From the Gangaramaya Temple to Mount Lavinia’s beaches to Dehiwala Zoo, Colombo has a wide range of attractions waiting for you. The colonial era and the island’s rich historical heritage have resulted in many interesting buildings, temples and parks which will add some vivid memories to your holiday in the capital city of Sri Lanka.
Most popular Attractions
Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Located in northern Sri Lanka is the second-oldest city on the island, Polonnaruwa. In fact, Anuradhapura was succeeded by Polonnaruwa as the Ceylonese capital towards the end of the 10th century, when the former was abandoned following a fierce invasion.
Its proximity to the east coast is also one of the major factors in its development Read More...
- Location: North-central Sri Lanka
- How to get there: Buses from Colombo
Anuradhapura Sacred City
Famous as one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals, the sacred city of Anuradhapura is popular for its preservation of ruins and remains from ancient Lanka. The city lies in the North Central Province, approximately 205 kilometres to the north of Colombo. It is bordered by the Malvathu Oya River. Owing to the rich history and culture Read More...
- Location: 205km north of Colombo
- How to get there: Cheap and affordable buses regularly ply the road to Anuradhapura; besides you can opt for private car, train, luxury coach, or airplane.
The beach at Mount Lavinia is again very popular with tourists. It's very close to the main town, yet a little community of its own exists on and around the beach. The swimming is good and the area is well developed to cater to tourists. There are restaurants, clubs, pubs, and shops all geared up to the needs of visitors.
Visit to see the elephant dance. This is an event that is usually organized at 16:00 daily but times can change so make sure you check before you go. It is located 10 km from the fort. It has an aquarium and aviary as well as a good range of animals.
Dutch Period Museum
At 95 Prince Street the museum is reminiscent of colonial times. It has been a hospital, an orphanage, a police station, a post office and a residence before becoming a museum. Its exhibits show that 150 years of Dutch dominance from 1640 to 1796 have left its mark on modern Sri Lanka. The two-storey building houses a collection of artifacts left behind by Dutch settlers.
Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
This is is allegedly where the Lord Buddha himself preached a couple of thousand years ago. The Buddhists visiting the temple walk around the sacred tree seven times before entering the temple. Here, you'll find a set of sculptures and paintings collected by King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha. It's an amazing collection of Buddhist art to rival that found anywhere in the world.
Located at Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha in Colombo Area, 7 quite close to the Viharamadevi Park, the museum is housed in a colonial British mansion from the 19th century and displays many fine antiques from Sri Lanka’s varied history. Sculptures, manuscripts, paintings, royal regalia, pottery, antique furniture, carvings, masks, and even ancient porcelain can be seen in the largest museum in Sri Lanka. There are also some palm-leaf manuscripts tracing the history of the island nation in the museum. On the weekends a live puppet show is organized in the Children’s Museum.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sri Lanka’s last primary tropical rainforest, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, is located in the wet zone near the southwest lowlands of the island. Specifically, it is located near Sabaragamuwa, 100km from Colombo.
It is of great international significance, as it was added onto the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1988. The importance of Read More...
- Location: Southwest lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka, 100km from Colombo
Temples and Mosques
There are also any number of Buddhist and Hindu Temples in Colombo and its surrounding areas. A Hindu temple is called a 'kovil' and Kathiseran Kovil on Galle Street and Sri Bala Selva Vinayagar Moorthy Kovil near Captain’s Gardens are worth visiting. The Grand Mosque in Pettah and Wolvendaal, the oldest church in the city, give Colombo a religious feel.
The Gangaramaya Temple
This temple is located at 61 Sri Jinaratana Road in Colombo area 2. The temple has a museum and a library. The museum does have some spectacular antiques. It was transformed from a sleepy little hermitage to the present attraction it is today by Ven. Dewundara Sri Jinaratana Nayaka Thero. Tucked away near the Beira Lake it is an interesting destination. There is even a century old Bodhi tree on the grounds and meditation classes are conducted here as well. It is a spiritual place that is the focus of attention during the Nawam Perahera festival.
The Fort is a commercial area. In fact there is no real fort there, but the port, and the bigger banks and hotels are to be found in this area. This includes the Hilton Colombo, the Intercontinental, the Grand Oriental and the Galadari. Historically this was the centre of town, and some interesting colonial architecture can be observed. A walk down Chatham Street and around the Clock tower is an interesting way to explore the fort area.
Uda Walawe Elephant Transit Home
Owned by the DWLC, or the Department of Wild Life Conservation, the Elephant Transit Home was established in 1995 as a part of the Uda Walawe National Park with the primary motive of rehabilitating orphaned calves of elephants, and ultimately releasing them back to the wild.
The Transit Home is situated at about 170km southeast of Read More...
- Location: 170km southeast of Colombo
Located in Colombo area 7, it is the oldest and largest park in Colombo and is also known as Cinnamon Gardens although it was originally called Victoria Park by the British and then renamed for a Sinhalese Queen whose statue is present in the park. Close to the National Museum and the Town Hall, there is also a section for kids with a zoo of baby animals and even a small train track.