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This past April, the Sri Lankan people were the victims of a senseless act of violence. The incident occurred on Easter Sunday and has left approximately 250 people dead and many wounded. Like Paris in 2015 or London in 2017, this attack targeted an area with significant tourism with the goal of terrorizing and scaring locals and travelers alike. Prior to this incident, Sri Lanka has spent the last decade evolving into one of the world’s most beloved travel destinations. This did not happen by accident. The harmony of the various religious and ethnic groups that make up Sri Lanka’s population has made Sri Lanka one of the kindest and most welcoming countries on the planet. A single act of hatred does not undo or obscure the last decade of progress made by the Sri Lankan people. The only way to combat hate is through compassion and understanding, which travel creates. After all, a life living in fear is no way to live.
Stepping off the plane in Sri Lanka might as well be stepping onto another planet. When the cabin door opens, the thick weight of the warm, tropical air wraps around you, you’re greeted by lush jungle in the distance, you hear the effortless flow of Sinhala being spoken for the first time, and you realize that you are not in Kansas anymore. You’ve just stepped foot onto a teardrop-shaped island that sits below India in the warm Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is home to a broadly encompassing landscape that makes the country ripe for adventure. Surfing, trekking, and climbing: Sri Lanka has it all, and it is even possible to do it all in one trip.
Surfing in Sri Lanka
The surf in Sri Lanka is dictated by the seasons. Like most tropical counties, Sri Lanka has two seasons, the rainy season (often called the monsoon season) and the dry season. Fortunately for surfers, each season awakens a different area of surf on the island. With a surface area of 25,332 square miles, the island is just big enough for the west and east coasts to have inverse weather patterns. Regardless of what time of year your Sri Lankan surf trip occurs, you are sure to find waves.
If you plan to surf in Sri Lanka anytime from November to March, your best bet at finding waves is on the southwest coast. From resort towns to charming fishing villages, there are several hot spots for surfing along the West Coast. Whether you are an expert surfer or a complete novice, Sri Lanka’s southwest coast will have a wave for you. Experienced shredders should head to Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, or Midigama, where they will find peeling point breaks and fast-breaking reef breaks. First-time surfers, learn your new passion at Weligama’s playful beach break! While each of these locations differs from one another, they all have warm, tropical blue water, fun waves, and unrivaled street food scenes.
If your surf trip falls between May and December, then your best chance at finding picturesque waves is traveling to the southeast coast of Sri Lanka. Arugam Bay and the surrounding area is home to Sri Lanka’s most advanced waves. Here, surfers will find a combination of long, cruisy point breaks and world-class, top to bottom reef breaks. Fear not, there are still areas on Sri Lanka’s east coast that are well suited for beginner surfers.
Trekking in Sri Lanka
Do you feel more at home in the mountains than on the beach? Sri Lanka is still the perfect destination for you. Sri Lanka’s rolling, jungle-bound hills contain over 400 waterfalls that make trekking in Sri Lanka an enchanting, tropical experience. From day hikes to multi-day treks, Sri Lanka has something for every level of hiker.
Breathtaking day hikes can be found near the mountain town of Ella in the Central Highlands. Ella is home to one of the world’s most memorable train rides and dozens of scenic hiking trails. The most notable of these trails lead to Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock, both of which offer surreal views of the lively valley below. While you’re in Ella, be sure to check out the stunning waterfalls at Ravana Ella, Bambaragama, Dunhinda and Diyaluma, all of which are accessible on foot by trail.
Travelers who are looking for multiday treks in Sri Lanka will enjoy roaming through the Knuckles Range (also located in the Central Highlands) or hiking to Meemure. Meemure is the most isolated village in Sri Lanka, and it is accessible through a 30km trail in Knuckles Range. The village has a population of just 400 people and exists amongst a backdrop of towering mountains, an isolated wonder.
Including a historical site on the itinerary can connect a traveler with the roots of the country. Sigiriya exposes a trekker to the mysterious history of the Lion Fortress. The rock fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will leave you in awe. While the fortress was used as a monastery as early as the 13th century, the origins of the fortress remain unknown. The fortress is built into a rock formation that towers over the surrounding valley at a height of 200 meters. The entrance of the fortress at the base is marked by two large stone lion’s feet, which is how the name Lion Fortress was derived. It is best to get there early in the morning to beat the crowds.
Climbing in Sri Lanka
Adventurers who are most comfortable working against gravity have a place in Sri Lanka as well. While the droplet-shaped, tropical island is not particularly known for its rock climbing, travelers who seek it out will find that there are more than a few suitable crags on the island.
The best climbing in Sri Lanka can be found near Ella and in Knuckles Range. There are also climbing routes just outside of the capital, Colombo. Climbers in Sri Lanka will have the opportunity to boulder, top rope climb, and sport climb. Climbers in Ella or the Knuckles will have to bring their own gear, climbers near the Colombo will be able to rent gear and hire guides though Climb Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a small island nation with a big appetite for adventure. There are so many layers to Sri Lankan culture, one visit will leave you longing to return. From the country’s glorious temples and holy sites to its tropical beaches and towering mountains, an adventure in Sri Lanka is like no other.