Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has had to overcome its fair share of adversity over the years, from the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 to the 25-year civil war that finally ended in 2009. Earlier this year the country was rocked again by the Easter Sunday bombings, and tourism authorities reported a drop in visitor numbers of 70% in May compared to the same month last year.
But there are increasing grounds for optimism, as tourist numbers bounce back more quickly than expected. In June the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office removed its ban on travel to Sri Lanka after just two months, and now advises that it is safe to travel to the island. Although a State of Emergency remains in place, along with enhanced security measures at Colombo airport, there has been a steady increase in visitors to key tourist sights. Sri Lanka remains one of the most exciting destinations on the planet, and was rated the number one country to visit by Lonely Planet’s 2019 ‘Best in Travel’.
There are some real bargains to be had at the moment: the Sri Lankan government has cut airline charges to stimulate the travel industry, hotels have slashed their rates by 50% or more, and tour operators are offering some great deals. Not only that, but you can play your part in Sri Lanka’s recovery by bringing your much-needed custom to the island. Holidaymakers are the country’s third largest source of foreign income, and millions of Sri Lankans are dependent on tourism, either directly or indirectly.
With that in mind, we’ve picked out six of the best Sri Lanka tours from our travel partners:
Intrepid’s Sri Lanka Real Food Adventure is a fantastic introduction to Sri Lanka’s wonderfully diverse cuisine, which remains surprisingly unknown outside the country. On this trip you’ll sample spicy curries, visit Negombo’s bustling seafood market and learn how to cook Tamil, Sinhalese and Bergher dishes in the homes of welcoming locals.
Sri Lanka packs in a lot of wildlife for a relatively small country, and On The Go Tours have a fantastic 9-day Safari in Sri Lanka itinerary that visits five different national parks. You’ll enjoy a game drive in Yala National Park, home to Sri Lanka’s highest concentration of leopards, and you’ll head out in search of elephants, Sri Lankan sloth bears and more.
Abercrombie & Kent’s Spice Lands of Sri Lanka tour is a great all-rounder, taking you to all the key cultural sights, and you’ll be staying in luxurious five-star accommodation throughout. Highlights include the Dambulla cave temple, the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, and the lush tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya.
Exploring the Sri Lankan countryside on two wheels is a great way to meet local people and really get under the skin of the destination. Adventure specialists Exodus offer a two-week Cycle The Back Roads of Sri Lanka tour, taking the road less travelled between ancient temples, wildlife-rich national parks and blissful beaches.
Hike through jungles, mountains and tea plantations on Explore!’s fantastic On Foot in Sri Lanka tour, following a varied itinerary showcasing the country’s natural beauty and rich culture. Highlights include climbing Sigiriya’s iconic Lion Rock, trekking to the Buddhist temple of Kumbalgama and joining pilgrims for the ascent of sacred Adam’s Peak.
Saga’s Sri Lankan Adventure for Solo Travellers is a great option if you’re travelling solo, with VIP door-to-door chauffeur service included from anywhere on the UK mainland, a dedicated Saga tour manager and a welcome drinks reception. You’ll be part of a group of up to 20 like-minded travellers, visiting buzzing Colombo, the Bundala Bird Sanctuary and Yala National Park, as well as classic cultural highlights like Kandy and Dambulla.
For the latest advice on travelling to Sri Lanka, please visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Marvel at magnificent temples, see the World Heritage Rock Fortress at Sigiriya, search for elephants and other wild animals at Yala National Park, discover the fascinating caves at Dambulla and explore the ruined cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
Discover isolated beaches, swim and snorkel the vibrant coral reefs of the Indian Ocean, trek through luscious green hills, inhale local flavours.
Explore the spiritual Sri Lanka features a mix of ancient cities, rock carvings, gilded Buddhist temples and wildlife-filled national parks.
This week long exploration of Sri Lanka packs in a wealth of highlights across this beautiful island.
Completing a circular journey this trip takes in ancient temples and fortresses, cycling through tea plantations and across the scenic trails of the Knuckles Range.
Combine two of our favourite trips on a journey through enchanting Sri Lanka and the pristine Maldives.
Staying in stylish and comfortable hotels, we travel to some of Sri Lanka's greatest sights: from ancient Buddhist monuments to tea plantations and historic cities.
Experience the cultural highlights of Sri Lanka and combine it with a week snorkelling and relaxing in the Maldives
Combining an actioned packed ten day journey across Sri Lanka with a relaxing traditional Dhoni cruise in the Maldives is a winning combination!
Explore Galle and the historic fort. Starting in Negombo and ending in Mirissa, the tour Sri Lanka Land & Sea.
Discover beautiful ruins, hike through tea plantations, tour a spice garden, and then chill out on Hikkaduwa Beach