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Family Travel Sri Lanka

Did you know?

In 1960 the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world's first female prime minister.

An Insider's Perspective

Camilla Johnpillai As a mother and experienced SLIS travel advisor, Camilla, gives an insight into putting together a stress-free family holiday in Sri Lanka:

"Travelling with the family is a great experience - a time when you get to spend quality days with your spouse and kids. I have two kids of my own (Aaron who is five and Karen who is 4) and when we plan our holidays we think about every little detail to ensure that the kids get the best out of everything so that they are able to keep the memories with them for a lifetime.

The key to designing a good family trip is to keep it simple yet extraordinary. An itinerary of this nature should be carefully put together as the activities play a huge role. It doesn't need to be overly luxurious as long as it is a homely, friendly and fun experience."

Do all hotels welcome young children?
No! Most of the top luxury hotels prefer not to entertain kids…Here are a few family friendly hotels that I would recommend: Heritance Kandalama, Ulagalla, Earl’s Regency, Ellerton Bungalow, Tea Trails, Amanwella, Leopards Safari, Chaaya Wild, Club Villa, Light House, The Fortress and Apa Villa.

Top three family activities?
A wildlife safari experience, a train ride and hanging out on the beach.

What type of trip would you recommend for families with children under ten?
Combine the beach with a wildlife stay and aim to stay a minimum of 3 nights in each place rather than changing places frequently. A 10-14 day trip would be ideal, with a long beach stay and the freedom to move about engaging in other activities, excursions and places of interest in close proximity.

Top Tip?
Always use a spacious vehicle with plenty of luggage space and seat belts! Always carry your own medication/the products that you regularly use for your kids: creams and repellants are a must. If infants – ensure to carry your own food products (baby meals) as not all supermarkets stock these. Make sure the trip is well planned so that the time on the road is minimized.
Sri Lanka is a wonderful place to enjoy a family holiday and for children of all ages. There are so many experiences to be had whether its seeing an elephant in the wild for the first time; spotting a blue whale off Mirissa, the largest mammal to have ever existed on the planet; learning how rice grows and is harvested; discovering the health properties of spices and rainforest plants and understanding the basic ideas behind Buddhism by visits to some of the island’s temples.


Almost all of the hotels and villas are geared up for welcoming families with fantastic facilities, and friendly, experienced staff. The concept of the family is as important in Sri Lanka as anywhere and so you will find that travelling with your children and loved ones will actually enrich your journey through the island.

Families with young children

For families with toddlers a beach holiday in Sri Lanka is probably the best option. Between September and March the south coast is ideal. The currents can be strong but there are safe bathing beaches and pools. Wijaya Beach, close to Galle, is particularly good for young children as there is a large pool sheltered by a reef, so the water is shallow and the waves are not too high. There are several luxury villas and hotels on this stretch of coast with large suites and interconnecting rooms that are suitable for families.

A family holiday itinerary in Sri Lanka should include a visit to the Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage where children can see baby elephants being bottle-fed and also the elephants bathing in the river. Many of these are wild elephants that have been rescued after injury and sickness. The Elephant Gathering in Minneriya National Park, which takes place between July and September is a must if you are in Sri Lanka at this time. It is thought to be the largest coming together of the animals in the world and is a real wildlife spectacle.

Families with older children

For older children staying in a tented safari in Yala National Park is a popular way to spend part of a family holiday in Sri Lanka. A BBC study has found this area of land in Sri Lanka’s deep south to have the highest density of leopards in the world. It is great fun traveling along dirt roads in a jeep, looking out for the elusive cats, sloth bears, pythons and rare birds.

If you are considering taking a family holiday in Sri Lanka with older children, then there are plenty of other adventure activities to try. These include white water rafting in Kitulgala, which was the setting for the film Bridge over the River Kwai. Another wonderful way of discovering true Sri Lanka is walking through the Knuckles Mountain Range where you will come across remote villages, stunning views and waterfalls.

For those feeling really energetic, then it is well worth climbing Adam’s Peak, one of the highest mountains on the island and a place that is sacred for four religions.

Families who are interested in history and culture will find that their imaginations come alive in Sri Lanka’s ancient cities. Anuradhapura is home to soaring red brick dagobas, which until a few years ago were covered in plants and trees after lying abandoned for almost one thousand years. Sigiriya Rock Fortress is also fascinating; especially to imagine that King Kasyapa lived here in the 5th century and even bathed in luxurious baths right on top of the rock.

The incredible variety of landscapes, climates and activities make Sri Lanka a fantastic destination for a family holiday.