20 Hidden Non-Touristy Places in Sri Lanka that Only Locals Know

Sri Lanka is quite a famous destination amongst solo travellers. It is known for its history, culture, and tradition. However, there is a lot more that it has to offer than just this. People talk about Colombo, Kandy, Sigiriya, Yala, and elephants. But what about the other not-so-famous places? There are many lesser-known and unexplored places that most travellers miss out on due to lack of knowledge.

Before my solo trip to Sri Lanka, I had done a bit of research about these places but couldn’t find a lot. On reaching Sri Lanka, I made a few friends who knew a lot more about these hidden treasures than the internet. Fortunately, they told me to visit some of these places, and I was awestruck! This truly changed the way I looked at Sri Lanka as a tourist destination. While you can do a lot more in Sri Lanka than just this, I do not want you to miss out on these either, so here’s a list of the same.

1. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

hidden places in sri lanka

It is an orphanage and a captive breeding ground for elephants, which is the largest in the world, consisting of 93 elephants. It is located around 95kms from Colombo and will take you two hours by cab. The place is unlike any zoo you might have come across in the past. Here, the elephants are taken great care of and fed a ton of food every day, more than 250kgs. The best part is that visitors are also allowed to feed the animals, so you can do that too!

2. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

This is a sacred fig tree in the ancient city of Anuradhapura. It is believed to be a branch of the tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment. And it is not just another tree, but the first tree planted by humans with a known date that still exists today. It was planted in 288BC, and that’s more than 2,300 years old! This is not the only tree here, but there are other trees around, and that helps to protect Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi from storms and animals. I wonder how many people knew if something like this existed in Sri Lanka!

3. Hill Country

Hill Country is an island with green peaks and a hillside with stunning views. Many tourists take a pass on the Hill Country either because the duration of their trip doesn’t allow them to visit it or even worse, they do not know about this place. It is covered with tea plantations, and you can even see some waterfalls that are very picturesque. You can visit a lot of places here and will mostly find yourself surrounded by tea plantations!

4. Pidurangala Rock

Sigiriya is probably the most famous tourist attraction in the country. But what about Pidurangala? It is located not so far away from Sigiriya, and I would argue that it is even better than that. While climbing Sigiriya is much easier than Pidurangala, I would highly recommend that you check out the latter because of the stunning views. You can see Sigiriya on one side and mountains on the other. You should climb the top in a group as it is much safer that way and enjoy the views of the sunrise.

5. Knuckles Mountain Range

It is a part of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage list since 2010 but is still unknown to many. The Knuckles Mountain Range is a picturesque place located right in the centre of the country. While climbing right to the top might not be for everybody, trekking here is definitely an option. You can also spot many birds and animals along the way. So if you can find a group of people to trek with, that would be the cherry on top.

6. Blue Field Tea Factory

Sri Lanka is known for its tea production and the importance of exports. That is why Ceylon Tea is world-famous, and some say that it is the best tea in the world. While most people visit tea plantations, visiting a tea factory is not something on their list. I visited the Blue Field Tea Factory and took a tour around, which lasted approximately 15 minutes. It was a great tour where I learnt about the different types of tea, and its preparation procedure, which I would never know had I not visited a factory.

7. Ritigala

You can call it a mountain or an ancient Buddhist monastery, or both. While it is a beautiful mountain, the ruins of the monastery are the best part about it. They were established more than 5,000 years ago, the remains of which still exist today. If that doesn’t excite you, the mountains surely will. Ritigala is the highest mountain peak in Sri Lanka, taller than the famous ones like Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Mihintale. There is a lot more to see here, something that can only be explored upon reaching.

8. Kalpitiya Beach

There are many beaches in Sri Lanka, and you must check out at least a few on your solo trip. One such beach is Kalpitiya Beach, where you can watch many dolphins swimming around and enjoying themselves. You can choose to watch them from the shore or take a boat ride to watch them up close. If you happen to visit between November and March, you can spot a ton of dolphins, and the scene is truly unique, something that words can’t describe!

9. Air Force Museum – Colombo

It houses a large number of antique aircraft, including airplanes and helicopters. There are placards in front of each of these, which provide a lot of information. Some of the best ones can be seen in the hangar. If you are someone who loves aircraft, this place is heaven for you. 

10. Kopi Kade

Sri Lanka is famous for tea, isn’t it? Yes, but what about the coffee lovers? Kopi Kade is the place for you all. It translates to ‘coffee shop,’ and I would say it is the best in the capital city. Not only is the coffee amazing, but the ambience is great too. The furniture is minimalistic, which is relaxing of sorts. You’ll know what I’m talking about once you visit it. It is located on Stratford Avenue in Colombo, and you should definitely check it out.

11. Helga’s Folly

Let me warn you if you are looking for an average place to stay, just keep scrolling. But if not, you should check out the unique Helga’s Folly in Kandy. It is a quirky place with a lot of art. Some would say that it also looks scary. They claim that many celebrities had been hosted in the past whose photos line the hotel’s walls. If you are up for a strange experience, a night’s stay here starts at $100. And if not, there are a lot of other places much cheaper and more usual compared to this.

12. Nilambe Buddhist Meditation Centre

While the other places are ruins, this one is not. It is a traveller-friendly meditation centre where you can meditate for as long or as little as you wish to. All you need is the willingness to meditate and nothing else! You will learn a lot about life from the instructor, Upul Nishantha Gamage. Even if you are not into the practice of meditation, I would highly recommend that you visit the place during your visit.

13. Delft Island

It is called ‘Neduntheevu’ in Tamil and is locally known by the same. The island is remotely located in Jaffna, which is in the northern region of the country. It is pretty hard and tiring to reach the place, let alone explore it. However, if you manage to hire a private cab, you can get here quickly and save a lot of money. Then, you will need to travel by boat, only one or two are available in a day. But once you reach there, you will not regret a single moment you spend on this island!

14. Wewurukannala Vihara

This is not the top recommendation when it comes to visiting Buddhist temples or religious places. Wewurukannala Vihara is divided into five parts. One of them includes a giant Buddha statue which is very precisely carved. Sculptures and paintings depicting the Buddha’s life, gods, demons, and animals are inside. Not only do some of these sculptures represent the cruel experiences of people in the past, but something similar to that can be seen today as well. But you’ll have to go and find that out yourself!

15. Brief Garden

Designed by Bevis Bawa, brother of the legendary Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, Brief Garden was his home. There is a colossal statue, bamboo hedges, benches, tables, birds, monkeys, various flowers and plants, a pond, and water steps in the garden. And it feels and looks more like a jungle than a park. But whatever it is, it is beautiful! Brief Garden or a beautiful garden, you can call it whatever you want!

16. Lakegala

Located in the village of Meemure, about 180kms from Colombo, it is one of the unknown treasures in the country. It translates to “The Rock of Lanka” from the Sinhalese language. The peak is around 1300m high, but most of us will not climb to the top as it is only meant for experienced hikers. Nonetheless, we can enjoy the greenery and various lakes that Lakegala and the village of Meemure have to offer. If you are someone who loves hiking, you shouldn’t miss this as it is truly delightful.

17. Pigeon Island

Everybody is familiar with the famous Yala National Park, and hundreds visit it daily. But have you heard about the Pigeon Island National Park? It is only a short boat ride away from Nilaveli Beach, so getting here is not much of a problem. You can also do snorkelling and scuba diving here. Upon reaching, you will find a whole host of exotic animals. The more common ones are green turtle, olive ridley, and the common pigeon. It is a breeding ground for the pigeons, which is why the national park’s name.

18. Yapahuwa

Yapahuwa was the capital of the country in the 13th century. However, it is nothing more than an attraction today. The city is mainly ruined, but the little remains left behind are beautiful. I wonder how beautiful it was in the 13th century! On reaching, you will find a staircase with lion stone sculptures. Inside the temple, there are sculptures and paintings from the Kandyan era. You can click multiple pictures here, some of which are worthy of an upload on Instagram too. Trust me, you will not be disappointed once you reach here.

19. Richmond Castle

Located in Kalutara, Richmond Castle was owned by Don Arthur de Silva. The mansion is spread over 42 acres and has a whopping 99 doors! Additionally, it features some complex carvings, beautiful windows, a dance hall, and a teak staircase. To sum it up, it looks stunning and one straight out of the movies. You can learn more once you visit the mansion, or click here to learn virtually.

20. Aluvihare Rock Temple

It is an exciting place, but it is not visited by many. Aluvihare Rock Temple is surrounded by hills and is unlike any other famous one. What makes it interesting are the paintings, inscriptions, and a ten-meter-long ‘reclining Buddha,’ which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Also, the teachings of Buddha were first written here in the 3rd century AD. Things like these are unique and unknown to most people who travel to Sri Lanka. You can come here to learn a lot more about Buddha’s life.

Travelling to non-touristy places allows you to experience what a country has to truly offer. Anybody can travel to famous places and form opinions about a country. But once you travel to the lesser-known spots, only then will you truly get to know about the intricacies of the country. I hope you found these places exciting and you will visit them on your solo trip to Sri Lanka. If you have never travelled to Sri Lanka before, these tips will definitely help you a lot. Do let me know about your experiences with these places in the comments section below. Happy travelling!


An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.

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