Sri Lanka On Two Wheels: All You Need to Know About Cycling the Emerald Island

For long, Sri Lanka has remained a hidden gem frequented only by a handful of travel connoisseurs who knew their South Asia and loved their tea.  Most just looked at it as a footnote to their larger India adventure. 

However, over the last few years, more travelers are increasingly realizing that this tear-drop shaped island in the Indian Ocean is a complete adventure destination in itself.

With turquoise blue waters, sandy beaches, ancient Buddhist monuments, delicious cuisine, and a vibrant nightlife, Sri Lanka is everything a traveler could ask from a tropical destination.

Add to all of this its verdant tea plantations, quaint colonial architecture, and unique wildlife,  and you get a picture of a tropical paradise. 

One of the best ways to explore Sri Lanka is on a bicycle. For only a bicycle allows you the luxury of slowing things down to truly experience the world around you.

You’re not zipping past people and places to check one destination after another off your bucket list. On a bicycle, there’s no hurry to get anywhere, for the journey is the destination. 

So join us as we discuss all about planning a dream cycling holiday in Sri Lanka.

About Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island nation located just south of India. It is one of the largest exporters of premium quality Ceylon tea in the world.

The country also has one of the largest populations of wild elephants in the world, while its coastal areas offer great vistas for blue whale spotting.

Sri Lanka is also home to ancient Buddhist ruins dating back to more than two millennia.


Its cities are vibrant and cosmopolitan, with its capital Colombo considered one of the safest cities for single women to travel to.

On the whole, the country is not just beautiful, but has a well-developed tourist infrastructure with great roads, tourist-friendly locals and hotels to suit every budget. 

Finding the Right Bike Tour Operator

If you plan to cycle around Sri Lanka, it is best to go with a guided bike tour run by a good bike tour operator.

This is because of the various challenges related to language, culture, food, etc. that you are likely to encounter. Although Sri Lanka is a tourist-friendly country, it is still relatively new to active travel.

A good bike tour operator provides you with an expert local guide, a support van to stay with you throughout the tour, and also pre-books the best hotels along your chosen route.

There are quite a few operators running high-quality bike tours in Sri Lanka, such as Art of Bicycle Trips. They’ve been in the business for well over a decade, and are highly rated on review platforms such as Trust Pilot.

You can do your own research and choose to go with the company you find best.

Irrespective of which tour operator you use, make sure to fully understand all the inclusions and exclusions in the tour price. 

Where to Go Cycling in Sri Lanka

Where you go cycling in Sri Lanka depends on the number of days you have at your disposal. We’d suggest setting aside at least 8-10 days to truly enjoy Sri Lanka.

Below we’re listing the main cycling regions in the country that offer the best cycling routes and sights to see along the way.

Depending on your schedule, you could choose to bike one or more of these. 

1. The Cultural Triangle

Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle is a set of ancient Buddhist cities that are all recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Royal Palace and Temple of the Tooth are an important attraction to see in Kandy, Sri Lanka. No Kandy itinerary is complete without checking it out!

Technically, this is not a triangle, as it is a set of five sites — Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy. However, for the sake of convenience, it is referred to as a triangle. 

Irrespective of what one calls them, this set of sites is sure to sweep you off your feet, for not only are they as old as time itself, but also spectacularly beautiful.

The Sigiriya rock for instance, is a single column of granite that rises 590 ft above the surrounding forest covered plains and flattens out at the top into a large plateau.

Atop the plateau are ruins of an ancient city dating back to the 5th century AD, complete with beautiful frescoes.

Similarly, Anuradhapura is an ancient city dating back to the 4th century BCE, making it one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.

The topography in this region consists of plains, rolling hills, and forest-covered highlands, making it ideal for cycling.

2. The Central Highlands

Sri Lanka’s central highlands are a tableland fringed by mountains reaching up to 8,200 ft above the sea level.

This altitude, combined with the high rainfall typical to regions close to the equator gives these highlands a unique ecology found at few other places in the world.

This also makes this part of Sri Lanka ideal for tea growing. Cycling through the central highlands means you get to ride through acre upon acre of lush tea estates, and get to stay at quaint colonial bungalows now converted to heritage hotels. 

Due to being close to the equator and to the sea, Sri Lanka’s highlands harbor a unique ecosystem of flora and fauna that is endemic only to this region.

For this reason, the entire Sri Lankan central highlands are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If cycling through tea plantations appeals to you, you might also want to consider doing an India bicycle tour for a very similar experience. The highlands of southern India are also a major tea and coffee producing region. 

Besides biking, this part of Sri Lanka also offers excellent opportunities for hiking.The Ella Rock trail, the Adam’s Peak trail, and the World’s End trail are some popular hikes in this region.

3. The Coast

Sri Lanka has a long and beautiful coastline that is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And unlike the beaches in Goa, Bali, or Thailand, Sri Lankan beaches are yet to be overrun and ruined by boisterous party goers.

Hikkaduwa, Mount Lavinia, Unawatuna, and Arugam Bay Beach are some of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan cities such as Colombo, Negombo, and Galle are also located on the coast.

This means cyclists interested in staying close to the sea can plan a route starting from Colombo and go around the island, keeping the sea always in sight. The Sri Lankan coast also offers excellent opportunities for blue whale sightings.

Final Thoughts

Sri Lanka has a lot to offer to the traveler looking for unspoiled natural beauty and cultural experiences. And a bike tour is one of the best ways to explore the emerald island. Just make sure you sign up with a good tour operator and you should be good to go.

And if you’re interested in other adventure travel activities besides cycling, we’ve compiled this list of 4 exciting sporting experiences you can try in Sri Lanka.

Happy biking!