Why visit Sri Lanka for your first Asia trip: Top 6 reasons

Katerina and I have been travelling together for more than 10 years now. With the exception of our trip to Egypt in 2010, we have only travelled within Europe. Which is great considering there are tons of things to do in Europe. But, once you catch the travel bug, there is no going back. So, early this year, we decided it was about time we went somewhere outside of Europe. I wanted to cross the Atlantic to the Americas but Katerina wanted to fly over the Indian Ocean and land in Asia instead. She won. But why visit Sri Lanka on this first trip to Asia of ours?

This photo shows a lone elephant walking around the stunningly green Minneriya national park.
Yes, seeing elephants in the wild is the most obvious reason to visit Sri Lanka. But read on for more!

Why visit Sri Lanka for your first trip to Asia

We did a lot of research before actually planning our first trip to Asia. At first, we considered obvious choices such as Thailand or Vietnam. We’ve always wanted to visit both of these countries after all. And we will most certainly do, of course. However, being our first time in a new continent and all, we were quite overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a trip to a country of that size. We would need at least 15-20 days for a trip to either Thailand or Vietnam. Having already scheduled many other trips for the same year, well, this was next to impossible to be honest.

This is a close up of a monkey mom holding her monkey baby in her arms.
These adorable guys are also reason enough to visit Sri Lanka!

Moreover, I have certain issues fears and I knew that, for my first time in Asia, I would feel a lot more comfortable in a more laid-back country rather than a super crowded one. On the other hand, Katerina and her fear of flying would appreciate a destination that wouldn’t require a 10h flight. She wants to take long-haul flights one step at a time. Therefore, two connecting flights of about 5h each sounded a lot better to her. All things considered, we still wanted to visit an Asian country that had it all: beaches, culture, history, the whole package. After a painstaking process of elimination, we had a winner. Sri Lanka ticked all of our boxes and was waiting to greet us with open arms. But let’s get into more detail about why Sri Lanka is the ideal destination for everyone’s first time in Asia.

This is a photo of the outside area of the Departures hall at Colombo International Airport, Sri Lanka.
Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo
Katerina loves airports. After landing.

1. Sri Lanka is compact

Sri Lanka is a very compact island country in the Indian Ocean. Its small size makes it easy for travellers to see and experience more of its treasures in less time. Contrary to other destinations in Asia, it is possible to see the best of Sri Lanka in just 10 days or so.

Check out our 10-day Sri Lanka itinerary here!

This photo shows the spectacular view from the top of Sigiriya rock to the incredible nature of Central Sri Lanka.
View from the top of Sigiriya Rock.
Sri Lanka is compact yet full of wonders.

2. Sri Lanka is diverse

Don’t let Sri Lanka’s compact size fool you. The Pearl of the Indian Ocean is one of the most diverse countries in Asia and it definitely has something for all tastes. First of all, Sri Lanka is home to 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. That is quite remarkable considering the country’s small size. Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Dambulla Cave Temple, Anuradhapura and Galle Old Town are Sri Lanka’s UNESCO Sites which reflect the country’s historical and cultural importance. During our 10-day trip to Sri Lanka, we managed to visit not one, not two, but four of them.

This photo shows the remains of an ancient building in Polonnaruwa. Its 8 UNESCO Sites is a top reason why visit Sri Lanka is an excellent idea.
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is one of Sri Lanka’s 8 UNESCO Sites.

There are also two natural UNESCO Sites in Sri Lanka, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Alongside those, there are 26 national parks in the country where one can enjoy nature and observe wildlife in the best possible way. We haven’t been on an Africa safari yet but we believe others when they say that Sri Lanka offers the best safari opportunities outside of Africa. Our close encounter with elephants at Minneriya National Park is one of the most memorable experiences we’ve ever had. Another fantastic way to marvel at Sri Lanka’s stunning landscapes is by enjoying some of the world’s most scenic train rides. Sri Lanka has no shortage of fascinating routes but probably the most exciting of all is the train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and Ella, right in the heart of the country’s beautiful tea fields.

This photo shows 2 jeeps at Minneriya National Park. Passengers are taking photographs of some elephants near the jeeps.
The absolute highlight of any trip to Sri Lanka is a jeep safari at one of the country’s national parks.

One of the main reasons why travellers choose to plan a trip to Asia is because they want to spend time on the beach. Sri Lanka beaches are marvellous and utterly pristine. Think about endless stretches of golden sand as far as the eye can see, tall coconut trees moving gently to the wind and the wide blue ocean all to yourselves. Welcome to your Sri Lanka holiday! If, on the other hand, you are city people, then Sri Lanka’s vibrant capital will not disappoint either. Colombo is a modern city with a magnificent skyline and superb rooftop bars while it preserves its old-fashioned charm at the same time. This is most striking in Pettah, the oldest part of the city which is simply irresistible with its local touch and mesmerising sounds, smells and tastes.

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