South Asia

5 of the Best Sri Lanka Travel Books and Guides

by Paul Joseph  |  Published January 15, 2024

The tear-drop shaped island of Sri Lanka in South Asia has inspired a large volume of travel literature down the years, including both guide books and personal travelogues.

A lady reads a book in a park (Photo: Jan Fidler via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

From its colonial architecture and tea plantations to its wildlife-filled national parks and picture-postcard beaches, Sri Lanka stirs the imagination unlike few other places on earth. And if you’re planning to visit this small but perfectly formed island, what better way to get the anticipation building than by reading some of the best books written about the country? Here are 5 of our favourite non-fiction Sri Lanka travel books and guides.

The Rough Guide to Sri Lanka

(Photo: Rough Guides)

This 2019 edition contains independent reviews written with Rough Guides’ trademark blend of humour, honesty and insight. With options to suit every budget, the guide spans every corner of the country, from the ancient ruins of Sigiriya, to Ella’s verdant tea plantation, to the enchanting cave temples of Dambulla. Full-colour chapter maps help you navigate the country without needing to take out your phone or scramble for WiFi back at your hotel. There are also carefully planned itinerary ideas and detailed practical advice on local transport, accommodation, food and drink, health, shopping, travelling with children, and more. Meanwhile, a chapter devoted to history, Sri Lankan Buddhism, art and architecture, wildlife, tea and books delivers a depth of insight before you travel.

PUBLISHER Rough Guides BUY AT (New edition due for release September 2024.)

Lonely Planet Sri Lanka

(Photo: Lonely Planet)

Released in 2021, the latest edition of Lonely Planet’s Sri Lanka guide is as comprehensive as we’ve come to expect from the world-renowned travel publisher. Covering the entire country, from its rural northern reaches to the sun-kissed beaches of the south, and everywhere in between, the guide provides impartial, up-to-date tips about what to see and do here – as well as what you might want to skip – plus cultural insights and other essential info, catering to all budgets and tastes. There are also colour maps and itineraries to provide inspiration and ideas when it comes to planning your trip.


DK Eyewitness Sri Lanka

The most recently published book on this list, for the very latest up-to-date information on Sri Lanka, then this guide won’t disappoint. Whether you want to get cultural in Kandy, try your hand at surfing in Arugam or sample the island’s very best cuisine, the guide ensures you experience all that Sri Lanka has to offer. Bringing the nation to life, the book offers expert-led insights, trusted travel advice, detailed breakdowns of all the must-see sights, photographs on almost every page, and hand-drawn illustrations which place you inside the country’s iconic buildings and neighbourhoods. Colour-coded chapters split the country geographically and there are also accessible itineraries, practical tips and detailed maps.


Return to Sri Lanka: Travels in a Paradoxical Land

Part travel memoir, part social and historical commentary, and part economic and political critique, this captivating book received widespread acclaim when first published in 2019. Written by travel writer, academic and political consultant Razeen Sally, the book draws on the author’s Sri Lankan heritage (his father is a Sri Lankan Muslim and his mother Welsh) and travels across the country to present the story of a 21st-century reconciliation between Sally and the land of his birth. A book full of incredible beauty and moving insight, it offer the perspective of a native and a tourist, but also both and neither, all at once.

PUBLISHER Juggernaut AUTHOR Razeen Sally BUY AT

(Photo: Juggernaut)

Explore the Beauty of Sri Lanka

Another Sri Lanka travel book we’d recommend that isn’t a conventional guide is this personal compendium by Swedish author and entrepreneur Lina Nicander, whose love affair with Sri Lanka dates back to her first visit in 2011. The book is Lina’s attempt to share her love of photography, knowledge and experiences by taking the reader on a visual journey by rail, road and tuk-tuk through the bustling streets of Colombo, to the hills and valleys of the tea region. Packed full of fascinating facts, the book offers first-hand, local knowledge and insider accounts of travelling around the capital and beyond to north and south of Colombo. Beautiful images of beaches, nature and unique mix of architecture complement useful addresses and travel tips.

PUBLISHER Adentity, Sweden AUTHOR Lina Nicander BUY AT