Sri Lanka is a country rich in both color and culture, but is often overlooked as a holidaying destination, less favored than places like Thailand, India, and Indonesia. However, the country won’t be under the tourist radar for too much longer. The island is one of the most biodiverse in the world, and has everything from beaches and jungles to tea plantations and even wild animals, including leopards and elephants. So, book your flights now to experience Sri Lanka before the rest of the world catches on. We spent 10 days traveling through the country at the beginning of the year, and compiled a list of my top recommendations of places to visit to help all of the photography enthusiasts out there.
Sigiriya and Pidurangala
Sigiriya Rock is perhaps the number one tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. Despite this, the 200-meter rock towering high over the dense forests below is definitely worth a visit. It is part of the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka, and it is said to have been built in the 4th century BCE and only took seven years to build. King Kasyapa built this impenetrable fortress for his new capital, filling it with all manner of frescoes and works of art. The fortress was, however, abandoned after the King’s death.
Nowadays, the indestructible fortress attracts thousands of visitors a day, who climb the 1,200 steps to reach the panoramic views at the top; the views from there and the bragging rights for having climbed it make Sigiriya one of the most iconic sights in Sri Lanka.
However, from a photography perspective, the view from neighboring Pidurangala rock provides the best photo opportunities, and you can really appreciate the enormity of the fortress whilst there. Another great option for photography is from the lake at the bottom of Sigiriya rock, although it can dry out and fill with plants, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t get the reflection photo you were hoping for.
Further East on the Sri Lanka trail is the beautiful hill station of Ella. Whilst the town itself is filled with tourists, restaurants, and bars, it’s the nature surrounding Ella that steals the show. The hikes in the area are some of the best in the country, including Little Adam’s Peak. Head up there for sunrise and watch the low clouds below meander through the hills of the region and disperse to reveal winding roads and valleys below.
Another great place to admire the scenery surrounding Ella is from the Nine Arch Bridge, a 30-meter high railway bridge that was supposedly only made from bricks and cement and no supporting steel. The train between Kandy and Ella passes over this bridge, and so by standing at one of the viewpoints in the surrounding hills, you can get a great shot of the bright blue and red trains passing over the bridge below. Just be sure to check the train times with a local before you go or you could (like us) be waiting hours.
My last recommendation for photography locations in Sri Lanka is the pristine Dalawella beach. Many of the beaches in the South of Sri Lanka are packed with surfers and holiday-makers, so Dalawella beach comes as a welcome break as it is virtually empty. You can stay right on the beach at one of a few hotels and villas, and an early morning stroll is a must. Spend the day relaxing in the shallow waters and try your luck at the rope swing at Pearly’s Cabana before sunset.
To get the best photos, however, you’re better off asking Pearly’s youngest son to take to the rope, as he has been showing people how it is done from a very young age. As night falls, keep your eye open for turtles crawling up the beach to lay their eggs by the palm trees, a truly incredible sight for those who’ve never seen it.