29 September, 2019
Holidays are never the same if you are travelling with children, compared to those holidays we all remember before we had kids! But equally, spending time with your family and visiting new destinations around the world is an incredible experience to share together. We understand that your primary focus for family travel is to find a destination and experiences that suit the entire family – and that can be a challenge. Sri Lanka is one of those places with something to offer everyone in the family. So, what are the best places to go in Sri Lanka on a family holiday and what can you see and do with your children so that everyone enjoys the holiday?
With decades of experience planning family travel in India and Sri Lanka, these are some of the factors we take into account when creating a customised family itinerary:
1. It’s important to have activities that you can do together as a family that all of you enjoy.
2. Some quality time for mum and dad – whether that be a kid-free dinner, a spa treatment or some time to just relax at the beach (while the kids enjoy themselves).
3. Safe and enjoyable activities for the kids that are fun and educational.
4. An itinerary that moves at a family friendly pace – after all we know from first-hand experience that long drives with small children and shifting hotels everyday can be a challenge!
Sri Lankan Family Explorer is one of the suggested itineraries we have created especially for family holidays in Sri Lanka.
If you are planning your next family holiday and want to experience Sri Lanka together the next questions are – what are the best places to visit in Sri Lanka and what are the top experiences and attractions for families? These are important questions considering that each family is unique and have their own unique expectations.
The following is a list of six destinations we’ve experienced first-hand with our own families and children and which we know works for our clients travelling with children in Sri Lanka. We can include and suggest many other activities for family holidays in Sri Lanka, but these are a few of our favourites to give you an idea of what a holiday in Sri Lanka could look like. We’ve also had many clients that travel in Sri Lanka with multiple generations – including grandparents, parents and grandchildren. We can create an itinerary that suits large families of several generations.
Do note that some of these activities are seasonal, so we have provided details on best times to experience to help you in planning your itinerary.
#1 Discover Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and wildlife on safaris
Some travellers assume that wildlife viewing in Sri Lanka is just for adults, but this is one of our top picks for families with young and old kids. Here’s why:
# There is so much variety and diversity in Sri Lankan wilderness and plenty of wildlife viewing options available based on your preferences. For example, you can choose between the frequented parks versus the lesser-frequented parks. Wilpattu National park, Sri Lanka’s largest national park with great biodiversity and good sightings is one we consider as a frequented park, so is Udawalawe National Park and Yale National Park. However, if you and your family enjoy a less crowded experience, we suggest Gal Oya National Park as an ideal place to visit. To find out more about wildlife travel in Sri Lanka read out recent travel blog on wildlife travel in Sri Lanka.
# Sri Lanka has a range of really lovely accommodation options that create a great safari atmosphere. Do note that these cannot be compared to African safari style accommodation. Nonetheless, they are equally appealing. There are upmarket, more expensive options of luxury tented safari camps, if you want a total safari/ wilderness experience, as well as a combination of traditional hotels and mid-range accommodations available, so that you can select one that fits your budget.
# If you want to stay in a tented camp/eco lodge in Sri Lanka, remember most are on all-inclusive basis with game drives, all meals and a host of other activities that are fun and interesting for kids, i.e. treasure hunts, games, learning experiences on conservation and wildlife etc.
# Journeys into the wilderness are both fun and educational. One of the things we found to be so rewarding from a wildlife safari and experience in Sri Lanka was that as a family we got time to spend together without being glued to phones, iPads or any electronic items (Wi-Fi options are not the best – a blessing in disguise indeed). We read books, shared experiences of our journeys, learnt so much about Sri Lanka and its amazing wilderness and communities around. And depending on where you stay – you can relax and swim in the pool and enjoy the hotel facilities together. These are memories to cherish long after returning home.
Some important FAQs about a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka:
# Almost all Sri Lanka’s national parks are situated in the dry zone. As a result, there is hardly any rain except during April/ May (intermittent Monsoons) and in the November-January period (South West Monsoons). However, there are bright sunny dry patches throughout these times and game drives are quite pleasant and interesting.
# Almost all accommodation options provide food that are suitable for western palates plus kid’s menus are available.
# Do carry sun screen, sun hats, insect repellent, walking/ trekking shoes and books to read, paint to draw whatever you fancy – there are always quiet times between game drives, those times where you just want to relax and enjoy the peace and serenity of living close to nature.
#2 Discover some of Sri Lanka’s biggest attractions in the Cultural Triangle
Visiting the Cultural Triangle is a must on your visit to Sri Lanka. The Cultural triangle includes places such as Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. It’s a place that you will amaze you and reveal some of the rich history behind this small island. However, this does not have to be boring for the kids.
# A must do experience is to climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress – an icon of Sri Lanka. This is both challenging and rewarding and generally can be tackled by children about 5 or 6-years-old and above, depending on the child. You can take your time to climb at your own pace – or if the climb is too much, visit the site and marvel at it from the gardens below. Either way, no visit to Sri Lanka is complete without going to Sigiriya.
# There’s more than one way to explore an historical site. Our cycling programs such as Anuradhapura by bicycle are great for active children. There are many short to long cycling tours that can be done within the day that are equally enjoyable for the entire family. You will have a guide to assist you as well.
# Our unique ‘treasure hunts’ run at several sites in Sri Lanka and are another great option to visit historical sites and engage children.
#3 Be surrounded by the picturesque tea plantations of Sri Lanka’s hill country
Sri Lanka’s lush green tea plantations invite families to relax and experience a little of Sri Lanka’s colonial past. The surroundings stand in contrast to the dry plains of Sigiriya and the tropical environment of Sri Lanka’s coast – revealing to you the full diversity of Sri Lanka’s natural landscapes.
Our tips on the best way to explore Sri Lanka’s tea country with are family include:
# Journey to Sri Lanka’s tea country by train
Our clients of all ages love to ride the comfortable local train through the tea country in Sri Lanka. How do I get tickets for the train in Sri Lanka? We will take care of all the arrangements including booking your tickets for a train ride in Sri Lanka and transferring your luggage to your next hotel. You can just board the train and journey through the hills and small stations and enjoy the views as you go.
# If you are travelling by car through the hill country, take your time to stop and explore. Be sure to stop by one of the Tea Centres and enjoy a cup of Ceylon tea with a piece of chocolate or butter (vanilla) cake.
# Take a tea plantation walk
One of our favourite things to do during a tea plantation stay in Sri Lanka. Many of our preferred accommodations will take you on a guided tour and discovery through the tea plantations. It is a family activity especially interesting for kids as they get to firsthand experience how tea leaves are plucked etc. One of the memories from our family travel that’s stayed with our children was having the chance to pluck tea with a local tea picker. The smiles and the warmth extended by these people still remain close to our hearts. It is an absolutely wonderful way to interact with the local communities as well.
# As a family we really enjoyed the evenings, the colder climate calls you to cuddle up by the old-fashioned fireplace in the lounge area of the hotel and recap our beautiful journey so far. We loved these family times together.
#4 Bask in the sun and warmth of Sri Lanka’s beaches
A family holiday is Sri Lanka should include a beach stay and Sri Lanka being an island you have many options too. To make the best of the sea and sand keep in mind the changing seasons of the ocean based on tides. * However, you can enjoy the coast any time of the year.
A few FAQs about the best places to go in Sri Lanka for a beach stay:
You have a choice of accommodation options based on your own preferences from:
- Villas on the southern coast – a really nice, quiet and private option/ can be shared if couple of families are travelling together too.
- Boutique Hotels – beautiful designed with all facilities – again pretty much a private experience
- Larger Hotels – if you are looking for a more active atmosphere or a traditional resort type stay.
We would recommend you select the location of your stay and the type of accommodation based on the age of your children and the activities they like. For example, larger hotels may be a preference if you have active teenagers. Locations such as Mirissa, Weligama, Bentota on the south coast, Arugumbay, Passikudha on the east Coast, Kalpitiya on the North western coast provide numerous water sports and water-based activities that are suitable for kids.
Once again you need to keep in mind the age of the kids and the time of travel to pick the ideal location. The beach is where everyone wants to relax so make sure there are things available for everyone, a big enough pool for the kids and plenty of sun beds for parents to relax!
You might want to read our Sri Lanka beach travel blog for more information about beach holidays in Sri Lanka. Our villas of Sri Lanka are a great option for larger families and beach stays. If you are a family of active surfers – our Surf Sri Lanka suggested itinerary might suit you.
Best beaches of Sri Lanka to visit:
- South Coast works best during November – April
- East Coast works best during April – November
- Booking a Villa – consider that there may be a minimum night requirement
#5 Head to the coast for whale and dolphin watching
Sri Lanka is one of those places where year-round whale sightings are available. The country’s unique positioning makes it conducive for to sight both blue whale and sperm whale amongst many others. Around 10 different kinds of species are sighted around the coastal lines such as Fin, Bryde’s, Minke, Humpback and Sperm. To spot the amazing Blue Whale a small window opens up between February to March in the South Coast off Mirissa.
Kalpitiya on the North west of the country is another hotspot for dolphins and whales. The narrow continental shelf around this area makes it quite easy to reach the deep sea in a short time span making sightings that more attractive.
Trincomalee in the east coast of Sri Lanka is a place to see sperm whales during the season (May to November). It has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country and the entire experience of whale watching is less crowded compared to the South coast.
A private boat that can accommodate your family is one of the great ways to go about seeing these majestic animals in a responsible manner. You can also take to the skies and go whale watching from the air along the south coast. The advantage of this option is that whale watching can be done year around.
Sri Lanka whale watching FAQs :
- Best times for whale watching in the south coast and Kalpitiya – November to April – more frequent sightings are recorded from late Jan to March.
- East coast is at its best from May – November.
#6 Introduce your family to Sri Lankan food in Colombo
Or find a western option to suit the little ones……
You may want to end your family holiday with a taste of the city in Colombo. One of the biggest worries parents have about travelling with children in Sri Lanka, and most destinations, is about the type of food available for kids. The upmarket star grade hotels will generally cater to children with standard kids’ menus to suite western palates. However, you can treat them with a few options on your journey in Colombo.
A few suggestions we have are on places to eat with kids in Colombo:
Baked goodies at Paan Paan & Bread Talk – Colombo 2 & 3: Doughnuts, sweet and savoury buns, croissants, Sri Lankan savouries (short – eats) if you are in the mood to try the spicy options.
How about a creamy ice cream? Head to the Sri Lankan store one that has been a firm favourite for years – Carnival: Colombo 03. Or you may want to pick the Italian gelatos available at Odel, in and around Colombo. Most large hotels like Cinnamon Grand, Cinnamon Lakeside carry the il gelatos
If you are in the mood to explore Colombo, we have a few restaurants in mind that are family friendly.
Echo- The Italian restaurant at Cinnamon Grand, Galle Road Col 03., centrally located with easy access, it offers a generous buffet on Wednesday nights and Saturday nights. All other days on a la carte.
Lagoon at Cinnamon Grand – Colombo 03 has an exquisite range of seafood. The beauty of this place is that you can pick your own range and request the chef to cook it to your style, grill, bake, Thai, Sri Lankan. You name it and they have it.
We also love the food at German Restaurant and Cricket Café. If you are really craving for food close to home then go to one of these places. Kids have plenty of options from burgers to creamy pasta.
Feel like having some Sushi? Head to Nihonbashi, the most preferred Japanese restaurant in town, book a quite family room and indulge yourself in the joyful world of Japanese cuisine.
To savour some of Sri Lanka’s top contemporary dining in Colombo – read our food travel blog which will have your mouth watering with places to eat in Colombo.
To start planning your family holiday in Sri Lanka contact our team of expert Sri Lanka travel planners at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You might also like to read out other travel blogs:
10 Lesser-known things to do in Sri Lanka
as well as our Sri Lanka family travel blogs.
Take some time too to read our Sri Lanka FAQs.