About an hour away from Anuradhapura, nestled in Ritigala natural reserve, is an ancient Buddhist monastery from the 4th century BC. Built on one of the highest hills of the area, about 750 m above sea-level, the ruins are spread through 20 hectares of lush jungle. This place is sacred because according to the legend of Ramayana, Hanuman, the Monkey God, came from the Himalayas to cure Rama’s brother. On the way, some of the medicinal plants he was carrying fell on Ritigala, and it is believed that these powerful magical plants continue to grow there. Between legends and myths, it is one of our favourite places for off-the-beaten-track adventure in Sri Lanka.
West of Ampara, this 64 000-hectare national park draws a huge number of animals due to the abundance of water. Herds of elephants can be seen gathering around lakes, like the Senanayake Samudra Reservoir, to get some water. Boat safaris will allow you to observe those herds of elephants up close and experience a taste of adventure in Sri Lanka. This off-the-beaten-track part of Sri Lanka is home to the Veddah, one of the last original tribes of hunter-gatherers on the island. The best time to come explore Gal Oya National park is from May to September, during the dry season on the East coast. We highly recommend you plan at least 2 nights in a nice lodge near the park in order to fully enjoy the beauty of the area, and longer if you are very passionate about wildlife.
In Sri Lanka, you can notice many differences between the south of the island and the north. In Jaffna on the northern tip of Sri Lanka, most people speak Tamil not Sinhala, the food is spicier and very similar to South Indian food. Another thing to look out for: the further north you go, the more Hindu temples you’ll see. Disconnected for three decades, the train line between Colombo and Jaffna was reopened at the end of the war and it is now safe and very easy to reach Jaffna and its peninsula. There are very few tourists in this region but locals are eager to meet you and share their culture, an immersive opportunity for adventure in Sri Lanka. If you want to fully experience Jaffna, come visit in August during the Nallur Festival at Nallur Kandaswamy Temple.
In Matale district, a couple of kilometres away from Kandy, is the Knuckles Range, a magnificent destination for off-the-beaten-track adventure in Sri Lanka. These mountains were named because of the shape of the 5 highest peaks which rise from 1500 to 2000 meters above sea-level. The Knuckles range has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its great diversity of fauna and flora. There, you can swim in rivers and waterfalls and meet endangered species with stunning lush greenery as your backdrop. The Knuckles range is one of the best places in Sri Lanka if you’d like to go on a trek and enjoy some quiet time in a peaceful environment.
About 2 hours North from Galle, you can discover another UNESCO World Heritage Site: Sinharaja forest. Sinharaja means ‘Lion King’ in Sinhala, it is the last primary forest in Sri Lanka, making it one of the best destinations for off-the-beaten-track adventure in Sri Lanka. Within the 10,000 hectares are more than 200 types of trees and a great number of endemic animal species. There are two ways to access the forest, one is towards the north, and the other to the east. Whatever entrance you choose, make sure to start your hike early morning to avoid the heat and enjoy the song of the birds. The best time of the year to explore Sinharaja forest is from January to April.
Kalpitiya is located at the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka, about 170 km away from Colombo. The only tourists you will meet there are people who come especially to learn and practice kite surfing, especially between May and September. However, there is much more to discover in Kalpitiya than kite surfing (although you should also give it a try!). There are lots of churches since most locals in the area are Catholics. In August join Sri Lankans at Saint Anne of Talawilla Church for the annual festival. You can also go on a boat ride to see dolphins and whales in their natural habitat or cross Kalpitiya Lagoon to access Wilpattu National Park. Above all, the peacefulness and untouched beauty of this off-the-beaten-track area will charm you.