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Tourism In Sri Lanka Statistics 2023: The Ultimate Guide

Moritz L.

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Moritz L.

Last updated : Jun 05, 202421 min read

General

Sri Lanka Tour Guide

 

Did you know that Sri Lanka has the oldest recorded tree and the highest density of waterfalls? If these facts amaze you, then you probably have endless tabs open uncovering the countless wonders and natural treasures that await on this magical island. 

 

So many tabs, in fact, that planning your trip can be quite the hurdle, making it difficult to hire a Sri Lanka tour guide or plan the perfect itinerary. But before you get stranded in a sea of information, allow us to bring you on board with all the necessary details so you can dive into this magical wonderland with waves of excitement. 

 

Why We Love Sri Lanka 

From the ancient ruins on top of the Sigiriya, to the traditional tea plantations of Kandy, history is still very vibrant and visible on the 25th largest island in the world. With a population of roughly 22 million, Sri Lanka, also known as Ceylon, attracted nearly 2 million visitors in 2019. 

 

So is tourism booming? Yes! In fact, numbers have risen increasingly as of June 2023, with over 600,000 international visitors. In comparison: the total number of international visitors in 2022 was roughly 720,000, so tourism is definitely on the rise. In no time, Sri Lanka will hit pre- pandemic numbers of 1.9 million tourists. 

 

 

What makes Sri Lanka so beloved among tourists, you ask? We are sure the culture, cuisine, and landscapes will give you an answer! Let’s dive a little bit deeper. 


The Culture 

Sri Lanka's welcoming culture invites you to soak in its spirited festivities and explore its age-old heritage. This is only a brief glimpse of what the island has to offer.  

 

  • Cheerful Festivals - if you are in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo during a full moon in February, be prepared to witness the enchanting Nawam Maha Perahera festival. A celebration of Sri Lanka's centuries-old heritage, the festival is filled with exhilarating dances and colorful dresses.
  • Tea Production - Thirsty? Then you have to try the locally and internationally loved Ceylon tea, which has a 150-year tradition of hand-picked goodness,  maintaining the highest quality in the global market. 
  • Traditional Arts and Crafts - Often passed down through generations, Sri Lankan craftsmanship, such as intricate wood carvings, hand loom textiles, pottery, and traditional mask-making, is vital to the country's history. They also make for a perfect souvenir.
  • Customary Dance and Music - Long-established performances such as Kandyan, where complex, widespread steps are combined with rhythmic movements and colorful costumes to tell captivating stories. 
  • Hospitality -  Sri Lankans are generally eager to assist travelers, offer guidance and share their culture and traditions. 

 

Travel tip: To greet locals, bring your hands together in a prayer-like stance and say "Ayubowan" (meaning long life)

 


The Cuisine 

Sri Lanka's mouth-watering mixture of flavors, ranging from the chilies' spiciness to the sweetness of coconuts, is a must-try. Exploring these dishes makes visiting the island a unique experience for your tastebuds, guaranteed!

 

  • Fish Ambul Thiyal - An iconic dish from the southern coastal regions, this spicy fish curry is known for its bold taste.
  • Kottu Roti - A treasured street food dish, Kottu Roti mixes chicken and vegetables with lots of aromatic spices tossed in with chopped flatbread.
  • Sri Lankan Egg Curry - a delicious vegetarian option, this dish is made with hard-boiled eggs, onions, tomatoes, whole & ground spices, and herbs. It's often enjoyed with rice or roti.
  • Watalappam - For those with a sweet tooth - this creamy dessert features delicious local coconut milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs, cardamom, and nutmeg. 
  • Parippu - Served at nearly every meal, and a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine, this dhal curry is known for its light flavor and intense use of coconut milk. 
  • Hoppers - A popular Sri Lankan dish, these bowl-like pancakes are made out of fermented rice and coconut butter. Often served as a snack or for breakfast, their shape is what makes them unique. 

 

The Landscapes 

Describing Sri Lanka's captivating landscapes as breathtaking would be an understatement. Here are some of the most enchanting places you should definitely have on your list: 

 

  • Sigiriya - Also called Lion Rock, The UNESCO World Heritage team declared this monumental achievement of architecture as the 8th Wonder of the World. Truly remarkable!
  • Dambulla Cave Temple - Filled with 157 statues, murals, and intricate Buddhist art, exploring the cave temples of Dambulla provides an exceptional opportunity to dive into Sri Lanka's rich history. Spiritual encounters included.
  • Adams Peak - Located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, climbing this mountain to view the breathtaking sunrise is a challenging, yet magical experience. Legend says Buddha himself left his footprint at the summit. 
  • Ella - Covered with cloud forests and tea plantations, Ella is the perfect place for experiencing the country’s beautiful hillside and picturesque mountain views.
  • Wilpattu National Park -The country's oldest national park provides you with unparalleled possibilities to see some of the most beautiful animals up close. A unique chance to connect with the wildlife of Sri Lanka!

 

Who Else Loves Sri Lanka? 

Has the country already sparked your interest? Well, you’re definitely not alone. Tourism flourished in Sri Lanka, contributing over 4.3% ($3.6 Million USD) towards the country's GDP. Last year, the Readers Choice Awards ranked it among the top 20 places to visit, beating major candidates like the USA, South Africa, and France.

Curious to know where most visitors are coming from? Let's take a look!


  1. India - With over 350,000 travelers in 2019, Sri Lanka's neighbor earns the number one spot. 
  2. United Kingdom - With nearly 200,000 visitors in 2019, Britain's great interest in the South Asian Island marks number two on this ranking. No wonder the UK is also a steady guest in India.
  3. China - Right behind the United Kingdom, 167,000 Chinese visitors were eager to explore this remarkable island in 2019.
  4. Germany - How many German citizens visited Sri Lanka? In 2019, 134,000 visitors showed a strong interest in immersing themselves in the country's cultural richness.
  5. Australia - The final spot on our list marks the land down under with 92,000 visitors in 2019. 

 

Sri Lank At A Glance: Planning The Perfect Trip (Where, When & How) 

Still unsure where to start your journey? No worries! We created a list that offers you the best Sri Lankan experience!

 


  • Colombo - Sri Lanka's vibrant capital city merges rich history with modern development. Suppose you are up for some tea and sightseeing? In that case, we recommend a Tea Temple tour, offering you a superb cultural and culinary experience.
  • Galle Fort- Known for its Portuguese architectural buildings (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), this living monument is filled with narrow streets and countless cultural festivals, events, and traditions.
  • Mirissa - This charming town on the South coast of Sri Lanka is renowned for its golden beaches, inviting you to enjoy the remarkable view of the Indian Ocean. Had enough of the beach? Then buckle up for a safari adventure from Marissa to Udawala.
  • Anuradhapura - A place of historical significance, Sri Lanka's ancient heartbeat offers you the chance to explore its well-preserved temples and prehistoric ruins. If you are traveling in June, don’t miss out on the annual Poson Poya festival, celebrating the introduction of Buddhism on the island. 
  • Kandy- Located in the central highlands, the UNESCO World Heritage site is a treasure trove of architectural marvels, spiritual landmarks, and natural beauty. Once you’re there, exploring the ruins of Polonnaruwa from Kandy is a good place to start. 
  • Trincomalee: The coastal town combines Sri Lanka's historical sites, delicious seafood, and coastal beauty. You can enjoy the mesmerizing view at one of the beachside cafes or learn more about the heritage of Sri Lanka in the Hoods Tower Museum. The choice is yours! 

 

Learn about these destinations and more by speaking to an experienced local Sri Lanka tour guide.​

 

When To Go: Sri Lanka's Intricate Weather System

With tropical temperatures throughout the year, and two monsoon seasons (Yala & Maha) that influence various parts of the island, an overview of when to travel is vital. So what’s the ideal time? Let’s find out: 

 

Travel tip: no matter when and where you visit Sri Lanka, always make sure to bring enough sunscreen and an umbrella!

 

 

Summer Time (December - April)

During these months, Sri Lanka is primarily dry, sunny and experiences warm and welcoming weather ranging between 22 to 32°C. Though a downpour cannot be ruled out, especially towards April, this time of the year marks the perfect opportunity to explore cultural spots, attend festivals, or relax on the beach. With that in mind, the North and East cities remain wet from October to January due to the Maha Monsoon period.

 

Travel tip: During these months, larger groups of travelers are to be expected, so book your trip in advance.

 

Monsoon Time (May - November)

Around this time of year, the weather becomes an x-factor, ranging from sharp showers to strong winds and an average temperature of 23 to 31°C. Nevertheless, you can still experience the island's fascinating wildlife and picturesque scenery if you consider a drizzle here and there acceptable. Additionally, there are fewer travelers during these months, and accommodations offer attractive discounts. 

 

Sri Lanka's Climatic Regions & Tourist Travel Explained

Generally speaking, the months between December and April are perfect for a trip to Sri Lanka. However, due to ever-changing weather conditions on the island, a regional overview helps: 

 

 

South West Coast

Destinations: Bentota, Colombo, Negombo, Kalpitiya

Ideal Travel Time: December to March

Average Daily Temperature 30°C

Stay Inside: May to September 

 

South Coast

Destinations: Galle, Weligama, Mirissa, Tangalle, Yala National Park

Ideal Travel Time: (late) November to April 

Average Daily Temperature 24-25°C

Stay Inside: October to January (higher rainfall)

 

Central & Northern West Coast

Destinations: Kalpitiya, Puttalam, Mannar

Ideal Travel Time: June to October 

Average Daily Temperature 24-26°C

Stay Inside: May to September (South-West Monsoon)

 

East Coast

Destinations: Passekudah, Trincomalee, Arugam Bay, Batticaloa, Nilaveli, Kuchchaveli

Ideal Travel Time: April to September

Average Daily Temperature 25-31 °C

Stay Inside: October to January

 

North-East Coast

Destinations: Jaffna, Mullaitivu

Average Daily Temperature 28-35 °C

Ideal Travel Time: May to September

Stay Inside: October to January

 

 

How To Get There: Navigating Sri Lanka's Transport Systems 

Traveling through Sri Lanka may be a hurdle for those who are not used to its fast-paced nature, traveling with a local expert is recommended. Apart from that, these are the best methods to get around:

 

  • Hop on a Train - By far the most magnificent way to experience the beautiful landscapes, quaint villages, and coastal stretches. The extensive network will help you reach your dream destination, whether you are planning a short ride or a more extended expedition. Sri Lanka Railways is an excellent place to start!
  • Let's Drive- Renting a private vehicle is a convenient way to create routes and make stops at your own liking. A car allows you to explore the island's hidden gems and personalize your trip.

 

Traveling tip: make sure to have an international driving permit!

 

  • Tuk-Tuk - These three-wheelers are a fun alternative, especially for shorter distances between cities and towns. Flexibility is on your side; you will discover parts of the island you wouldn't see otherwise. 

 

Travel fun fact: There is even a Tuk-Tuk racing tournament around the island that you can join!

What To Expect: Living In The Teardrop Of India 

As famous author Aldous Huxley rightfully said, "To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries." To ensure that you are right about Sri Lanka, let's get you acquainted with the country's in and outs.

 

 


Staying Safe: Red Flags For Travelers 

Despite Sri Lanka’s warm hospitality and enchanting flair, there are some reasonable safety concerns. Even with the country’s ongoing economic crisis and political turmoil, Sri Lanka’s current well-being demonstrates an impressive recovery, contributing to a growing sense of security. To make sure you’re safe, be alert with these steps:

  1. Always agree on a set price before riding with a Tuk-Tuk! - Drivers often argue that their meter is “broken” and charge higher fees. To avoid this, agree on a price beforehand. 
  2. Watch out for your bags - Especially in crowded regions where pick-pocketing is unavoidable. Always keep an eye on your personal belongings.
  3. Be aware of scams - Random people may invite you to stay at their guesthouse, or claim to be pilots or professionals just to sell you something. Also, beware of unsolicited or "free" travel guidance offers. It's never free. To cut through the confusion, It's best to book an official local private guide in advance. 
  4. Check your Credit Card - There are times when people charge you double the price, so always check your receipt. Avoid this by using cash. If you need an ATM, make sure it is within an official building (e.g. a bank)

Conclusion: 

If you’ve come this far, you’re already in love with Sri Lanka. Whether you are a nature lover, history admirer, adventure seeker, or beach-goer, this picturesque island has something unique to offer for anyone. 

 

All that is left for you is to start planning your trip! If you need further assistance, our Sri Lanka tour guides will gladly support you, kicking aside any language barriers, worries, or unfortunate miscommunications. 

Let's help you make your trip to Sri Lanka noteworthy!

 

P.S.: Looking to travel with companions? The more, the merrier! Share this post with your friends and get them as excited about touring Sri Lanka as you are!

Colombo Tour Guide - Prebu F.

Prebu F.

5.00 / 5
(3 reviews)
Sri Lanka

Hi, there, Ayubowan and Welcome to Sri Lanka! Prebu offers high quality personalized and customised private tour guide and driver tours from a full- day trip to a trip lasting several weeks of Sri Lanka. From pure unspoiled nature to varied cultures and religions, dramatic high country and fantastic beaches, you can explore everything our wonderful country Sri Lanka has to offer. My name is Prebu and I've been working as a private tour guide and driver for many years and look forward to showcasing our great country to inquisitive travelers like yourself. It will be a journey of life time. Book your beautiful Sri Lanka holiday and make your holiday unforgettable.                                                                                                                                 

Galle Tour Guide - Wolley D.

Wolley D.

Sri Lanka

Hello Everyone welcome come to srilanka! I'm wolley offers high quality personalized private tour guide and drive tours from day trip to multiple days tours in srilanka from pure unspoiled nature to varied cultures and religious Dramatic high country and fantastic beaches you can explore everything in srilanka. years experience driver guide around srilanka. Live 03 years in England. Love sports and walking hiking.                                                                                                                                  

Kandy Tour Guide - Duminda A.

Duminda A.

Sri Lanka

I'm Duminda, your dedicated guide to the beautiful landscapes and rich history of Sri Lanka. As a licensed tour guide and lecturer, I specialize in providing immersive experiences and insightful narratives that bring our culture to life. With my reliable transportation services, I ensure a comfortable journey as you explore the wonders of this island. Let's embark on a memorable adventure together!"                                                                                                                                 

Gampaha Tour Guide - Nimal K.

Nimal K.

5.00 / 5
(1 reviews)
Sri Lanka

Hi, I’m Nimal from Sri Lanka, working as a chauffeur tourist guide in English and German.I’m working from 2005 to date as a chauffeur guide and having moved with lot of Germans I can handle any German speaking guest very well. At the beginning I worked for private companies then I thought that I must work freelance and at the end I’m a freelancer now. I like to share my experience with you too. - Hi, ich bin Nimal aus Sri Lanka arbeitet als Reiseleiter und Fahrer.Ich spreche Deutsch und Englisch. Ich arbeite Zeit 2005 bis heute als Reiseleiter und hat mit viele Deutsche gearbeitet und könnte mit alle Deutsch sprechenden behandeln. Am Anfang habe ich beiPrivat Firma gearbeitet und hat gedankt muss was selbst machen und danach bin ich freiberuflich und jetzt bin ich freiberuflicher.Ich mag meine Erfahrungen austauschen. Ich bin wochenlang für arbeiten bereits. Ich unternehme Rundreise in Gänze Sri Lanka.Bitte melden Sie mir zu Ihre Sri Lanka Rundreise zu Inga gieren.                                                                                                                                 

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