Sri Lanka is a South Asian island nation located in the Indian Ocean, just southeast of India. The island is approximately 268 miles (432 km) long and 139 miles (224 km) wide. Known fondly as ‘the pearl of the Indian Ocean’, the island somewhat resembles the shape of a pearl!
Wondering where Sri Lanka is on the map? Well, from the northern tip of the island, the distance from India is only 35 miles (56 km). The island can be found southwest of the Bay of Bengal, and southeast of the Arabian Sea. To the west, there’s also a little-known sea called the Laccadive Sea. This country really is quite easy to pinpoint!
In relation to India, the island is separated by what’s called the Palk Strait at its nearest point. Some brave swimmers often attempt to make the crossing between India and Sri Lanka, as the water is quite peaceful in the Palk Strait and in places can be only 1 or 2 metres deep. The shortest distance across the Palk Strait is believed to be around 30 miles (48 km).
To apply for your tourist visa to visit this beautiful South Asian island, click here. Read on to learn more about this country’s geography and where to find its top locations!
- 1 What’s the Landscape of Sri Lanka Like?
- 2 Where Is Colombo, Sri Lanka?
- 3 Where is the Ravana Palace?
- 4 Where Is the Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka?
- 5 Where Is Ashok Vatika?
- 6 Where Is Bentota?
- 7 Where Is Ella?
- 8 Where Is Galle in Sri Lanka?
- 9 Where Is Kalutara?
- 10 Where Is Kandy?
- 11 Where Is Mirissa?
- 12 Where Is Negombo?
- 13 Where Is Sigiriya?
- 14 Is Sri Lanka Part of India?
What’s the Landscape of Sri Lanka Like?
This South Asian island has always attracted many visitors due to its beautiful landscapes and spectacular beaches. From large but green mountainous or hilly areas, to exotic birds and plant life, it is nature’s own paradise.
The world-renowned elephant sanctuaries can be found here. Meanwhile, you can also find majestic leopards. On the other end of the spectrum, off the southern coast near Dondra Point, or Trincomalee off the eastern coast, giant whales and dolphins can be seen.
The best time for whale watching these incredible species is between the months of December and April, their main migration period. Most of the coastal resorts offer trips to view this spectacular occurrence.
With this in mind, it’s time to talk about the wonderful places to visit here and where to find them!
Where Is Colombo, Sri Lanka?
Colombo is situated on the west coast of the island, toward the southwest. Colombo is the island’s capital, and the country’s largest and most populated city. It is also one of the major trading ports in Southeast Asia. Colombo is a must-visit location, just like many other capital cities in the world.
It may interest you to know that the country’s main airport (called Colombo Airport) is located just 23 miles (38 km) from the capital. Learn more about Colombo Airport in our guide.
What Can You See and Do in Colombo?
Colombo is a capital of contrasts of modern and old, with a population of just under 6 million people, so it can be busy but vibrant. Walking around Colombo, you come across many different aspects of the city, although you can also take an organised tour.
- If you go on foot, you can take time out by having a relaxing beverage in one of the rooftop cafes with views out over the city.
- Alternatively, take a tuk-tuk ride if you are comfortable about the somewhat chaotic way that people drive in Colombo!
The city has some beautiful colonial buildings, including the National Museum and the Fort Area. Also, the famous Beira Lake is situated in the city – seemingly out of place in the middle of a bustling metropolis!
At Beira Lake, you have the opportunity to visit the Pettah Floating Market, located on the bridge over the lake. It is a great ‘souvenir bagging’ opportunity with everything from clothes, shoes, ornaments, jewellery, handbags and more!
Foodies can sample delights at Galle Face Green, a popular street food market with the best food on offer. Try the ‘Kottu’, a mixed plate of Sri Lankan foods, and wash that down with their famous Elephant Ginger Beer!
Where is the Ravana Palace?
The Ravana Palace in Sri Lanka is located a little way from the banks of the Kelani River, some 83 miles (134 km) northeast of Colombo. By road, the journey takes 3 to 4 hours.
It is an ancient site, believed to be the home of the legendary King Ravana. Built as a fortress, it is situated on a plateau between 3 mountain peaks known as the Trikuta Mountains. Archaeologists believe they have discovered a preserved mummy in a cave close to the palace, that of King Ravana!
Where Is the Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka?
Now this is a real tourist favourite. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are several elephant ‘rescue’ facilities located on the island.
The most widely promoted sanctuary is called ‘Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage’, located about 28 miles (45 km) from the city of Kandy in the Central Province. This is approximately a 3-hour journey from Colombo to the northwest.
That said, given that other orphanages exist, we would advise looking in-depth at which ones to visit. This is both to ensure that you visit a facility where the animals are cared for and protected, and where you have the opportunity to feed, stroke and wash them (if you want to!)
In particular, the Elephant Transit Home is known to be one of the most ethical and caring elephant welfare trusts in the world. You can find this shelter located at Udawalawe National Park, about 105 miles (170 km) to the southeast of Colombo.
Where Is Ashok Vatika?
Ashok Vatika is a historic Hindu temple and a place of beauty and serenity, located approximately 105 miles (170 km) east of Colombo. The temple is easily reached by road on the Colombo-to-Kandy motorway.
Ashtok Vatika is a beautiful site, including the Hakgala Botanical Garden, near the area known as Seetha Eliya. This area is close to the resort city of Nuwara Eliya. Ashtok Vatika is an important site in Hindu history, and so it’s a must-visit if you are interested in ancient culture!
For example, Ashoka Vatika is said to be the site where Maa Sita, daughter of the earth goddess Bhūmi was kept captive by the Demon King Ravana. The soil around here is black – a reference to the Hindu god Hanuman’s burning the area. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the River Sita the soil is very red, a complete contrast.
Please bear in mind that Ashtok Vanam is the same destination as Ashok Vatika. The only difference is that the Tamil Hindus call the site “Ashtok Vanam”’.
Where Is Bentota?
This coastal town is in the Galle District of the Southern Province, around 34 miles (56 km) north of Galle. Bentota is worth a visit both for its fantastic beaches as well as for Bevis Brief Garden and Geoffrey Bawa’s stunning country estate called Lunuganga.
Bentota offers both high-end and affordable accommodation for a beachside holiday in spectacular surroundings. This area is bliss for keen divers, particularly around the coral reef at Canoe Rock.
Where Is Ella?
Ella is a small town in the Badulla District of Uva Province, roughly 125 miles (200 km) east of Colombo. The town is situated at an elevation of 1,041 metres above sea level, resulting in some stunning scenery! Ella is famous for its mountain views, epic train rides and a relaxed atmosphere.
Where Is Galle in Sri Lanka?
Galle is located approximately 78 miles (126 km) directly south from Colombo. You can reach Galle directly from the capital either by train or bus.
Galle is a fortified city boasting stone sea walls, car-free streets and the famous Galle Lighthouse. It was founded by Portuguese colonists in the 16th century. Galle sits on the southwest coast of the island and enjoys architectural influences reflecting its former Portuguese, Dutch and British rule.
For amazing sunsets at the end of the day, go to Flag Rock and watch the sun go down. Nearby is Jungle Beach, where you can have a brilliant time snorkelling or participating in other water sports.
Where Is Kalutara?
Kalutara is a major city located 43 km south of the capital, Colombo. Kalutara is located on the west coast, only a short distance from Colombo Airport.
This city has fast become one of the island’s most popular tourist destinations for beach holidays! When visiting, do not miss Kalutara Bodhiya, a Bodhi tree on the Galle-Colombo Road. This tree is thought to be sacred due to its proximity to the Buddhist temple, Kalutara Vharaya.
Where Is Kandy?
Kandy is nestled within the hills of the Kandy Plateau in Central Province. It’s located roughly 75 miles (122 km) northeast of Colombo. You can get there by bus and the journey takes around 3 hours.
Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, which is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kandy is a popular pilgrimage destination, as it’s known as a sacred place.
Where Is Mirissa?
You will find Mirissa on the south coast, around 150 km south of Colombo. It’s known as one of the best places in the world to spot blue whales! As well as whale watching, the area is known for its nightlife and is incredibly popular with tourists.
Where Is Negombo?
Negombo sits at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon in the Western Province, close to Colombo International Airport. Negombo is a small beach town, and a popular site for locals and tourists alike due to its peaceful atmosphere and extraordinary beauty.
Where Is Sigiriya?
This ancient rock fortress can be found in the northern Matale District, not far from the town of Dambulla in the Central Province. It’s dominated by an enormous, 200-metre-high column of rock. Sigiriya is a popular site for tourists, and most definitely worth a visit.
Is Sri Lanka Part of India?
Whilst the 2 countries have close diplomatic relations, the island is not part of India and is a country in its own right. Moreover, Sri Lanka’s and India’s culture are quite different too.
Among other things, the national languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil (although English is widely spoken in the tourist areas). Meanwhile, the most-commonly spoken languages of India are Hindi and English. Also, the island’s cuisine is distinct from India’s too, with many unique local dishes.
We hope you have a wonderful time on the island! If you need to contact your embassy or consulate while visiting this country, check our Guide to Sri Lanka’s Embassies here.