Best places to stay in Sri Lanka
(City life, shopping, food)
The first stop from the airport is the capital city of Colombo. One of the first things you’ll notice is how alive the city is. Everywhere you look there are shops selling delicious snacks (locally known as short-eats) and trishaws delivering passengers to and from work. Being the capital city of the small country, most of the nation's wealth is contained within it. There are loads to see, do, and experience in the city during the day including shopping, luxury spas, and most of anything else you’d expect in a world-class city. The city is not without a rich history however, as a good part of the city is littered with beautiful colonial homes and old government buildings robust with architectural character.
Take a trip to the older trade area known as Pettah, and you’ll be immersed in streets filled with vendors inviting you to see their products, everything from beautiful fabrics to fresh produce. It should be noted that, as with most big cities, there are pickpockets in this area so please remain cautious.
For accommodation, there are several hotels right on the main strip that give you access to a good amount of shops and great dining options as well provides yours with a great view of the ocean. For those wanting to stay is hotels more luxurious, there are several options there as well.
Read more about where to stay in Colombo.
A city on the south-west coast of Sri Lanka, Galle is primarily known for the 130-acre fort bordering the ocean. A popular tourist destination, Galle Dutch Fort’s historic streets are paved with romance. Although a bit hot midday, the mornings and evenings have a pleasant warmth coupled with a breeze from the ocean. Take a leisurely stroll with your partner or rent some bikes and enjoy the ambience of the quaint shops and cafes on the stone roads.
While taking in the fort’s vibrant history, head over to Groote Kerk, known as the Dutch Reformed Church. This small church was built in the 1750s by the Dutch and is among the oldest Protestant churches still in use today. If you do happen to find yourself out and about at midday, there are several people selling fresh coconut water as well as stalls serving refreshing ice cream and gelato.
Dinner time is a great time to explore some local traditional foods like hoppers and Sri Lankan rice and curry. Or if you are leaning towards familiar Western foods, there are several places offering a great dining experience with different meat and fresh fish dishes. Accommodation in the fort is primarily boutique hotels, however, there is a famous and more luxurious hotel known as Galle Fort Hotel for those who prefer a traditional hotel experience.
Hotels in Galle
(Beaches, Honeymoon, Nightlife, Surfing, Relaxation)
Mirissa is a very popular beach town with visitors and is a great place to take a breathe and relax on the beautiful sandy beach. Due to the crescent shape of the coastal area, it is a delight to be able to catch both a gorgeous sunrise and sunset from the beach. Dotted with lovely hotels, cottages, and b&b’s, Mirissa is a great place to stay for a few days. The nightlife in the town is thriving with some really great places to grab a drink and unwind.
You’ll see many surfers in the area, both foreigners and locals and you can sign up for a surf class right on the beach. While in Mirissa, be sure to book a ride to go whale and dolphin watching before you leave. Food on the beach is fresh and the options range from traditional Sri Lankan to modern cafe food.
For accommodation, there are several hotels lining the beach, as well as several luxury hotels a stone’s throw away. To make the most of your stay, aim for accommodation with a view of both the sunrise and sunset.
Hotels in Mirissa
(Beaches, Honeymon, Nightlife, Surfing, Safari)
On the east coast of Sri Lanka, surrounded by nature and wildlife, lies Arugam Bay. The bay is recognized as a surfer’s paradise and is the hotspot for foreigners and locals seeking some time outdoors. The overall feel of Arugam Bay is very relaxed, making it a great place to stay for a few days and soak up the sun. Once you’ve had your fill of the beach and near-perfect waves, you can venture nearby into the nearby world-famous Yala National Park. Be sure to bring your camera as you may see many different kinds of bird species, monkeys, elephants, crocodiles, and possibly even leopards. Be sure to have an experienced guide with you.
Another way to see some wildlife is to go on a lagoon safari. This two-hour tour by boat will give you some great views of birds and crocodiles occupying the untouched lagoons. Satisfy your appetite with the variety of options available to you on the beach. Here you will find a large number of options, including fresh juices, seafood, western food, and even serval vegan dishes.
Accommodation options are abundant, with the most desirable locations giving you a beautiful view of the sandy beach and morning sunrise on the Indian Ocean.
Hotels in Arugam Bay
Sitting only about 4 hours away from Colombo and designated as a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Sinharaja is the most preserved rainforest in the country. Sinharaja is a nature lover and birdwatcher’s dream as 20 of the island nation's 26 endemic, or native, bird species all live in this rainforest.
Both the animal and plant life in the rainforest are incredibly diverse. A good tour guide will tell you all about the unmapped plant ecosystem and will point out what is believed to be the earliest forms of plant life. In the rainforest, you will spot the most exotic plants the island has to offer. Be sure to take as many photos as you like, however, please take care to not damage any plant or animal life. One thing to note is that there are small leaches on the rainforest ground see you may want to purchase a pair of leach socks or another deterrent.
There are many options for accommodation just outside of the rainforest with many hotels and luxury hotels boasting beautiful views along the edge of the rainforest. Many of these hotels include tour packages in your reservation so be sure to consider that before booking through another tour guide.
Hotels in Sinharaja
Just 10 years ago, few locals had ever heard of Ella. This small, remote town quickly gained popularity with foreigners due to it’s abundant waterfalls, tea plantations, beautiful nearby hiking trails, and sweeping views of the valley. The first thing you’ll notice in Ella is the weather. Being in the mountains, the mornings and nights are very refreshing while the days are much less hot than other parts of the island.
The main town area is a great place to get some food, coffee, or a drink. There are 5 main hiking trails around Ella, the 2 most famous being Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. Both of these hikes are best done in the early morning and preferably with a guide. Both hikes give you stunning views of the morning light cascading over fog-covered mountains, valleys, and tea plantations. Another major attraction in Ella is the world-famous and picturesque Nine Arches Bridge. Be sure to check the times at the train station to see when the train comes so you can get that iconic shot for yourself.
There are several famous hotels and resorts in Ella, many having a great view. One of the more extravagant hotels is 98 Acres, located in the middle of a tea plantation on the top of a mountain. Tea at 98 acres in an experience of its own so be sure to include it in your plans.
Hotels in Ella