From ancient cave temples to buzzing local markets fragrant with spices, spectacular beaches to verdant hilltop tea plantations, there are plenty of reasons to visit Sri Lanka, with its natural beauty and vibrant culture. Small in size, it offers an impressive variety of experiences to suit every traveler, whether you’re looking to spot a leopard in the wild, enjoy fantastic cuisine, catch some world-class waves or soak up the culture at one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Here are six reasons why you should visit Sri Lanka this year.

The Tea Plantations

Sri Lanka is world famous for its Ceylon tea, and visitors can learn about how this popular brew is made with a trip to the hill country. The British introduced tea plantations to Sri Lanka in the mid 1800s, in attempt to rival Chinese tea production. Today, tea is still very much a booming business and one of the country’s largest exports. Visit Nuwara Eliya, where you can try your hand at traditional tea leaf picking, meet local tea pluckers and, of course, sample a cup of extraordinarily fresh tea for yourself.

Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka

Women collecting tea leaves © iStock/Bartosz Hadyniak

The Culture

Despite its modest size, Sri Lanka is home to an impressive eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including golden temples and jaw dropping mountains. Thanks to the island’s accessible size, it’s entirely possible to see plenty of historic sites on your trip. From the crumbling majesty of Anuradhapura, believed to be the country’s first capital, to the ancient relics of Polonnaruwa and the exquisite cave temple of Raja Maha Vihara, Sri Lanka’s long and varied history is told within these sites. Take a stroll around the Old Town of Galle and Galle Fort, an impressively preserved fortified city.

Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka

Dambulla cave temple © iStock/erandalx

The Beaches

Sri Lanka possesses plenty of world class beaches, particularly along the south coast of the island near Galle. Pack a beach bag and head to one of the nearby beaches for an afternoon of sun, sea and sand. Unawatuna comes highly recommended thanks to its combination of paradisiacal waters and selection of restaurants and cafes. On the west coast, Negombo is not to be missed and is an ideal spot for a sunset stroll or sundowner.

Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan beach © iStock/f9photos

The Food

Sri Lanka’s fantastic food offers an edible history of the country’s rich and varied past. Drawing on both Eastern and Western influences, the country’s unique flavors do not disappoint. Get stuck into kottu roti, a street food stir fry-style dish made using pieces of roti, and myriad flavorful ‘rice and curry’ dishes including sour fish curry and jackfruit curry. Don’t leave without trying Sri Lanka’s world famous hoppers; these pancake-like bowls are filled with everything from breakfast eggs to spicy curries and ice cream.

Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan egg hopper © iStock/bonchan

The Wildlife

From elephants and leopards to whales, dolphins and a vast array of tropical birds, Sri Lanka’s wildlife is worth making a trip for. To be in with a chance of spotting an illusive leopard, head to the country’s Yala National Park, which is 1,268 square kilometers of stunning natural habitat. Head inland to the equally famous Uda Walawe National Park if you’d like to walk with Sri Lanka’s elephants. Centered around the Uda Walawe Reservoir, the park is home to herds of elephants as well as wild buffalo.

Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka

Elephants in Sri Lanka © iStock/Givaga

The Surfing

Great waves and deserted beaches; it’s little wonder Sri Lanka has become something of a surfer’s paradise. Weligama Beach is the best place to start. Suitable for everyone from beginners to experienced surfers, its reef breaks are great for first timers. Alternatively, Arugam Bay is often considered to be one of the best surfing spots in the world, and has been chosen as the location for many international competitions. Beginners should head to Baby Point; with its sandy floor and less intimidating waves, it’s ideal for those still learning the ropes.

Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka

Elephants in Sri Lanka © iStock/lzf

Discover the myriad of reasons to visit Sri Lanka for yourself on the Luxury Gold Classical Sri Lanka journey.