Sri Lanka is an incredible country for families to visit. From beaches to the thick jungle to sprawling tea plantations, to exotic animals Sri Lanka will wow every member of your family. To make sure you experience some of the best things to do the island has to offer we’ve created a Sri Lanka family bucket list!
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Sri Lanka Family Bucket List
Our family just finished spending one week in Sri Lanka and it was easily one of the most phenomenal trips we’ve ever had and it was highly educational! After doing lots of activities and having one incredible experience after another we’ve narrowed down what we think are the “must-do” for families. Some of these are extremely exciting and some are more low-key but highly educational.
Keep in mind that we did not travel the entire country. When we go back I will be adding to this list of things to do in Sri Lanka!
Go on an Elephant Safari
Throughout the country, there is an assortment of elephant sanctuaries that you can visit. We visited the Hurulu Eco Park and it was fantastic. We saw so many elephants during our afternoon tour I lost count. At one point there were elephants in every direction. There were hundreds.
You ride in an open-top jeep during the tour, so make sure to wear sunscreen, bring a hat and water.
Hurulu Eco Park is located at Trincomalee road, Habarana 50150, Sri Lanka. It is open every day from 6 AM until 6 PM. The cost is around $33 per person.
Fun Fact: Over at Sri Lanka’s Minneriya National Park you can find the second-largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world.
It’s likely you’ve seen the photos of the tea train on Instagram where girls in flowing dresses are hanging out over the side. You can take the train from Kandy to Ella. Along the way, you can take incredible photos of tea plantations, mountains, locals, and more. You can get awesome views driving up to the tea plantations too, but from the train, you will get views you wouldn’t otherwise get.
You can buy tickets directly at the train station or possibly pre-book through your hotel. You can also buy certain types of train tickets online.
Tea Plantation Tour
Sri Lanka’s number one money maker is the tea industry and has you drive through the highlands towards Nuwara Eliya you will literally pass by one massive plantation after another. As you wind your way through mountains there are tens of thousands of tea plants. Many of them offer factory tours. Our family was surprised to see how extensive everything is that goes into making tea during our tour. After the tour is over you try an assortment of teas and have the opportunity to purchase some in an on-site gift shop. This is a highly educational experience for families. Book a private tea factory tour.
A spice garden is quite interesting. Not only do you learn how various spices are grown you learn about ways to use each of the spices. We saw cocoa trees aka chocolate trees, cinnamon trees, and many more. It’s another super educational tour that takes an hour or less.
Before you head to Sri Lanka bake something using lots of spices with your kids. Then when you go on the tour as the kids learn how the spices grow it will be more meaningful.
Sri Lanka is an island so as you can imagine they’ve got lots of wonderful beaches. Your first day in Sri Lanka should be a beach day. There are several wonderful beaches an hour or less from the airport. You will be very jet-lagged and this is the ideal way to acclimate that first day or two.
The Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque Sinhala aka Red Mosque is the most Instagrammable place in Colombo. Open since 1909 built in the Indo-Saracenic architecture style it’s really something to see. If you take the Colomba City Tour bus you will drive right past here but you may not stop. I recommend going to visit just the mosque.
Women are allowed in, but you will need to cover your arms and legs.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Climbing to the top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress isn’t easy, but so worth it when you get to the top. The views from the top of this ancient rock fortress are killer. It was once the home of a king and then a Buddhist monastery. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1982.
It’s located between the towns of Dambulla and Habarane on a massive plateau 370 meters above sea level. It’s open every day from 7 AM – 4 PM. Entrance tickets currently cost $35.00. You can book e-tickets ahead of time to secure your spot. Try to get there as close to 7 am as you can, because it is hot!
If you are worried about little kids managing this hike, we were with some other bloggers that have much younger children and they climbed to the top no problem!
Visit a Market
The markets are the place to do your shopping. They’ve got clothes, shoes, fruit, veggies, toys, and much more. Be sure to barter if you want. They will come down a little bit on price. I always find that it’s so much cheaper than America I don’t really see the point in trying to make anyone come down in price.
White Water Rafting
Much of Sri Lanka is a jungle with rivers running through it, which means there’s some great whitewater rafting. The Kwai River is a good choice for beginners. We were driving along down out of the mountains and I kept seeing whitewater rafting. I thought to myself, how many times will we be in Sri Lanka? So, we pulled over and went rafting.
We paid $20 per person USD to white water raft.
Now, I will say we had no way of knowing what class of rapids we were about to experience. I ask, but it appeared to me that there was no system used there for classifying rapids. I would say we never went on a rapid higher than class 3.
Eat New Foods
For us, the food was extremely new. We were completely unfamiliar with Sri Lankan food and had limited experience with Indian food. This made things interesting and somewhat challenging. Most of our meals were a hotel buffet included in the half-board stays, so we did okay. We ate lots of amazing things, but I have no idea what they were. I recommend doing some research beforehand so that you have a better idea of what to eat.
We were worried about peanuts and had looked up beforehand how to say no peanuts in Sri Lankan. We quickly realized this was a non-issue. They do not really use peanuts of peanut products. They eat tons of cashews. So if you have a cashew allergy this is going to be a major issue.
There are all kinds of Buddhist temples spread across the country. Take time to visit at least one temple while you are there, it’s incredibly educational. The Temple of the Tooth Relic is an impressive temple you can visit in the city of Kandy.
Have you visited Sri Lanka? What were your favorite activities? We would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!
Sri Lanka FAQs for Families
Is Sri Lanka safe?
Yes, it is safe. We traveled quite a bit of the country and at no time did we feel unsafe. I do recommend hiring a driver. The homicide rate is less than half of America’s.
Where is the best place in Sri Lanka to visit?
To be honest, everywhere we went was great. We never came across an area I wouldn’t recommend.