This island paradise has long been one of our most popular destinations. Allow us, if you will, to recap why Sri Lanka is a tick-all-the-boxes family hotspot:

Fabulous beaches, waterfalls and hotel pools. Great weather, whichever school holiday you choose. Just enough sightseeing to keep the troops from getting bored. Phenomenal scenery – mountain, coastal, and foothills carpeted with tea plantations. Wildlife, both on land and water. Adrenaline-fuelled activities. Truly scrumptious food.

We could go on…. but in the interests of brevity, we’ve cut to the chase with our favourite Top 10 things to do and see in Sri Lanka with kids.

1.  Explore rural Sri Lanka by bullock cart 

Sri Lanka with Kids trips, family exploring the countryside by traditional bullock cart

Hop onto a traditional bullock cart for a guided tour at a leisurely pace

You’ll find there are lots of opportunities to slow down and explore rural Sri Lanka by traditional bullock cart. Many families start their trip in a beautiful colonial-era hotel in the heart of a coconut plantation, and your first morning can be spent meandering through the plantation on the back of a cart. Stop along the way to try a delicious King Coconut, slurping the refreshing juice through a straw before splitting open the nut to enjoy the fruit inside!

2. Take an iconic train journey through lush landscapes

Travel like a local by train in Sri Lanka - budget family holidays

Take a ride on the Kandy to Ella train

The most famous train line in Sri Lanka meanders from Kandy to Ella in 5½ hours, through gorgeous scenery including jaw-dropping valleys and verdant mountains. The only snag is that tickets for the observation carriage are in short supply during school holidays and preference is given to family members of train staff. In addition, not every child wants to sit still for more than 5 hours, no matter how beautiful the view! This is where our local knowledge means we can get creative; choose to do a smaller section of the journey (we know the best bits), or increase your chance of an observation carriage ticket by doing the journey in reverse. Either way, you’ll come up trumps. Toot toot!

3. Watch the sun set over Sigiriya 

Sri Lanka's Sigiriya with elephant and girl watching the sunset

Climb Sigiriya by day and watch the sunset from nearby Pidurangala

Sri Lanka has no fewer than four UNESCO World Heritage sites to explore as a family: Sigiriya rock fortress, Dambulla with its rock cave temples, and the ancient capital cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Sigiriya – aka ‘Lion Rock’–  is perhaps the most well-known and is a crowd magnet. Literally hundreds of people scale its 200m peak throughout the day, but sunset understandably draws even more as they jostle to witness the glowing horizon from such a vantage point. Climb Pidurangala, a neighbouring mountain, and you’ll not only see the sun set on those jostling crowds but enjoy it from an entirely different – and peaceful – perspective. Be warned, the last bit of the climb involves a little scrambling. See our example Sri Lanka itineraries, which include a visit to Sigiriya.

4. Spot leopards in Wilpattu National Park

Leopard in Willpattu National Park Sri Lanka - 50th birthday abroad

Snap a leopard, sloth bear or wild elephants at Wilpattu National Park

If there’s a better introduction to the concept of safari than going on an afternoon wildlife game drive in Wilpattu National Park (other Sri Lankan NPs also apply), we can’t think of it. There’s a very good chance of spotting the park’s most sought-after creature, the leopard. But if you don’t see one, then there are sloth bears, elephants, crocodiles, and the ‘famous’ (?!) Sri Lankan rooster to keep any young Attenboroughs happy. It’s a ‘Sri Lanka with kids’ must-do. Yala National Park is also a leopard hotspot but is often busier than Wilpattu. You can visit Wilpattu on both our Sri Lanka Summer itinerary and our Sri Lanka Christmas & Easter trip. Also, take a look at our Top 5 wildlife experiences in Sri Lanka for more ideas.

5.  Spend a night (or three) in a Sri Lankan tea plantation

Young tourist learning how to pick tea in Sri Lanka

Learn to pick tea, swim in waterfalls, go hiking, and chill by the pool… bliss!

While Sri Lanka has shrugged off its colonial past, you can still get a hint of it by staying in the tea plantations in the central regions of the island – learn to pick tea, then enjoy a brew. Our favourite hotels are found in the less-visited Knuckles range to the north of Kandy, where you’ll find a smattering of lovely, boutique cottages and hotels with swimming pools, croquet lawns, and tea served in bone china cups, where G&Ts are served at 6pm. Check out our Sri Lanka itinerary examples for more.

6. Cycle around the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa

Family cycling around the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

Explore at your own pace by bike, and don’t miss The Vatadage (Round House)

There are two well-known ancient cities to explore in Sri Lanka: Anuradhapura, which is much older and the most visited, and Polonnaruwa, which we prefer – it’s less crowded and less dilapidated, and its giant Buddha carvings give it the edge. Our advice is to explore on two wheels; as you pedal along the trails, you’ll enjoy the journey just as much as the destination, and keep the kids engaged throughout, too. Find out more about Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura on our Places to Visit in Sri Lanka page.

7. Enjoy some family time on a paradise beach

Sri Lanka beach, one of our top 10 Sri Lanka with Kids experiences

Choose between buzzy beaches with lots of activities or long stretches of secluded sand and azure seas

It would be remiss not to include one of the main reasons to travel to Sri Lanka with kids: its beaches. Yes, this is the stuff of picture-postcard paradise – palm-fringed, azure-blue warm waters, a hammock or three. If you’re travelling during summer, then it’s the northeast beaches where the sun will shine; head south and west during Christmas and Easter. Whether you prefer a bit of buzz with your beach (try Weligama for its many restaurants and hotels as well as its surfing and swimming) or love walking barefoot along remote sands (at Tangalle Beach, for example), Sri Lanka ‘does beach’ brilliantly.

8. Tuck into culinary delights from curries to King Coconuts

Mother and daughter drinking coconut milk on Sri Lanka holiday - Feb half term, Easter, Summer, October and Christmas are all options

Hydrate with a native Sri Lankan coconut when holidaying in Sri Lanka with kids

Sri Lanka is famous for its fantastic food. Unlike in other countries, when you order ‘curry and rice’ here, you’ll likely be wowed with eight to nine different dishes – at a minimum! Among child-pleasers are hoppers – thin pancakes made with coconut milk and coconut water, named after the pan that gives them their bowl shape, perfect for holding fillings such as a fried egg, curry, sambal and chutney.

9. Eat a scrumptious picnic as you watch elephants swim

Elephant swimming in lake - Sri Lanka - luxury family holiday

See elephants swimming with trunks held aloft

These majestic beasts feature highly in all our trips to Sri Lanka – whether it is spotting huge herds in one of the many national parks or 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). At Gal Oya National Park you may see them swimming across a lake, trunks held aloft like a snorkel. In Minneriya, huge herds emerge from the forest every afternoon during the summer months to drink at the edge of the lake. Check out our Places to Visit in Sri Lanka page for more ideas.

10 – Explore the bio-diverse Muthurajawela Wetlands

Family visiting Muthurajawela in Sri Lanka - family holiday packing checklist

Settle into Sri Lankan life as you explore the mangrove forests

If you’re staying in Negombo, be sure to hop aboard a boat trip around the wetlands of Muthurajawela, looking for birds including kingfishers, sea eagles and parakeets (as well as crocodiles!). Part of a coastal marsh and lagoon system, it has lots of mangroves and other vegetation that make it a carbon sink that helps with climate cooling. Boat trips with guided commentary take around two hours, and on some, you can opt to visit a local fishing village en route.

More about holidaying in Sri Lanka with kids

If you’d like to know more about holidaying in Sri Lanka with kids, do check out our two sample itineraries, our 15-day Sri Lanka Summer Tour or Sri Lanka at Christmas or Easter. For a more comprehensive overview of what to do and see in the destination, visit our Sri Lanka country page.

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Centre and south coast – Christmas, Feb half term and Easter
Centre and north-east coast – July and August

Father and son watching the sunset together in Sri Lanka - holidays with teenagers itinerary

All the family will love the mix of activities in Sri Lanka, with time for quality family bonding too

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
We always love hearing about family holidays so do send us your photos and tell us about your experiences of holidaying in Sri Lanka with kids.