Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has had to overcome its fair share of adversity over the years, from the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 to the 25-year civil war that finally ended in 2009. In 2019 the country was rocked again by the Easter Sunday bombings, and tourism authorities reported a drop in visitor numbers of 70% in May compared to the same month last year.
But there are increasing grounds for optimism, as tourist numbers bounce back more quickly than expected. In June the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office removed its ban on travel to Sri Lanka after just two months, and now advises that it is safe to travel to the island. Although a State of Emergency remains in place, along with enhanced security measures at Colombo airport, there has been a steady increase in visitors to key tourist sights. Sri Lanka remains one of the most exciting destinations on the planet, and was rated the number one country to visit by Lonely Planet’s 2019 ‘Best in Travel’.
You can play your part in Sri Lanka’s recovery by bringing your much-needed custom to the island. Holidaymakers are the country’s third largest source of foreign income, and millions of Sri Lankans are dependent on tourism, either directly or indirectly.
With that in mind, we’ve picked out six of the best Sri Lanka tours from our travel partners:
Best for Foodies
Intrepid’s Sri Lanka Real Food Adventure is a fantastic introduction to Sri Lanka’s wonderfully diverse cuisine, which remains surprisingly unknown outside the country. On this trip you’ll sample spicy curries, visit Negombo’s bustling seafood market and learn how to cook Tamil, Sinhalese and Bergher dishes in the homes of welcoming locals.
Best for Wildlife
Sri Lanka packs in a lot of wildlife for a relatively small country, and On The Go Tours have a fantastic 9-day Safari in Sri Lanka itinerary that visits five different national parks. You’ll enjoy a game drive in Yala National Park, home to Sri Lanka’s highest concentration of leopards, and you’ll head out in search of elephants, Sri Lankan sloth bears and more.
Best for Culture
Abercrombie & Kent’s Spice Lands of Sri Lanka tour is a great all-rounder, taking you to all the key cultural sights, and you’ll be staying in luxurious five-star accommodation throughout. Highlights include the Dambulla cave temple, the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, and the lush tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya.
Best for off-the-beaten-track Exploration
Exploring the Sri Lankan countryside on two wheels is a great way to meet local people and really get under the skin of the destination. Adventure specialists Exodus offer a two-week Cycle The Back Roads of Sri Lanka tour, taking the road less travelled between ancient temples, wildlife-rich national parks and blissful beaches.
Best for Hikers
Hike through jungles, mountains and tea plantations on Explore!’s fantastic On Foot in Sri Lanka tour, following a varied itinerary showcasing the country’s natural beauty and rich culture. Highlights include climbing Sigiriya’s iconic Lion Rock, trekking to the Buddhist temple of Kumbalgama and joining pilgrims for the ascent of sacred Adam’s Peak.
Best for Solo Travellers
Saga’s Sri Lankan Adventure for Solo Travellers is a great option if you’re travelling solo, with VIP door-to-door chauffeur service included from anywhere on the UK mainland, a dedicated Saga tour manager and a welcome drinks reception. You’ll be part of a group of up to 20 like-minded travellers, visiting buzzing Colombo, the Bundala Bird Sanctuary and Yala National Park, as well as classic cultural highlights like Kandy and Dambulla.