12 of the Most Underrated Sri Lanka Destinations

Vauxpins
9 min readOct 12, 2023
Image courtesy: Pexels

Hidden gems in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is renowned for its beautiful beaches and rolling hills covered with a variety of well-known tourist destinations. These places provide countless opportunities for tourists to photograph Sri Lanka’s natural beauty. However, the island has many other undiscovered, lovely locations that provide much more to see. Many tourists are not aware of Sri Lanka’s incredible, undiscovered gems. These hidden locations are stunning and fascinating, yet they are hidden from view by vacationers. You already know about Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura, and Sigiriya, but the places we are going to let you know are also great places to visit. In this guide, we will recommend places like historical sites, beautiful mountainous locations, and other significant places that are highly praised by locals.

Most of these hidden gems require an adventurous journey to access because they are scattered far from major tourist areas. However, it will be a wonderful experience to witness the island’s unsurpassed beauty, so your efforts will have been totally worthwhile in the end. Instead of going to well-known tourist attractions, you may slowly enjoy these hidden gems away from the crowds. You can learn more about these places from your local guides or locals; they are always willing to tell you about those spots. The top 12 incredible secret locations in Sri Lanka are listed below. We sincerely hope you will enjoy exploring these wonderful locations, whose breathtaking scenery will wow you.

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01. Riverston

As far from the tourist trail as you can get in Sri Lanka is the Riverston region. There are more waterfalls than you can throw a stick at in this spectacular region, which is located in Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands. It is a lush playground with undulating hills, towering escarpments, and waterfalls galore. There are stunning villages that haven’t been impacted by tourism, as well as endless trekking possibilities. It is our top choice among Sri Lanka’s undiscovered treasures.

This is the place to go if you’re searching for a peaceful getaway into nature without the crowds of Ella, and it’s best accessible from Kandy. There is a challenging jungle trek. Duwili Ella in the Knuckles Mountain Range is the best there is. Riverston is home to the island’s other fascinating place, called Mini World’s End. Riverston is exactly the same as the Horton Plains, but the most known destination among foreigners and locals is the Horton Plains. So Riverston is a bit unpopular among tourists.

02. Sembuwatta Lake

If you visit Riverston in Matale, this beautiful lake is also located near Matale town. For lovers of nature, Sembuwatta Lake is a hidden gem in the hills. At the Elkaduwa plantations in Matale, man-made spring water was used to construct this lake. At a height of 1,140 meters, the lake is surrounded by the Cambell’s Land Forest Reserve and verdant tea estates. The lake is set against a stunningly attractive backdrop of lush green mountains, towering pine woods, and charming tea plantations.

The lake is a popular location for leisure travelers since it offers a variety of sports like zip-lining, swan riding, and motorboat riding. In the region, trekking in the pine forest is very popular. It is stunning and appears to be quite peaceful in the cool, misty environment with pine trees and slopes covered in tea. You’ll adore this location if you enjoy taking breathtaking photos of Sri Lanka’s natural beauty. Sembuwatta Lake undoubtedly shows nature’s splendor at its finest, and the entire excursion will be enjoyable.

03. Panduwasnuwara

An ancient town in Kurunegala district called Panduwasnuwara served as Sri Lanka’s capital during King Pandukabhaya’s rule. During this time, the city held the tooth relic, which is a symbol of kingship and without which neither a king nor a queen can be acknowledged.

Although there are only the remnants of the kingdom’s buildings, which are dispersed across 20 hectares, there are not many places to visit in Panduwasnuwara. Many Sri Lankans also do not visit this ancient town like they do in ancient cities like Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa. As you enter through the gates of the Panduwasnuwara, you will feel that empty lustiness because it’s a stroll through a city in ruins.

04. Thalpe Beach

One of Sri Lanka’s most stunning beaches, Thalpe, is located about 10 kilometers from Galle, closer to the renowned Unawatuna beach. In southern Sri Lanka, the rock pools at Thalpe Beach are unquestionably undiscovered treasures. Most tourists are undoubtedly unaware of this beautiful location. Only locals who enjoy daring sea bathing know about it. These rock ponds offer a stunning seascape in a remote location. There are no large waves in the rock pools since they are isolated from a coral reef.

These pools are now used by tourists for sea bathing. Thalpe is unquestionably the place to go if you’re seeking a remarkable beach that is tranquil and full of great experiences. The beach is exceptionally clean, and the area is completely unexplored. If you visit this location, you should take precautions because sea urchins are common there.

05. Jaffna

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The northern region of Sri Lanka is an adventurer’s dream: there is a stunning landscape, delectable cuisine, Hindu temples painted in rainbow colors, and hardly any tourism at all. Few visitors make it up here to the north to experience it since it’s a totally different world. The culture in the northern region is completely different from that in the south of Sri Lanka.

Jaffna, including the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka, are a bit unpopular among tourists because of the civil war that happened in those places. Since the war stopped, these places have begun to develop as top attractions. There are islands to visit, as many of Sri Lanka’s small islands are located in the northern part. Off the main path, this is Sri Lanka at its best.

06. Wilpattu National Park

Sri Lanka is an excellent destination for safaris since it has a plethora of unusual and stunning animals. If you want a more tranquil experience, consider traveling north instead of south, where most tourists go to visit the crowded national parks.

The best spot in Sri Lanka for those who love wildlife is Wilpattu National Park, which is situated in the north of the nation, close to Puttalam. It has all the fascinating wildlife you might hope to see, including the rare Sri Lankan leopard, without the insanely high tourist density of the more well-known southern parks.

07. Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya is located on Sri Lanka’s coast and is around 4 hours’ drive from Colombo. Situated on the portion of land that “forms” the Puttalam Lagoon, it’s an excellent place to go kite surfing (May to November is the major kite season)!

There are many entertaining things to do in Kalpitiya, whether you’re eager to try kite surfing or want to see dolphins! The Kalpitiya Fort is a fantastic attraction and another reason to visit Kalpitiya. The Dutch Fort is a different designation for it because of its fascinating past.

08. Madulsima

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In the Uva Province of Sri Lanka, close to Badulla town, lies Madulsima, a hidden gem. Locals love hiking and camping in this charming community surrounded by mountains. The Madulsima Mini World’s End is the most visited attraction, yet many visitors are still unaware of this charming location.

The vista from this amazing position is unlike anything else, even though getting there requires navigating some winding roads. It is a spot high above the clouds, a wonderful place. The location is mostly covered in mist, yet on a clear day, the vistas are breathtaking. Views of a large plain that stretches from the base of the mountain to the east coast are available to visitors. It will seem as though you are strolling amid the clouds from this vantage point.

09. Yapahuwa

Another ancient kingdom named Yapahuwa is another spot that is ignored by most tourists. The Yapahuwa citadel is built on the massive, 90-meter-high Yapahuwa rock. The enormous rock fortification in Sigiriya is the only fortification greater than this one. A hidden jewel in the countryside, Yapahuwa stronghold contrasts with Sigiriya, which is well known to tourists.

You have the chance to take some gorgeous Instagram-worthy photos when you visit this really beautiful location. It provides guests with a calm, quiet setting where they can take in the beauty of nature. Its lengthy, decorative stone stairway is this rock fortress’s most notable feature and center of attention. This lovely stairway leads up to the summit of the rock, where you can climb.

10. Mannar

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Mannar is a hidden treasure in the island nation of Sri Lanka. As the principal city of the Mannar District in the Northern Province of the nation, this region saw rapid urbanization over time. Despite being a modern city today, Mannar is nevertheless tied to its illustrious history because of the presence of numerous monument ruins, historic Hindu temples, churches, and, of course, numerous mosques that have been constructed over the years.

From its vantage point above the Gulf of Mannar, Mannar Island is stunning. Due to the presence of the well-known Ketheeswaram Temple, this location has become a well-known pilgrimage destination worldwide. People come here to worship all year. Nature and history enthusiasts will genuinely appreciate their time in Mannar.

11. Patna Sliding Rock, Deniyaya

Sliding Rock Patna is located in Deniyaya’s Patna division. The area is made up of a river that crosses multiple large boulders. Every rock has a tiny puddle at its end. Because the water is so shallow, it is safe to bathe in this location, which makes it a popular swimming spot. It is another one of Deniyaya’s breathtaking natural beauties.

Patna Sliding Rock is a relatively new destination discovered by local travelers. Due to the wonders of nature, the modern Patna Sliding Rock has drawn a large number of tourists from both domestic and international travel. The ponds are shallow, and The Rock is very safe. Consequently, there is no chance of self-harm or drowning.

12. Chilaw

Chilaw, which lies in Sri Lanka’s North Western Province, offers a remarkable array of experiences and sights, making it a destination well worth visiting. Recent years have seen a lot of attention focused on this community. Chilaw is 80 kilometers from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, on the route from Negombo.

This community is home to people of many ethnic and religious backgrounds who coexist in harmony and peace. It is well-known for a variety of reasons and offers a wealth of sights and activities. Discover a variety of religious locations, breathtaking coastlines, and national parks, such as Munneswaram Hindu Kovil, Silver Beach Chilaw, Anawilundawa Wetland Sanctuary, Chilaw Lagoon, and Chilaw Sand Pits.

Sri Lanka is gradually establishing itself as a popular tourist destination thanks to its stunning beaches, welcoming locals, and plethora of cultural attractions. Visit the well-known beaches in the south, or stay a few days in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya if you already know how special Sri Lanka is. There is still a ton of this great nation to discover, though, if you’re searching for somewhere a little less touristy or more authentic. We think we finally discovered the best off-the-beaten-track sites Sri Lanka has to offer the globe in this guide to the best hidden and picturesque places in Sri Lanka.

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