10 Clichéd Photos Tourists Take in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s reputation as one of the world’s best holiday destinations is absolutely deserved. We’ve got friendly locals, stunning vistas, vast biodiversity, and a beautiful range of natural wonders within a relatively tiny area. This reputation has led to an influx of tourists and expats (like myself) who keep the Lankan flag flying, mostly via barrages of photographic updates (also like myself).

We scrolled through Instagram’s #srilanka and noticed some overarching trends (most of which we’ve done ourselves tbh). Apart from the unavoidable photos of coconut trees leaning over beaches or someone’s girlfriend’s bikini-clad bum leaning over beaches, these are our top 10 clichés: 

1. Elephant Riding

Yes, elephants are essentially the cutest things ever. They’re friendly, they’re intelligent, they’re wonderfully social – all good reasons to not sit on them. It’s less about them having to bear your weight (not really an issue for this beasts, they work out brah), but the entire system which supports it. They spend their lives being trained and prodded, to act as props for photoshoots, novelty rides, or even for Peraheras (religious processions). The poor pachyderms are overworked, exhausted, and sometimes hungry. It also promotes elephants being bred in captivity (luckily elephants being taken from the wild is a lot rarer here than in say, Thailand).

If you do love these gentle giants, we’d suggest some alternatives like the Millenium Elephant Foundation that offers “”elephant foraging””, or simply going on safari during “”The Gathering”” in Minneriya during the dry season. It’s a beautiful way to see them interact socially, play, flirt and eat. 

2. Voluntourism

This topic’s been discussed pretty heavily of late. If you live here you’ve definitely come across bunches of young foreigners at bars etc on a summer “”volunteer”” program somewhere in Maharagama or down south. We’re not saying people trying to help the disadvantaged is a bad thing, we’re just saying a lot of these voluntourism programs cost a lot of money, and perhaps aren’t as useful as they appear. For some, it just appears to be a cute photo opportunity to update your Tinder profile. We totally appreciate people investing their time and effort to help the disadvantaged here, but we’re less appreciative of the “”hay girl i’m a humanitarian. unrelatedly also look at my pecs plz”” types.

3. Prayer Hands in Front of Buddha Statues

For a lot of foreigners not in the know, Buddha statues are just a chic accessory at hip bars or lounges, and the stuff of sexy sunset music. In Sri Lanka, Buddhism has massive sway over some 70% of the population, and it’s taken pretty dang seriously. Quirky photos doing prayer hands in front of statues aren’t kosher for a few reasons : 1. It’s seen as disrespectful to have your back facing the Buddha 2. Photos are generally forbidden inside temples 3. It’s a bit of a mockery if you’re a non-believer.

4. Sitting on the Footboard of a Local Train

If you’re heading up to the Hill Country, taking the local train is a truly beautiful experience. You’ll wind through picturesque plantations, breathing in the fresh air and chugging along with some disinterested locals. Taking that quintessential photo on the floor/ footboard of the train however, artlessly looking away from the camera as wind blows in your hair, is pretty dangerous. Safety standards aren’t high here but common sense should be.

5. Tuk Tuk Photo

Driving a tuk tuk, getting a tuk tuk ride, photo of the back of your tuk tuk driver’s head, tuk tuk stickers, it’s all been done. To be honest, this may never get old. It’s an established, and wonderful cliché

6. Monkeys & Snakes

Much like the elephants, these poor creatures have been trapped in a life of servitude and dependancy, tamed and trapped to look exotic for photos. You’ll see a lot of touts with monkeys or snakes in tow, especially down south. The fewer people take these pictures, the less the viability of this awful trade will be. Go to Singharaja or any suburban Rajagiriya backyard for your monkey/snake/kabaragoya fix.

7. Photos of Rustic Life

The sheer explosion of colour in Sri Lanka looks stunning with a strategically chosen Instagram filter. However, we’re a little sceptical as to whether taking photos of old people, wrinkles and all, toiling over their everyday jobs is really necessary or polite. This is probably Steve McCurry’s fault. Except we’re not award winning NatGeo photographers, we’re entitled youth with iPhones. Extra minus points if you hashtag #werk

8. Tea Pluckers

Barring beaches, this is probably one of the most prolific shots you’d find of Sri Lanka. The vivid green backdrop of tea bushes paired with the toothy grins of the tea pluckers is impossible to resist. They usually seem really happy about being photographed, so we don’t see what the harm in this is at all. Except if you stop traffic on windy hill country roads to get this, then it’s dangerous because truck drivers will beat you.

9. Yoga Positions in Random Places

Random place like the beach, Sigirya, Arpico. Yoga is great and all, but in reality we doubt you’re doing yoga in a muddy forest clearing whilst someone is taking photos. Also if you’re doing it on cliffs, mountains, and whatnot, this could be disastrous. Our emergency response is not commendable so check yoself before you wreck yoself.

10. Stilt Fishermen

This is actually one of the best scams we’ve got going. Stilt fishing used to be a legit thing back in the day, but now most stunning stilt fishing shots you see at sunset are almost entirely for photo ops. This started happening when the fishermen realised they got more money hustling tourists for a bit of cash for a photo rather than the process of actually catching fish and selling it. Pretty dang smart.

Honourable Mention : Photos of monks, girls in bikinis facing away from the camera, or sunsets.

Basically, you do you. Just remember to be respectful and safe, and keep #srilanka alive!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp




Ramada High Tea buffet – 2023

High Teas are quite the “Fash-un” these days, and we are stepping into a trendy


Street Burger Hitting It Off With The Festive Menu!

By Shamrina Carim Christmas has gotten merrier with their mouth watering Festive menu this December

Highlights Kamu

Indulge your cravings at Indulge Desserts. Co

By RR Everyone’s favourite spot for a well-deserved chocolate overdose has opened their doors in


Trying Scope Kitchen’s new menu – Dec 2022

By Hashini Pathirana Scope Cinemas, ever since their launch as Sri Lanka’s first multi-sensory luxury


Cinnamon Lakeside’s delicious High Tea spread- 2022

Cinnamon Lakeside has made an exotic appearance at the main lounge, serving a range of


Cooking with the Silvermill Coconut Culinary Range

As a Sri Lankan, can you imagine cooking without coconut? It is a universally accepted

Highlights Kamu


Hilton Colombo Goes ‘Coconuts’

Unique Coconut infused dishes at Café Kai Colombo, Sri Lanka – 23 January 2023 - Café


Emperor’s Wok Celebrates Chinese New Year With Auspicious Cantonese Dishes

Hilton Colombo’s Chinese restaurant will offer a Reunion set menu, in addition to À la


Uber’s 2022 Cravings report reveals Sri Lanka’s love and hate relationship with onions

Uber looked at how you ordered on UberEats last year and discovered Sri Lanka’s love


Courtyard By Marriott Debuts In Sri Lanka With The Opening Of Courtyard By Marriott Colombo

Courtyard by Marriott, part of Marriott Bonvoy’s extraordinary portfolio of 30 brands, today announced the


What you missed at the Fairway Street Food Festival

By Hashini Pathirana Renowned to be known as one of the finest City hotels in

Highlights Trending

Yamu Guide.

7 Places to Hike in 2023

Have you ever thought of arranging a travel bucket list to climb a mountain this

Highlights Yamu Guide

Yamu’s Top Restaurant Picks for 2023

New Year, New Reviews? Say “hell yeah”! We have sorted out a few restaurants that

Highlights Yamu Guide

7 movies to look forward to in 2023

With the passing of another year, brings us a set of new movies to cherish

Highlights Yamu Guide

Gym Round Up 2023

By RR This one's for all of you who’ve had that exact same new year

Highlights Yamu Guide

7 New Year’s Eve Parties in Colombo (2022)

By RR That’s another year down and boy, what a year it’s been.  It’s time

Highlights Yamu Guide

5 Places to buy Christmas Decorations

By Hashini Pathirana In the spirit of Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year,

Yamu Guide