Are you thinking about booking an activity holiday in Ceylon? As a country blessed with over thousand miles of stunning coastline, hundreds or rivers, mountains, jungles and more, it’s no surprise the best Sri Lanka adventure sports offer plenty for everyone.
Ceylon is the old colonial name for Sri Lanka, the island at the bottom of India. The name changed in 1972 and despite attempts by the Sri Lankan government to remove all references to Ceylon in 2011 it is still used by some big businesses, for example, the Bank of Ceylon and Ceylon Fisheries Corporation. Plus ‘Ceylon’ is still the name of the tea grown in Sri Lanka.
But this article is not a history lesson – it is all about the best Sri Lanka adventure sports! From water sports in the beautiful Indian Ocean to hiking the hills in the Horton Plains to paddling down the Kelani River there is something for everyone.
Sri Lanka is known for its endless beaches and rolling surf, the timeless ruins and incredible food. But also for it’s wildlife and well preserved rainforests. Located within the tropics, the jewel shaped island is about half the size of England and is a truly irresistible destination.
It is worth noting that Sri Lanka has has some high profile terrorism over the years so please check the latest FCO travel advice before booking an activity holiday in Ceylon. Security has been increased since the 2019 attacks and tourism had returned to the before the Covid-19 Pandemic. But be sure to purchase adequate Sri Lanka travel insurance.
In many ways just visiting Sri Lanka would be considered an adventure by many but an activity holiday in Ceylon offers much more. You can visit independently and take in many of the top Sri Lankan adventures below, or you could join a pre organised tour with companies such as Goko Travels.
Without further ado, these are the top 23 adventure activities in Sri Lanka:
With most of its coastline open to the Indian Ocean swells it is no surprise that there is some top quality surfing to be enjoyed. The reliable waves attract top surfers including the World Surf League in 2019, and with year round water temperatures of 27ºC (81ºF) you can leave your wetsuit at home.
And if for some reason the waves are not firing you can always head out on a paddle board. Popular both on the coast and inland waterways you can explore mangroves, follow streams into the rainforest or even take on some white water.
Blessed with numerous mountain ranges, Sri Lanka also offers you the chance to experience rock climbing. The Knuckles, Ella, Habarana, Sigiriya and Horton Plains all offer plenty of crags. There are routes available for all levels, from beginner to experienced climbers. You can even climb Bambarakanda waterfall, the tallest in Sri Lanka.
Kalpitiya Lagoon is a great kitesurfing and windsurfing spot for freestylers and beginners. There are several schools based here and plenty of affordable accommodation. At just three hours from Colombo, it is also easy to access. Visit between either May to October or December and March for the best conditions. Beginners are often out earlier in the day and more experienced kitesurfers and windsurfers hit the water later on as the wind gets stronger.
With endless miles of roads and trails winding their way through mountains , lush green forests, paddy fields, tea plantations and picturesque villages Sri Lanka is a trekker’s paradise. Head to the highlands where you will discover virgin rainforest and sacred peaks or join a stunningly beautiful Sri Lanka hiking day trip through the tea gardens. Keep your eyes peeled for rare and exotic birds and insects, enjoy the year-round mild conditions and experience warm welcomes everywhere you go.
The wettest place in the country, Kitugala, is located around 90km from Colombo on the banks of the Kelani River. It’s the white-water rafting capital of Sri Lanka with some fearsome rapids to take on with rafting and kayaking for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Visit during April to November for the wildest white water.
Batatotalena Cave is about two hour’s drive from the airport in Colombo, making it an accessible destination for any activity holiday in Ceylon. The caves here offer an opportunity for unique underground exploration and photography. Try and book in advance to avoid disappointment, as only limited numbers of tours can enter the cave system.
Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, diving and snorkeling in Sri Lanka offers access to coral reefs and ancient wrecks, all teeming with exotic and colourful marine life. Head to the southern coast where you can find both old and new wrecks to explore in Galle harbour. Other top dive sites include Kalpitiya, Ampara and Trincomalee along the western and eastern coastlines. In Sri Lanka you will also find plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and free diving plus you can swim with dolphins.
If you would rather stay on dry land then how about a cycling tour of Sri Lanka? Head into the highlands on quiet roads, visit some of the 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites or explore a few of the 15 national parks. There are plenty of organised supported tours, or you can go it alone.
The Indian Ocean is also the ideal place to take to the seas for some deep sea fishing. With a coastline of more than 1,140 miles in length and a continental shelf of roughly 10,000 square miles to explore there is plenty of superb fishing territory. There are also the fertile breeding grounds of more than 100 river deltas, estuaries and lagoons to explore.
You can catch grouper, tuna, barracuda and several other large fish species. And then have the opportunity to eat what you’ve caught using one of hundreds of delicious Sri Lankan fish recipes. Easily one of the best Sri Lanka adventure sports for those who don’t want to work too hard – unless you catch a big one of course.
The ‘Discover a Dream Spot’ Sri Lanka water ski and wakeboard camp in Negombo is a must for those looking to try the best Sri Lanka adventure sports. With the only slalom course in Sri Lanka and top quality coaching it is a great option for a training camp. There is also water skiing and wakeboarding available elsewhere on the island.
See Sri Lanka from an entirely different perspective on a hot air ballooning adventure at Kandalama. Some of the most stunning scenery you could imagine will float by below as you soar with the birds. Enjoy an array of wonderful colours all around as your pilot takes you on a majestic flight over the Sri Lankan countryside.
With stunning beaches, wild coastlines, inviting warm water and with plenty of wildlife it is no surprise that sailing holidays have become popular in Sri Lanka. Join a cruise with others or charter a yacht of your own. You can learn to sail and get involved in plenty of other activities during your trip.
Staying on the water, visit during the months of December through to April and you might be able to glimpse the annual whale and dolphin migration. Up to 26 different species of whale, including blue whales, sperm whales and fin whales make their way past the island. It’s the ideal opportunity to catch sight of these gentle giants.
Head inland and visit the Yala National park between December to March and you can see some of the more than 500 elephants that call this place home. As one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots the wildlife across Sri Lanka is spectacular. You might also be lucky enough to spot leopards, sambar and purple-faced langur during a safari in Sri Lanka.
Spend a day kayaking up the coast from the lagoon in Bentota, including a visit to an offshore island complete with its own lighthouse. You’ll pass plenty of other small islands along the way, some with completely private coves and beaches. Paddle through coral reefs, in and out of sea caves and through crashing breakers along the western coast.
Alternatively join a canoeing day trip on the Kalu Ganga a 129km river flowing from Adam’s Peak to the sea at Kaluthara. All tours come with your own guide, a pre-trip safety lesson and all your equipment.
We hope you found this guide to the best Sri Lanka adventure sports and experiences useful and interesting. If you would like to book a Ceylon activity holiday then check out these adventure holidays in Sri Lanka.