The ideal prerequisites for a darn good family holiday usually follow the lines of a decent beach or pool (preferably both), good weather, just enough sightseeing to keep the troops from getting bored, great scenery to enhance those family photos, wildlife of any shape or form, perhaps a few adrenaline-filled activities for that kudos back at school (or the office) and naturally some utterly scrumptious food to suit all ages and palates.

But where to find such a destination? One country – a firm Stubborn Mule favourite and by far our most popular – ticks all those boxes… Sri Lanka.

So here’s our ‘Sri Lanka with kids’ top ten things to do with the family. And for more background info check out our Sri Lanka family holidays section.

1 – Elephants

These majestic beasts always feature highly in any of our trips to Sri Lanka – whether it is spotting huge herds in one of the many national parks, catching sight of them crossing a major highway as they follow an age-old elephant corridor that existed long before roads and parks were created, or getting up close at the wonderful Millennium Elephant Foundation near Kandy. Here you can enjoy an unforgettable few hours walking with elephants, feeding them and even taking a shower from them. Highly educational and a huge amount of fun too and top of our ‘Sri Lanka with kids’ things to do.

Sri Lanka with kids at MEF - elephant foundation

Get up close to these wonderful creatures at Millennium Elephant Foundation

2 – Sigiriya

This immense rock that soars dramatically up from the flat central plains is the site of an impressive summit fortress. The climb up the sheer walls can leave you breathless and a tight rein would be needed on youngsters (or adults suffering from vertigo) but the ascent is terrific fun although best enjoyed very early in the morning before the heat and tourist coaches hit.

Family holidays at Easter - family in front of Sigirya

Climb Sigiriya (Lion Rock) as early in the morning as you can when its coolest

3 – Tea plantations

Stunning picture postcard scenes of brightly dressed tea-pickers amongst lush greenery. Enjoy a family hike from Ella or take a guided tour through the grounds of the gorgeous Ashburnham Estate.

Sri Lanka with kids - tea picker in bright clothes

Tea picker in the Hill Country

4 – Beach and pool

Yes we can tick both of these off in Sri Lanka and even add river swims to the mix. Nearly all the accommodation we use has lovely big pools – so important for chill out time and to recover from the humidity. The famed beaches of the South can now be complemented by the newly opened up North-East coast meaning fun in the sea (as well as whales and dolphin cruises) can be enjoyed whatever the season.

Sri Lanka with kids - playing in a pool

Chill-out time

5 – Food

Get adventurous and have a typical ‘Rice and Curry’ lunch at a roadside stall. It’ll set you back about £1 a head – but you’ll need to take a ‘Spork’ or ask the owner for some eating utensils – or go truly local and use your right hand. Kids’ll love it!

Street food - Sri Lanka with kids holidays

Don’t miss out on the delicious street food

6 – Accommodation

Mix it up a bit. Try a simple family-run guesthouse near the airport, a fabulous safari camp offering night walks and outdoor BBQ suppers by candlelight, a rustic beach resort where kids can run from their thatched cabana straight onto the sand, an utterly fabulous tea estate where parents can sip G&Ts on the terrace whilst children splash in the pool or take the ultimate outdoor shower from the estate’s own waterfall or a welcoming family homestay where you’ll enjoy some of the best home cooked food of the entire trip in a child-friendly environment. Check out our Where to stay in Sri Lanka overview.

Sri Lanka with kids - dining al fresco

Supper by candle light on safari

7 – Shopping

Not a word normally associated with family activities but hey, where else are the kids going to learn about the life cycle of the silk worm then buy a Sri Lankan cricket shirt (and elephant-patterned tie for Grandad) in a pleasant air conditioned shop – with no hard sell. Or wander through a fascinating spice plantation spotting exotic fruits and seeing everyday ingredients growing outside a jar.

Sri Lanka with kids - craft shop - painting elephants

Watch craftsmen at work and buy gifts to take home

8 – Trains

Escape the valleys – and the heat – and take the railway into the hills with a stunning vista at every curve. Top Tip – children and all day train journeys quite often clash so why not drive partway to Nuwara Eliya then hop on board for the final scenic few hours through the tea plantations to Ella.

Sri Lanka with kids - train to Kandy

Catching the train to Ella

9 – Rafting

We’ve left off the ‘white-water’ as the rafting in Sri Lanka is certainly not of the Zambezi level. Enjoy rustic accommodation and gentle fun on the river through picturesque scenery. David Lean thought so anyway as he filmed ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ here.

Sri Lanka with kids - stunning river scene in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s scenery is lush and picturesque

10 – Safari

It’s not Africa but we think it’s a fabulous introduction for children to the concept of a safari holiday without committing to a week of constant wildlife viewing (and believe us, constant moaning). Spend an afternoon leopard-spotting in Wilpattu National Park merely a day after arriving in Sri Lanka, take a morning safari in Uda Walawe National Park and be on the beach by the afternoon or (our latest discovery) enjoy the many child-friendly delights of Gal Oya National Park, home of the legendary swimming elephants, where you can enjoy walking safaris, cultural encounters and lakeside barbecues amidst the wonderful natural world that is Sri Lanka.

On safari - Sri Lanka with kids holiday

A safari in either Minneriya or Uda Walawe is perfect for spotting elephants

Sri Lanka with kids

Our holidays are tailor-made, so these top 10 activities in Sri Lanka with kids can be incorporated into any of our Sri Lanka itineraries, although the time of year will influence which parts of the island to visit.

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Centre and South coast – Christmas, Feb half term and Easter
Centre and North East coast – May half term and summer

More information

Check out our Sri Lanka family holidays section for more ideas of what you and your family can do here and also see Places to visit in Sri Lanka. For up to date health advice visit the NHS travel website.

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
We always love hearing about family holidays so do send us your experience of travelling to Sri Lanka with kids – [email protected].