The crowds head for its Cultural Triangle but Sri Lankas sights also include quieter national parks, hiking trails and beaches. Explore it with our guide on what to see and where to stay
Few countries in Asia can offer such variety in a relatively small area, or are as easily navigable by bus and train or even in your own tuk-tuk. Away from the main sights its easy to escape the crowds: instead of Mirissa, whale watch in quieter Kalpitiya a laid-back destination for kitesurfing and opt for Wilpattu national park over Yala national park for similar wildlife trips. In the hills, take the train to Haputale, rather than Ella, for less-trodden trails to scenic mountain viewpoints.
In Colombo, stroll Galle Face Green, visit the National Museum or weave through the Pettah Market district with a host from Colombo City Walks. Stay at hip Bunkyard Hostels (see below). From here, head north to Kalpitiya (4 hours by bus), an arid north-western peninsula with a chilled vibe, easy cycling through fishing hamlets and whale- and dolphin-watching trips that are light on crowds. Move onto Wilpattu national park (1 hours by road), a vast reserve that is home to leopards, sloth bears and elephants.