A Sri Lanka Photo Essay: Visiting The Teardrop Island

Many of the package tourists relaxing in the palm-fringed resorts of Sri Lanka will be unaware of what lies beyond its beaches.

For example, Polonnaruwa, the country’s capital between the 11th and 13th centuries, with its serene reclining Buddha. Or the train descending through the heart of the tea-growing country from Pattipola, the highest station in Sri Lanka, to the colonial hill town of Bandarawela.

The extravagant architecture of the ancient city of Kandy, encircled by lush tea plantations. And venturing south of Kandy, Horton Plains National Park with its vertigo-inducing views at World’s End.

This Sri Lanka photo essay reflects the teardrop island’s diversity and rich cultural heritage through a series of images of its landscapes and, especially, its people.

2 novice monks next to a resting buddha part of a sri lanka photo essay

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A Sri Lanka Photo Essay

At the edge of Horton Plains National Park is the aptly named World’s End, a precipice with a 1050-meter drop. A few tourists have plunged to their death to capture that perfect shot.

mountains and valleys of World's End Horton Plains, Sri Lanka
World’s End Horton Plains, Sri Lanka

Close to Horton Plains is Pattipola, the highest station in Sri Lanka. The train winds its way downwards through lush tea plantations to the town of Bandarawela.

child looking out of train window in sri lanka
Waiting to leave, Pattipola station

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in the 10th Century. This compact site is stuffed with architectural treasures, with hundreds of tombs, temples, statues and stupas.

novice monk sri lanka
The Look. A novice monk at Polonnaruwa

Kandy, the capital of Sri Lanka’s highlands, was the last bastion of Buddhist political power against the colonial forces. Nowadays, visitors flock there for its pleasant climate and the World Heritage Site of The Temple of the Tooth.

driver posing next to a line of auto rickshaws against colonial buildings in sri lanka
Waiting for a fare, Kandy

The town of Galle on Sri Lanka’s southwestern coast, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1988, is known for its colonial architecture, its fort and its laid-back vibe.

elderly man pushing a cart of fruit for sale
Street vendor, Galle

Stilt fishing, or ritipanna, is a traditional fishing method practised in the Galle district.

Before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, this tradition was practised by around 500 families. However, the tsunami changed all that, and nowadays most of the stilt fishing that visitors see is enacted to create that perfect Instagram moment.

portrait of a Stilt fisherman, Unawatuna

Travelling to Sri Lanka

It is possible to travel around Sri Lanka independently and it is one of the best solo travel destinations in Asia.

However, if you are short on time, you may wish to consider joining a small group tour. I travelled with Exodus Travels – one of the best small tour operators for single travellers – on their excellent Discover Sri Lanka (Premium) tour.

Explore Worldwide, with whom I have travelled on multiple occasions, offers a similar selection of tours. Check out their tours and cancellation policy here.


bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.