Top 10 Family Attractions in Sri Lanka that are especially fun for children


Temple of the Tooth – Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist temple

10. Get cultural at the Temple of the Tooth

Located in the ancient city of Kandy, in the Central Province, the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist temple. Visitor can’t see the actual tooth of the Buddha that the temple is named after but the building itself is spectacular.

You need to remove your shoes, cover your shoulders and legs, and pay the Rs.1,500 (€8.25, £7.30, $9.75) fee before you enter. Once inside, the sights and sounds will keep the kids engaged and there are substantial grounds that you can explore afterwards.

This 9,000-hectare Minneriya National Park is top family attraction

9. Explore nature in Minneriya

This 9,000-hectare National Park in the north of the country is home to deer and leopards. But it’s the elephant gathering in July and August that makes it a top family attraction. Book a jeep tour and you’ll see numerous herds of wild elephants making their annual trip to drink at the lake in the park.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for kids to see these amazing animals in their natural habitat.

Watch sea turtles hatching at Kosgoda

8. Watch baby turtles hatching at Kosgoda

There are very few places in the world where you can watch sea turtles hatching – Kosgoda Conservation Project is one of them. An easy one-hour trip from Unawatuna, this makes an ideal day out from the beach.

Kids can help to feed the baby turtles and learn about the conservation work being done along this stretch of coastline.

Unawatuna Beach – A tropical paradise with strikingly clear waters

7. Wind down at Unawatuna beach

If you’re looking for sandy beaches, low-rise development, great food and a family-friendly vibe, this resort is perfect. There’s accommodation to suit every budget and you can choose to stay right by the beach or in a hotel in the lush forested surroundings.

Unawatuna is just two hours by car from Colombo so not too long for the kids to travel. It’s also just 15 minutes from Galle Old Town.

Also known locally as Sri Pada, Adam’s Peak is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Asia

6. Enjoy incredible views from Little Adam’s Peak

This stunning peak in Ella is a manageable hike for even the youngest members of the family. It takes about 30 minutes to climb to the top and it’s a fairly gentle stroll with stunning 360-degree vistas from the peak.

The park is a wildlife hotspot and one of the best places on earth to see the elusive leopard

5. Get close to the animals in Yala National Park

As Sri Lanka’s largest and most popular national park, Yala has everything you could hope for and more. Sitting in the southeast of the island, Yala is home to a whole host of animals, including elephants, wild boars and sloth bears and is widely considered the best place in the world to spot the elusive leopard. Even if you don’t manage to spot a leopard, you might catch a glimpse of one of Sri Lanka’s numerous endemic species, such as the Sri Lanka wood pigeon or the Sri Lanka flying snake.

The best time to go to Yala if you want to spot elephant, leopards, wild boars and more is between May and June. Bear in mind though that this is also when Yala is at its busiest – particularly in the mornings. If you want to avoid the crowds as much as possible, avoid going on weekends and public holidays and try and time your safari for later in the afternoon.

Watch baby elephants drinking milk at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

4. Watch baby elephants drinking milk while having a bath at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Sri Lanka is famous for its elephants and this is the place to visit to guarantee seeing them as close quarters. The Elephant Orphanage makes a great day trip from Kandy and you should aim to spend around 3 to 4 hours there.

Arrive between 10am and midday and you can watch the elephants bathing in the river. Then, at about 1pm the keepers feed the babies from giant milk bottles.

The Dambulla caves are located at the top of a rather long set of stairs and are filled with images of the Buddha in all shapes and sizes

3. Go underground at Dambulla Temple

The kids will wander around in awe in this stunning Buddhist monastery that is carved into the rock. Five caves are filled with paintings and statues, including one containing fifty statues of Buddha. The caves open from 7am and it’s best to arrive as early as possible, as it gets very hot and busy later on in the day.

Rising up from the lush green plains of central Sri Lanka is the awe-inspiring, UNESCO-listed Sigiriya Rock Fortress

2. Climb the giant Lion rock of Sigiriya Citadel

Sigiriya is only 20 minutes from Dambulla so combine the two for a cultural day out from Kandy. Your driver will take you between the attractions and wait while you explore.

Sri Lankans call this ancient palace the Eighth Wonder of the World and, although it’s a steep climb to the top, it’s not too much for children to undertake. Once you get to the summit, you can walk around the fortress and admire the incredible views.
Some tips to take into account when going with children:

  • Get early or later in the afternoon when the temperatures go down and there are less crows. It can get really hot.
  • Take a few bottles of water (even though there are drinking fountains by the Lion rock).

If you want more insight into where it’s a good idea to take your kids to Sigiriya have a read at Alyson’s travel blog.

Galle is one of the shining gems in Sri Lanka’s glorious crown. Situated on the west coast of the island

1. Travel back in time at Galle Ancient Fort

Just minutes from the resort of Unawatuna, the historic city of Galle is a must-see. Wander around the perimeter of the Unesco walled fort then explore the centre of town. With chic boutiques, pedestrianised streets and local and international restaurants and cafes, it’s a creative hub with plenty of charm.

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About the author

Cara Frost-Sharratt is a freelance food and travel writer who lives in London. She regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and is the author of London's Classic Restaurants and London's Landmarks, also published by New Holland.

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