Sri Lanka Itinerary – The Best Of Sri Lanka In Two Weeks

by | Jun 19, 2016

We knew absolutely nothing about the small country and island in the Indian Ocean called Sri Lanka, just off the southeast tip of India, as we stepped on board the plane taking us from Bangkok to Colombo. We booked the trip on a spur of the moment impulse after seeing some amazing photos of a stunning Sri Lankan beach in a magazine. But this is what we like to do, we don`t plan too much, and we tend to make our decisions at the last minute.

So there we were, with a round-trip ticket with Cathay Pacific and two nights pre-booked at a cheap hotel in Colombo to start us off. During our one month round-trip through Sri Lanka, we fell totally in love with this beautiful country – it`s stunning nature and beaches, wildlife, delicious food, and last but not least the lovely and friendly Sri Lankan people! It became our new favorite country in Asia.

Here we have put together what we consider the highlights of any trip to Si Lanka. Along with descriptions and travel information for each location, we have also included some suggestions for accommodations. These are based on the extensive research we did for our own trip as well as tips from travelers we met along the way.

None of the hotels recommended here are paid placements or have sponsored our stay in any way. If you book through any of our links, we make a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep our site running – so thank you in advance for your support! We hope you find this guide helpful in planning your trip to Sri Lanka!

This is our suggested Sri Lanka itinerary filled with all our favourite places to see and what we think are the top things to do in Sri Lanka:

Our ultimate two weeks best of Sri Lanka itinerary

Day 1 // a full day, 1-2 nights
Colombo

Depending on what time you arrive (in the morning or in the evening), spend one or two nights in the capital Colombo so that you get a full day to explore this busy and energetic city.

With its 647 000 inhabitants, Colombo is full of contrasts – from huge impressive colonial-style buildings and big parks and lakes, strange and creepy temples, to busy and chaotic areas with narrow streets packed with people shopping for the latest in Sri Lankan fashion.

Jump on a tuk-tuk (they are everywhere and will hunt you down and follow you until you take their offer) and let the tuk-tuk driver take you around the highlights of Colombo. This will save you a lot of time and a heat stroke.

The Colombo National Museum - Sri Lanka Itinerary

The Colombo National Museum

End your day in Colombo by going for a stroll at the Galle Face Green, a huge green lawn area by the sea promenade. Watch the beautiful sunset, grab a snack or two from one of the many street food vendors selling delicious and cheap Sri Lankan specialties. If you are in the mood, join the locals in some cricket, football or kite flying, or just sit and watch them play. Great fun!

⇒ Read our Top 10 things to do and see in Colombo

Where To Stay In Colombo

Fairway Colombo
We stayed at this newly opened mid range hotel in February 2017 and loved it! First of all the location is absolutely perfect, it’s right behind the old Dutch hospital with its restaurants and shops. It’s a great place from which to start exploring Colombo. The rooms are new, clean, and modern with very comfortable beds, flat screen tv, safe and air con. The staff was very helpful both when we arrived in the middle of the night and in helping us arrange transportation to our next destination.
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Cinnamon Red Colombo
The Cinnamon Red hotel offers excellent value for money. This modern hotel is centrally located close to Galle Face Green. The hotels standout feature is its large rooftop pool and bar. Perfect for relaxing after a day sightseeing around Colombo. Rooms are large, comfortable and come with free wifi. The breakfast is excellent.
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Day 2 // A day-trip, 0 nights
Galle

In the morning, take the express train from Colombo train station (Colombo Fort) down to Galle (2 hours and 20 minutes). This is a beautiful train trip along the coast of South-East Sri Lanka with stunning sea view. You can find train schedules here.

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The Galle Fort wall surrounding the city is perfect for an afternoon stroll

The old part of Galle, Galle Fort, was built by the Dutch in 1663. It is an architectonic masterpiece, like suddenly being in an old colonial European city. We loved strolling down the narrow streets, visiting the many unique artistic shops and galleries, and having lunch and dinner at the many nice cafes and restaurants.

Make sure to go for an afternoon walk on the city wall surrounding Galle Fort, and enjoy the sunset and scenic view of the ocean and the old lantern. Galle is a must-see when visiting Sri Lanka!

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Having Sri Lankan rice and curry for dinner in Galle

Wrap up your day in Galle with a real Sri Lankan dinner – rice and curry at the rooftop restaurant Mama`s, while you admire the spectacular view over the city.

Everything (shops and restaurants) closes early in the evening, but there are several nice boutique hotels in Galle Fort if you want to spend the night. If you want to move on, either spend the night in close-by Unawatuna (a small beach city) or head down to Mirissa after dinner (a one hour drive).

⇒ Read more about what to see and do in Galle

Where to Stay in Galle

Galle Fort Hotel
This is a boutique hotel that perfectly blends modern luxury and traditional Sri Lankan ambiance. Originally a part of the old Fort itself, this beautifully restored colonial style mansion’s architecture adds much character to this high-end boutique hotel. The rooms are large and kept in the classic style, while still providing all modern comforts. There is also a lovely pool. Located centrally in Galle Fort, it’s an ideal base from which to explore the area.
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Antic Guesthouse
Antic Guesthouse is an affordable alternative to the many boutique hotels in Galle. Ideally located inside the Fort on a quiet side street. The interior was decorated by a local artist and is modern, light and colorful. The rooms are spacious, clean and have air-con, TV and fast, free wifi. The owner and staff are renowned for their friendliness and will surely welcome you with open arms. They also serve a delicious breakfast.
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Day 3-5 // 2-3 nights
Mirissa

Mirissa has a great relaxed and laid-back beach atmosphere.  There is no stress here, very few beach vendors will hassle you, just pure beach bliss. Mirissa is a great place to swim and nearby the surfers have their own little beach break.

One of the many things to do in Sri Lanka - Surfing

One of the many things to do in Sri Lanka – Surfing

In the evening, the beach gets transformed into restaurants serving delicious fresh seafood. Find a spot to put down your towel, and let the time fly away while you work on your tan. If you are not careful you may find yourself staying much longer than planned.

This coastline (between Unawatuna and Tangalle) is packed with beautiful white beaches, so you can easily get to the next one on a day-trip.

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Relaxed and laidback atmosphere at Mirissa beach

Mirissa is a popular place from wich to go on a whale and dolphin watching safari, as it is geographically the closest to where the whales are. Many tour operators sell tickets along the beach, you really can’t miss them. You can also book it through your hotel.

There are also various dive operators that can arrange dives along the coast.

⇒ Read more about why you should visit Mirissa

A good alternative, if you want to stay at a beautiful beach closer to Colombo, is Bentota Beach.

Where To Stay in Mirissa

Imagine Villa Hotel
Imagine Villa is a beautiful boutique hotel run by Marnix, a friendly Belgian gentleman, that goes out of his way to make your stay very special. It has its own private beach and large swimming pool and an amazingly tasty dinner menu that changes every night. Mirissa beach is a 5-minute tuk-tuk ride away. The rooms are large and elegantly furnished, with all modern amenities like flat screen TV, air-con, wifi, safe and a mini bar. We really enjoyed our time here.
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Esprit d’Ici Hotel
This mid-range hotel, located on the hillside east of Mirissa beach, offers excellent value for money as long as you don’t mind the 10-15 minutes walk to the beach. Rooms are spacious, clean and modern with air-con and balconies, some have ocean views. There is a rooftop terrace and a large pool that looks lovely. The buffet breakfast is excellent. Wifi is unfortunately only available in public areas.
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Villa Peacock
This family run guesthouse is the very definition of Sri Lankan hospitality. On two separate occasions, while traveling through Sri Lanka, we met travelers that raved about this place. Located in a quiet area just a short 5-minute walk from the beach in a beautiful modern villa. The rooms are large, spotlessly clean and have private bathrooms as well as free wifi and a fridge. The balcony offers a stunning view of the jungle and the wild peacocks. Downstairs rooms have air-con.
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Day 5-7 // 2-3 nights
Tangalle

Follow the coast further south to another beach paradise – Tangalle (2 hours by taxi or tuk-tuk).

Picture a white sandy beach that stretches out as long as your eyes can see, with beautiful turquoise water – and you have Tangalle.

 

Tangalle beach, Sri Lanka

The beach paradise of Tangalle

Tangalle is even more beautiful than Mirissa. It is wild and untouched and not crowded at all. Tangalle = sand, sea and sun. Go for a stroll or run along the beach in the afternoon, look for sea turtles and enjoy the amazing sunset. The only real drawback to Tangalle is that the sea is rough and bathing is not really possible except in small protected coves.

⇒ Read more about Tangalle, and why it became our favorite Sri Lankan beach

Where To Stay In Tangalle

Serein Beach Hotel
We stayed at Serein Beach Hotel, a fairly new eco-friendly hotel situated right on the beach and we absolutely loved it! The rooms are spacious, nicely decorated, and have a balcony with beach view. The food and service were excellent. If you are looking for a quiet, out of the way, place to relax then this is perfect.
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Day 8 // a day-trip, 0 nights
Yala National Park

From Tangalla, take a taxi to Yala National Park (a 2-hour drive). Your hotel can book this safari trip for you, including safari jeep with driver/ guide, and the tickets to the park. You can choose to go early in the morning, or in the afternoon.

Yala is the most famous national park in Sri Lanka. Here you can see animals like wild elephants, plenty of deer, crocodiles, buffaloes, wild pigs, monkeys,and lots of colorful birds. If you are lucky, you can even see the shy leopard. Unfortunately, we were not so lucky…..

⇒ Read more about going on safari in Yala National Park and what animals you will see

Day 8 -10 // 2 nights
Ella

After the safari in Yala National Park, take your private car (arrange for the driver to wait for you while you are on the safari) to the mountain village Ella in the middle of Sri Lanka.

Ella is incredibly green and lush, right in the middle of tea plantations, surrounded by mountains some around 2000 meter high. It is a sleepy village with great scenery. Go for hikes in the mountains, or visit one of the many tea factories and plantations in the area. We loved this place and ended up staying much longer than we planned.

A good alternative to Ella is the popular tea and hiking village Nuwara Eliya, a two-hour drive from Ella.

Little Adams Peak

Stunning view from Little Adam`s Peak in Ella

⇒ Read more about what to see and do around Ella here:

Where To Stay in Ella

Ravana Heights
We ended up staying at Ravana Heights for a week (had originally planned for two days) and had a spectacular time. The owner is a real character, very friendly and loves to chat. He can arrange trekking trips both with or without a guide. The higher priced rooms are brand new, very modern, spacious and beautiful and have air-con, flat screen TV, and free wifi. And the view from their balcony is spectacular! The Sri Lanka / Thai fusion dinner set menu that changes every night was probably the best food we had on our entire trip to Sri Lanka. Breakfast is lovely and plentiful and is served outside.
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The Mountain Heavens
You would stay here for the absolutely spectacular view. Situated high up on the mountainside this hotel probably has the best view over the Ella Gap of any hotel in Ella. The rooms are fairly basic but clean and the beds are comfy. There is hot water and a ceiling fan. Breakfast is simple, but the view from your breakfast table is unbeatable.
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Day 10 – Train trip
Ella – Kandy

The most scenic train trip in Sri Lanka is the one between Ella and Kandy. It is a real must when visiting Sri Lanka. It is a long journey, 7 hours, but the beautiful mountain scenery passing by outside your train window is breathtaking and well worth getting a slightly sore butt for. 🙂

Also, just watching the passing villages and the locals getting on and off the train at each station is fascinating and give you an insight into Sri Lankan daily life. At each stop, vendors selling snacks, drinks and food get on and off, so there are plenty of Sri Lankan specialities to indulge in.

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The view from the train between Ella and Kandy is awesome – so green and lush!

Check train schedules here (search from Ella to Kandy). There are three trains a day, departing from Ella at 06:40 (express), 09:24 (express) and 12:06 (slow, takes 10 hours!).

⇒ Read more about the world’s most beautiful train trip

Day 10-12 // 2 nights
Kandy

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Light ceremony at Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy

Kandy is famous for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic that houses Sri Lanka`s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of Buddha himself!

We visited the temple in the afternoon, just after dark, and it was a very atmospheric and a bit mysterious experience.

⇒ There are lots to see and do in Kandy. Grab a taxi or a tuk-tuk and visit the beautiful Botanical Garden, and a lot more

Where To Stay in Kandy

Elegant Hotel
This hotel looks fantastic, with great location and fantastic views! Best of all, it has a huge swimming pool! The breakfast is apparently spectacular, the staff friendly, and the beds super comfy. It’s a little outside the center, but transport is cheap and easily available. This is our fist choice if we ever return to Kandy.
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Sharon Inn
This is where we stayed. It’s an okay guesthouse within walking distance of the Lake. The rooms are basic and a little dated, but with private bathroom. They helped us arrange transportation to our next stop, and we were happy with the service. The best thing was the tasty Sri Lankan rice and curry buffet dinner in the garden in the evenings.
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Day 12 // a day-trip, 0 nights
Sigiriya

Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, is a gigantic rock (200 meters high) located in the middle of the jungle. Sigiriya was once the capital of Sri Lanka, where the king`s palace was on top of the rock. You can actually see ruins of the palace at the top.

Lion rock, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

The famous Lion Rock, or Sigiriya

We used about two hours on the climb (stairs), but it is totally worth all the sweat – the view is awesome! The drive from Kandy to Sigiriya takes about 2,5 hours.

⇒ Read the full story of Sigiriya and get an impression of what the hike up is like

Day 12-14 // 2 nights
Polonnaruwa

From Sigiriya, there is only a one-hour drive up to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa was the capital of Sri Lanka for three centuries. The ancient city is packed with old temples and ruins located in the middle of the green jungle.

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Lots of beautiful temples and ruins to see at the ancient city Polonnaruwa

Rent a bike and bike around the temple area at your own pace, and soak in the atmosphere. It is a great bike ride!

Pollonaruwa is part of what is often referred to as the ancient cities of Sri Lanka. The others being Sigiriya and Anuradhapura.

If you want to explore more ancient ruins after Pollonaruwa then Anuradhapura, the largest and oldest of the ancient cities is located between Pollonaruwa and Negombo but slightly further north. The ruins there are spread across a very large area covering more than 40km². There is no train connection to Anuradhapura so your best bet is to hire a car and driver. It’s about a 2-3 hour drive from Pollonaruwa.

⇒ Here is an overview of all the temples you can see in Polonnaruwa

Where To Stay in Pollonaruwa

Tishan Holiday Resort
This is a budget friendly place that is getting rave reviews and offers excellent value for money. It is well located for exploring the ruins and offers 10 basic but very clean rooms. Travelers highlight the excellent food and the friendly service. Air Conditioned rooms are available and all rooms have free wifi access. The pool looks great, and bikes are available for rent.
Click here for latest prices

Deer Park Hotel
Deer Park Hotel is probably the best high end hotel in Pollonaruwa. This hotel location can’t be beaten as it overlooks the beautiful Giritale Lake. Rooms are very spacious, has an excellent view of the lake and provide all modern amenities such as Satellite TV, AC, mini-bar and free in-room Wifi. There is also a large gym and an excellent pool. In the evening you can sit and watch as Elephants come down to the Lake to drink and bath! Travelers rave about the excellent food and personal attention to service.
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Seyara Holiday Resort
This is the small family driven hotel where we stayed. The owner and his family are very friendly and made us feel right at home. The traditional Sri Lankan breakfast was excellent. The rooms do vary greatly in standard and our room was fairly basic. Wi-fi is available in public areas, but not in the rooms. Since we were there they have build a large pool that looks excellent.
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Day 14 // 0-1 night
Negombo

Instead of heading back to Colombo to stay there the last night or the day of your departure, we recommend that you head out to the west coast to the beach town Negombo. The train trip from Polonnaruwa is about 6,5 hours.

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Negombo beach

Negombo is closer to the airport than Colombo, located only 20 minutes from Colombo International Airport, making it the perfect place to “wait” for you plane.

We did not spend a night in Negombo but had a late flight out of Sri Lanka (after midnight), so we spent our last day in Sri Lanka hanging out at the beach and had brunch at one of the many nice beach resorts located right on the beautiful Negombo beach.

⇒ This is why Negombo is the perfect last stop before catching your plane

Where To stay in Negombo

Heritage Negombo
This is a relatively new hotel in Negombo with a great location in a quiet area of the beach. All rooms have a sea view and are spacious, modern and comfortable. The garden and pool are lovely. The breakfast buffet is varied and plentiful. It’s a fairly expensive hotel but a great choice if you want to splurge a bit on your last nights in Sri Lanka.
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Tranquil Negombo Boutique
If you prefer a small boutique hotel with more personal service then this is a great place to stay. Located about 3km away from Negombo city this is a quiet little oasis. The rooms are large, well equipped and decorated in a modern style and the pool area is lovely.
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Jetwing Lagoon
Situated a little outside Negombo city in beautiful and relaxing surroundings in-between the Indian Ocean and a large lagoon. The rooms are spacious and well decorated in a modern minimalistic style with open air showers and huge comfortable beds.The hotel has a Sri Lanka’s largest swimming pool, 100 meters long! There are not a lot of restaurants in this area but the hotel food is good and the airport is just 30 minutes away.
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Tropical Villas
Tropical Villas is a new budget place that is getting rave reviews right now. Large, clean rooms, nice pool and a location within walking distance of the beach means this family run place won’t stay a “secret” for long.  Breakfast is tasty, plentiful and served at a time of your choosing. They even have free bikes available.
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The end

There you go, our recommended two week Sri Lanka itinerary. As you can see there are plenty of things to do in Sri Lanka. This is, however, a quite packed itinerary. If you want to take things a bit slower, you can cut down on the number of beach places to visit and choose either Mirissa or Tangalla. You can also cut down on the number of cities to visit inland.

This itinerary can easily be expanded to a three- or four-week trip. That would give you more time to enjoy each place, and relax on the beach.

We made this itinerary to help you explore Sri Lanka on your own, but if you would rather go with someone then G Adventures arrange several tours of Sri Lanka. You can click here to see all of G Adventures Sri Lanka tours.

Travel Guides

We used the Lonely Planet`s Sri Lanka travel guide on our trip, which we love. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below:

Sri Lanka Lonely Planet      Sri Lanka Rough Guide

PIN IT FOR LATER!
Hoover over the pictures below and press the green PIN IT button that pops up

THE BEST OF-5     THE BEST OF-4

Sri Lanka Itinerary     Sri Lanka Itinerary

Have you been to Sri Lanka? If so, do you agree that these are the highlights? Any places we missed out on? What is your recommended itinerary for Sri Lanka? We would love to hear your opinion in the comment area below.

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