gotten your fill of active adventure, Sri Lanka offers beautiful beaches and gently rolling hills to relax and unwind. These are some of the most amazing adventure travel experiences to put on your to-do list for Sri Lanka.
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Nature lovers will love Sri Lanka for its unspoiled hiking and trekking opportunities. The countryside is moderately hilly, the climate is generally temperate, and the scenery is unforgettable. Expect to see lush forests, paddy fields, tiny villages, and green parks along most trekking routes. Several local companies offer guided tours, and some eco-lodges lead guests on walks as well. One of the best trekking destinations is Adams Peak in the south of Hill Country, which offers stunning 360-degree views of the landscape at the summit. If you prefer, pick up the pace with a horseback riding tour, which can be arranged in Dambulla, Sigiriya, and Nuwara Eliya.
Cycling is a popular tourist activity in Sri Lanka, especially through the hill country and away from the busy highways. However, cycling can be dangerous on roads with heavy bus and truck traffic; so many visitors choose to travel with an experienced cycling group and a leader who knows the safest routes. One popular cycling route goes across the Bentota Bridge, through local villages, to the Virahaya Temple, and then to the Lunuganga House and Gardens. Bike rentals are inexpensive in Sri Lanka, and most of the terrain requires mountain bike tires.
There are lots of places to go diving in Southeast Asia, and the adventure sport is becoming more popular in Sri Lanka as well. There are several dive schools and dive sites along the west coast, a place where marine life is abundant and there are some shipwreck sites to explore. The best time to dive here is between November and April. Other top diving locations include Unawatuna and Weligama. Expect to find colorful coral gardens along the southern coast once you get far enough out in the ocean.
There are a few rock climbing destinations in Sri Lanka around Avissawella and Kandy, and tour companies frequently offer four-hour experiences for climbers of varying skill levels. Expert climbing guides will provide you with all the equipment you need and help you choose a route that challenges you. Some popular climbing spots include Knuckles Range, Ella Range, Habarana, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Horton Plains, and Buttala. For a more extreme climbing experience, try waterfall climbing on the face of the towering Bambarakanda Waterfall.
Sri Lanka has over 1,000 miles of shoreline and a continental shelf spanning 10,000 square miles, making it a wonderful place for deep-sea fishing. You can fish for tuna, jackfish, barracuda, groupers, and red and white snappers around Bentota in the Indian Ocean. Expert fishermen take visitors on four-to-five hour deep sea fishing expeditions of the coast of Sri Lanka in the morning and late afternoon. If you have some luck in the sea, you’ll get to enjoy your catch for dinner!
Several tour companies offer hot air balloon adventures to give travelers a birds-eye view of the Sri Lankan landscape. You can find most balloon flight departures around the Cultural Triangle, and most flights last about an hour. Balloons reach heights between 500 and 2,000 feet in the sky, floating over cultural sites, landmarks, treetops, rivers, and lakes.
You can observe lots of wildlife species in their native habitats while traveling around Sri Lanka. One of the most popular wildlife experiences here is elephant riding in the jungle close to Habana. Whale watching is also a big deal in Sri Lanka between the months of December and April. You can watch blue whales, sperm whales, fin whales, and dolphins migrate for the season in various areas in Sri Lanka. Monkeys run free in Sri Lanka, through ancient ruins and small villages, so observe their behaviors and snap some fun photos.
Head to Kitulgala to go whitewater rafting in Sri Lanka and experience some top-notch rapids. You can also take a canoe or kayak out on the water, and local tour operators can set you up with quality rental gear. The best overall place for watersports in Sri Lanka in Bentota, where jet skiing, waterskiing, and speed-boating conditions are ideal.
If you’ve never tried kite surfing, then Sri Lanka is definitely the place to give it a shot. Kitesurfers prefer Negombo and the Kalpitiya Peninsula because both have good wind conditions and a varied seascape. Because kite surfing is an extreme sport and requires some experience and practice, consider taking a beginner’s course here to learn the basics. Traditional surfing is also popular in Sri Lanka because the conditions are excellent in several spots. Some of the best surfing locations are the Arugam Bay on the east coast, Midigama on the south coast, and Hikkaduwa.
Get off the beaten path and leave the navigation to a local expert as you take a 4WD tour in the Sri Lanka countryside. These vehicles can maneuver rugged terrain to take you into the depths of the Sri Lankan wilderness. Some guide companies will even rent out 4WD vehicles to you so you can explore the backcountry at your own pace. But stay in designated areas so you don’t disturb fragile ecosystems and disrupt natural habitats on your adventure.
To wind down and relax after a hardcore day of adventure sports, head to one of Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches. Some of the best beaches to check out are Unawatuna, Arugam Bay, Mirissa, and Tangalla. To get an even deeper relaxation experience, consider booking a yoga or meditation class along the shoreline at either sunrise or sunset.