An Epic Instagram Guide to Sri Lanka: 27 of the Best Scenic Photo Spots

“And then there was Ceylon – the place where paradise is located.”Anton Chekhov

Known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is full of many photogenic sceneries which include lush tea plantations, picturesque mountains, spectacular waterfalls, tropical jungles, palm trees by the ocean, sandy beaches, cultural landmarks and many more! Here’s our guide to the most Instagrammable places in Sri Lanka.

1. Sigiriya Lion Rock

Referred by the locals as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, this UNESCO world heritage site is an ancient palace and fortress complex (470-495CE) that has significance archeological importance. It is located in the heart of Sri Lanka between the towns of Dambulla and Habarana.

Sigiriya refuses to reveal its secrets easily. You need to climb a series of vertiginous staircases attached to the rock itself to reach the flat-topped summit which contains the ruins of an ancient civilization. On your way you will pass a series of beautiful frescoes and a pair of impressive colonial lion’s paws carved into the bedrock. The surrounding landscapes that includes moats, water gardens and lakes only add to the beauty of Sigiriya.

Tip: Make sure to start your climb around 7.00 am to avoid crowds as well as the heat.

2. Pidurangala Rock

A massive rock formation almost opposite Sigiriya, Pidurangala rock offers stellar views of the Lion Rock and its surrounding vistas. You cannot find a better place to admire the beauty of Lion Rock especially at sunrise or sunset. The hike to the top would take around 30-40 minutes and is a little challenging than your climb up the Lion Rock.

Pidurangala Rock which translates to “offered piles of Gold” is an important place for Buddhists and was first used as a Buddhist monastery. It is believed to date back to the time of Sigiriya Kingdom.

3. Train journey from Kandy to Ella

This seven-hour train ride from Kandy to Ella or the other way around is quite possibly one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. It takes you through stunning landscapes of lush green tea plantations and scenic mountains.

4. Royal Botanical Gardens Kandy

Not far from the city of Kandy, the Royal Botanical Gardens provide an oasis for visitors needing an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The rows of giant palm trees that line multiple walkways is such an eye pleaser. The orchid house will not disappoint you either. The gardens are ideal for a quiet and peaceful picnic during daytime.

5. Anuradhapura Ancient city

Anuradhapura is only 1.5 hours away from Sigiriya and it is a must visit UNESCO World Heritage site in Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka and was the center of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The pride of Anuradhapura is the ancient stupas and ancient reservoirs that were built thousands of years ago. You will marvel at the ancient civil engineering of Sri Lanka once you see these from your own eyes.

6. Polonnaruwa Ancient city

While you’re in Sigiriya, make sure to head to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa which is only an hour’s drive away. Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka for three centuries between the 11th and 13th century after the destruction of Anuradhapura Kingdom in 993. Due to its archeological prominence and the ancient technological superiority UNESCO declared Polonnaruwa as a World Heritage in 1982 under the of Ancient City of Polonnaruwa.

The ancient ruins are incredibly spread-out, hence getting around can be a tad difficult. We suggest you rent a bicycle and cycle around the grounds to see all the impressive ruins.

7. Nine Arch Bridge Ella

One of those incredibly insta-famous spots in Ella, Sri Lanka is the Nine Arch Bridge. It is a historic brick bridge set against rolling green hills. The giant structure with its massive arches poking up will truly captivate you. Try to time your visit to see the passing trains.

8. Little Adam’s Peak Ella

The best lookout spot in Ella, Sri Lanka is the Little Adam’s Peak. It isn’t much of a hike but the views from the top are incredible. Also, you will love the friendly pups you meet at the top. They are adorable.

Tip: We recommend you go during sunrise or sunset to catch the best views.

9. Castlereagh Reservoir Maskeliya

The Castlereagh reservoir in Maskeliya, is one of Sri Lanka’s best kept secrets; hidden in a valley and surrounded by soaring green peaks, the reservoir is perhaps the most serene location in the hill country. The whole image looks like something straight out of a fairytale. It is only a 30-minute drive from the town of Hatton. If you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing getaway, there are some quaint bungalows along the reservoir’s banks which make the ultimate idyllic getaway.

Camellia Hills – Teardrop Hotels
Tea Trails – Resplendent Ceylon

10. Haritha Kanda Bogawantalawe

Haritha Kanda, also known as “Green Mountain,” is a hiking spot and camping site which is situated between Agarapathana and Bogawantalawa plains in the central highlands. The mountain is surrounded by lush greenery and provides remarkable views as a result.

Premium Travelvlog has a post about how to get to Haritha Kanda on his blog. You can find it here

11. Diyaluma Falls

Diyaluma Falls is the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and is the perfect spot for an outstanding photo with stellar views from the top of the waterfall. The crystal-clear water and the impressive natural pools will have you mesmerized at first glance.

Life of Brit and Journey Era have great posts about hiking the falls on their blogs. Please go through them if you’re planning to do this hike as it will help you greatly.

12. Safari – Yala National Park

A safari offers you the ultimate opportunity to capture Sri Lankan wildlife in their natural habitat. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing exotic animals where they truly belong – in their own homes. We recommend you organize a safari at Yala National Park which will allow you to see elephants, crocodiles, deer, native birds, bears and if you’re lucky even a few leopards.

13. Coconut tree hill in Mirissa

Having made its way to almost every traveller’s Instagram account when they visit Mirissa, the Coconut Tree Hill is a must-do when you’re in Mirissa. The Coconut Tree Hill is a private coconut estate set on a high cliff overlooking the glistening waters of the Indian Ocean and an untouched stretch of golden beach.

This is a beautiful place to watch the sunset, so we recommend you head there during the evening. Or early in the morning to beat the crowds and the heat.

14. Happy peacock mural in Mirissa

The town of Mirissa has no shortage of colourful walls, vibrant murals, and spectacular street art too. The most popular piece of art to grab a picture in front of is the Palm Villa Peacock mural which requires dodging a bit of traffic on the main road hence make sure to be careful.

15. Galle Dutch Fort

The southern city of Galle is best known for its famous fort from Dutch colonial times. Galle fort is a 17th century fort, originally built by the Portuguese. The cobbled streets and Mediterranean style buildings will give you the European vibes while offering the views of a tropical island. Make sure to walk up to the Galle lighthouse which is situated inside the fort.

16. Jaffna Fort

Located in the northern tip of Sri Lanka, Jaffna is often left off of travelers’ itineraries as it is far away from other tourist attractions. But if you’ve got some extra time on your hands please make sure to visit this beautiful northern town of Sri Lanka.

The Jaffna fort was built in 1625 by the Portuguese and was named the Fortress of Our Lady of Miracles of Jafanapatão, due to the miraculous powers of the statue of the virgin Mary within the complex.

What makes this fortress unique is that it is built in the shape of a star and offers spectacular sunset views if you visit during the right times.

17. Tea plantations in the hill country

The tea covered hills of Sri Lanka offer jaw dropping views of the surrounding valleys and vistas. The lush green landscapes are quite soothing to the eyes and the fresh air is ever so refreshing. That means no trip is complete without checking out at least one of Sri Lanka’s tea plantation tours.

18. Adam’s Peak (The Sacred Footprint)

Adam’s Peak Climb is the most sacred hike you can take part in Sri Lanka, and it is famous for reasons that are both cultural and spiritual. It is considered to be sacred to three religions at least: The Buddhists, Muslims and the Hindus. The mountain is signified by a large depression on the summit that resembles a “foot” to which all three religions draw significance.

The climb takes approximately three and a half hours and the trail is flanked by the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary – one of Sri Lanka’s highest protected forest reserves. Views from the top are stunning, especially early morning as the warmth of dawn lights up the country in an endless vista of forests, valleys, mountains and lakes.

The “season” to climb is from December to April where pilgrims begin their climb shortly after midnight in order to summit at sunrise.

19. Lipton’s Seat

Lipton’s seat is a viewpoint located in the towering hills of Poonagala, offering spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding tea field from above. With an interesting history, scenic walks and the original Lipton tea factory still in operation on the estate, a day trip to Lipton’s seat should be something you shouldn’t miss during your trip to Sri Lanka.

Located an hour away from Ella, you can choose to take a tuk tuk to the top or make the hike up. Make sure to visit in the early hours to capture a clear view of the mountains and valleys before the mist rolls in.

20. Red Masjid (Red Mosque) in Colombo

Towering over the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Pettah Colombo, the Red Mosque is one of the architectural wonders of the world.

It is believed that the Red mosque was used as a landmark for sailors approaching the port of Colombo ever since it was built in 1908. And once you see it from your very own eyes you can easily imagine that being true.

21. Lotus Tower in Colombo

The Lotus Tower is a landmark skyscraper that holds the title for the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia. Standing at 350 meters tall, the Lotus Tower is an absolute stunning structure that adds color to the ever-growing skyline of Colombo.

22. The lush green rice paddy fields – Anywhere

Sri Lanka is an extremely green island and it’s the paddy fields where that green is at its most intense. The traditional paddy fields or ‘Kumbura’ in Sinhalese, an intricate collaboration between man and nature designed to produce rice, Sri Lanka’s staple food crop. Make a stop at one of these rice fields to discover the simple beauty of it. No doubt it will help to put your mind at ease whatever the situation is.

23. Dalawella Beach

Dalawella beach, tucked away in the village of Unawatuna which is not so far away from Galle, is perhaps one of the most talked about hot spots on the island – for its beauty, uniquely shaped rocks, soft sandy beach, the famous rope swing as well as Wijaya Beach that makes the most delicious pizzas.

24. Pasikuda Beach

One of the most beautiful and pristine beaches situated in the Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka. The Pasikuda Beach is famous for its shallow seafront framed by natural coral reefs, which enables you to walk for miles into the warm welcoming waters that come up only to knee level.

Pasikuda is a stunning beach resort with many wonderful places to stay. Pasikuda is a great place to relax, unwind and catch stunning sunrises. It is a beach lovers’ ideal paradise.

Uga Bay
Anantaya Resort and Spa

25. Arugam Bay Beach

A popular surfing destination, Arugam Bay is a great place to beach, learn to surf, and kick back and relax. This long crescent of sand never fails to mesmerize all who see it for the first time.

26. Nilaveli Beach

Considered as one of Sri Lanka’s best beaches, Nilaveli certainly has that feeling of paradise-island remoteness with plenty of beautiful palm trees swaying over the golden sand. This coastal resort town is located about 16 km north west of Trincomalee, the administrative capital of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. It is about 4 km long with many resorts dotted along the shore. Pigeon island on the horizon is a short boat ride off the Nilaveli beach and makes an interesting trip.

27. Last but not least your plate of Rice and Curry

Rice and Curry can easily be called the national dish of Sri Lanka. Every meal that includes rice and curry is a hit to your senses and it can be different each time. It typically is made up of steamed rice, a protein curry (chicken, fish, pork, mutton or beef) and three or four vegetable curries, a fresh leafy or coconut sambol with dried chilies, dry fish or papadum as accompaniments. An image of your plate of traditional rice and curry is always worth a shot.

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