Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an independent island in the Indian Ocean, to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal.
Together with India, Nepal, and the Maldives, Sri Lanka is considered to be part of South Asia. India is the closest country to Sri Lanka with the shortest distance between the borders of India and Sri Lanka being about 18 miles long, which is almost the distance that can be covered in a rowboat.
|Name of the country||The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (since 1948)||Abbreviation||Sri Lanka|
|Capital||Colombo (commercial), Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (administrative)||Continent||Southern Asia|
|Population||21.67 million (2018). Source: the World Bank||Area||65,610 sq. km. (25,332 sq. miles)|
|Major language||Burmese, minority languages||Major religions||Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity|
|Major cities||Sinhala, Tamil, English||Currency||Sri Lankan rupee (approx. 1 USD = 181 LKR, February 2020)|
|President||Gotabaya Rajapaksa||Famous figures||Mahinda Rajapaksa (the sixth president of Sri Lanka); Michael Ondaatje (novelist)|
|Time Zone||GMT+5:30||International call code||+94|
98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+
I have never hear of this company…
I have never hear of this company before , and after reading all these reviews ,I decided to give it a try . The professionalism and communicative skill received by one of the agent , Sharon of Asia Highlights , convince me that She was the right travel agent for my trip in Asia . Very quickly she communicated with me and got all the detail of my desire vacation . Sharon made me a great itinerary with great experiences that I am dreaming to experience and I am looking forward to it . Thanks Sharon for been so great and crafting me a dream vacation with great suggestions.More
orge alvarez, May 2023
Coco Yang worked tirelessly to…
From the moment I landed in Bangkok, Ms Noi Ying was there to welcome me and get me settled into my hotel. We enjoyed several days together touring Bangkok and Kanchanaburi. In Chiang Mai, Mr Ekachai took my son snd I on an amazing trip to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and to visit a community Lanna home, gardens and a hands-on cooking class preparing an authentic Thai meal. Lisa arranged a last-minute speedboat tour of 5 breathtaking islands in Phuket. From start to finish, the guides exceeded my expectations!! Thank you, Asia Highlight!! Debbie WoodsMore
Debbie Woods, May 2023
Sharon from Asia highlights has been…
Sharon from Asia highlights has been amazing. She offered her amazing ideas to other tours I wanted. We have planned the perfect 9 day itinerary to Thailand. She worked in my budget and was very flexible when I had to change my flights. Thank you sharon. Can’t wait for the trip.More
Heather Stern Wilensky, Apr 2023
Ms. Ning first review 4-2023
Ms. Albee Ning has been doing a great job accommodating my requests and itinerary changes. Remember the first itinerary is a rough draft and you may modify it to suit your tastes. Remember you can not do it all and see everything in 3 weeks. If the flight wasn't so long I would visit Southeast Asia more often. I will update my review in a few months. We don't leave for 9 more months. Asia Highlights is working well for me so far!More
Chiefray, Apr 2023
Perfect Trip To Thailand…
We had so much fun in Bangkok with Tanni and Tom as they kept laughing at all of our silly jokes. Paul, our guide and Chiang Mai was really thoughtful, fun and full of great information about the temples and sights. Thanks so much! Brian and MichelleMore
Scott Orchard, Mar 2023
I highly recommend Asia Highlights
I highly recommend Asia Highlights. I worked with Alisa and she is fantastic! I was planning my honeymoon trip, and I changed the destination multiple times. Each time, Alisa provided me an updated itinerary with activities that matched my interests. Whether I had a small change to an activity, a question about one of the arrangements, or a change or destination, Alisa was helpful, thoughtful, and knowledgeable, providing me with updated options in an extremely timely manner. In the end, despite the fact that I changed my mind on location multiple times, I ended up booking a 17 day trip to Thailand for this upcoming November. I am extremely excited to experience everything that Alisa planned for us. I recommend Asia Highlights to everyone and look forward to using them again on any other trips to Asia in the future. Thank you Alisa and Asia Highlights!More
Britt Rosen, Mar 2023
Three weeks encompassing Vietnam
A special shoutout to our last guide in Bangkok - Ms. Ka-Noon who spoiled us with her kindness and then got us through check in and security for our flight home in record time at that huge Bangkok airport.More
Deby, Feb 2023
Over the last 5 years we've used Asia…
Over the last 5 years we've used Asia highlights twice. And both times we've had fantastic vacations. Would not want to do it any different when we travel to Asia from now on. Sharon was fantastic. She was a wonderful agent who helped us nail down our trip and make everything go as smooth as possible.More
Todd Atwell, Feb 2023
Family Trip to Thailand
Our trip to Thailand comprised three generations of the family , ten people and an age range of 4 to 70 so a potentially difficult brief.Our itinerary over two weeks involved four locations, and a number of different trips and tours.From out arrival at an extremely busy Bangkok airport Asia Highlights were terrific.In each location we were met by a smiling , knowledgeable and professional guide who simply made everything easy and stress free for everyone.Our transportation was clean and comfortable . Transport was always ready for us at the agreed time and the drivers were excellent.There were so many highlights enjoyed by all the age groups. The floating houses , railway market and elephant sanctuary were particular favourites.We had one minor glitch with the accommodation in Phuket which was immediately dealt with by Tip. I think we would have struggled to resolve the problem by ourselves. So, thank you Asia Highlights , Cathy, Tip and tour guides Tanny, Sam and Lisa. It was a memorable holiday and we will be back.More
Roger Pyle, Feb 2023
Trip of a lifetime from Asia Highlights!
I recommend highly Asia Highlights as a travel company. Our travel consultant Albee took the time to connect with us during the planning process to make sure we were comfortable with our itinerary. When we arrived, we were met by our guide and all the details were attended to. They picked great hotels and tours. I often describe our trip as the trip of a lifetime! Would definitely use them again when we come back to AsiaMore
Nancy Parker, Feb 2023
Asia Highlights and Albee - highly recommended
Asia Highlights is very reliable agency and Albee is an amazing representative of the company. From the moment when we contacted her until our departure, the whole support we received was 6* level. She prepared our trip offer within few hours and afterwards she was extremely flexible to adjust as per our needs. In the period between the offer and the trip, Albee was always available for all our questions and supported us on the best possible way. During the trip she was again flexible to add new activities/transfers and this went on the smoothest possible way. Thank you, Albee and Asia Highlights. Definitely we will approach you again for our next Asian tripMore
AZ, Feb 2023
5 STAR CUSTOMER SERVICE BY MONICA
Monica is a very sweet young lady who speaks excellent English via email/WhatsApp, and knows the importance of excellent customer service.More
Trent, Jan 2023
We had an awesome experience with Asia Highlights
We started our trip in Bangkok, where Mr. Prassert our tour guide, met us. He was on time and the van was clean and well-maintained. Mr. Prassert was our guide for the 4 days we spent in Bangkok. He was helpful, kind, and willing to accommodate our pee and coffee breaks. The driver was safe and punctual. Next, we went to Chiang Mai.Gemma exceeded every expectation we had for our tour of Chiang Mai! She had a great attitude that made exploring the city fun and exciting, as well as an abundance of knowledge and experience. She was always spot on with figuring out logistics and coming up with unique ideas that suited our interests and schedules. Gemma was incredibly generous with her time and even walked us to security at the airport to make sure we could carry all of our luggage. That’s just one example of how far out of her way she went to make our trip easier and more enjoyable. Gemma was sincerely interested in making every minute of our trip count. We’re very grateful to have met her and feel like we have found a friend in Gemma! Our driver in Chiang Mai was also great and very accommodating to our changes in schedules.More
Lois Paskow, Dec 2022
Thailand & Cambodia 2022
Albee went above and beyond to make our trip perfect. She rearranged flights due to a mistake of mine. She made sure we were still picked up and escorted to the airport. I felt comfortable and safe with all our reps. She did an excellent job and I highly recommend her booking your next trip. Thank you, Albee.More
Karen Brooks, Dec 2022
Perfect vacation thanks to Albee we…
I can’t say enough about how much we appreciate all the efforts, attention to details and immediate responses to all questions that Albee and her team provided. The Asia Highlights team deserves more stars than the maximum allowed because of continually going above and beyond all expectations. Thanks Albee for making our vacation through south east Asia absolutely perfect!!!More
Michael Sharp, Dec 2022
2023 Chiang Mai CAD Yipeng Festival
We got early bird ticket and Bella was assisting us through whatsapp. Easy, competitive price, front row tickets. Thanks Bella, for being patient explaining everything to me. Highly recommended.More
lily hartati, Dec 2022
Bella has been an outstanding customer service rep
Bella has been an outstanding customer service rep. She was responsive and knowledgeable. Buying tickets from their website was super easy and the whole process was straightforward. Highly recommended.More
Khai, Nov 2022
I was ever so grateful to have a point…
I was ever so grateful to have a point of contact while in a foreign country for the first time, alone, that helped me through the Ins and outs of getting to and from my destination. Albee was readily available which brought me much comfort and feeling of safety. If in this part of the world again, I will not hesitate to use your services..More
Omega, Nov 2022
I booked tickets to the Chiang Mai Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Nov 2022. Bella was extremely responsive and helpful!!More
Bowen, Nov 2022
It is the attention to detail and what we specifically wanted to see that made the reservation experience so exciting.More
Peter Bongiovanni, Nov 2022
Shape and Size of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island, which is easy to see on a map. That"s why it is also called the teardrop of the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka occupies 25,330 square miles, making it only slightly larger than the US state of West Virginia. But more than 21.6 million people live in Sri Lanka, which is 10 times the population of West Virginia.
Sri Lanka is a mere island but has a precious amalgam of culture, history, architecture, cuisine, and nature's bounty. That's why Sri Lanka has achieved “so much with so little” — abundant tourism resources including UNESCO World Heritage Sites (eight of them) are packed into such a small area.
Landscape of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has an irregular surface with low-lying coastal plains running inland from the northern and eastern shores. The central and southern areas slope into the hills and mountain ranges of the highlands. The highest peak is Pidurutalagala, which reaches an altitude of 2,524 meters (8,281 feet). The lowest point is at sea level.
Ecologically, the country is divided into a wet zone that stretches across the south, west, and central regions, and a dry zone that stretches from the north to the southeast.
If you travel either from the north to south or east to west of Sri Lanka, you will observe many different landscapes within a couple of days, passing through dense rain forest, stirring hills, boundless savannah, colonial towns, lush tea plantations, vast plains, and scenic beaches.
Sri Lanka has no shortage of beautiful awe-inspiring spots, wildlife, and historic and cultural attractions, each of which is more picture-perfect than the next. They range from soulful Buddhist monasteries and temples to exotic and impeccable spots that are rarely explored.
Main Cities in Sri Lanka
The country comprises nine provinces (from south to north): Southern (provincial capital Galle), Sabaragamuwa (Ratnapura), Western (Colombo), Uva (Badulla), Eastern (Trincomalee), Central (Kandy), North Western (Kurunegala), North Central (Anuradhapura), and Northern (Jaffna). The main cities are dotted in Western and Central provinces.
Kandy is a major city in Sri Lanka that's located in Central Province. It was the last capital of the ancient kings" era of Sri Lanka and called the sacred city of Lankadeepa. As it was conquered by the British around 1815, you can still see the living traditions of this era.
Kandy is home to famous attractions, such as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), which is the most important Buddhist shrine in the world, housing one of the real teeth of the Buddha. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
Except for historical and cultural sites, it is also just a beautiful city with colorful vegetation, beautiful hills, clear lakes, and awe-inspiring waterfalls.
You may have heard that the city is renowned for the great Kandy Esala Perahera festival (held annually in July/August) but its vibrant cultural lifestyle and attractions more than justify a visit at any time of year.
Colombo is the financial and commercial capital of Sri Lanka and the place where most travelers will begin their Sri Lankan adventures.
In this charming city, you will find not only a comfortable blend of East and West but also a mixture of the past and present. Just walking or taking a tuk tuk around the streets of Colombo is a unique experience by itself that will offer you a taste of the hustle and bustle of city life.
Activities range from visiting colorful temples and laying on the beach to going shopping, drinking Ceylon tea, visiting the local markets, and falling in love with the pretty colonial buildings.
Colombo offers a rich selection of accommodation, from rustic beachfront cottages to lavish colonial mansions and stunning hotels.
It's also a paradise for foodies and shoppers with tons of delicious street food to eat, exquisite boutiques that feature international brands, and charming shops that offer colorful local art, textured fabrics, and fragrant flavored teas.
Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization. It was the third capital of the kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.
The historic city of Anuradhapura is one of eight World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Along with the ruins of Polonnaruwa, the rock citadel of Sigiriya, and the sacred city of Kandy, they comprise the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka.
This region shouldn't be skipped, especially if it's your first time in Sri Lanka. The culture and heritage have been preserved fairly impeccably and it is an amazing exhibit of the rich history of Sri Lanka.
4. Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya means "city of light". It is located at an altitude of 1,868 meters (6,129 feet), which is the highest point in Sri Lanka, and is regarded as the garden city of Asia. It features emerald green tea leaves, cascading waterfalls, and quaint colonial buildings that make you feel like you are in England. That's why Nuwara Eliya is sometimes called “Little England”.
Nuwara Eliya is most famous for its breathtaking views of valleys, meadows, mountains, and greenery. There, you can visit the lovely Victoria Park and impressive St. Clair"s Falls, hike in Horton Plains National Park to see the World"s End, enjoy a relaxing walk or boat ride around Gregory Lake, and visit one of the tea plantations and factories to taste the best local tea and learn about the process of making tea.
Galle is the capital city of Southern Province in Sri Lanka. For hundreds of years, it was an important trading post and a busy maritime port where trade between the East and West thrived. Its rich history of invasions and occupations has left a cultural texture that's unique, colorful, and one of a kind.
The city consists of an old part and a new part — and both are worthy of exploration. Galle Fort in the old town is a living monument to its history and it is within its walls that travelers and locals alike are most enthralled.
Galle Fort was originally built by the Dutch in 1663. Although it looks old on the facade, it is still a working community with administrative offices, courts, cafés, companies, shops, restaurants, hotels, and so on. While tourism is slowly taking over as the city"s main business, everyday life in the fort makes the experience more authentic and interesting for travelers.
Visiting Sri Lanka
There are so many incredible things to do in Sri Lanka, making it well-suited to all kinds of travelers. For your first visit to Sri Lanka, 8 days is usually sufficient to explore its beauty and essential sites.
Most visitors to Sri Lanka start their journey by arriving in Colombo, then drive to the closest town from the airport – Negombo – and spend the night there. Negombo is a bustling beach town that boasts a long stretch of beautiful beach.
Next, you can venture back in time and explore the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka — Sigiriya (1 day), Polonnaruwa (1 day), and Kandy (2 days). After that, take a train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya — it's considered to be one of the most beautiful train trips in the world.
This train ride is about 4 hours long and takes you through stunning landscapes of lush green tea plantations and mountain views. Spend 1 or 2 nights in Nuwara Eliya to enjoy the beautiful green scenery and experience its tea culture.
Then head to Bentota. It offers a pristine beachside experience in southwestern Sri Lanka and most travelers prefer to spend at least 2 nights there to relax. You will also have the chance to visit a turtle hatchery where you can see different species of turtles and discover how the locals protect them.
Finally, treat yourself to the capital city, Colombo, for 2 days before flying back home.
See our guide on planning a first-time trip to Sri Lanka.
Getting to Sri Lanka
The most popular gateway city for Sri Lanka is Colombo, accessible by flight from eastern or southeastern Asian countries, such as China (Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Guangzhou), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, or Thailand (Bangkok).
There are regular nonstop flights with SriLankan Airlines to various places in India, including Delhi and Mumbai, the Maldives, and the Seychelles. There are no direct flights to Sri Lanka from the US, the UK, Canada, or Europe. The airfare varies with the season and you may find cheap flights in the shoulder months of May and November.
Tourist visas for Sri Lanka can be obtained via the online platform from the official government website (www.eta.gov.lk) or one of the Sri Lankan diplomatic missions. Citizens of the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Singapore may obtain a visa on arrival to Sri Lanka at any port of entry without charge. Read more about applying for a Sri Lanka visa.
See more information on How to Get to Sri Lanka.
Visit Sri Lanka with Asia Highlights
Want to explore the ancient ruins and beautiful culture of Sri Lanka? At Asia Highlights we can plan your dream Sri Lanka trip complete with a tailor-made itinerary, private guide, and 24-hour customer service.
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
Get Inspired with Our Sample Itineraries
At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.