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

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Are you planning a trip to Sri Lanka and looking for a Sri Lanka itinerary for your trip? Here we have put together an itinerary filled with what we consider to be the highlights of Sri Lanka.

We first visited Sri Lanka in 2014 and fell totally in love with this beautiful country and island in the Indian Ocean, just off the southeast tip of India, – it`s stunning nature and beaches, wildlife, delicious food, ancient temples, and last but not least the lovely and friendly Sri Lankan people! It soon became our new favorite country in Asia, and we have been back to Sri Lanka several times since then.

This is our recommended two-week Sri Lanka itinerary filled with all our favorite places to see and what we think are the top things to do in Sri Lanka. It is flexible and can easily be extended or shortened depending on the length of your Sri Lanka trip.

Along with descriptions and travel information for each location and how to get around, we have also included some recommendations for places to stay. These are based on the extensive research we did for our own trips, as well as tips from other 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 Sri Lanka guide helpful in planning your trip!

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 exterior
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 more: 10 Cool Things To Do In Colombo

How To Get To Colombo

When you arrive at the Colombo/ Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), there are two ways to get into Colombo City – by car/ taxi or bus. The drive from the airport to Colombo takes about 30-45 min depending on the traffic. There is no airport train.

Your best and most convenient option is to pre-book your car & driver, who will be waiting for you in the arrival hall holding up a board with your name on it.

Book a car and driver from the airport here

The second-best alternative is to use the Airport Taxi Service. There is a counter in the arrival lobby at the airport, and you can find the exact taxi prices to your destination on their webpage. The big international airplanes usually arrive at Colombo International Airport around the same time, so you might have to stand in line at the taxi service to wait for a taxi as this area will be packed with tourists.

The cheapest but slowest alternative is public buses that leave from the airport ever 15 minutes to the central bus station in Colombo (Pettah area). But if you have big luggage and are tired and jetlagged from your flight, I do not recommend taking the bus.

You can easily get to and from Colombo to other parts of Sri Lanka by hiring a private car & driver or taking the train or bus. You can take trains from/ to Colombo from most parts of the country, except for the south and southeast area of the island as they don´t have train tracks. The central train station in Colombo is called Colombo Fort.

The only way to buy online train tickets in Sri Lanka is at 12Go Asia, as Sri Lanka Railway does unfortunately not have an online ticket system yet.

⇒ Buy train tickets in Sri Lanka at 12Go Asia

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 hotel’s 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.
Click here for latest prices

Day 2 // A day trip, 0 nights
Galle

Wall surrounding the old Galle Fort in Sri Lanka
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!

Sri Lankan Rice and curry dishes
Mara enjoying Sri Lankan Rice and Curry

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: Welcome To Galle – An European City In Sri Lanka

How To Get To Galle

really recommend taking the train to Galle as it is one of the most scenic train trips in Sri Lanka. You can store your luggage at the Galle Train Station. They don´t have lockers, but just ask one of the staff at the station and they will put your bags in a storage room and you are given a receipt.

The express train from Colombo train station (Colombo Fort) down to Galle takes 2 hours and 20 minutes. This is a beautiful train trip along the coast of South-West Sri Lanka with stunning sea view all the way. You can find train schedules here (search Start Station: Colombo Fort, End Station: Galle).

Buy train tickets to Galle here

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.
Click here for latest prices

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.

Surfer walking along Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
One of the many things to do in Sri Lanka – Surfing

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. In the evening, the beach gets transformed into beach restaurants serving delicious fresh seafood. The perfect place for a romantic candle-lit dinner by the sea.

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

Mirissa Beach in the afternoon sun
A relaxed and laidback atmosphere at Mirissa beach

Mirissa is a popular place from which 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: Beach Paradise Mirissa

A good alternative, if you want to stay at a beautiful beach closer to Colombo, is Bentota Beach. Bentota Beach is even more pristine and peaceful than Mirissa, even though it has some big hotel resorts. Bentota is perfect for families with kids.

How To Get To Mirissa

The drive from Galle to Mirissa only takes about one hour, so you can easily get from Galle to Mirissa by taxi, tuk-tuk, or Uber. We took a tuk-tuk, yep, we managed to fit us two plus our two big backpacks inside it.

Another option is to take the train or local bus. The train trip from Galle to Mirissa takes about one hour and is beautiful, as it goes along the sea. Be aware that the trains in Sri Lanka are usually delayed, so it might take more than one hour. You can find train schedules here (search Start Station: Galle, End Station: Mirissa).

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.
Click here for latest prices

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 // A full day, 2-3 nights
Tangalle

Picture a white sandy beach that stretches out as long as your eyes can see, with beautiful turquoise water – and you have Tangalle. Tangalle is a pure beach paradise and our favorite beach in Sri Lanka! ♥

Tangalle Beach, Sri Lanka on a beautiful sunny day
The beach paradise of Tangalle

Tangalle is even more beautiful, clean, and pristine 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 newly hatched 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. But some of the hotels have swimming pools, like our favorite Sri Lankan hotel, which is located at Tangalle Beach, the Serein Beach Hotel.

⇒ Read more: Tangalle – The Perfect Beach

How To Get To Tangalle

Tangalle is located at the southern tip of Sri Lanka. It takes about 1,5 hours to drive from Mirissa to Tangalle. There are no trains going this south in Sri Lanka (the southernmost train station is in Matara city). You can take a taxi, tuk-tuk, rent a car & driver or Uber to get to Tangalle, or of course the local bus.

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 a 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.
Click here for latest prices

Day 8 // A day trip, 0 nights
Yala National Park

Yala is the most famous and popular national park in Sri Lanka. The park is home to 44 varieties of mammals and 215 bird species and has the world’s biggest concentration of leopards. You have a good chance of seeing wild elephants as Yala has 300-350 wild elephants.

You get to see lots of 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 that lucky…..But we saw plenty of other fantastic animals like a bunch of elephants, and we had a great safari trip!

⇒ Read more: Into The Wild At Yala National Park (our guide to doing a safari in Yala)

How To Get To Yala National Park

From Tangalle, hire a private car & driver, or Uber to Yala National Park (a 2-hour drive). Ask the driver to wait for you while you do the Safari tour in Yala (either the morning or afternoon 3-hour safari tour).

Day 8-10 // 2 nights
Ella

Ella is an incredibly green and lush little mountain town, 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.

The view from Little Adam's Peak in Ella, Sri Lanka
Stunning view from Little Adam`s Peak in Ella

⇒ Read more about what to see and do in Ella:

How To Get To Ella

After the safari in Yala National Park (morning or afternoon), ask your private car & driver (arrange for the driver to wait for you while you do the Safari Tour in Yala) to drive you to the mountain village Ella in the middle of Sri Lanka. The drive from Yala National Park to Ella takes about two hours.

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.
Click here for latest prices

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 specialties to indulge in.

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

Check train schedules here (search Start Station: Elle, End Station: Kandy). There are two express trains a day, departing from Ella at 06:40 and 09:24.

I recommend that you pre-book your train tickets from Ella to Kandy online here, as this train ride is extremely popular and usually gets fully booked.

You can, of course, do this train ride the other way around, from Kandy to Ella. It is the same tracks so you will see the same beautiful landscape no matter which way you go. Buy train tickets from Kandy to Ella here.

⇒ Read more: The World´s Most Beautiful Train Trip? Ella To Kandy

Day 10-12 // 2 nights
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. Traditional dance shows are also very popular in Kandy.

Kandy has the Royal Botanical Garden which is a nice park to stroll around in. The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage is located not that far from Kandy (a 1,5-hour drive one way).

⇒ Read more: In Search Of Buddha´s Tooth – Kandy (our recommended things to do in Kandy)

⇒ Read more: Elephant Orphanage

Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, a 1,5-hour drive outside of Kandy

Where To Stay In Kandy

Elegant Hotel
This hotel looks fantastic, with a 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 first choice if we ever return to Kandy.
Click here for latest prices

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 a 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.
Click here for latest prices

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!

⇒ Read more: Journey To The Lion Rock – Sigirya

How To Get To Sigiriya

There are no trains to Sigiriya. Hire a private car & driver to drive you from Kandy to Polonnaruwa, with a stop in Sigiriya to hike the Lion Rock. The driver will wait for you at the car park while you do the climb to Lion Rock. You will probably use about 2-3 hours on the climb up and down Lion Rock. The drive from Kandy to Sigiriya takes about 2,5 hours one way.

On your way to Sigiriya, you can stop at the beautiful Dambulla Cave Temple.

Day 12-14 // 2 nights
Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa was the capital of Sri Lanka for three centuries. The beautiful Ancient City of Polonnaruwa is packed with old temples and ruins located in the middle of the green jungle.

Exploring the temples of Polonnaruwa on bicycle
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 to Anuradhapura.

⇒ Read more: 10 Must-See Things In The Ancient City Polonnaruwa

How To Get To Polonnaruwa

After your hike to Lion Rock in Sigiriya, your private driver will drive you to Polonnaruwa. The drive from Sigiriya to Pollonaruwa only takes about one hour.

Where To Stay In Polonnaruwa

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 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 built a large pool that looks excellent.
Click here for latest prices

Day 14 // 0-1 nights
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.

Negombo beach, Sri Lanka
Negombo beach

Negombo is closer to the airport than Colombo, located only a 15 minutes taxi drive from Colombo International Airport, making it the perfect place to “wait” for your 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 Negombo Beach. We had brunch (Sunday brunch buffet) at one of the many nice beach resorts located right on the beautiful Negombo beach. They also let us use their pool.

⇒ Read more: Last Day In Paradise – Negombo Beach

How To Get To Negombo

The easiest and quickest is to hire a private car & drive to drive you from Polonnaruwa to Negombo. The drive takes about five hours.

If you want a cheaper, but much slower trip from Polonnaruwa to Negombo, go for the train. You first have to take the train from Polonnaruwa to Colombo (about 6,5 hours). At Colombo Fort Train Station, change train to Negombo. The train ride from Colombo to Negombo takes about 1,5 hours. So all in all the train ride from Polonnaruwa to Negombo will take about eight to nine hours including changing the train.

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.
Click here for latest prices

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.
Click here for latest prices

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. With large, clean rooms, a nice pool, and a location within walking distance of the beach, 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.
Click here for latest prices


There you go, our recommended two week Sri Lanka travel itinerary. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Sri Lanka. You will love this stunning country and have an amazing trip! ♥

This itinerary can, of course, easily be done the other way around – starting in Negombo next to the airport, to Kandy and through the Hill Country, down to the south and southwest coast, and end up in Colombo.

But since we love the beach and wanted to have some relaxing beach time at the start of our trip, we chose to travel south along the South-West coast of Sri Lanka first before heading inland for some mountain hiking and cultural sightseeing. But you can easily save your beach-time to the end of your trip if you like.

To sum up, the highlights of Sri Lanka (for me) are the beaches (Tangalle, Bentota, and Mirissa are our favorite beaches in Sri Lanka), safari in Yala National Park, hiking in Ella, visiting Nuwara Eliya, and climbing Lion Rock in Sigiriya.

If You Have Less Than Two Weeks In Sri Lanka

If you have less than two weeks in Sri Lanka or simply want to take things a bit slower, you should cut down on the number of places to visit, both along the southwest coast and on the number of places to visit inland.

If you have less than two weeks in Sri Lanka, I recommend that you consider skipping:

  • Colombo
    It is not a huge highlight of Sri Lanka, simply another big capital city.
  • Train trip Ella to Kandy
    Instead of taking the 7-hour train ride Ella – Kandy, opt for the shorter train ride Nuwara Eliya – Kandy (it is part of the Ella – Kandy trip, only half as long). The train station in Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya (or Nanuoya), a 15 min taxi or tuk-tuk ride from the city.
  • Ella
    Skip Ella and instead visit Nuwara Eliya which is closer to Kandy so that your travel time is shortened down. Unless you have time to do some hiking in Ella, then I recommend visiting Nuwara Eliya instead of Ella. The best part of Ella is hiking. Nuwara Eliya is a nicer town than Ella with more things to do and see if you don´t have the time or want to go hiking.
  • Beach
    Choose either Tangalle Beach, Mirissa Beach, or Bentota Beach, and not all of them. Bentota is closer to Colombo International Airport and will shorten down your travel time.
  • Yala National Park
    Instead of Yala, do a safari tour in Udawalawe National Park, which is more on the road between Tangalle and the Hill Country. Yala is on the east coast and a bit of a detour from Tangalle and Mirissa.
  • Polonnaruwa
    Unless you are very interested in the ancient history of Sri Lanka, you can skip Polonnaruwa as it is a long drive from Kandy and a bit out of the way compared to the rest of the highlights of Sri Lanka. If you choose to go to Polonnaruwa, you should at least spend one or two nights there to have the time to fully explore the Ancient City and all its temples and ruins.
A local fisherman with his boat at Bentota Beach in Sri Lanka
Bentota beach

If You Have More Than Two Weeks In Sri Lanka

This is, however, a quite tight two-week Sri Lanka itinerary. Ideally, you should have more than two weeks on this itinerary, since it is fairly busy. That will allow you to take things a bit slower. You will have more time to enjoy each place and relax on the beach.

You can also easily visit a couple of more of the beautiful beaches on the southwest coast, like Hikkaduwa Beach, Koggala Beach, Weligama Beach, and Talalla Beach.

This itinerary can easily be expanded to a three-, four- and five-week trip. You can, for instance, add these places to your itinerary:

  • Nuwara Eliya
    Located between Kandy and Ella, this cute little town high up in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka is surrounded by green and lush tea plantations. The town has an English colonial vibe to it, as it was founded by the British to escape the heat. The temperatures are much cooler here than in the rest of Sri Lanka. Expect temperatures below zero Celsius in the night, so bring warm clothes! One of the most popular Sri Lankan hikes can be done here, in the Hortons Plain national park where you can hike to The World´s End. It takes about three hours to drive from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, and two hours to drive from Ella to Nuwara Eliya.
  • Bentota Beach
    Located just south of Colombo, on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, this small peaceful beach town is one of our favorite beaches in Sri Lanka. The soft white beach is very long. It takes about 1,5 hour to drive from Colombo to Bentota one way.
  • Adam´s Peak
    The most epic mountain climb in Sri Lanka is Adam´s Peak (2243 m above sea level). It is a pilgrim site so try to avoid doing this hike during weekends and public holidays as the stairs (5500 steps) will be packed with people.
  • Anuradhapura
    If you want to see more of the ancient history of Sri Lanka, after Polonnaruwa, you can head over to Anuradhapura, the other great Ancient City of Sri Lanka with beautiful old temples. The drive between Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa is about two hours one way. You can also take the train.
  • Kalpitiya
    North of Colombo, on the west coast, is the best place to go kitesurfing in Sri Lanka. Kalpitiya has some beautiful beaches, but also a big freshwater lagoon perfect to kitesurf on. It takes about four hours to drive from Colombo to Kalpitiya one way.
  • Jaffna
    A city on the northern tip of Sri Lanka has several sights like a huge Hindu temple, an archeological museum, and a fort. The drive from Colombo to Jaffna takes six to seven hours one way.
  • Trincomalee
    A beach town on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, with beautiful white beaches like the Nilaveli Beach. Trincomalee is popular among divers and snorkelers. The nearby Pigeon Island has extremely clear water. Trincomalee is famous for whale watching. The whale season in Trincomalee runs from March until August. The drive from Colombo to Trincomalee takes about six hours.
  • Arugam Bay
    The surfer’s paradise on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka has stunning white beaches, some of the most beautiful and pristine in the country. It is located close to Yala National Park, so a visit to Arugam Bay can easily be combined with Yala NP. It takes about seven hours to drive from Colombo to Arugam Bay, but only two to three hours to drive from Yala NP to Arugam Bay.
Sunset and waves at the stunning Tangalle Beach in Sri Lanka
Sunset at the stunning Tangalle Beach, our favorite beach in Sri Lanka

How To Get Around Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an easy country/ island to travel around. It is quite small and the distances between the sights are relatively short.

However, getting around Sri Lanka can be time-consuming and a bit frustrating as many roads are narrow, windy, and not in the best conditions. The trains and buses are cheap and a fantastic way to see the country, but they are old, slow, and often delayed.

Instead of relying on public transportation, a popular option is to hire a private car & driver. You can either rent a car & driver for day-trips and single distances, as we suggest in this itinerary. Or you can rent your private car & driver, that also function as your guide, for part of or your entire Sri Lanka trip. It is the most convenient but also the most pricy way to travel around Sri Lanka. Other options are to hire a motorbike, tuk-tuk, taxi or Uber.

For more in-depth information on how to get around Sri Lanka, check out our Ultimate Guide To Getting Around Sri Lanka.

Hammocks at Tangalle Beach in Sri Lanka
Hammocks at Tangalle Beach

When To Visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an all-year holiday destination. The most popular time to visit Sri Lanka is between November and March when the weather is nice and sunny on the west and south coast.

The small island is rather complicated weatherwise but the weather in Sri Lanka is dictated by two key monsoon seasons and one short intermediate monsoon:

  • Yala Monsoon – May to August
    Brings rain to the south and west coast, as well as the Hill Country (Nuwara Eliya and Ella area). It is wettest in May and June.
    You should consider heading to the north and east coast if you are visiting Sri Lanka in May, June, July, or August, as these areas have the sunniest and driest weather.
    May to August is, however, low season in Sri Lanka, and you can find some good deals on hotels at the west and south coast as the prices are at their lowest.
  • Maha Monsoon – October to January
    Brings rain to the east coast, north area, and Ancient Cities (Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura). It is wettest in November and December.
  • Inter-Monsoon – October & November
    Sudden heavy rain and thunderstorms can occur at any time and anywhere in Sri Lanka.

Luckily the two key monsoons alternate, making Sri Lanka a great country to visit any time of the year.

The weather does not run by the clock, however. There is no exact start and end date of these monsoon seasons and they vary a bit from year to year. And even during the monsoon seasons, it does not rain constantly. Normally there is most rain in the evenings, nights, and early mornings.

When To Do This Itinerary

September to April is the best time to do this itinerary with sunny and dry weather on the west and south coast, as well as the Hill Country.

If you plan on following this itinerary and visit the most popular beaches in Sri Lanka (the west and south coasts) and the Hill Country, September to April is the best time that will give you the sunniest and dryest weather. December to March is high season in Sri Lanka (southwest and south coast is dry and sunny) and makes the prices on accommodation peak.

If you, however, are visiting Sri Lanka between May and August, and don´t like rain, then you should do some changes to this itinerary. Instead of going to the west and south coast, you should head to the east coast and visit the beautiful beaches of Arugam Bay and Trincomalee.

If you plan on seeing the east coast and the north part of Sri Lanka, you’ll get the best weather from February to September.

April and September are shoulder seasons in Sri Lanka and gives the best odds for good weather in the entire country. Mid-April is, however, New Year in Sri Lanka and the celebrations lead to packed trains and sold out train tickets.

Photo of author

Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

298 Comments

  1. Hi Maria

    I just want to thank you for all the information you have put together. This blog is really really useful, I am travelling to Sri Lanka next week, and despite of the lonely planet, your blog is my number 1º place of information. ( one comun question in my mind this days is what sais Maria about this place or this other? 🙂

    We are making your suggested itinerary, but in the opposite direction, first ancienct cities – kandy etc.. because we want to stay at the beach at the end and relax a little bit. I have also book a room in the Ravana Heights in Ella following your advise.

    I am very excited for the travel, will let you know how it goes!

    Thanks again

    Reply
    • Hi Sara,

      Awww, thanks a million! Your comment made my day!

      Good idea to do this itinerary in reverse. We were so keen on hitting the beach and relax when we arrived in Sri Lanka, so we just went straight to the coast. 🙂 Hope you like the Ravana Heights! The food at this hotel is delicious!

      Have an awesome trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will have a great time! Please let me know how it was, and if you have any suggestions to other things to see or do at the different places.

      Thank you sooooo much for this comment! You are awesome! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Hi Maria!

        We are back from our trip, and we have really really enjoyed Sri Lanka. What a beautiful place and the kindest people.

        We have made the itinerary in reverse and it worked great for us, first the “hardest” part with visits and so and relax at the end.

        I have find your information really helpfull, the only thing is that we don´t pay any entrance in Dambulla ( the rest of the tickets are expensive I have to say).
        Also for the people travelling to Sri Lanka ( and as this blog is full of usefull information) I will like to make a little contribution and recomend 2 places , that in my humble opinion worth a visit :
        -Cool corner in Kandy – Is a little gem where a boy makes all natural ice cream ( it is in Peradeniya Road 114 ) and the flavours are absolute amazing.

        – Dewmini Roti Shop in Mirissa – It is a little bit hidden but we ate here 2 or 3 days, the rotis are delicious and very cheap. We rented a motorbike, so it was easy to get there. hightly recommended.

        Reply
        • Hi Sara,

          So happy to hear that your Sri Lanka trip was a success! I agree, the Sri Lankan people are the best! Thanks for getting back to us and providing us with this information. Really appreciate it! We love both ice cream and roti, so will definitely check these two places out the next time we visit Sri Lanka.

          Thanks again for commenting back, Sara!

          Peace & Love
          -Maria-

          Reply
        • Hi Maria/Sara
          We are going to Sri Lanka end of April and following the itinerary, but in the opposite direction. We are going to head straight to Kandy after arriving in Colombo.
          Couple questions: Is it better to go to Kandy and from there head to Sigiriya and Pollonaruwa? Or to head to Pollonaruwa straight from the airport? We arrive at like 6 am after a night flight? From there after Kandy- our plan was to head to the south coast. We are living mid april, and I know monsoon season starts in May. Do you think it should be ok? Or should we plan east coast? We really want to do Yala.
          Also- is it best to arrange a car from the airport or can you arrange one when you are at the airport?
          Many thanks for all your help.

          Reply
          • Hi Nicole,

            Yes, I recommend that you go straight to Kandy from Colombo International Airport and not to Polonnaruwa. The drive from the airport to Kandy takes about 3 hours, while the drive from the airport to Polonnaruwa takes much longer, 5-6 hours. And since you probably are pretty tired and exhausted from the long night flight, I think it would be best for you to go to Kandy first.

            From Kandy, you can do a day trip to Sigiriya and climb the Lion Rock. It is a great trip! On your way to Sigiriya, you should stop at the Dambulla cave temple. From Sigiriya, you can then drive back to Kandy, or further north to Polonnaruwa. But if you go all the way to Polonnaruwa, you should spend a night or two there to have time to see the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. So it depends on how many days you have if you want and has the time to go to Polonnaruwa.

            April is a good time to visit Sri Lanka. It is the shoulder season and offers the best odds for getting good weather throughout the island. The west coast should be fine in April, and Yala too.

            You will be able to arrange a car and driver at the airport, there are a lot of drivers hanging around at the airport hoping for new customers. But it can be a bit of a hassle since the drivers are extremely keen on new customers so it can feel a bit like an attack when you step out into the arrival hall, hehe. At least that´s how I felt it. 🙂 So it might be a bit more convenient and relaxing to pre-book a car at 12Go.

            Another option is to book a driver and guide that drives you around Sri Lanka, and not only your first leg from the airport to Kandy. You could for instance book a driver for the first days/ week when you plan on going around the country a bit. We had Sadun as our driver and guide for a whole week on our last Sri Lanka trip, and he was awesome! He knows everything about the country and is an excellent safari guide too so he can take show you Yala National Park as well if you want. He speaks very good English. You can book Sadun at TourHQ.

            Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in April!

            -Maria-

    • Hello Maria,
      Great blog and useful tips!
      We are landing on friday at Colombo for a 14 days trip…We are spending one day at Kandy (saturday 21th) and we have one week before heading to Nilaveli (we want to relax for three days in this area).
      In this 5days we would like to go to Adams Peak, Tea plantations and do a Safari (Yala NAtional Park?)..If possible!
      So we leave KANDY on sunday 22th in the morning and we have to be in Nilaveli on friday 27th night…
      Can you suggest us an itinerary? We are a bit lost organising this part of the trip…

      Thank you so so much! 🙂

      Reply
      • Hi Esti,

        Thank you so much!

        Sorry for my late reply, have been on long flights so have been offline for some days, and have also been sick. I guess you mean July? Then maybe my reply is too late, sorry about that!

        One itinerary for you could be:

        – Saturday 21. July – Kandy
        – Sunday 22. July – Drive from Kandy to Dalhousie close to Adams Peak (about 4 hours drive), spend the night in Dalhousie
        – Monday 23. July – Climb Adams Peak (start during the night at around 2 AM). The climb takes between 2,5 to 4 hours depending on the crowds. Bring warm clothes as it is very cold on the top, and pack plenty of water.
        – Tuesday 24. July – Drive from Adams Peak to Nuwara Eliya (a 3-4 hours drive)
        – Wednesday 25. July – Nuwara Eliya (see and walk among tea plantations, visit a tea factory)
        – Thursday 26. July – Start early in the morning and drive north to Nilaveli (a 7-hour drive) and stop at Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park on the way (one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see wild elephants)
        – Friday 27. – 30. July – Nilaveli

        Have a great time in Sri Lanka!! Bet you are already there!

        -Maria-

        Reply
    • Hi Maria,
      We loved your article and are going to recreate your trip to Sri Lanka. Part of our travel will be by train and had a question.
      Do we need to book tickets ahead and what class of travel do you recommend ? We arrive in Colombo on November 29.
      Thank you !

      Reply
      • Hi Bill,

        Thank you so much! Great to hear that our Sri Lanka itinerary could be of inspiration to you when planning your Sri Lanka trip!

        Yes, you should book train tickets ahead. Especially the train trip Ella to Kandy (and the other way around) is very popular and usually gets fully booked days ahead.

        You can book train tickets, for instance, from Ella to Kandy here.

        I recommend that you book 1st or 2nd class tickets. 1st class has very comfortable seats and air-conditioning which is nice for long train trips. At the 2nd class, you can open the windows. Both 1st and 2nd class has toilets. The 3rd class can get very crowded and carries only basic facilities.

        Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka at the end of November! And enjoy the train trips!

        -Maria-

        Reply
    • Hi Maria
      This is incredibly helpful! Literally did not know when to start and stumbled across your page looking for advice. It’s exactly what I wanted – clear, concise information and suggestions with a planned itinerary.
      So looking forward to our trip now.
      Many thanks

      Reply
      • Hi Molly,

        Thanks a million!! Really appreciate it!! Have an awesome trip to the wonderful Sri Lanka!

        -Maria-

        Reply
  2. Thank you so much for this amazing blog and itenerary. I am planning to visit Sri Lanka next year and don’t know anything about the country. From various sites I’ve found places I would like to visit and they are pretty much all in your itenerary. Just one question, after Kandy, are there any other destinations up north to visit? You guys went to sigiriya and then Polonnaruwa. Any other suggestions other than those 2 places? I like the idea ending up in Nogombo and winding down there instead of Colombo

    Reply
    • Hi Clive,

      Thank you! Great to hear that you like our blog! 🙂

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

      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. If you have time it is well worth visiting.

      Anuradhapura is about a 2-3 hour drive from Pollonaruwa.

      Another world heritage site worth a visit in this area is the caves of Dambulla.

      We visited Sri Lanka in February, and this time of year the weather is best in the south and rainy in the north. The weather/ rainy monsoon season is not the same in the north and south of Sri Lanka:

      – May – August (low season): The weather is best in the North and East, rain in the South, West coast, and Hill Country
      – April and September – November (shoulder season): Good odds for dry weather in whole of Sri Lanka
      – December – March (high season): Dry and sunny weather on the South coast, West coast, and Hill Country, while lots of rain in the North, East, and Ancient Cities (Polonnaruwa)

      Negombo is a great place to wait for your flight home, beautiful beach and close to the international airport.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! You will love this beautiful country!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  3. Hi Maria

    First I appreciate your hard work and thank you for this wonderful blog about my country
    with its beautiful pictures and understanding articles.
    Next time you visited here , i highly recommend visit to Anuradhapura.there have many place to visit . im not mention here because all of most famous.
    i specially mention isurumuniya temple there are some place call (Ran Masu Uyana) there have a sky map like that its call “sakwala chakraya” you can see it . it not very famous that why i mention it. also you can visit awukana village you can see Awkana Buddha statue .

    Thank you
    Malinda

    Reply
    • Hi Malinda,

      Thank you so much for those great tips on places to see in Sri Lanka! Can`t wait to go back to your beautiful country and we will definitely visit Anuradhapura next time. Hope to come back real soon.

      Thanks for commenting! We really love your country, Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  4. when your visit polonaruwa, also you can go Minneriya National Park.
    where you can seen the Elephants in large numbers

    Reply
    • We visited Yala National Park and loved it, so will definitely take a trip to some of the other national parks in Sri Lanka next time. Thanks for the tip on Minneriya National Park! Love elephants!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  5. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for a very good blogpost. I am going to Sri Lanka in December and will probably do the trip the other way around. Did you book places to stay, cars etc. before you landed in Sri Lanka or did you find hotels etc. as you travelled along?

    Steinar

    Reply
    • Hi Steinar,

      Doing the trip the other way around is very common. We longed for the beach when we got there so we did the south coast first but both ways are equally fantastic 🙂

      On a trip like this we typically book as we go. That way we have the flexibility to stay longer in the places we really like. Once we decide to move on we arrange for transportation and book a room in the next destination. This is typically one or two days before leaving.

      If traveling in peak season then you often need to to book further ahead than that, and especially if there is a popular hotel that you really want to stay at.

      Have a great tip to Sri Lanka!

      Espen

      Reply
      • Hi Maria,
        Your itinerary looks great and we plan to follow it when we arrive in Sri Lanka at the start of March.

        As we are backpacking we generally need to keep the costs as low as we can, would you say Sri Lanka is cheap? How does it compare to India and other SE Asian countries?

        How much would you recommend budgeting? (we are looking to stay around 3 weeks)

        Ella 🙂

        Reply
        • Hi Ella,

          Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our itinerary could be of help to you when planning your Sri Lanka trip!

          Yes, you can make your holiday in Sri Lanka cheap. You can sleep at simple guesthouses and homestays for around 2000 – 5000 Rupees = 13 – 35 us$. As for food, you can get delicious local rice and curry (a bit spicy..) for around 150 – 400 Rupees = around 1 us$. Taking the bus cost around 300 Rs a day = 2 us$, the train is also very cheap but there are only train tracks in some parts of Sri Lanka.

          You can check train rides and how much each trip cost here: https://eservices.railway.gov.lk/schedule/searchTrain.action?lang=en.

          The train from Colombo to Galle, for instance, cost 100 Rs = 0,65 us$ for 3rd class, while 180 Rs = 1 us$ for 2nd class. Ella – Kandy train trip (8 hours) cost 125 Rs = 0.8 us$ (3rd class) and 230 Rs = 1,4 us$ (2nd class).

          So if you go for the cheapest options regarding accommodation, food, and transport, you can get away with around 20 us$ a day. Then you must add sightseeing and entrance tickets for museums and other sights which will depend. Non-Sri Lankan must pay more for entrance tickets.

          Yes, I would say that Sri Lanka is cheap, but you can, of course, spend more on accommodation, food, and transport, like stay at nice hotels and hire a car and a driver like we did. We are not backpackers anymore 🙂

          Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will have a wonderful time!

          -Maria-

          Reply
  6. GUYS! This interactive map on the side is absolutely incredible. I just keep scrolling up and down mesmerized haha. So glad I stumbled upon your blog while browsing for a Sri Lanka itinerary. We will definitely be following along on your adventures.
    Cheers!
    Hedgers Abroad

    Reply
    • Hi Ryan and Stephanie,

      Awwww, thank you sooooo much! So happy to hear that you noticed and liked the interactive map! 🙂 Espen spent a lot of time coding and getting it to work properly. The map is an experiment and the first post where we have it implemented, so we are thrilled that you noticed it and liked it, hehe. Thanks a million!

      Love your blog by the way! We are actually thinking about going to South Korea. Will definitely use your blog as a guide and reference when doing our research and planning.

      Happy traveling!
      Peace & Love
      -Maria-

      Reply
        • Thank you so much, Kim!! 🙂 I love maps in general so when we were able to put this background map in this post I was super happy! Will do more posts with this kind of background map.

          Cheers,
          Maria

          Reply
        • The itinerary, the map and your suggestions are great. This is a fantastic blog. We are going to Sri Lanka in two weeks, and we are thinking about going to the East coast instead of the South, because of the monsoon. The information given in your blog has been very useful. Thank you Maria.

          Reply
          • Hi Jose,

            Thank you so much! So cool that you are going to Sri Lanka next week! Good idea to do the East coast, it will be much sunnier and drier.

            Have an amazing time in Sri Lanka, you will love this beautiful country!

            All the best,
            Maria

  7. These are excellent recommendations! Exactly the places that i shortlisted. But I’m going to follow your 2 week itinerary. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Nidhi! Glad this itinerary could be of help to you.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country just as much as we do!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  8. Hi Maria!
    Thank you for putting such a detailed itinerary online!

    After India, by the end of February we are heading to Sri Lanka. I guess this is quite a good time to visit? How much, average, do you think it will cost as a couple, per day?
    I know budgets are a bit complicated because it really depends on the type of accommodation chosen and the activities, but at least is for us to have an idea.

    When did you guys visit?
    We don’t have a time scale, because we are travelling for a long term, but definitely 2 weeks.

    Thank you 🙂

    Telma

    Reply
    • Hi Telma,

      Thank you! Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in February! February is the perfect time to visit this beautiful country, at least the south part of it where most people go. We visited in February/ March and spent four weeks in Sri Lanka (that`s how long visa we got on visa-on-arrival, 30 days).

      Hmmm, cost per day is always difficult to predict as you say. We did not stay at hostels, but at hotels with our private room and with private bath. We paid from 30 – 90 us$ per night for the both of us, and it mostly included breakfast. I`m sure you can find cheaper, and you can definitely find more expensive accommodations. 🙂

      As for transportation cost, the train and bus are very cheap. We did not try the bus as they look crappy and unsafe, but we took the train some places (Colombo – Galle, Ella – Kandy and Polonnaruwa – Colombo) and rented a car with a driver on the rest of the trip. We just asked at each hotel we stayed at to help us with a car and a driver, and it worked out fine every time. We did not book this in advance, only on a day-by-day basis so we had a different car and driver each time.

      Food is very cheap in Sri Lanka, so that is not where your money will go. The most expensive are hotels. As for sights and entrance tickets, these are more expensive for foreigners than for Sri Lankan people. Entrance tickets are very expensive for tourists, most places have entrance tickets around 20 us$ per person, so this will also eat a big chunk of your money budget.

      Hope this helped a little! Have a great trip to India and Sri Lanka! We have not been to India yet, but we really love Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  9. Hi guys,

    Great write up on Sri Lanka – what an adventure!

    For a history nerd myself it would be awesome to explore the many historical aspects of the country, ranging from the natives to the colonial times with brits and portugese. I do love the nature and sights of Sri Lanka, having visited two times, but the history is something that often is overlooked and I think many would find interesting.Maybe an idea for next time 🙂 Trailing Ceylons history!

    Reply
    • Hei,

      Tusen takk! 🙂

      I agree, Sri Lanka has a very interesting history, dating back to incredibly 500 000 years! It also has a sad recent history with the civil war. We loved visiting Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa and walking around the historic sights and temples. We will definitely consider visiting Anuradhapura on our next visit. Sri Lanka is so much more than just stunning beaches and beach life.

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  10. Hi Maria,

    many thanks for putting together this itinerary. My husband and I are travelling to Sri Lanka next February 2017 and all the information you provided are going to be super useful! I’ll let you know how it went once back.

    Cheers,
    Laura

    Reply
    • Hi Laura,

      Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in February! You will love this beautiful country! Great to hear that our articles about Sri Lanka could be of help to you. I´d love to hear about your trip when you get back, and if you have any tips on places to see and things to do.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  11. Hi Maria, great blog! My gf and I are going end of Jan for 11 nights and looking for a mix of beach trek and culture. What
    would be the best mix or maybe couple places to leave out/spend less time in?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Dale,

      Thank you so much, glad to hear you like our blog!

      Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in January! You will love this beautiful country!

      This whole itinerary includes beach, trekking and culture, but if I were you I would skip Colombo, Yala National Park (if you are not that interesting in safari and animals) and Negombo. If you want to do trekking, Ella and its surroundings are great.

      There are many stunning beaches along the south-west coast of Sri Lanka, where Mirissa and Tangalla are our favourites.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  12. Hi maria ,

    Great Blog and itinerary details . Me n my wife traveling next week of Jan .Initially i was looking travel package but letter found all are expensive and kinda exhausted . After going through your blog I decided to go individual.

    Thanks a lot for the useful information .

    Query regarding Car hire : what are the charges , easily available .

    Thanks
    Uday

    Reply
  13. Maria! Thanks for this post, incredibly useful for planning our itinerary to SL! Look forward to reading your other posts. You have the best map – itinerary that we have ever seen! Would you mind sharing what it is? A widget? Thanks! All the best,

    Reply
  14. Great itinerary, sounds like all the perfect parts included. A group of friends are planning to go in July, would you recommend that we go North instead?
    Many thanks,
    Grace

    Reply
    • Hi Grace,

      Thank you so much! Hmm, in July the weather will probably be rainy in the south and west part of Sri Lanka due to the Yala monsoon season from May to August, and also inland (Ella area).

      The weather is, however, great in the north and along the east coast of Sri Lanka in July. The north has been off-limit for many years due to the war and has lesser tourists than the south. It is more remote and is a bit off the beaten track. The east coast of Sri Lanka have lots of beautiful beaches and great surfing. It is more developed than the north. If I were you I would head to the east coast of Sri Lanka in July.

      Have a great trip to this amazing country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  15. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for all of the great information on Sri Lanka- it’s really some of the best that I’ve seen out there! I’m actually flying out to Colombo tonight from Bangkok for 9 days and am “winging it” on my own so it was so helpful to come across your posts!

    One quick question for you- would you mind sharing how you found drivers from Kandy and how much it cost you?

    Since I only have 9 days I was thinking about skipping the West Coast and heading straight inland. Perhaps go from Colombo to Kandy by train. And then Kandy to Ella and then backtrack? Do you think that would make sense?

    Thanks for your time and insight!

    Reply
    • Hi Phi,

      Wow, thank you so much! So happy that our itinerary could be of help to you!

      Ah, lucky you who are in Sri Lanka right now! I think it is a very good idea to head straight inland. If I were you, I would take a car (with driver) from Colombo to Kandy, and take the train from Kandy to Ella instead as it is a much nicer train trip: https://nerdnomads.com/sri-lanka-train-travel-ella-kandy

      You should also climb the Lion Rock at Sigiriya (close to Kandy), we loved it: https://nerdnomads.com/journey-lion-rock-sigiriya

      It is easy to find drivers in Sri Lanka, and especially in Colombo and Kandy since it is very popular among tourists. We simply asked for a driver at the reception at each hotel we stayed at, and they always hooked us up with an English-speaking driver. It worked out perfect each time. We did not have the same driver all around Sri Lanka, we got a different one for each trip.

      Hmm, I don`t remember how much we paid for each car trip, sorry about that, but renting a driver is pretty cheap. Of course not as cheap as the train as the train in Sri Lanka is incredibly cheap!

      Have a great time in Sri Lanka! You will love this amazing country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  16. Amazing blog, I’ve read numerous but the combination of fact with experience is the perfect mix. I’m in Ella, unfortunately it’s been raining 24hrs and even Haputale will be the same. I think tea factories (green tea I’ve nearby) and sat on a train to Badulla and back will keep us dry. If walls are slippery we might walk to Nine Arches.

    The page layout is also clear and enjoyable, how do you get the map to move as you scroll down the page?

    Thanks

    Simon

    Reply
  17. My husband and I made a snap decision to go to Sri Lanka. We’re basing our trip on your itinerary – just wanted to say thank you. And awesome map in the background; can’t stop playing with it.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Jacintha! We are actually heading back to Sri Lanka too, next week. Can`t wait to put my feet on those beautiful white sandy Sri Lankan beaches! 🙂

      So happy to hear that you like the background map!

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! Maybe we`ll see you there?

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Do visit the Andaman& Nicobar islands in India its nearby and the beaches are very truqoise water on pure white sands and not too crowded as well.Visit Havelock islands for Radhanagar beach and elephant beach etc.
        We’re visiting Sri Lanka this weekend and your blog is the go-to place for making that perfect travel itinerary .Pictures and stories make it seem alive !
        Thank you for putting it up on internet and sharing your experiences.

        Reply
        • Hi TP,

          Thank you so much for your nice comment! It made my day! So happy to hear that you like our articles about Sri Lanka!

          Thanks for the tip about the Andaman and Nicobar islands! They look very beautiful and we will definitely put them on our list for our next Sri Lanka trip.

          Hope you are having a wonderful time in Sri Lanka!

          -Maria-

          Reply
  18. Hi, planning to visit Sri Lanka late April for a couple of weeks and definitely want to take train. How did you travel between Ella and Tangalle? Is it easy to get transport from Ella Station to local hotels? Colin

    Reply
    • Hi Colin,

      We hired a private driver between Ella and Tangalle. It is very easy to find a driver in Sri Lanka, all hotels know drivers so you can just ask at the hotels you are staying at to help you find a driver. Around Ella Station, there are plenty of Tuk-Tuks and Taxis so it is no problem getting transport from the station to your hotel.

      We are actually in Sri Lanka right now, lovely to be back here. Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in April! It will probably be some rain here in April as the rainy season has started by then, so bring a rain coat.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  19. Hi Maria,
    I had to write and tell you how much I love the design (and information) on your site. As a visual person, your map that follows me as I read is stunning and so helpful! Now I can picture our route in my head. Brilliant!

    We are on a one year RTW family adventure and all my research is done online via sites like yours. We will be in Sri Lanka in April for a month. I may just use your site only since it is so beautiful and comprehensive yet very simple.

    Thank you!
    Astrid

    Reply
    • Hi Astrid,

      Awww, thank you so much for your nice comment! Awesome that you love the map! Wow, so cool that you and your family is on a RTW trip, sounds like a real adventure!

      We are actually back in Sri Lanka right now, great to be back to this wonderful country! I will write some new posts about more places in Sri Lanka that we visited on this trip, like Nuwara Eliya, Bentota, and Uda Walawe National Park, and also update some of the old ones as we revisited some places too.

      Have a great time in Sri Lanka in April, and happy travels around the world!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  20. Hi!
    Thank you for such a useful page!
    Me and my company will arrive in Sri Lanka in a couple of days, but are a bit terrified. From what our weather aps tells us it’s going to rain a lot and about everyday for as long as it’s possible to see yet.. From what I understand you’re there now? And if so – maybe you can tell us how its like now, and/or if you’ve heard anything about the upcoming days/weeks. Since we’re only away for two weeks it’s of course not really what we’re longing for..
    In worst case scenario we’re thinking about taking a flight to south india from Colombo.

    Thank u in advance,
    Camilla

    Reply
    • Hi Camilla,

      Sorry for my late reply, you are probably in Sri Lanka by now? We had three days of rain during our three weeks in Sri Lanka, but it only rained a bit in the morning and evening and not the whole day. It is normally dry at this time of year, at least on the south and west coast of Sri Lanka, but of course, it can rain anywhere.

      Hope you have nice weather! If it`s raining on one coast, it is usually dry inland or on the other side of the island. So you should definitely check the weather forecast for the entire island.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  21. Hi Maria!

    Sri Lanka is on my list for a first backpack solo trip, but I’m concerned about traveling there as a solo female. Did you feel safe? I read the men were very intrusive sometimes, while other told me the Sri Lankans where the greatest folks in Asia… I would definitely take your feedback. Thanks!!

    Marilynn

    Reply
    • Hi Marilynn,

      I would say that Sri Lanka is safe for women traveling alone. I always felt safe. Buddhism is the biggest religion in Sri Lanka, and they have nothing against women. Sri Lankans really are the kindest and most welcoming people in Asia, and even more welcoming and smiling than in Thailand in my opinion. So you have nothing to worry about. We met many women traveling alone in Sri Lanka.

      Have a great solo trip to Sri Lanka! I´m sure you will love this beautiful country and have a wonderful time!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  22. Hi Maria… fantastic blog and the map is amazing!

    We are taking our two kids (21 and 17) in August.

    In one of your posts I see you recommended the East coast for weather in August. Any suggestions for good beaches?

    Cheers, Nick

    Reply
    • Hi Nick,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in August! You and your kids will love it.

      Yes, the East Coast of Sri Lanka usually has the best weather in August. Arugam Bay is nice and popular and is good for surfing. Further north on the east coast there are some really nice beaches north of Batticaloa, called Kalkudah Bay. The beaches around Trincomalee are also beautiful.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • yes you are very true . but think twice before you go to a night club or beach where drunks are dancing. you are safe if you have a male with you.

      Reply
  23. Hi Maria, I was looking for a itenary for 2 weeks and I found this one. As soon as I saw your itenary I have decided to do the same route. Do you have a rough information about the total kilometres covered? I am planning to hire and car and take the same route. And most of the car companies have a limit on the kilometres. So you information can help me estimate the travel and the cost. Thank you so much! Best Regards, Avi

    Reply
    • Hi Avi,

      Sorry, I don`t know how many km this route is. But you can plot the places in Google Maps: https://www.google.no/maps/, and it will show you the number of km between each destination, and you can just sum it up.

      Have a great drive through Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  24. Hi Maria,

    Just wanted to echo the thanks for such a great blog – we’re basically planning our last minute (we leave next week) two week trip based on your itinerary.

    Much like yourself our plane leaves Sri Lanka around midnight – we’re wondering how reliable the trains are and whether it’s risky trying to travel back from Polonnaaruwa to Negombo on the same day our flight leaves (if there is a breakdown for example we could miss our flight).

    Any info or advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Jon,

      Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka next week! Great to hear that you are using our itinerary!

      We have never had any problems with the trains that we have taken in Sri Lanka, they have always run on time. But trains are trains, so of course, something can happen and the train can be delayed or even cancelled. If you take the train from Polonnaruwa to Gampaha (which is the closest train station to Negombo), it will take about 6 hours. From Gampaha you must take a taxi to Negombo, the taxi ride takes about 30 min.

      It looks like there are only two trains a day from Polonnaruwa to Gampaha, and you should take the morning one departing at 08:27 from Polonnaruwa. Then you will be in Gampaha at 14:32 and in Negombo around 15:00. So you should have plenty of time to catch your midnight flight back home.

      If I were you, I would take my chances on the 08:27 train from Polonnaruwa. And if the train is delayed or cancelled, you should hire a private car and a driver to get you to Negombo. It is easy to find a driver in Sri Lanka, it seems like everyone knows a driver. Just ask at your hotel.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  25. This blog post is book marked on my desktop! It’s been such a help. And great graphics!
    My brother and I are back packing Sri Lanka in June, and are super excited.

    I’ve had mixed messages about when to get a visa. Some say get it as you land in Colombo, and others say get it online before. If I get it online before will I be able to request my specific dates? It wont just give me 30 days from when i pay for it online? What did you do?

    I hope you can help 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Victoria,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in June with your brother!

      You should definitely get your visa online, it is super easy and you don`t have to queue up in customs when you arrive at the airport. We did the visa application online and it was the best thing. It only took a day to get the visa approved, and you receive it on email so you can print it out.

      You only need to add an intended arrival date on the visa, but you get three months from you apply till you have to enter Sri Lanka. If you change the intended arrival date, it is not a problem. The visa is valid for three months but is only activated when you enter Sri Lanka. From it is activated (when you arrive) you get 30 days. It says on their web page: “An Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) holder is entitled to enter Sri Lanka within three months from the date of issue of ETA.”

      Have an amazing time in Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will love this great country as much as we do!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  26. Hi Maria

    This is a really insightful blog! My husband and I are looking at booking a trip to Sri Lanka for approximately 10-12 nights next February. We are thinking of doing the following:

    3 nights – Cultural Triangle (Sirigiya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa)
    2 nights – Kandy
    2 nights – Ella
    4 nights – beach (Tangalle or Hambantota).

    My concern is that this might be a lot of travel over a short period of time. From Tangalle, would we be far from an airport to travel back to London? The other option I was thinking of was visiting a beach at Trincomalee instead but does that work in terms of geography? We love great beaches, nature, culture and treks.

    Any tips or advice would be much appreciated!

    Thanks
    Simrun

    Reply
    • Hi Simrun,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that you are going to Sri Lanka next February! It is the best time of year to visit this beautiful country.

      Your itinerary looks great! It is actually similar to the one we did this February with my parents. It worked out great.

      There is a new highway from Tangalle to the airport, so the drive takes 3-4 hours depending on the traffic. Trincomalee is on the other side of Sri Lanka, on the east coast while the airport is on the west coast. So it will take around 5-6 hours to get to the airport from Trincomalee, plus the roads are in bad shape so it might take longer.

      Another option would be to head to for instance Bentota which is on the west coast and closer to the airport than Tangalle. We stayed there this February for the first time, and Bentota beach is really nice! It takes about 2 hours from Bentota to the airport. We really liked Bentota.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka next year!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  27. Hi Maria.
    I’m in the process of planning our next trip and just stumbled across your blog.
    I’ve read quite a few travel blogs and have to say – yours really do have that “wow”-effect.
    This is by far the most stunning blog I’ve seen. The background map that changes as I scroll down is fantastic. Photos are lovely and you don’t drown the reader with text.
    I love it and I will without a doubt spend more time reading your blog!

    Reply
    • Hi Lars,

      Wow, thank you sooooo much for your great comment! It made my day! Really appreciate this awesome feedback, it is a real motivation boost to keep putting our effort and time into this blog.

      Have an amazing trip to Sri Lanka! Don`t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  28. Hi There.

    I am Amir from Pakistan. I am planning to trip Srilanka with my wife and a 2 year old son in September 2017. Frankly, i am not a trip geek so i need some advises from you guys as how to start my trip? Off course i will be touching down Colombo first so whats next and then own wards? I heard few places are worth to seeing but dont really know to hit them from where? Also can i travel and see srilanka by their local train or so?

    I would be glad if some one drops his/her itenary of srilanka trip along with map details for us.

    Thanks Guys in advance………!!!

    Reply
  29. Hi Amir,

    Great to hear that you are going to Sri Lanka in September! I`m sure you will have a nice trip.

    This Sri Lankan itinerary in this article is our recommendation for what places to see. To sum up, you should visit these places (these are the exact same places that we have in this article):

    1. Colombo (2 nights)
    2. Galle, take the express train from Colombo 2,5 hours (a day-trip, head to Mirissa in the evening)
    3. Mirissa (2-3 nights)
    4. Tangalle (2-3 nights)
    5. Yala National Park or Uda Walawe National Park (day-trip, head to Ella in the evening)
    6. Ella (2 nights, take the train to Kandy, 7-hour train trip)
    7. Kandy (2 nights)
    8. Sigiriya (day-trip from Kandy, head to Polonnaruwa in the evening)
    9. Polonnaruwa (2 nights)
    10. Negombo (1 night or just spend the day there before your flight home around midnight)

    As for hotels, we have listed recommended hotels in this article (https://nerdnomads.com/sri-lanka-itinerary), under each place and city. Just click on the hotel name and it will take you to the hotel booking page.

    The south part of Sri Lanka has train tracks. The trains are slow but very cheap. I recommend these scenic train trips:
    – Colombo – Kandy (4 hours)
    – Colombo – Galle (2,5 hours)
    – Ella – Kandy (7 hours)

    For the rest of the trip, you have to take the local bus or rent a car with a driver. I recommend that you rent a car and a driver since your son is only 2 years old. It is very easy to find a car and driver in Sri Lanka, all hotels know drivers so just ask at the hotel you stay at to help you.

    We had a really nice and good driver on our recent trip to Sri Lanka in February 2017, he drove us around Sri Lanka for two weeks, doing this itinerary. His name is Sadun, and you can reach him through his web page: http://www.naturetrailsknucklestours.com. He does all kinds of sightseeing trips and will happily show you all the highlights of Sri Lanka.

    Have a nice trip to Sri Lanka with your family!

    -Maria-

    Reply
  30. Hello Maria,

    Totally loved your blog and enjoyed reading it as part of my research into our trip to Sri Lanka in late January -early February of next year. We are looking to spend between 2 and 3 weeks and enjoy putting down roots in a place and exploring the surrounding area. Any suggestions for maybe 3 spots -one focusing on historical spots, one on the coast and one in the inland tea plantation area? Do you have any recommendations for hiring a driver if we decide to go that route?

    Thanks! Graham

    Reply
  31. Hi Graham,

    Thank you so much for those nice words about our blog!

    Good idea to stay in only three places, and then explore the surrounding area of these three places. We did something similar this February when we took my parents with us to Sri Lanka for their first time.

    As for the historical spot, I would suggest Kandy: https://nerdnomads.com/what-to-see-in-kandy-sri-lanka. From there you can do day-trips to see:
    – the cave temple in Dambulla (2 hours drive from Kandy)
    – the Lion Rock in Sigiriya (2,5 hours drive from Kandy): https://nerdnomads.com/journey-lion-rock-sigiriya
    – Polonnaruwa (a 3-hours drive from Kandy): https://nerdnomads.com/ancient-city-polonnaruwa-sri-lanka

    As for the inland tea plantation area, you can choose between Nuwara Eliya: https://nerdnomads.com/nuwara-eliya and Ella: https://nerdnomads.com/ella-in-sri-lanka. Both places are great for tea plantations and hiking. As for the two cities, Nuwara Eliya has more to offer than Ella. Ella center is very small and basic.

    When it comes to the coast place, the west and south coast has the best weather in February. Our favorites are Bentota and Tangalle: https://nerdnomads.com/the-perfect-beach-tangalla-sri-lanka. You should also try and get a day-trip to Galle while you are on the west coast: https://nerdnomads.com/galle

    A visit to a national park is also a highlight of Sri Lanka. We have been to both Yala and Uda Walawe. We liked Yala the most: https://nerdnomads.com/safari-in-yala-national-park

    We had an excellent and very reliable and safe driver on our trip this February together with my parents. His name is Sadun, and you can reach him here: http://www.naturetrailsknucklestours.com. He speaks good English too and has been a guide in Sri Lanka for 22 years. He took us on a jungle drive from Kandy with his 4WD Landrover to a beautiful waterfall. It was the perfect trip to see some of Sri Lanka´s nature.

    Have a great trip to Sri Lanka next year!

    -Maria-

    Reply
  32. Hi Maria, I really enjoyed your blog about Sri Lanka. I plan to go with my daughter. We are 54 and 26 years old. sometime next year. April-May or August. I am thinking that we should do it with a guide of some sort as we are two girls on our own. I have no idea about what to see in Sri Lanka. We like lots of things. Open to any Suggestions but then would like about 2 nights at the end at a nice hotel to relax. What would you suggest. We will probably have about 10 days and travelling from Australia.

    Reply
  33. Hi Maria,
    My husband and I are making ou first trip to Sri Lanka in November for 3 weeks. Your itinerary looks great and I think we may do it backwards.
    We are keen to bring our inflatable stand up paddle boards. Would there be any specific beautiful scenic beaches (flat water preferred, not surf) that would be ideal for this?

    Best wishes

    Reply
    • Hi Kate,

      Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in November! Yeah, it is probably most common to head inland of Sri Lanka first, and then do the south/west coast. But we love the beach, that`s why we like doing the coast first. 🙂

      Hmm, most beaches in Sri Lanka have waves. Weligama beach is good for beginner surfers with small waves. We went there for some surfing, and I saw several people doing SUP. We also stayed four days at Bentota beach on our Sri Lankan trip this February, and the waves are small there too. Bentota has lesser people and lesser surfers than Weligama, so it is a more relaxed and a very beautiful beach.

      We went to Kalpitiya for kitesurfing and went kiting on a lagoon with absolutely no waves so I can imagine it is a good area for SUP. Kalpitiya is really nice! We stayed at The Rascals: https://rascalskiteresort.com. You should email Johanna (the owner of The Rascals) and ask her what she thinks about the conditions for SUP in Kalpitiya area, and if she has any tips of other good SUP places in Sri Lanka.

      We have never tried SUP, it looks like great fun but challenging! Would love to try it one day. It`s on my bucketlist.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! Hope you find some good SUP spots!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  34. Hi Robyn,

    Thank you so much! Glad to hear that you enjoyed our articles about Sri Lanka!

    It depends a bit on what time of year you go, you say April/ May or August. The Yala monsoon season is normally from May to August, and it will rain at the south and west coast of Sri Lanka plus the Hill Country (inland where Nuwara Eliya and Ella is) these months. So then you should head to the east coast if you want some sun and beach time. We have not been to the east coast yet, but the Trincomalee area and Arugam Bay is stunning with white sandy beaches.

    The weather is also good in the north of Sri Lanka in May – August, so if you like historic and ancient temples and to learn and see the old Sri Lanka, you could head up to Polonnaruwa or Anuradhapura.

    An itinerary for you could be:

    1. Colombo (2 nights). Spend a full day exploring the capital Colombo – https://nerdnomads.com/10-cool-things-to-do-in-colombo
    2. Take the train to Kandy (2 nights). Spend a full day exploring Kandy – https://nerdnomads.com/what-to-see-in-kandy-sri-lanka
    3. Drive (with a driver) up to Dambulla and see the cave temple, and Sigiriya – https://nerdnomads.com/journey-lion-rock-sigiriya and end up in Polonnaruwa in the evening (2 nights) – https://nerdnomads.com/ancient-city-polonnaruwa-sri-lanka. Spend a full day exploring the ancient temples of Polonnaruwa either by bike or car.
    4. If you want to see some wildlife, you could take a trip to Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks which are both close to Polonnaruwa. Minneriya National Park is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see wild elephants and the dry season (May – September) is the best time to visit this park. You can see 200 wild elephants or more gathering to eat and drink in the shallow waters.
    5. Drive out to the east coast and to Trincomalee area for some beach time (2-3 nights?)
    6. Drive back to Negombo and spend the last day here before your flight back home to Australia (1-2 night) (https://nerdnomads.com/negombo-beach-sri-lanka). There is only a 20 min drive from Negombo to the international airport.

    It is a good idea to rent a car with a driver as there are only trains in some parts of Sri Lanka (from Colombo and down the west coast, as well as inland). The train is very cheap but takes a long time, and you only have 10 days so you should not spend all your time on trains. A nice train trip is, however, Colombo – Kandy which takes about 3 hours.

    This February we took my parents with us on a trip to Sri Lanka and had a great driver that drove us around Sri Lanka for two weeks. He was very reliable and speaks good English. His name is Sadun, and you can reach him through this web page: http://www.naturetrailsknucklestours.com. Just email him and book him for your trip. He has been a Srilankan guide for over 20 years and knows everything there is to see in this beautiful country.

    Have a great trip to Sri Lanka with your daughter! I`m sure you will have an amazing and memorable trip!

    -Maria-

    Reply
  35. Hi Maria,

    I also join the crowd who praises this blog for the valuable information and really good looking site. Joy to read!

    Me, my wife and 3 year child are about to buy flight tickets to Sri Lanka to travel in May for around two weeks. However as we are reading May is not the best time to visit regarding the rain? Hoping you could share more competent advice on this 🙂
    We would prefer to see some animals and get a bit rest in the beach during some round trip. This itinerary seemed like a good option. But again we have no idea about the type of the rain in May. How bad is it? Or is it just enough to take some spare dry cloths?
    We were thinking to go to the other side of the island but it seems like a long way to Trincomalee back and forth. Maybe you could share some insight on Sri Lanka in May 🙂

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Paulius,

      Thank you very much! Glad you hear that you like our site!

      Lucky you who are going on a family trip to Sri Lanka! The monsoon on the west coast is between May and September, but this varies a little from year to year. Since you are going in May it might not have really started yet, and even during the height of the monsoon it is not that bad. It is often sunny in the morning, and the thunderstorms usually hit the west coast in the afternoon/ early evening.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in May!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  36. Hello, Maria,
    you have here very good itinerary! and this interactive map! wow! 🙂
    We just bought our tickets to Sri Lanka/Maldives (February 2018) and I started a small research where to go there etc. Probably I buy LP about Sri Lanka too, but looking at your 2 weeks trip, can you tell me please, now, after you are back from your trip: could you change there something or you keep it as it was?!
    Thanks for reply!
    Greetings from Estonia!

    Reply
  37. Hi,

    great tips!
    would you suggest the same itinerary for August?
    I am going there with my sister from the 01st to the 18th.

    Look forward to receiving your advice,

    Thanks

    Ilaria

    Reply
    • Hi Ilaria,

      Thanks! Yes, I would suggest the same itinerary for August. There is, however, a rainy season from May till September on the west coast, but it is not that bad. It is often sunny in the morning, and the thunderstorms usually hit the west coast in the afternoon/ early evening. But if you want to be guaranteed sunny weather, you should head over to the east coast (Trincomalee or Arugam Bay).

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka with your sister!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  38. Hi Maria,

    I have been planning for a trip to Sri Lanka this October. This would be my first solo international trip, so needed the right push do finally do it. Fortunately, I found your blog. I am going to follow from this itinerary the most, only in reverse. There is just so much to see in this little country. Can’t wait!

    Got any other suggestion for a complete newbie?

    Thank you so much for all the efforts you’ve put in on this, you’ve got another Indian fan to your list.

    Regards,
    Prem

    Reply
    • Hi Prem,

      Thank you so much! Glad you find our articles helpful when planning your first Sri Lanka trip! We love our Indian fans! 🙂

      So cool that you are doing your first solo international trip, and that you have chosen Sri Lanka! It will be great, you should not worry. Sri Lanka is a safe country with friendly and welcoming people, and as you say so much to see and do.

      Have a wonderful trip to Sri Lanka in October!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • It’s appreciable to see that it was your first solo trip, Prem? Now if I just ask you, how many solo trips have you done during these years after 2017? And please, I’m also a newbie experimenting with my solo trip first time towards Sri Lanka this year, so please give me some tips on how to negotiate with local drivers and how to continue them for the rest of your trip? I want to travel solo, but what makes me nervous is money. It makes me worry about dealing that what if I will get deceived or lose my money for other days. So please I request you to give me some tips, related to this. And also their currency is also different, so that is also the somehow issue.

        Please do Needful.

        Thanking you

        Meet

        Reply
  39. Hi
    I love this post of yours, thank you so much. I’ve used all the itinerary advice I’ve received on here, to research our trip. We have had to slightly shorten our time, but the good news is we have booked tickets, and arrive in Colombo at 10pm on October 7.
    I had decided on Six Days Colombo to Tissamaharam, but I really need to make it five.
    The problem is a want a bit of everything, and we both have our hearts set on at least 2 full days relaxing at the beach (either Tangalle or Mirissa).
    I’ve mudmapped it out as best I can, but I’m a day short for our beach stay. I don’t want to sacrifice any part of the trip, so I’m looking for information on where it can be condensed.
    The train between Kandy and Ella is a must do for us, as is the full day Yala Safari, two full days at the beach, and the stopover in Galle on the way back to Colombo.
    So that means that we have to find the extra from either Kandy or Ella.
    I would love any and all advice on getting this down to a six day Colombo to Tissamaharama tour which includes Dambulla, Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, Nuwara Eliya. The easiest way would be to condense the below days 3 to 5 into 2, but I’m very unsure about how to do this.
    Day 1 Colombo to Dambulla to Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa (overnight Polonnaruwa)
    Day 2 – Polonnaruwa with afternoon Drive to Kandy (overnight Kandy)
    Day 3 Kandy (With Driver – Unsure how to prioritise what to see) (Overnight Kandy)
    Day 4 Kandy to Ella by Train (overnight Ella)
    Day 5 Ella (with Driver – Unsure how to prioritise what to see) (Overnight Ella)
    Day 6 Ella to Nuwara Eliy to Tissamaharama in the evening with a Driver (overnight Tissa)

    The back end of our trip looks like this
    Day 6 Yala National Park Full Day Safari (overnight Tissa)
    Day 7 Tissa to Tangalle to Mirissa (with Driver)
    Day 8 Mirissa
    Day 9 Mirissa
    Day 10 Mirissa to Galle (not sure what mode of Transport)
    Day 11 Galle to Colombo (Late evening Flight to Mumbai)

    I’m looking forward to suggestions and thank you in advance

    Melissa

    Reply
    • Hi Melissa,

      Thank you! Hmm, I see your dilemma, there is so much to see and do in this beautiful country that 11 days is not enough.

      Here is my suggestion to an 11-day itinerary based on what you say is a must for you:

      Day 1 – Colombo airport – Dambulla – Sigiriya – Polonnaruwa (2 nights in Polonnaruwa)
      Day 2 – See the ancient ruins at Polonnaruwa.
      Day 3 – Drive back to Kandy, visit the Tooth Temple in Kandy in the evening (it is most atmospheric in the evening after dark). See one of the many Kandy dance shows that is held around 18/19 o`clock.
      Day 4 – Early morning: Kandy – Nuwara Eliya with driver (a 2,5-hour drive). Spend the day exploring Nuwara Eliya (it is a small city, more like a village).
      In the afternoon take the train from Nuwara Eliya (the train station is called Nanuoya, a 15 min drive from Nuwara Eliya center). There is a train at 15:00 and one at 15:55 to Ella. The train trip takes 2,5 hours. This is the most scenic part of the train trip we took from Ella to Kandy. You can search for trains here: http://eservices.railway.gov.lk/schedule/searchTrain.action?lang=en (search from Nanuoya to Elle). Spend the night in Ella.
      Day 5 – Ella town is not much to see really, it`s more like an intersection. Hike Little Adam`s Peak in the morning. If you want some more challanging hike, hike Ella Rock.
      In the afternoon, drive down to Tissa with a driver (a 2,5 hours drive).
      Day 6 – Full day Yala National Park
      Day 7 – Early morning drive Tissa – Tangalle/ Mirissa (a 2-3 hours drive). Spend the day at the beach.
      Day 8 – Beach time at Tangalle/ Mirissa area
      Day 9 – Beach time at Tangalle/ Mirissa area
      Day 10 – Drive up to Galle (or take the train). Spend the night in Galle.
      Day 11 – Galle to the Colombo Airport

      Hope this helped a little. By cutting down the length of the train trip from Kandy to Ella (only doing the Nuwara Eliya – Ella part), and by doing Nuwara Eliya on your way to Ella and not the other way around, you will cut a day so that you can spend it at the beach instead. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in October!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Hi Maria

        Thank you so much for your help, this is what I was looking for but not sure about, with Kandy, the train and Ella

        A further question if that is okay, If we wanted to go to Udawalawe on day five, on the way from Ella to Tissa, do you think we have enough time?

        Also, do you think that it would be a good idea to travel direct from the airport on the night we arrive at 9.30pm to Kandy in order to not have to travel so far on the first day?

        Thank you again, and I hope to hear from you soon.

        Melissa

        Reply
        • If you drive from Ella early in the morning, you can easily do Udawalawe National Park on your way to Tissa. The drive from Ella to Udawalawe is about 3 hours. And it takes about 2 hours to drive from Udawalawe to Tissa. The safari in Uadawalawe takes 2-3 hours.

          There is no problem driving from Colombo International Airport directly to Kandy in the late evening/ night when you arrive. The drive takes about 3 hours. It is dark outside, however, so you won`t see much of the landscape along the way. But as you say, you will save some driving on day 1 by doing some of it the night before.

          -Maria-

          Reply
  40. Hello maria,

    Thank you so much for giving time and writing your awesome journey.
    I really enjoyed reading it (several times) and your photographs are really nice.

    I am planning to visit sri lanka in late june. I guess it’s the worst time ever for this beautiful country though 🙁

    I wanted to appreciate your itinerary.

    Best regards
    Mahmoud.

    Reply
    • Hi Mahmoud,

      Thank you so much for your nice comment! Glad to hear that you like our itinerary and find it useful.

      Sri Lanka is a very nice country to visit all year round, but June can be rainy especially on the south and west coast and also the Hill Country (Nuwara Eliya and Ella). The weather is, however, better in the north and east coast in June.

      This weekend there was a huge and terrible flood in Sri Lanka which caused the death of over 160 people and destroyed more than 2000 homes! Just awful and so sad. It has been the worst monsoon in 14 years! Hopefully, the weather is better in June.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Mahmoud!
      Just wanted to agree that travelling to Sri Lanka in June is quite a difficult time. However, don’t let it get to you! Try enjoy the beaches as much as you can and if you are interested in surfing and maybe whale watching you could do that in Cape Weligama, which I found to be the best. They actually had surfing lessons which was really useful. If it does rain they have certain activities like trying your hand in cooking the local cuisine or their ayurvedic spa treatments! It is simply amazing and by far one of the best trips I’ve been on.

      Reply
  41. Maria,

    Your travels and all the insight is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. Wanted to get your insight on the best way to make use of our time in Sri Lanka. We get into Colombo and have 3 days to travel and explore and then are attending a wedding for 2 days in Negombo. We then have 3 days after the wedding before we fly out of Colombo. From your insight, Ella, Yala, Sirigiya, Galle, Polonnaruwa seem to be a must. Anything else we must do? Also, what is the best way to split this up and is it feasible to see all of this given the schedule? I am trying to get a sense of travel times and not rushing everything but also wanting to see the amazing places you describe. Any insight would be amazing.

    Reply
    • Hi Sunny,

      Thank you so much!

      Hmm, this is a 14 days itinerary, so making it into two 3-days trips is almost impossible. 😉 From the places you mention that you want to see, I would say that you would have to choose either Sigiriya/ Polonnaruwa OR Ella, as these places are pretty far from each other distance wise.

      The village of Ella is not that nice in itself, so you should only go to Ella if you have time to do some walks like hike Little Adams Peak. Another option instead of Ella is Nuwara Eliya (closer to Negombo), where the town itself is much nicer and has more to see and do than Ella town.

      So you can either do (on three days): Colombo – Kandy – Sigiriya – Polonnaruwa – Negombo OR Colombo – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya or Ella – Negombo

      On the other three days (before or after the wedding in Negombo), you should head south along the west coast of Sri Lanka, and see Galle and some of the nice beaches like Bentota, Mirissa or Tangalle. Although Tangalle might be too far from Negombo (a 4-hour drive).

      National Parks:
      There are several nice national parks in Sri Lanka. Yala is pretty far away from Negombo (a 6-hour drive at least). Uda Walawe National Park is closer to the west coast. We went to Uda Walawe this February, and it was great too.

      If you decide to head north to Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa area, there is a nice national park there called Minneriya National Park, so this might also be an option.

      I`m sure that you will have a great trip to Sri Lanka no matter what places you choose to visit!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  42. Hi Maria,

    What a great site you have! So much valuable information. We are a Danish couple that are thinking about going to Sri Lanka this September – would you recommend the same itinerary or would you change it up a little bit. We are worried about the monsoon aspect.

    Tusen takk!

    Reply
    • Hei Julie!

      Så kult å få en kommentar fra Danmark! 🙂 I will, however, continue in English. 😉

      I would say that September is a pretty good time to travel to Sri Lanka. It more like a shoulder season where there are good odds for nice weather throughout the whole country. There will also be lesser tourists and cheaper hotels so you don`t necessarily need to make much hotel bookings ahead. You can see how the weather is like once you get to Sri Lanka and make changes to your itinerary if needed.

      Yes, I will recommend this itinerary for September.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  43. Great blog Maria!
    I’ve just purchased flights to Sri Lanka for 2 weeks in March 2018 for my 60th! We arrive at midnight from Bangkok so planning on staying in Colombo for the first two nights to recover, then do a rough version of your itinerary in reverse. Hope to hire a driver until we get to the coast at Mirissa. We have a recommendation from a couple of friends who spent a month there last year. We hope to stay in mainly guesthouses at around $30 a night mostly. As we will be there in mid March do you think we’ll need to book far ahead for guesthouses? Also do most provide accommodation for the driver? Thanks again for this brilliant blog!

    Reply
    • Hi Sue,

      Wow, lucky you who will be celebrating your 60th birthday in Sri Lanka! We went to Sri Lanka in February this year with my parents to celebrate my mums 70th birthday. They loved Sri Lanka, I`m sure you will too!

      March is at the end of high season, but not peak season. You should pre-book some of the guest houses, at least for the beginning of your trip. We had only pre-booked the hotel in Colombo for two nights, and nothing more, and some of the hotels that we really wanted to stay at was fully booked. But it always worked out in the end. We had a bit more than $30 as our budget.

      It is always difficult, if you pre-book your entire trip, then you loose your flexibility. I love flexibility when travelling as it is nothing more annoying than to get to a place that you absolutely love and then you only have one night there because you have pre-booked your next hotel. But if there are guesthouses that you really want to stay at, it is probably best to pre-book it.

      Yes, almost all hotels and guesthouses have accommodation for drivers.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka, and have a great celebration of your birthday!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  44. Hi Maria,

    I have only 7 nights to visit Sri Lanka during next January. Which itinerary do you recommend me? Due to is the final part of my trip to Asia the only thing I know is that I want to end it with two days at a nice beach. It is sad to have so few days to visit such an incredible country but those were the rules. Or this 7 nights or nothing. Best regards, Ignacio.

    Reply
    • Hi Ignacio,

      Since you only have one week in Sri Lanka, you can either head straight down the west coast or do the inland route to the Hill Country/ tea plantations. It really depends on what you want to see and what your interests are. You should skip Colombo since you have so few days.

      One route could be: Colombo International Airport – car to Kandy or train from Colombo to Kandy (1 night in Kandy) – car to Nuwara Eliya (1 night) – train to Ella (1 night) – car to Uda Walawe National Park if you are interested in nature and animals (day-trip) – Tangalla Beach (3 nights) – Galle (1 night) – Airport

      Another route could be to do the west coast and a national park: Colombo International Airport – Bentota Beach – Mirissa Beach – Galle – surfing at Weligama Beach – Tangalle Beach – Yala National Park

      Hope this helped a little. Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in January! I`m sure you will love this amazing country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Hi Maria,

        So happy I stumbled upon your blog – I love the layout and it’s very helpful! I am in the same boat as Ignacio – my boyfriend and I will be traveling in Sri Lanka for the first week in September and are looking for some help. We are thinking of doing something similar to what you mentioned here: Colombo – Sigiriya – Kandy – Ella- Yala – Tangalle or Mirissa – Galle…a jam-packed trip! I have a couple of questions:
        1. How long is the drive from Colombo to Sigiriya? We’re thinking we’d hire a driver and only spend the early part of the day at Sigiriya, would you agree that is fine? Somehow we’d have to get from Sigiriya down to Kandy, not sure how long that would take so…
        2. What’s the best way to get from Sigiriya to Kandy? As a note, we want to take the train from Kandy to Ella, which I understand takes 7 hours. This might be our only train ride due to trying to save time to get to other locations!
        3. Our flight home from Colombo leaves at 10am – do you think it’s possible to hire a driver in the early morning to take us straight from Galle to the airport? I’ve heard it’s not worth heading back to Colombo only for a night to catch a flight.

        Thank you!

        Reply
        • Hi Emily,

          Thank you so much! Glad to be of help. Your itinerary will be packed but is doable within one week. There will just not be much relaxing I`m afraid. You should skip Colombo entirely. Colombo is not a highlight of Sri Lanka in my opinion, especially since you have so little time.

          1. The drive from Colombo International Airport to Sigiriya takes about 3 – 3,5 hours (depending on the traffic). It takes a little longer from Colombo city, about 3,5 – 4 hours, as the traffic can be pretty bad out of Colombo city. So you should drive to the Sigiriya area directly from the airport.

          The climb up Sigiriya Rock only takes about one hour, so a couple of hours/ early part of the day should be fine.

          2. There are no trains from Sigiriya to Kandy, so you will have to hire a driver. The drive from Sigiriya to Kandy takes about 2,5 hours, more if there is much traffic.

          To save time, you should hire a driver as much as possible, as the train is slow. Yes, the train from Kandy to Ella takes 7 hours.

          3. The drive from Galle to Colombo International Airport takes about 2,5 hours, so yes, it is possible to hire a driver that takes you to the airport in the early morning. This early in the morning there is little traffic too, so there should not be much delay.

          If you want to stay close to the airport on your last night so that you can sleep a little longer before your flight, you should head to Negombo. Negombo is only a 15-minute drive from the airport.

          Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure it will be awesome!

          -Maria-

          Reply
  45. Hi Maria,

    Great post, I really like the details in the article and the diversity of the destinations in this itinerary. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and has many things to offer. By my opinion, you can see a lot in 2 weeks, but there is so much more to explore on the island. I lived there for 6 months and I saw about everything in Sri Lanka. This article perfectly describes the essentials of Sri Lanka. But you should really consider going back one day and visit Trincomalee, Nilaveli, Arugam bay, Anuradhapura or Jaffna in the North.

    Kind regards,
    Matthias

    Reply
    • Hi Matthias,

      Thank you so much! Wow, lucky you who lived in Sri Lanka for 6 months!! Wish I could too, but it might be difficult to get a visa for that many months?

      The North and the East coast of Sri Lanka is on our list and we`ll definitely be heading there on our next Sri Lankan trip. We will be back in Sri Lanka soon for sure, love that country and it`s people!

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  46. Hi Maria,

    What an exceptional blog! My sweetheart and I are travelling to SL in December and we have ~9 days. Your blog has given us pretty much our whole itinerary, it has been so helpful. The comments section and your replies have also given us heaps of information. I understand travel times over there are a bit skewed so I just wanted to get your opinions on our modified itinerary with travel time etc.

    Day 1, land in Colombo and straight on the train to Galle, explore and stay in Galle overnight.
    Day 2, hire car and driver and drive to Yala, do an afternoon Safari, stay in Yala
    Day 3, more Safari and elephants, stay in Yala again
    Day 4, hire car and driver and drive Yala to Ella, stay in Ella
    Day 5, enjoy the train journey Ella to Kandy, stay in Kandy
    Day 6, hire car and driver and drive to Sigiriya, stay around Sigiriya
    Day 7, hire car and driver and drive to Polunnaruwa (onto Anuradhapura or Minneriya NP?)
    Day 8, train journey Polunnaruwa to Negambo
    Day 9, Negambo to Colombo and fly out.

    Now, is the extra full day in Yala necessary or would that time be better spent with more time in Ella? And day 7’s journey, what are your thoughts there? Or is there enough time in there to not stay in Sigiriya overnight but go straight onto Polunnaruwa?

    Thank you so much for being such a passionate blogger and with helping so many people make the best of their journeys!

    Regards,
    Angus

    Reply
    • Hi Angus,

      Thank you so much!! So glad our blog could be of help to you when planning your Sri Lanka trip!

      Your itinerary looks great! I only have a few suggestions on some small changes:

      – Day 2: There is no need to spend the night in Yala. You can get from Galle to Yala National Park during the day so that you reach the afternoon safari in Yala, it is from 3 pm – 7 pm. In the evening you can drive from Yala up to Ella (a 2-3 hour drive). You will arrive a bit late in Ella, but it is totally worth it so that you can have two nights in Ella and spend a full day doing hikes in Ella and visit tea plantations. You can, for instance, walk Little Adams Peak, which is stunning!

      – Day 6: You don`t have to stay in Sigiriya. There is plenty of time to drive from Kandy to Sigiriya, walk the stairs up to Lion Rock, and drive to Polonnaruwa in one day. You should skip Anuradhapura, it is too far, at least if you want to see the ancient city of Polonnaruwa which take some hours. You can choose to have two nights in Kandy or in Polonnaruwa instead. Minneriya National Park is one option if you have a full day in Polonnaruwa (two nights), but it might be too hectic.

      – Day 8: I`m not sure if there are any trains from Polonnaruwa to Negombo. You can check train time schedules here. So you might have to hire a car and driver.

      I`m sure you will have a great trip and fall in love with Sri Lanka! It is an amazing country with welcoming and friendly people.

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Thank you for your suggestions! We have taken them on board and adjusted our plans. Ella looks like a wonderful place to spend an extra day and a night, Little Adams Peak and the tea plantations look magical.

        Thanks again for your response and your help.

        All the best.

        Reply
  47. Hej Maria,

    Tack för en fantastiskt informativ blogg! Me and my partner is going to Sri Lanka 23rd November and stay 14 days. I am really keen on checking out the wales. Is it season still, or should i just forget it? Have you done Adam’s Peak? Is it worth it before the pilgrim season or is it too much of a hassle? We are planning on hiring a driver, does it make sense to hire him for the full two weeks, or should we do it day-by-day? Is the drivers accommodation included in the price?

    hoppas på svar!

    Reply
    • Hei Kidde,

      Tusen takk! Så trivelig å få kommentar fra en svenske! 🙂

      The Mirissa area is most famous and best for whale watching. Although you might spot blue whales all year round, the peak months are December and April. So you will most likely be able to see whales at the end of November/ beginning of December. From Mirissa the whale tours usually start early in the morning (around 6 o`clock) and last from two to seven hours depending on when they find some whales.

      No, we have not done Adam`s Peak, only Little Adam`s Peak in Ella. We met some Norwegians in Ella who had just done the Adam`s Peak. They said it was very crowded, so they walked in a queue and it took a long time. It was freezing cold at the top, and you have to take off your shoes at the top so you should wear or bring wool socks and a warm jacket.

      You can hire a car and a driver for your entire trip, but then you might have to pay for the driver`s accommodations too, although it is cheaper than yours. Also, the driver will have to sit and wait for you if you want to spend a couple of days or more in one place.

      We have done both. On our first trip to Sri Lanka we hired a car and driver from day to day, which was nice cause then we could change our itinerary along the way around Sri Lanka and stay some extra nights at a place if we wanted. On our last trip this February, we hired a car and driver for half our trip (7 days). Then we had a fixed itinerary and did not do any changes to our route. For us, flexibility is important, so we like hiring a driver from day to day. It is no problem finding a car and a driver, they are everywhere, or your hotel can arrange one for you.

      Ha en fantastisk tur til Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • This year pilgrim season start December 3, so i think you’re lucky, beacus before the season local are preparing and cleaning environment for pilgrim season. But November and December month top of the mountain very cold. Choose Hatton road, when you are traveling there.

      Reply
  48. Hi Maria,

    Firstly thank you very much for posting this blog, it’s amazing. My girlfriend and I are going to Sri Lanka for three weeks and thinking of following this itinerary but also adding on Trincomalee and maybe some other areas on the east coast. Is there anywhere else you could recommend? Secondly, from your experience is Yala National Park the best one to visit? Finally, is it also worth visiting Nuwara Eliya? Is there any reason why you didn’t include it on your itinerary?

    Thank you so much,

    Alex

    Reply
    • Hi Alex,

      Thank you so much! Happy to hear that you find our Sri Lanka itinerary useful! 🙂

      We have not been to the east coast of Sri Lanka yet, but I`ve heard it`s beautiful with pristine beaches and lesser tourists. Trincomalee and Arugam Bay is supposed to be great!

      We have been to two national parks; Yala and Udawalawe. We liked Yala best as it is bigger and is located along the coast so the view is stunning. Udawalawe do, however, have more elephants.

      Nuwara Eliya is well worth a visit. It is, however, not as nice as Ella when it comes to hiking. Ella has the best hiking tracks and scenery in our opinion, and as we love hiking we recommend Ella. Nuwara Eliya is bigger than Ella, more like a small city, and colder temperature wise. So it depends on what you want to do, if you are not interested in hiking then Nuwara Eliya is best. You can also do both, of course, as we did on our Sri Lanka trip last February. You can drive through Ella if you plan to go down south from Nuwara Eliya, for instance down to Yala or Udawalawe National Park.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  49. Hi Maria,

    I’m planning to pop over to Sri Lanka for 3 weeks from mid October and will roughly follow your 2 week guide but at a slower pace and add a few extra things in.
    I was hoping you’d have some insight on how the weather will be during this period as everywhere I’ve read seems to say that this month can be pretty wet?

    Cheers,
    Dan

    Reply
    • Hi Daniel,

      Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka for three weeks! The Maha monsoon hits Sri Lanka during October/ November and brings heavy rainfall and thunderstorms across the island. So bring a raincoat! The temperatures are good though, so you will not be cold just wet.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  50. Hi Maria,

    The articles are great!

    We are planning to visit Sri Lanka for a week. We have narrowed three places i.e galle, Ella and Colombo.

    We still have to narrow down one more place to go to from Ella. Could you suggest any place? We would like to avoid historical places.

    Reply
    • Hi Pallavi,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that you are going to Sri Lanka! You will love it!

      Hmm, it really depends on what you like. Neither Galle, Ella nor Colombo has a beach and Sri Lanka has great beaches so Bentota might be an option if you want to stay at a beach? Bentota is located between Colombo and Galle, so it will be convenient for you to have a stop-over there.

      Sri Lanka has some beautiful national parks! So if you like to see wild elephants, deer, crocodiles, leopards, and water buffaloes, you can go on a safari trip in for instance Udawalawe National Park or Yala National Park.

      Nuwara Eliya is another small town located in the hill country close to Ella. It is quite popular among tourists and has lots of tea plantations and some great hiking options.

      Kandy is also an option, located not that far from Ella and has sights like the Tooth Temple, Botanical Garden, and Elephant Orphanage.

      So it really depends on what you want to see and do.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  51. Hi Maria,

    Amazing article 🙂 Me and my wife are planning to visit Sri Lanka in December for one week. Dec 21 Evening we will reach to Colombo and Return on Dec 30 Morning from Colombo. So total of 8 full days to explore the country. We are interested to cover Historical places, any one good Beach with activities like Scuba Diving, Marine life and also like to do Hiking. I am thinking to visit Colombo, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Kandy, Kandy-Ella Scenic train Journey and Mirissa beach. Is it possible to cover all these places in 8 Days?

    Reply
    • Hi Firoz,

      Thank you so much, happy to hear that you like our article! 🙂 Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in December!

      Hmm, with only 8 days, it will be a bit hectic doing all these places, but it might be doable:

      Day 0. Arrive in Colombo in the evening on 21st of Dec (2 nights in Colombo)
      Day 1. Colombo
      Day 2. Colombo – Kandy (3 hours train or car ride). Do some sightseeing in Kandy, see the Tooth Temple and dance show (1 night in Kandy)
      Day 3. Kandy – Sigiriya (3 hours by car). Climb the Sigiriya/ Lion Rock. Drive to Polonnaruwa (2 hours by car) (1 night in Polonnaruwa)
      Day 4. See the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa. In the evening, drive back to Kandy (4-5 hours by car) (1 night in Kandy)
      Day 5. Kandy – Ella (8 hours train ride) (2 nights in Ella)
      Day 6. Hiking in Ella, see the tea plantations
      Day 7. Ella – Mirissa (4-5 hours by car)
      Day 8. Mirissa beach time
      Day 9. Mirissa – Colombo International Airport, take the plane home in the morning on 30th of December

      It will be a tight schedule, but it is doable. Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  52. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for this awesome itinerary I’m planning on doing it in reverse when I get out there in January!

    Quick question as it’s my first time travelling solo; Did you book trains & cars in advance?

    Thanks,

    Evie

    Reply
    • Hi Evie,

      Thank you so much! Really cool that you are going on a solo trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will love this great country, the Sri Lankan people are so friendly and welcoming.

      No, we did not book trains and cars in advance. It`s very easy finding cars and drivers in Sri Lanka, all hotels know drivers and can arrange transportation for you. Tickets for government trains can only be booked at train stations in Sri Lanka, and is unfortunately not possible to book online. The only train ticket that we bought a couple of days ahead was the train from Ella to Kandy as this is very popular and can be fully booked.

      Have a wonderful time in Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  53. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for taking your time to guide travelers to Sri Lanka. Amazing assistance appreciated.

    Maria, I am planning to travel solo in February 2018 to Sri Lanka for about 9 to 15 days. At no rush rush pace. Lol.
    During which time I hope to find some nice people to share travel ideas with.

    I am mainly interested in the ancient temples and historical architecture and maybe a day at the beach.

    What would you suggest my travel iteninarary plans to be?
    Thanks Maria.
    Liz

    Reply
    • Hi Liz,

      So cool that you are going to Sri Lanka on a solo trip! Since you are interested in ancient temples and sights, you should head inland to Kandy, and north to Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.

      If you want to have some beach time at the end of your trip, Negombo or Bentota might be an option as they are not that far from the airport (Negombo is very close to the airport).

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in February!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Ayubowan Liz

      Nice to hear that, you are like to visit anicent places in my country.
      Maria mentioned most famous places. I don’t want to mention that places again.

      But i would like mentioned below places, because you are like anicent places.

      Awukana Buddha – it near the kakirawa (20km far from anuradhapura)

      Maligawila and buduruwagala

      Don’t forget to visit “Ranmasu uyana” lots of people visit to the isurumuni temple at anuradhapura. But they not going there. It beside the isurumuni temple. There have place ” the sakwala chakra”

      -M-

      Reply
    • Ayubowan Liz

      Nice to hear that, you are like to visit anicent places in my country.
      Maria mentioned most famous places. I don’t want to mention that places again.

      But i would like mentioned below places, because you are like anicent places.

      Awukana Buddha – it near the kakirawa (20km far from anuradhapura)

      Maligawila and buduruwagala

      Reply
  54. Hi Maria,

    I love your post. It’s really helped me to plan our trip in January. We’re staying in Tangalle before heading to Ella. We’re interested in going to Yala National Park and you mention that this can be done in a day, while a driver waits for you to then take you on to Ella. Can that really be done in a day!? As I thought it was about 2 hours from Tangalle to the park, then another 3 hours from the park to Ella. And am I right in thinking there are only 2 tours – 6am and 2pm? How long would you say a tour is? Seems like it might be a long day but worth it maybe?

    Thanks
    Kira

    Reply
    • Hi Kira,

      Thank you so much, glad to hear that you find it useful! 🙂

      There are two safaris in Yala; morning safaris are 6-9 am and afternoon safaris are 3-6 pm. We did the afternoon one.

      If you want to do both the morning AND the afternoon safari, then you will probably don`t want to go all the way up to Ella afterwards as you will be pretty tired and should stay the night in the Yala area.

      But if you only want to do one safari, either the morning or the afternoon, it is doable to do Tangalle – Yala – Ella in one day. You can either get up real early in the morning and drive from Tangalle around 4 am, and then drive up to Ella around 9 am, and you will reach Ella around noon. Or you can drive from Tangalle around 12, and then up to Ella around 6 pm and you will reach Ella around 9 pm in the evening.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and enjoy the elephants at Yala! Crossing my fingers that you will see a leopard!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  55. Maria, thank you for your two week plan! I have one question – did you vaccinate or taken pills prior travelling to Sri Lanka?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Aliya,

      We took the usual vaccinations for South East Asia before heading to Sri Lanka, like Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid. But you should check with your doctor or a medical person on what vaccines you should have. There is no malaria in Sri Lanka anymore, or at least that`s what the Sri Lankan government says.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  56. Hi Maria,

    One of the better travel blogs I have seen, thanks so much! I’m planning a 12 day trip to Sri Lanka this Christmas and planning to follow your itinerary (opposite direction). I have a few questions.
    1) I’m traveling with my 2 kids of 8 and 9 years old. Would you recommend the same itinerary traveling with children?
    2) As I only have 12 days instead of 14 days, what should I skip?
    3) I see you traveled with same driver for whole trip as well as different Drivers/train. What would you recommend?
    4) I heard also from people that stayed a night in a tent in the nature reserve. Have you done this and is it something to recommend?
    5) any other considerations?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  57. Hi Frank,

    Thank you very much! So happy to hear that you like our blog and find it useful! I will try to answer your questions the best I can:

    1) Yes, this is a great itinerary for an 8 and 9-year-old. The only thing I would consider skipping if I were you is the 7-8 hour long train trip Ella – Kandy which can be tiring and boring for kids. You can consider doing some other nice but shorter train trips, like Colombo – Kandy (3 hours) or Colombo – Galle (2 hours).

    2) Hmm, that really depends on what you like the most, is it to spend time at the beach, wandering around the city streets and museums of the capital Colombo, hiking in mountains covered with tea plantations in Ella or Nuwara Eliya, or sightseeing ancient temples in Polonnaruwa.

    Personally, I like the beach so I would prioritize some relaxing days at the beach of Bentota, Mirissa or Tangalle. Polonnaruwa is a bit “out of the way” (a 4-hour drive from Kandy each way), so you can consider skipping Polonnaruwa unless you are very keen on seeing ancient temples. We did, however, really liked Sigiriya (climbing the Lion Rock), which is on the way to Polonnaruwa, so you could consider doing Sigiriya on a day-trip from Kandy if you have the time. Colombo is not that amazing if you ask me, just another big city, so you might want to skip it and go directly to Kandy as your first stop.

    3) On our Sri Lanka trip this February with my parents, we hired a driver for our entire trip for the first time. On our previous trips, we have had different drivers. With different drivers, you are more flexible and can take each day as it comes, and stay longer than planned if you really like a place. But since you only have 12 days, and are traveling with kids, you might want the same driver and car every day? It is very easy to find a driver in Sri Lanka, “everybody” is or knows a driver. 🙂 Just ask at each hotel you are staying at and they will quickly set you up with a driver.

    4) No, we have unfortunately not stayed in a tent in Sri Lanka, but we plan to on our next Sri Lanka visit as it looks fantastic! We are planning to go hiking and camping in a nature reserve with the driver and tour guide we had on our trip in February, his name is Sadun at http://www.naturetrailsknucklestours.com
    If you want to hire and pre-book a driver for your entire trip, or part of your trip, I highly recommend Sadun. He is very nice, reliable, polite, speaks good English, and is an excellent tour guide who knows everything there is to know about Sri Lanka. He is also an excellent safari and animal guide and can take you on a safari or camping tour, in Yala or Uduwalawe National Park.

    Have a great trip to Sri Lanka with your family!

    -Maria-

    Reply
  58. I used your itinerary for Japan and found it very useful.

    Now I booked a 2 week trip to Sri Lanka based on your itinerary. Very excited to go!

    Reply
    • Hi Faraz!

      Woooooow, that is awesome! So happy to hear that our itineraries to Japan and Sri Lanka could be of help and inspiration to you! Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will love this country too and have a wonderful time!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Emma,

      Thank you soooooo much!! Great to hear that our articles about Sri Lanka could be of help to you when planning your trip!

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  59. Amazing itinerary! I just fell upon it when I was searching google for our next adventure. This looks perfect! We would be coming from California – Airlines recommendations? Also time of year to go??? Or time we SHOULD NOT go? Any info would be helpful.

    Reply
    • Hi Katy,

      So cool that you are planning on heading to Sri Lanka!

      This itinerary is best to do November – April. You can, however, travel to Sri Lanka all year around as the monsoon season is at different times around the island:

      – May – August (low season): The weather is best in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Rain in the South, West coast, and Hill Country
      – April and September – November (shoulder season): Good odds for dry weather in whole of Sri Lanka
      – December – March (high season): Dry and sunny weather on the South coast, West coast, and Hill Country, while rain in the North, East, and Ancient Cities (Polonnaruwa)

      We have visited Sri Lanka in February and March and had great weather on the west and south coast as well as the Hill Country.

      Sorry, I don`t know which airlines fly from California to Sri Lanka, but we usually fly Qatar Airways from Europe to Sri Lanka and it is always great.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! You will love it, it is an amazing country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  60. Hi Maria
    I have been reading your blog on Sri Lanka and it’s amazing
    I want to mainly interested in temples and historical visits
    I am from Montreal, presently in Mumbai until February end
    Could you please assist me with which easy route to start and to end

    I am also planning to go to Cambodia again the same request as above
    Appreciate your assistance
    Thx Maria
    Elizabeth

    Reply
  61. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks a million! So happy to hear that you like our articles about Sri Lanka!

    Wow, sounds exiting to be living in Mumbai! Have unfortunately not been to India yet. How is it?

    Since you are interested in temples and historical sights, this could be a nice Sri Lankan itinerary (about 2 weeks):

    Day 1. Colombo Int. Airport – Kandy (2 nights in Kandy, see the Tooth Temple)
    Day 3. Kandy – Dambulla (cave temple) – Sigiriya (walk up Lion Rock) – Ritagala Ruins – Polonnaruwa (2 nights in Polonnaruwa, see the ancient city with lots of temples)
    Day 5. From Polonnaruwa you can consider heading out to the east coast (if you want some beach time), to Kalkudah and Passekudah (3-4 nights)
    Day 8. Head down along the east coast to Batticaloa (an old Dutch fort)
    Day 9. Head north up to Trincomalee and the surrounding beach towns (Uppuveli and Nilaveli) (2-3 nights)
    Day 11. Head inland again to the ancient city Anuradhapura which is packed with old temples and ruins. On the way to Anuradhapura you can stop and climb the hill Minitale (Buddhist history site dating back to the 3rd century BC). (2-3 nights in Anuradhapura)
    Day 14. Anuradhapura – Colombo Int. Airport (or stay your last night in Negombo which is only a 15-min drive from the Airport)

    We have only been to the north of Cambodia, to Angkor Wat and the city Siem Reap, which is a real-must if you are heading to Cambodia!

    Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and Cambodia, and enjoy your time in Mumbai!!!

    -Maria-

    Reply
    • Hi Maria,

      Thank you so very much for helping me plan my itinerary to Colombo.
      I will start my travel bookings now.
      Thanks again.

      As for Mumbai, at the moment it is extremely hot. 35 degrees. Scared to go out LOL.
      But I have to no choice. After returning home I just rush to the shower to cool down.

      But otherwise Mumbai is a fun place to be. The times of India newspaper has some pages where they tell you whats happening in the city and where to eat blogs etc.

      Shopping for ethnic clothes at Big Bazaar etc. are great. Fresh meat, Fresh fish, Fresh veg.
      Food courts are also have great varieties of dishes. Pubs also have good choice of western dishes.

      Let me know if you wish more info.

      Thanks and have a nice day Maria.

      Elizabeth

      Reply
  62. Hi Maria,

    We really like website, especially the animated map on the right! We will be going to Sri Lanka next week for a short trip of 5 days. We like the itinerary that you did for the 2 weeks, although we would likely skip the northern part of the country given the time constraints.

    We really would like to do the Ella-Kandy train ride and spend time on the beach – the ones you pointed out look amazing! We also saw that you said Kandy was a bit underwhelming as a place, so we may not want to spend much time there.

    What would you suggest as “must see/do” for 5 days? Really would appreciate your advice!

    Thanks and keep up the great work on the blog!

    Reply
    • Hi Greg and Jumi,

      Thank you so much! So cool that you are on your way to Sri Lanka! Hmmm, 5 days is a bit too short to experience the highlights of Sri Lanka I`m afraid. But one itinerary for you could be:

      Day 1: Colombo International Airport – Kandy (3 – 4 hours by taxi, or take the train from Colombo to Kandy, takes 3,5 hours) – 1 night in Kandy
      Day 2: Take the train from Kandy to Ella (8 hours) – 1 night in Ella
      Day 3: Rent a car with a driver and go down to the south coast (for instance Tangalla Beach, Weligama Beach or Mirissa beach). If you want and have time, stop on the way and do a short safari trip in Uda Walawe National Park. – 2 nights at the beach
      Day 4: Spend the day at the beach
      Day 5: Drive up to the beautiful town Galle, spend the night here or drive up to Negombo for your last night in Sri Lanka (Negombo is only a 15 min drive from the airport). Bentota beach can also be an option for your last night (a 2 hours drive from the airport).

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!! You will love this amazing country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  63. Maria! This is an incredible post. I am going to Sri Lanka in December/January for 19 days with my family. If you are able to, approximately how much money did you spend per day per person (food, travel, etc.)? We have booked accommodation in advance so not concerned about that, but just wondering how much we should be preparing ourselves for. I know Sri Lanka is relatively cheap in terms of trains and things. Thank you again for writing this, your itinerary has helped us enormously. And your map running down the page is brilliant.

    Reply
    • Hi Jana,

      Thank you so much!! Hmm, it`s always difficult to say how much money you will spend as it depends a lot on what kind of food you eat, how much you will travel around in Sri Lanka, what kind of sightseeing you want and how many sights you want to see. The cheapest is to eat local food at non-tourist restaurants and take the bus.

      Budget:
      – Eat local food at non-tourist restaurants, like Sri Lankan rice and curry that cost around usd 4
      – Take the bus, around usd 3 a day

      Midrange:
      – Eat at restaurants at for instance hotels, prices around usd 10-20
      – Take the train some distances and hire a car with a driver some days, average prices around usd 25 a day

      Toprange:
      – Eat at top restaurants (western food) from around usd 20-30
      – Hire a car and driver each day, from around us 50 a day

      Tourists must pay a lot more in entrance fee at sights than Sri Lankan so be sure to budget for that. A safari in Yala National Park cost usd 24 for the entrance ticket per adult + usd 40 for the Jeep (takes up to 6 persons).

      Hope this gives you some idea of what the cost is like in Sri Lanka. Have a great time in Sri Lanka with your family!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  64. Hi Maria,

    Like the other posters to this blog, thank you so much for your suggested itinerary. My husband and I are visiting SL in August 2018 and I was feeling overwhelmed about where to go, what to see.

    I wondered if you have any tips for how to arrange transport. Can we just book a driver on a town by town basis as and when we need them, presumably with the assistance of our accommodation provider?

    Many thanks

    Reply
  65. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thank you! It is very easy to find a driver in Sri Lanka, everyone is a driver or knows a driver. You can either book a driver whenever you want to go to a new place, just ask at the hotel you are staying at, or you can book the same driver for your entire trip. We have done both.

    The first time we visited Sri Lanka, back in 2014, we just hired a driver each time we wanted to move to a new town, that was very easy. The hotel we stayed at always found a driver for us, the day before we wanted to drive somewhere. That way we could stay at each place as long as we wanted and we were more flexible on where and when we wanted to go.

    This year we traveled through Sri Lanka with my parents and booked a driver that drove us around Sri Lanka for 10 days. The driver either stayed at the same hotel as we did (most hotels have drivers rooms), or he stayed somewhere else nearby. At some hotels, we had to pay extra for the driver. The good thing was that we got to know the driver quite well, and he got to know us and what we were interested in seeing. He came with suggestions about places to see and where to stop and was our guide along the way telling us about Sri Lankan history and culture. He used to be a chef and he even cooked us some delicious traditional Sri Lankan dinner a couple of times! His name is Sadun, and he has his own tour company: http://www.naturetrailsknucklestours.com. He speaks good English, is an excellent driver and has been a guide in Sri Lanka for 22 years.

    So it`s up to you really what you prefer, to have the same driver throughout your Sri Lanka trip, or to hire one from day to day which gives you more flexibility.

    Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!!!

    -Maria-

    Reply
  66. Hi Maria,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog post and hope to follow your itinerary (thank you): do you think it would be a suitable route end of April/beginning of May? I’m a little worried about the weather. My boyfriend and I are going for 18 days and hope to also include Arugam Bay, Trincomalee and Kalpitiya for some kitesurfing too. I’ve heard that Hikkaduwa is nice too?

    Many thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Lucie,

      Thank you so much! 🙂

      I have just replied to your comment on another of our articles, and as I said there: April is unfortunately not the best month for kitesurfing in Kalpitiya as there may not be much wind, but that varies of course from year to year. The main kite season in Kalpitiya is from October to May with a less stable wind season from December to March. So April is in the middle of these two seasons.

      As for the weather in general, April and September are shoulder seasons and is the best time for nice weather throughout the whole island of Sri Lanka. It might rain a little bit but not as much as in May – August (Yala Monsoon Season). Accommodation prices also tend to be lower in April and there are not that many tourists as during high season (December – March). But since the Sri Lankan people celebrate New Year in the mid-April, transportation (buses and trains) will be pretty packed and there will be lots of traffic.

      If I were you, I would skip Unawatuna (it is packed with tourists and the beach is small….), and instead head to Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa or Tangalle. Hikkaduwa is however very popular with tourists too. Welligama is also great and nice for surfing. You should do a day-trip to the beautiful little city called Galle Fort (just south of Hikkaduwa). Arugam Bay is also popular among surfers, but it is on the other side on the east coast so it takes longer time to get there.

      Have a great time in Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  67. Hi Maria,
    Amazing blog and thank you very much for the itinerary. We are heading to Sri Lanka next February , so your post was very appreciated! Just out of curiosity, how did you do the background map? It looks amazing.

    Kind regards

    Reply
    • Hi Gayan,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you who lives in such a beautiful country! We love Sri Lanka and can`t wait to come back!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  68. Hi Maria,
    Thank you so much for your blog. My family and I (husband and 3 teenagers) are travelling to Sri Lanka via Hong Kong in a few days and your blog has helped me so much with our itinerary. I am yet to book a beach stay at the end of our trip (South West coast) for us all to relax for the last few days, and am hoping you can give me some advice? My daughter is desperate to snorkel and the rest of us want a nice easy beach to swim. Not to crazy or crowded, but with things to do. Our last day or night might be in Galle before we go the airport. Your advice would be really appreciated. Thanks again for all you wonderful information and photos.
    Ann

    Reply
    • Hi Ann,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our blog could be of help to you when planning your Sri Lanka trip!

      Since you will stay in Galle on your last night, I would recommend Mirissa, Weligama or Hikkaduwa which are pretty close to Galle.

      Mirissa is great for surfing, snorkling and swimming as well as whale safaris (blue whales) as this it the place the whale boat excursions leave from. In the evening they put out tables at the beach where you can have fresh sea food barbecue, delicious! 🙂 We stayed at Imagine Villa Hotel in Mirissa and loved the place! It has its own private beach and a lovely swimming pool. The food is the best we had in Sri Lanka and the owner Marnix from Belgium is the most friendly host.

      Weligama beach is great for surfing and there are several surf board rental places along the beach. The beach has sandy bottom all the way out so it is great for beginner surfers with shallow water. We stayed at a hotel called W15, a very nice boutique hotel!

      Hikkaduwa is one of Sri Lankas most popular surf spots with an energetic nightlife. Hikkaduwa National Park is a marine park that stretches along the north part of the beach and is great for snorkelling. You can rent snorkelling gear from places around the ticket office. You can also go for glass-bottomed boat trips, but the best way to see the reef is definitely by snorkelling! Hikkaduwa is also great for scuba diving and several places offer scuba diving courses (PADI open water). The main road goes, however, through Hikkaduwa, and some places extremely close to the hotels so it can be a bit crazy stepping out of your hotel onto the road. So be careful if you plan to go for a walk as the traffic in Sri Lanka is crazy especially the bus drivers. We have never stayed in Hikkaduwa, just been there on a day-trip. There are also some sea turtle rescue places in Hikkaduwa that you can visit and see and learn more about sea turtles. They also have some sea turtle hatching program where you can see baby turtles, very cute! 🙂

      These three places are pretty close to each other, so you can easily take a tuk-tuk or taxi between these places if you want to check out one of the other beaches than the one you are staying at on a day-trip. You can also go to Galle for a day-trip from one of these places if you don’t want to change hotel and stay one night in Galle.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  69. Hi Maria,

    That is such a great itinerary and insight of Sri Lanka you have put down!
    I am going to be in Sri Lanka for just 1 week (2 days in Colombo & 3 in Bentota for a wedding)
    I am keen on some snorkelling, great food and also a quick view of the near by town or cities.
    We were planning Kandy but not sure if it will fit in here.
    Do you have any idea how I can go about this trip?
    Thanks ! 😀

    Reply
    • Hi Afshaa,

      Thank you so much! With only seven days in Sri Lanka where five of your days will be spent in Colombo and Bentota, you only have two days left. It takes about 3 hours to go from Colombo to Kandy each way and 4 hours from Bentota to Kandy, so I’m not sure if you have time to go all the way to Kandy. You should have at least one night, preferable two, so that you get to see some of the city.

      Another option could be to head down to Galle from Bentota, a one and a half hour drive or train trip each way. The old part of Galle is beautiful and very charming! We love Galle and like it better than Kandy! You can read more about Galle here.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and enjoy the wedding in Bentota!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  70. Hi,

    Excellent post, looks like a beautiful country.

    We are also planning to go to Sri Lanka next May but we’re wondering how the local transport works. You mentioned that you often used taxis, but are these readily available and how expensive are they? For example for travelling between Yala NP and Ella, or from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa?

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  71. Hi Maria,

    This blog is absolutely amazing. Like other people have said, I started researching Sri Lanka a couple of days ago but was feeling really overwhelmed. The fact you have a map as you go down and read about the various places makes it so much easier to understand and visualise. Your blog has got me really excited to visit, up until this point I was wondering whether to do India instead as I wasn’t sure on Sri Lanka. Now I’m totally sold!

    1 question I do have: I’m not too keen on Kandy. However you mentioned the train ride was amazing. Would you still recommend the train ride or are there other similar ones that aren’t as long and still have beautiful views? Is the one from Polonnaruwa to Negombo similar? (I broke my back a few years ago travelling in Laos so not sure my back could also take 7 hours of a train!)

    Thanks again for such a useful and pictoral travel blog with down to earth advice.

    Caroline

    Reply
    • Hi Caroline,

      Awww, thanks a million for your nice words about our blog! You really made my day! 🙂 Sri Lanka is an amazing country – the people, food, nature, wildlife, beaches, everything is fantastic! You will not regret choosing Sri Lanka!

      Oh no, so sad to hear that you broke your back while travelling in Laos :(. Have not been to Laos yet, really want to go there, have heard its beautiful.

      One option could be to only do the train ride from Ella to Nanu Oya (or the other way around) if you for instance want to go to the “capital” of The Hill Country, Nuwara Eliya? Nanu Oya is the closest train station to Nuwara Eliya, from the station it is only a 15-min tuk-tuk or taxi ride into town. This train ride takes 2,5 hours and is actually the most scenic part of the Ella – Kandy train trip, so you will not miss out on anything by doing this shorter version of it.

      The one from Polonnaruwa to Colombo was not that fantastic I must admit, and veeeeeery long.

      We took the train from Colombo to Kandy with my parents last year, and that was also a nice trip with scenic view of the jungle and tea plantations. This train ride took about 2,5 hours.

      Another scenic train ride is the one along the sout-west coast, from Colombo to Galle (takes about 2 hours). It is a completely different scenery than in the Hill Country, but you get stunning view of the ocean and coast line as the train tracks run all along the shore line on the west side of Sri Lanka.

      So I would recommend:
      – Ella – Nanu Oya (2,5 hours)
      – Colombo – Kandy (2 hours)
      – Colombo – Galle (2,5 hours)

      All of these can be done the other way around of course. You can check train departure times here: https://eservices.railway.gov.lk/schedule/searchTrain.action?lang=en (Ella = Elle and Nanu Oya = Nanuoya)

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I’m sure you will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  72. Hi Gautier,

    Thank you so much! Sri Lanka is a stunning country and we have fallen in love with it! Everything from the people, nature, wildlife, hiking, beaches, is great! Sri Lanka is our number one favorite Asian country!

    Well, they are not “normal” taxis like the yellow taxis in New York or here in Europe that you hail on the streets. It is more a private driver with a car, and in Sri Lanka “everybody” is either a private driver or knows one. It is very easy to find a driver/car in Sri Lanka, just ask at the hotel you stay at and as they have a list of them.

    The driver will also act as a guide and tell you about the country and what you pass along your way as you drive to your destination. A private driver/car cost from about 50-60 us$ a day, it depends on how big a car you want. We traveled with my parents through Sri Lanka last year for a month and we hired a private car/driver for about 14 days. The driver spoke good English and had been a guide in Sri Lanka for 22 years so he told us a lot about the country and its history. We had a big van and paid about 100 us$ per day (four people). He drove us around from morning till evening and even cooked dinner for us several days! He also drove us through Uda Walawe National Park as he is also a wildlife guide.

    If you want to book the same driver that we had, his name is Sadun, and you can find his webpage here: http://www.naturetrailsknucklestours.com

    Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in May! May is, by the way, the Yala monsoon season so it will be rain along the west coast, east coast, and Hill Country. The best areas to visit in May (with less rain) is South-East and East part of Sri Lanka, like the Arugam Beach and Trincomale Beach.

    -Maria-

    Reply
  73. Hi Maria,

    Thank you soo much for all this incredible advice! I would like to travel to Sri Lanka for two weeks at some point this year and have been searching for the best places to go for some time. Stumbling across your blog has been amazing, it’s so clear and concise but detailed and given me so much more useful information in 5 minutes than hours I have spent scrolling through other sites.

    Thank you again and keep up the amazing work, I wish I had found you sooner!

    From a new loyal follower,
    Chloe

    Reply
    • Hi Chloe,

      Woooooow, thank you soooo much for your nice words about our blog!!! You are awesome and you really made my day! 🙂

      Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka this year, it is a great country and I’m sure you will love it.

      All the best! Have an amazing time in Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  74. Hi
    I enjoyed reading your blog so much. Thanks for every detail you shared with us.
    My husband and I want to go to Srilanka next week. Unfortunately, we can visit the just in 6 days. Arriving Colombo at 4 AM. going to Galle and staying at Mirissa for the 1st and 2nd night. Then Tangalle for the 3rd night. Leaving Tangalle early in the morning, after visiting YALA National park we will go to Ella and stay there at night. Next day we want to go to Kandy by train. and stay at Kandy for the 5th night. Last day we will visit Sigiriya. This is the whole plan. But I’m not sure if it’s the best one or not. Besides I’m worried about getting tired. I need your advice : )

    Reply
    • Hi Yalda,

      Thank you so much! Your itinerary looks great! It might be a bit busy, but it is doable and you will see most of the highlights of Sri Lanka. You should hire a driver/car for your trip to save time, except for the day that you will do Ella – Kandy by train. If you get tired at the end, you can consider skipping Sigiriya and just stay in Kandy for your last day or head to Negombo beach which is very close to the airport (only a 15 min drive).

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!! I`m sure it will be amazing!

      -Maria-

      -Maria-

      Reply
  75. Hi Maria,
    My husband and I are planning a 9 day trip to Sri Lanka end january. I have read your blog and love how informativeand practical it is. We plan to go from Colombo to Habarana and do the cultural triangle i.e. Sirigaya, Dambulla and Pollonurawa ( two days) and then drive to Ella, spend a couple of days there and then on to Kandy (two days)and back to Colombo. We plan to hire drivers as we go and maybe do the train trip from Ella to Kandy if we get lucky with train tickets. Is this plausible and is the route sensible. Do you recommend Galle as a must do ……..

    Cheers

    Valerie

    Reply
    • Hi Valerie,

      Thank you so much for your nice words about our blog!! Really appreciate it!

      Your itinerary looks great! Good idea to hire drivers/ cars as this will save you a lot of time. You can consider skipping Colombo, it is not that great, and instead head directly from the airport to Habarana. Or you can stay one night in Negombo if you arrive late and want to head to bed as soon as possible. Negombo is only a 10-15 min drive from the international airport and has many nice hotels and a lovely beach.

      It will be a detour for you to go south to Colombo (one hour drive from the airport) and then head up north east so Habarana, unless you want to see Colombo of course. It takes about 3 hours from the international airport to Habarana, and about 3,45 hours from Colombo to Habarana.

      Yes, I really recommend Galle, but it is a bit out of the way for you since you mostly want to stay inland. You should skip Galle unless you have time to stay a couple of days somewhere along the south west coast near Galle. There are several really nice beach towns along this coast. You can save Galle for your next Sri Lanka trip, then you have a reason to come back. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!!! You will love this amazing country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  76. Hello Maria,
    What a great itinerary! Usually, I research for days before a trip. It was my lucky day and I landed on your site and am going to use it exclusively. Thank you!
    We plan to add on a 9 day trip in end February- March, to our family visit in Delhi, so unfortunately, I must exclude some part of this plan. We are an active couple in our 60s and very used to traveling independently, but since it’s busy season, I will book our accommodations in advance. I like the concept of slow travel. Please guide me. Should we arrive early am on Feb 27th or at 8 pm on Feb 26th in Colombo?
    I want to end up on one beach hotel by March 4th and spend 5 nights there , before we return to our home in New York.
    What do you suggest for 27,28,1,2,3? We love the romance of colonial tea plantations and jungles and safari parks too. It would be a shame to visit Sri Lanka without discovering its history! Can we do a 1 day trip to one of the old cities?
    Thank you for your advice in advance.
    Sudha

    Reply
    • Hi Sudha,

      Thank you so much for your great words about our blog!! So cool that you plan to head down to Sri Lanka in combination with a visit to your family in Delhi!

      You should arrive in Sri Lanka as early as possible so that you have maximum number of days as there are plenty to see and do in this beautiful country. So I advice you to arrive 8 pm on 26th of February, so that you have the full day of 27th to spend in Sri Lanka. You really don’t have to go into Colombo city, unless you want to see the city itself as the drive from the airport to Colombo is about an hour. If you want to head to bed as soon as possible after arriving at 8 pm at the airport, you can book your first night in Negombo which is only a 10-15 min drive from the international airport. Of you can drive directly to Kandy from the airport (about 2,5 hours with car).

      Since you are interested in seeing the colonial and historical part of Sri Lanka first, and then head out to the coast for some beach time, one itinerary for you could be:

      26. Feb – Arrive in Sri Lanka (international airport). Spend your first night in nearby Negombo or head to Kandy.
      27. Feb – Kandy (see the Tooth Temple, dancing, botanical garden and maybe the Elephant Orphanage)
      28. Feb – Hire a driver/car and go to Dambulla (cave temple), Sigiriya (walk up the steps to Lion Rock) and to Polonnaruwa
      1. March – Explore the ancient city Polonnaruwa and its ruins
      2. March – Drive from Polonnaruwa to Nuwara Eliya, the colonial capital
      3. March – Spend the day in Nuwara Eliya and walk around the tea plantations
      4. – 9. March – Beach time

      I am not sure if you have time to do a safari trip, but you can skip for instance Polonnaruwa or Nuwara Eliya and do a safari in Uda Walawe National Park or Yala National Park. Or if you have time, you can do the safari on the 4th of March on your way to your beach destination.

      If you are planning to stay 5 nights at a beach destination on the south west coast, you should do a day-trip to Galle which is a lovely old city from the Portuguese period.

      Hope this helped a little. Have a great time in Sri Lanka!!!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  77. One of our readers wrote this to your comment: “I would squeeze in a safari outside Sigiriya to see all the lions. Minneriya is great! Morning or afternoon.”

    I think this sounds like a great idea and something you should consider! 🙂

    -Maria-

    Reply
  78. Hi Maria,

    Thanks so much for posting this amazing blog, it’s really helped us pull our ideas around what to do in Sri Lanka together. We are thinking of doing something similar to your itinerary but in reverse, so starting out with Polonnaruwa. I’m just trying to get my head around how to get going at the start…Depending on flight choices it looks like we’ll land in Colombo from the UK in the late afternoon. I feel like it might be a bit crazy to try to do the journey to Polonnaruwa straight away on that first day, even using a driver to make it as convenient as possible, so we’ll probably have to spend a night near the airport. Then we’ll have to travel on the second day instead, and probably visit Polonnaruwa itself on the third day. That feels like a very slow start to the trip since it’ll be day 3 of a two week visit before we really get into the sightseeing. I was wondering what your thoughts were on doing the itinerary backwards – how would you structure those first few days to get maximum value from the time in Sri Lanka?

    Thanks in advance for your help,

    Lisa

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that our blog could be of help to you!

      Yeah, I totally get what you mean about doing a long drive first thing after arriving in Sri Lanka after a long flight. My suggestion is that you spend your first night in Negombo (only a 15 min drive from the airport), have a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast before heading inland. There are many nice hotels in Negombo, some of them beautifully located right on the beach.

      One itinerary for you could be:

      Day 1 – Arrive at the international airport in Sri Lanka, head to Negombo (10-15 min drive). Spend the night in Negombo.
      Day 2 – Drive from Negombo to Kandy (2-3 hours). Do some sightseeing in Kandy (the Tooth Temple, see a dance show which starts around 17:30 o`clock), spend the night in Kandy.
      Day 3 – Drive from Kandy to Sigiriya (2-3 hours, climb the Lion Rock, see the cave temple in Dambulla on the way to Sigiriya). Drive up to Polonnaruwa (1-2 hour) in the afternoon. Spend the night in Polonnaruwa.
      Day 4 – Go sightseeing in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa. Spend another night in Polonnaruwa (the ancient city/ temples closes at 18:00), or drive back to Kandy in the evening if you have the energy.
      Day 5 – Drive back to Kandy (3-4 hours) or to Nuwara Eliya (4-5 hours) and see the old British Ceylon tea capital and tea plantations.
      Day 6 – Spend the day in Nuwara Eliya. Have high tea at The Grand Hotel, it is great! Go for a walk on the tea plantations.
      Day 7 – From Nuwara Eliya (the train station is called Nanuoya, a 15 min tuk-tuk/taxi drive from downtown of Nuwara Eliya), you can take the train to Ella (if you want to experience the old train system that the British built). Spend the night in Ella.
      Day 8 – Explore the small village Ella, hike Little Adams peak. Spend another night in Ella, or drive south in the evening and spend the night in a town near one of the national parks. You can also stay a night at a national park.
      Day 9 – Drive south and go on a safari-trip in one of the national parks (Yala or Udawalawe, we liked Yala best as it is bigger and not so crowded, and has a beautiful coastline). After the safari, drive south to a beach place (Tangalla, Mirissa or Bentota).
      Day 10 – 14 – Beach time in Tangalla, Mirissa or Bentota (or all of them). Do a day-trip to Galle, the old Portuguese city, it is awesome!

      You can cut some of these places out, of course, so that you get more days at the beach or a longer safari-trip (two days). You can, for instance, do either Nuwara Eliya OR Ella, not both. Colombo is not that great of a city, in my opinion, that’s why I cut it out from this itinerary. But you can spend your last night in Colombo if you want to see the city. Colombo is a 1-2 hour drive from the airport, depending on the traffic. So if you have a very early flight home, you should rather spend your last night in Negombo since it is so close to the airport.

      Hope this gave you some ideas on how to plan your itinerary. Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure it will be awesome!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  79. Dear Maria,

    Thank you very much for such great plan and for sharing your memories and for inspiration to visit this country.

    I couldn’t managed to find how to get from Yala National Park to Ella, then – from SIgiriya to Polonnaruwa and from Polonnaruwa to Negombo. Could you, please, advise me how i can get the bus or, perhaps, taxi… I am lost.

    Thank you very much.

    Sincerely,
    Olga

    Reply
    • Hi Olga,

      Thank you! There are no trains between these places that you mention. The best option is to hire a car with a driver. It is easy to find, just ask the hotel you are staying at as they have a list of drivers to pick from.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Alex,

      Thank you so much! Glad to be of help.

      Your itinerary looks great! It is busy but doable. You should hire a car and a driver in order to get as quick as possible between these places. You will, however, only get one night at each place, some places two nights.

      You don`t say what time of year you are visiting Sri Lanka. Arugam Bay is in another climate zone than the south coast and the Hill Country. Arugam Bay has nice weather in May – August, while this is the rainy season at the west and south coast plus the Hill Country. December – March has the best weather in the south, west, and Hill Country.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  80. Hi Maria,
    Thank you for your valuable info on Sri Lanka as well as your blog to encourage others to discuss their itineraries and experiences. I just wondered if you could have a quick look at my itinerary for July 2018. We are travelling for 2 weeks, plan to hire a driver. We are a family of 5. 2 adults, 18, 16, 14.
    Day 1 Negondo
    Day 2 Kandy
    Day 3/4 Nuwarra Eliya – Train to Ella
    Day 5 Ella
    Day 6/7 Undawala – safari
    Day 8/9/10 Passikuda
    Day 11 Sigirya
    Day 12 Dambulla
    Day 13 Negombo

    I know I’m missing Galle and south coast but I was trying to incorporate some beachtime on the East coast where it is meant to be drier.

    Looking forward to any suggestions.

    Thanks Sarah

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our article could be of help to you when planning your family trip to Sri Lanka!

      Your itinerary looks great! Good idea to have some beach time on the east coast since this has no rainy season in July.

      If you want shorter driving time, you could skip the Udawalawa National Park and instead do the safari in Minneriya National Park just outside of Sigiriya. This will save you some hours in a car as you don`t have to drive that far south in Sri Lanka:
      Day 1 – Negombo
      Day 2 – Kandy
      Day 3/4 – Nuwara Eliya, train to Ella
      Day 5 – Ella
      Day 6/7/8/9 – Passikuda Beach
      Day 10 – Minneriya National Park (Safari)
      Day 11 – Sigiriya
      Day 12 – Dambulla
      Day 13 – Negombo

      Minneriya NP is the best place in Sri Lanka to see wild elephants. Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in July!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Mandy,

      Wow, thanks a million! You made my day! 🙂 So happy to hear that you like our background map, thank you so much!

      Happy travels! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  81. Hi Maria,

    I do not normally read travel blogs but your blog is so reader friendly and as people have mentioned before I would say the same that the map on the side made it so interesting.

    Me and my husband are going to Sri Lanka in May for 18 nights. We both are very chilled out, easy going and adventurous. We both would love to spend relaxed beach 4 nights at least ideally at the end of the trip and would love to do safari for sure.

    I would be grateful for your feedback to whether if the above itinerary suggested by you would work or not as I have read that it rains in south in May. I have heard that if travelling in May then it is a good idea to cover north east Srilanka to avoid rains. I love to hear from you if you are able to help?

    Reply
    • Hi Divya,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that you like our scrolling map 🙂

      Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in May! The weather might not be the best on the south and west coasts, also in the Hill Country inland, as the Yala monsoon season normally starts in May and lasts till August. The weather is normally best in the north and east part of Sri Lanka in May.

      So Colombo and Negombo will be ok to visit in May, but not Mirissa, Galle, and Tangalle. Safari in Yala National Park should be fine in May. Nuwara Eliya, Ella, and Kandy might be ok, it depends on how early the monsoon season arrives this year. Also, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa will most likely be sunny and nice.

      If you want some beach time with guaranteed sunny weather, you should head over to the east coast to for instance Trincomalee or Arugam Bay area.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in May!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  82. Hi Maria,

    Loved your blog, the suggestions are pretty good here.
    I am planning a visit to SL in June first week, would you suggest the places which we should cover given the monsoon would have hit the island by then!?

    Reply
    • Hi Saumyata,

      Thank you so much! In June the East Coast and North part of Sri Lanka usually has the best weather. If you want some beach time, Arugam Bay is nice and popular and is good for surfing. Further north on the east coast are some really nice beaches north of Batticaloa, called Kalkudah Bay. The beaches around Trincomalee are also beautiful.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in June! 🙂

      -Maria.

      Reply
  83. Thank you for your detailed itinerary and ideas .
    I am planning on travelling this Dec and Jan. 2018
    If you were to spend Christmas and New Year in Sri Lanka where would you recommend. We are looking at Air BnB for both periods. I was thinking Beach for Christmas and Highlands for New Year or would you swap these around?

    Reply
    • Hi Samantha,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you that are planning on spending Christmas and New Year in Sri Lanka this year! I agree, spending Christmas at a beach place and New Year in the Highlands sounds like a great idea! I`m sure it will be an amazing and memorable Christmas and New Years Eve!

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  84. Thank you so much for this!
    I am planning on travelling to Sri lanka in December with my husband and 3 children. They will be 10, 7 and 5 and are pretty used to travelling about on a budget. Would you think this trip would be suitable for children of this age? We went to India 2 years ago with them, but stuck to quiet, chilled out beaches and the odd trip out to busy markets and things.
    If there are any other top tips for families or beaches that we should visit, please do let me know.
    Many thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Sally,

      Thank you! Yes, I would say that this itinerary is suitable for children. The only thing might be that it is a bit hectic, so you might want to cut for instance Polonnaruwa and maybe Sigiriya too as it is a bit “out of the way” and takes a lot of hours in the car to get there. The ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa might be a bit boring for the kids too.

      The train trip from Ella to Kandy takes 7-8 hours, which might be a bit too long for the five-year-old? If you want to take the train in Sri Lanka, the train trip from Colombo to Galle, or Kandy – Colombo (they are both about 3 hours long) might be better for the children. Or you can take the train from Ella, but jump off at for instance Nanu Oya (and visit Nuwara Eliya), and go by car from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy.

      As for beaches, the Bentota Beach is also great and family-friendly, but the ones we have recommended here in the post (Mirissa, Negombo, and Tangalle) should be ok for children too. Although Tangalle has a lot of waves and strong underwater currents so swimming is not allowed. An alternative can be Unawatuna which is very popular among families and have no waves.

      You should definitely go on a safari trip in either Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park, the children will love it! The Elephant Orphanage outside of Kandy is also great for children.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka with your family! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country. We have unfortunately not been to India yet, hope to get there one day.

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  85. Hi Maria, I’m not sure if you’ve discussed this in your comments, but if someone had longer than 2 weeks then a trip north to Jaffna is now possible. The traveller infrastructure is picking up (more comfortable hotels) but the visitors are still down adding to the charm of that region. Apart from catching a train, taking a car is still a good option as the roads are still quiet compared to the rest of the country.

    Reply
    • Hi Markus,

      Thank you so much for the tip about Jaffna! We have unfortunately not been to the north of Sri Lanka yet, but Jaffna and the north and east area is on our list for our next Sri Lanka trip (hopefully this autumn).

      Happy and safe travels! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  86. Hi. I’ve are planning a trip to Sri Lanka in December this year. I’m a teacher so limited to a short Christmas holiday. Could you let me know if this itinary would work? I’ve reversed it to allow relaxation at the end.

    Day 1 – arrive in Colombo and travel to Polonnaruwa. What is the best way of making this trip and how long does it take? Stay 2 nights in Polonnaruwa.

    Day 3 – visit Sigiriya for day then travel on to Kandy. Stay 2 nights in Kandy.

    Day 5 – train ride from Kandy to Ella. Is this the same scenic route as Ella to Kandy? Stay 2 nights in Ella.

    Day 7 – travel to safari. Would this be possible to travel in morning, safari in afternoon? Then go on to beach resort. Spend 4 nights at various beaches along south coast.

    Day 11- travel to Galle. Spend 1 night in Galle.

    Day 12 – travel to Colombo for flight home.

    Please let me know what you think.

    Thanks,

    Rachael

    Reply
    • Hi Rachael,

      Your itinerary looks great and would absolutely work! You should hire a car and driver to get around Sri Lanka as you have limited time and the train is very slow and only covers a small part of Sri Lanka.

      The drive from Colombo International Airport to Polonnaruwa takes about 5 hours depending on the traffic. The train trip, on the other hand, takes 7 hours, plus you have to add the one hour drive from the airport into Colombo city, so altogether 8-9 hours.

      Yes, the train trip from Kandy to Ella is the same scenic route as we did (Ella – Kandy), it is the same train tracks.

      On day 7, you can go from Ella to Udawalawe National Park (3 hours drive) or to Yala National Park (3 hours) and do an afternoon safari trip. There are two safaris each day at Udawalawe, the afternoon one is from 15:00 – 18:00 (we did this). At Yala there are two safaris each day, 06:00 in the morning and 14:00 in the afternoon (we did the afternoon one).

      After the safari on day 7 you can drive out to the coast to a beach hotel. We went from Ella in the morning, did the afternoon safari at Udawalawe National Park, and drove to Mirissa in the evening. The drive from Udawalawe to Mirissa took about 3-4 hours. So day 7 will be a long day but is totally doable.

      If you want to stay at a beach close to the airport on your last night, I recommend Negombo as it is only a 15 min drive from the airport.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in December!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  87. Hi Maria,

    This itinerary looks great and is so helpful for our upcoming honeymoon in December! Would you recommend hiring a driver before you arrive though? I’m worried we will get ripped off at the airport as we want to go straight to Kandy from Columbo. Also, if you hire a driver to take you from place to place but want to stop along the way to visit somewhere, do they look after your luggage for you? Just worrying about travelling with a suitcase!

    Thanks so much!
    Faye

    Reply
  88. Hi Faye,

    Thank you so much! Congrats on your wedding and so cool that you have chosen Sri Lanka as your honeymoon destination! You will love this beautiful country!

    We have never prebooked our drivers when we have been to Sri Lanka, and have usually asked the hotels that we stayed at to find us a driver. The hotels have lists of drivers to choose from, so that has never been a problem.

    If you want to prebook a driver, at least for your first drive from the airport to Kandy, I really recommend Sadun, the driver that we had on our last Sri Lanka trip. He is great and is both a driver and guide and speaks good English. He has a tour company called Nature Trails Knuckles. He lives in Kandy and his email is: naturetrailsknuckles@gmail.com.

    Yes, our drivers have always looked after our luggage while we stopped to visit somewhere, we have never had any problems with this. They always lock the car and stay somewhere near the car to watch the luggage.

    Have a wonderful honeymoon in Sri Lanka in December!! I`m sure it will be a great and memorable trip!

    All the best,
    Maria

    Reply
  89. Great blog, and loved the layout! Thanks a lot for putting all this together! I’m planning to head to Sri Lanka within a week, it’s super last minute, so this was very helpful!
    Just a quick question: would you be able to share some prices for the car with driver / taxi for the long trips? I imagine hotels would be organizing this, but it’d be very helpful to have an idea of the prices! (e.g. Tangalle to Hala; Kandy to Sigiriya / Polonnaruwa).

    Thanks so much!
    Charlotte

    Reply
    • Hi Charlotte,

      Thank you so much! Really appreciate hearing that our blog could be of help to you when planning your spontaneous trip to Sri Lanka!

      Hmm, I don´t remember excactly how much we paid for the driver/car from Kandy to Sigiriya/ Polonnaruwa. But we did a two week trip around Sri Lanka with a driver/guide last year, and we paid him approximately 10 000 rupees (= us$ 63) each day (we were four people). But he drove us around every day, from morning until evening. So it really depends on how long the trip is and if you stop along the way so that the driver must sit in the car and wait for you (which he typically will be doing while you climb Sigiriya). Sorry that I could not be of more help.

      Have an awesome time in Sri Lanka! Head to the east coast if it rains a lot on the west/ south coast.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  90. For en fantastisk fint designet post (med kartet++) og gjennomført godt innhold 🙂
    Har vært innom bloggen deres før, men første gang jeg ser denne! Veldig imponerende!

    Og gøy å lese om andre som liker mitt “nye hjemland” 🙂

    – Det eneste som mangler er at dere tar turen innom oss i Hikkaduwa også1
    Skal dere til Sri Lanka igjen, så håper jeg derfor dere tar kontakt med meg først:
    info@norlankatravels.com

    Håper å lese mer om Sri Lanka fra dere!

    Reply
    • Hei Merete,

      Tusen takk! Så artig å høre fra deg! Har lest om deg på bloggen til Ingeborg (Hamaca) :). Ja vi har også falt pladask for Sri Lanka! Både naturen, dyrelivet og maten, men ikke minst menneskene er fantastiske! Sri Lanka er blitt vårt favorittland så vi kommer garantert tilbake, forhåpentligvis i løpet av høsten eller på nyåret. Hadde absolutt vært artig og treffes i Sri Lanka!

      Tusen takk for kommentaren og kos deg videre i Sri Lanka! Vi er hjemme i Tromsø nå, men reiser tilbake til Asia og Bangkok i september.

      Hilsen Maria

      Reply
  91. Hi Maria,

    Our holiday in Sri Lanka is almost over and we are chilling in Bentota for a few days before flying home.

    On your recommendation, we booked Sadun as our driver for a ten day sightseeing tour. We are very happy with his service. He was a careful driver and very professional and polite. We were very happy with his suggestions for sight seeing stops and restaurants on our travels and we are happy to endorse your recommendation of his driving services.

    His rates were very reasonable.

    Thanks for the tip!

    Best wishes

    Elizabeth

    Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that Sadun took good care of you and drove you safely around Sri Lanka! He is such a great guy. Thank you so much for commenting!

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  92. Hi Maria,
    I’m looking to go to Sri Lanka with my boyfriend in October for 2 weeks, for a half travel/ half chill holiday.
    I just wondered, as you’ve been back a few times now, and had lots of recommendations from other people over the past 2 years, would you perhaps suggest a different trip for 2 weeks now from your original? Or are there any new places you would suggest?
    Any advice would be fab.
    Thanks!
    Lara

    Reply
    • Hi Lara,

      Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka in October! October is a shoulder season where there still might be a little bit of rain on the southwest and south coast, but not that much. It will also be less crowded as the high season has not yet started so you can find good prices on accommodations.

      We constantly update this Sri Lanka Itinerary, so this is our recommended places to visit. Nuwara Eliya is our newest addition to this itinerary (it is an alternative to Ella, although we still prefer Ella over Nuwara Eliya as the hiking is better there). We have also added Bentota (an alternative to Mirissa) since we visited Sri Lanka for the first time in 2014.

      If I were to go to Sri Lanka for the first time now, the places in this article are the ones I would visit.

      For travelers that visit Sri Lanka in the Yala monsoon season (May to August), however, I would recommend that they change the beach places on the southwest and south coast (Mirissa and Tangalle) with beaches on the east coast (Arugam Bay or Trincomalee area). The weather is best in the North and on the East Coast from May to August.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in October with your boyfriend! You will love this beautiful island! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  93. Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for putting this blog together! It has made our itinerary planning a lot easier, especially with the interactive map, i can really visualise where everything is! I will be flying out to Sri Lanka on the 30th Aug for two weeks and we are so excited. We are group of three 23 year old’s so we’re looking to combine both culture and energetic nightlife, we are big fan of sea life etc. I have put together an itinerary for the two weeks we are there, please could you have a quick look through and give us any recommendations on anything we have added, or anything you wouldn’t recommend etc. Is this route doable?

    31st Aug | Colombo |One day exploring the city, followed by a night out
    01st Sep |Sigiriya | 4 hours from Colombo – Lion Rock, is a gigantic rock (200 meters high) located in the middle of the jungle + Caves of dembualla on the way to Lion Rock (maybe)
    2nd Sep | Kandy| 2.30 hours from Sigirya – Sacred tooth relic that house’s Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic and some chilling
    3rd Sep |Kandy | Botanical garden or maybe do adams peak
    4th Sep | Ella |7 hour trip to Ella from Kandy (most scenic train journey in Sri Lanka)
    5th Sep | Ella | Tea plantations
    6th Sep | Yala National Park | 3 hour trip from Ella to Yalla – afternoon Safari with wild elephants, plenty of deer, crocodiles, buffaloes, wild pigs, monkeys, and lots of colorful birds
    7th Sep | Mirissa | 4.5 hour trip from Yala – Surfing and relaxing – lots of restaurants serving fresh seafood
    8th Sep | Mirissa | Whale safari and chilling + going out probably
    9th Sep |Mirissa | Snorkling/surfing and chilling
    10th Sep |Hikkaduwa | 1.5 hour trip from Mirissa – Scuba diving? + night out probably spesh if its Rachels last night
    11th Sep | Hikkaduwa |Sea turtle rescue and chilling + night out probably
    12th Sep | Gaelle | Relaxing, day trip to Gaelle and either stay there or head back to Hikkaduwa
    13th Sep |Negombo | 15 mins from the airport and we have early flight, so it makes sense, also meant to have really nice beach
    14th Sep | 5:30am flight back to England | The end 🙁

    Thank you so much in advance.

    Reply
    • Hi Kit,

      Thank you so much! So sorry for my late reply! I caught a tropical disease in Bali in July and have been really sick (so watch out for the mosquitoes in Sri Lanka!). You are probably on your way to Sri Lanka right now.

      Your itinerary looks great! It is absolutely doable and is the perfect mix of city, beach, jungle, wildlife, and Sri Lankan culture.

      My only remark is the climb to Adams Peak from Kandy on the 3rd of September. It takes 3-4 hours to drive from Kandy to where you start climbing. Dalhousie is the best place to stay and start the climb. It is normal to start the climb in the night, around 02:00, in order to reach the top at sunrise as the climb up takes 2,5 – 4 hours. Another hiking option could be the smaller Little Adams Peak in Ella. It is a nice walk with great views.

      Have a great time in Sri Lanka! You will love this beautiful country and its friendly people!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  94. Hi Maria

    Myself and a friend are visiting Sri Lanka in a few weeks time and we wondering what is the appropriate dress code? We’ve read a few different things and understand we will need to cover our shoulders and knees in some areas but would we be able to wear our swimsuits on the public beaches? Or wonder about certain places in shorts and t-shirts?

    Thanks
    Megan

    Reply
    • Hi Megan,

      So cool that you are heading to Sri Lanka in a few weeks time! You will love this beautiful country!

      Sri Lanka is not a Muslim/ Islamic country, only certain small areas are Muslim (some parts on the east coast), as it is predominately Buddhism. Yes, you can wear a bikini in all beaches in Sri Lanka, and you can wear shorts, skirts, and t-shirts in the streets. But if you plan on visiting temples (in for instance Colombo, Kandy, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and so on), you should wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders.

      Have a wonderful time in Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  95. Hi guys,

    Thank you for such a comprehensive guide and the map is awesome!

    Just wondered how much roughly a driver and guide can be for the journeys?

    We are trying to figure out whether to tour it with a company or sort it out ourselves. It will be our honeymoon though so don’t want to do buses, trains are good though.

    Thanks

    Alex

    Reply
    • Hi Alex,

      Thank you so much! Happy to hear that you like our map! 🙂 Congrats on your wedding! Good choice for your honeymoon! You will love this beautiful and romantic country!

      Last year, when we traveled around Sri Lanka with my parents, we hired a driver for our entire two-week trip. He drove us around the south part of Sri Lanka, roughly this Itinerary, and we paid him around US$100 for a full day of driving/ sightseeing (four people). If he only drove us a couple of hours, we paid him less of course.

      Trains are very cheap, only a few US dollars for a 7-hour train trip. Even the 1st class is really cheap.

      Have a great honeymoon trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  96. Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for this amazing blog which has been so helpful to us in pulling together our Sri Lanka itinerary. My husband and I will be doing a similar trip to yours, with a few minor tweaks, over two and a half weeks in November. I am the sort of person who likes to have everything organised in advance so I have booked all of our hotels already. My question is about travel between them. For the shorter trips like Galle to Mirissa I’m happy that we could just get a taxi or tuk-tuk on the day but for the longer trips, especially the ones where we want to stop en route like Tangalle to Ella via Yala and Kandy to Polonnaruwa via Sigiriya, do you think we should be contacting our hotels to get their help in booking drivers in advance? In particular for the safari at Yala do we need to book in advance?

    Thanks,

    Lisa

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you so much! There are trains some places in Ella, like along the south-west coast (from Colombo, past Galle, Mirissa, and down south to Matara). You can also take the train from Colombo to Kandy, and from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and Ella. Colombo to Polonnaruwa is also a stretch that has the train.

      But as you say, for places where you want to stop en route you have to rent a car/ driver. You will save time and be able to stop along the way and have some truly unique experiences. So I really recommend that you book a driver.

      All hotels have a list of drivers and tour companies so they can easily find you one. We did that on our first Sri Lanka trip in 2014. We had a new driver for each of our transport days, and it was no problem asking for one at the hotels we stayed at. We just asked for a driver at the hotel reception the day before or a couple of days ahead of our departure to the next place.

      On our Sri Lanka trip last year, with my parents, we booked a driver that drove us around the south part of Sri Lanka for ten days or so. We accidentally met him in Kandy and he is an excellent driver and guide. He has been a tour guide in Sri Lanka for 25 years. His name is Sadun, and he has his own tour guide company: http://www.naturetrailsknucklestours.com. He does all kinds of sightseeing trips and will happily show you all the highlights of Sri Lanka.

      You don´t have to book the Safari (tickets, safari guide and so) ahead. They have lots of safari guides and drivers at Yala that will guide you around the park. But, of course, you have to get to the Safari yourself, have your driver drop you off at the gate where you buy tickets and get on a safari car.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in November together with your husband! I`m sure you will love this wonderful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  97. Just considering getting married in Sri Lanka on the beach. Would love to do a bit of a tour of the country as well. Is car hire to drive ourselves an option and can you recommend any beautiful beaches to get married?!
    This blog is great. Thanks for all the info!

    Reply
    • Hi Rhiain,

      Wow, congrats on the marriage! So cool that you are planning on getting married on a beach in Sri Lanka! That is soooo romantic! 🙂

      There are so many stunning beaches in Sri Lanka so you have many to choose from. We loved Bentota Beach, Mirrisa Beach, and Tangalle Beach.

      Hmm, I would not recommend driving yourself unless you are familiar with driving in other similar countries. The traffic is crazy in Sri Lanka and very different from Europe, Australia, and the USA for instance.

      Good luck with organizing your perfect beach wedding in Sri Lanka! All the best!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Thank you so much. I have found a wedding planner I’d like to use and I seem to be leaning towards Hikkaduwa. Is September a good time of year to visit that part of the island?

        Reply
        • Hi Rhiain,

          The main southwest (“Yala”) monsoon brings rain to the west and southwest coasts (Hikkaduwa) and the inland Hill Country from April/May to September (wettest from April to June).

          I would say that September is an OK time to visit the Hikkaduwa-area as it is at the very end of the rainy season. You might still get some rain, but mostly during the nights.

          Have a fantastic wedding in Hikkaduwa in September! I`m sure it will be wonderful!

          -Maria-

          Reply
          • Hello again. After a long time we will finally be getting married in Sri Lanka! We are booked for Feb 2020. We have to be in the country for 4 days before the ceremony. Can you recommend anywhere between the airport and Kosgoda to pay a visit? I’m not keen on sending the week before the wedding in columbo. Thank you!

          • Hi Rhiain,

            Awesome that you are getting married in Sri Lanka next February! Yay! Congrats! I’m sure it will be a fantastic and romantic wedding!

            I love Bentota, which is located only a 15 min drive north of Kosgoda (one way). Bentota Beach (or Ventura Beach as it is officially called) is a great beach, very peaceful and huge with soft white sand and great for swimming.

            Hikkaduwa is also a very nice beach town with a wonderful white sandy beach. It takes about 30 min to drive from Kosgoda to Hikkaduwa (one way).

            And you should definitely visit the old Portuguese town Galle! Either for a day-trip or spend a night or two in Galle. Galle is located about a 1-hour drive south of Kosgoda (one way).

            We stayed a night at The Galle Fort Hotel in Galle on our last Sri Lanka trip and it was amazing! The Galle Fort Hotel is an old colonial-style hotel. It is one of the oldest buildings in Galle dating back to the Portuguese Ceylon period (1505-1658), now beautifully restored and renovated. The rooms are amazing and very romantic, the pool wonderful, and the staff so welcoming and service-oriented. It is one of our favorite hotels in Sri Lanka and the perfect place to stay when getting married.

            Have a great trip Sri Lanka, and a fantastic wedding in Kosgoda!

            -Maria-

  98. Hi Maria!
    Wow, such an amazing website and article! I love your descriptions and photos!!!Also, I am impressed how you answered to all of the comments, and help the travelers!
    I was wandering, perhaps you could also help me and my sister to decide which tour to take.
    Although it seems like most of the things you mentioned are covered, I am not sure which is the best one.
    We are going for a round trip with agency in December (individual tour with a local English speaking guide).
    First option is:
    Day 1 • flight to Colombo
    Day 2 • Wattala
    Day 3 • Anuradhapura
    Day 4 • Anuradhapura
    Day 5 • Sigiriya-Polonnaruwa
    Day 6 • Polonnaruwa
    Day 8 • Kandy
    Day 9 • Kandy
    Day 10 • Nuwara Eliya-Bandarawela (drawback here is that trein ride is from Kandy to Nanu Oya, and from Nanu Oya to Ella)
    Day 11 • Embilipitiya (possibility to visit safari park Uda Walawe and/or Yala)
    Day 12 to 14 • Galle-Negombo / 3 nights at Koggala beach
    Day 15 • day at Koggala
    Day 16 • return
    And the other option is somewhat shorter:
    Day 1: Airport-Anuradhapura-Dambulla
    Day 2: Dambulla-Sigiriya-Polonnaruwa-Dambulla
    Day 3: Dambulla –Temple of tooth- Kandy
    Day 4: Kandy – Pinawwala- Kandy
    Day 5: Kandy – Nuwara Eliya
    Day 6: Nuwara Eliya to Ella (trein) – Yala
    Day 7: Yala, National park
    Day 08- Day10: 3 nights at hotel at Yala beach
    Day 11: Return

    And if you have any additional remark, it is more than welcome!
    Thank you so much in advance!!!

    Reply
    • Hi Jelena,

      Thank you so much!! Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka with your sister in December! You will love this amazing country!

      Both your itinerary options look great, and both are doable. The first one is a bit busy and includes much driving almost every day, so it depends on how much you want to travel around and how much you want to relax and stay in each place.

      In option one, day 10: You can take the train from Nuwara Eliya to Bandarawela. The train goes from Kandy to Badulla (and the other way around) and has many stops along the way where passengers can jump off and on. So you can jump on the train at Nanuoya Train Station (a 10-min taxi drive from downtown Nuwara Eliya) and get off at Bandarawela Train Station if you want. Check the train schedule here (fill in Start Station: Nanuoya, End Station: Bandarawela). There are three Express Trains per day, and the train ride takes about two hours between Nuwara Eliya/ Nanuoya and Bandarawela.

      I think I would have done either Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa and not both as they are a bit similar and you are short on time. But if you are very interested in ancient temples and the old history of Sri Lanka, then you should definitely visit both places. You should have some days at the beach to relax a bit and enjoy some sun and go for a swim. 🙂 If you want to cut down on the driving, you can visit a national park further north, close to Polonnaruwa instead of Yala or Udawalawe NP.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka in December!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  99. Hi Maria,
    So glad I found this blog and your itinerary – I’ve now thrown mine out!!

    6 of us (4 in their 20’s & us two in our 50’s – all very fit!) have 11 days over Christmas & New Year with a beach base in Hikkaduwa.

    Any tips on the Ella/Kandy train as to which side of the train to sit on (or it doesn’t matter?). We will go 1st but hope to wander around in the train and soak up the atmosphere and occasional doorway for hanging out of)! Here’s a rough itinerary, any tips will be great:

    Day 1: Chill in Hikkaduwa (they all fly for 14 hours to get there and arrive midnight the night before & meet me there)
    Day 2: to Yala N/P afternoon safari and overnight inside the park
    Day 3: Xmas Day – morning safari and then head to Ella

    Day 4: ???? Ella to either Nuwara Eliya or all the way to Kandy – then overnight in either one?????

    Day 5: Head back from either Nuwara Eliya or Kandy to Hikkaduwa after a wander around
    Day 6: Chill and surf or even in Galle for the day/evening
    Day 7: to Mirissa and whale watching (a ‘must do’ for my daughter)
    Day 8: ???
    Day 9: ?? in the lead up to New Years Eve
    Day 10: recovery from New Years 🙂
    Day 11: back to Colombo and head back to reality.

    Any tips will be greatly appreciated (esp. for the train side of it & also for Days 8 & 9) or even maybe keep going either Kandy further north/east for a day or so?

    Any help is good help.

    PS. Love the blogs and esp the map. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that you find our Sri Lanka info useful when planning your trip and that you like our map, thanks! 🙂

      Your itinerary looks great! Good idea to relax at the beach the first day as everybody will be exhausted after the long flight.

      Kandy or Nuwara Eliya
      I personally like Nuwara Eliya better than Kandy. Kandy is a bigger city than Nuwara Eliya and chaotic and crowded, while Nuwara Eliya has more charm and laid-back vibe to it. Nuwara Eliya is pretty cold as it is high up in the mountains, especially at night when it can get below zero, so bring a warm jacket and scarf.

      The train trip from Ella to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Train Station), only takes about 2,5 hours while the full train ride from Ella to Kandy takes 7 hours. So you will save a lot of time by opting for Nuwara Eliya instead of Kandy.

      I recommend that you pre-book train tickets online as this train ride is extremely popular and usually gets fully booked. You can buy train tickets here.

      But if you want to go to Kandy, then you should have an extra day or two in the Kandy-area and do a day trip to visit the Dambulla Caves and climb Sigiriya Rock (can be done on the same trip as they are close to each other), and visit the Elephant Orphanage. But that means you will not have that much relaxing beach-time at the end of your trip, so it depends on what you prefer the most.

      You can find our recommended what to do in Kandy guide here, and what to do in Nuwara Eliya guide here.

      As for day 8 and 9, if you want to see other beaches than Hikkaduwa, we love Tangalla Beach. Weligama Beach is also great for surfing, snorkeling, and diving. You can also visit Unawatuna Beach which is very popular among tourists (can be crowded, however) and has plenty of nice cafes, shops, and restaurants.

      Since your daughter like animals, you should consider visiting the Sea Turtle Rescue Hatchery place that is in Hikkaduwa. It is open every day from 07:30 until 18:00. The baby sea turtles are so cute! 🙂

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  100. Hi Maria,

    thank you so much for such an amazing article. I am currently doing some research as I am ending 4 months travelling with 2 weeks in sri lanka. I was wondering if you had any advice on our route, we will not want to be doing too much travelling around as we were hoping to have a relaxingish end to the travels. The main areas from your route I would like to go to are, sigiriya rock, the kandy to ella train journey, little adams walk in ella, the national park, and to have some time relaxing on the beach – by the sounds of your article tangelle is the best place for this?

    we arrive in Colombo late on 25th of march and leave on the 7th of april. I am conscious my route may not be practical as it will be long journeys in cars to get to places, and what to do about sigiriya rock, is it possible to do a day trip there from kandy?

    thank you so much for your help

    Reply
    • Hi Charlotte,

      Thank you so much! Wow, lucky you that have been traveling for 4 months! Sri Lanka is the perfect place to round off such a long trip as it has both stunning beaches which is great for relaxing, plenty of cultural sights, wild animals, and beautiful nature and mountains.

      An itinerary for you could be:

      25th of March: Drive from Colombo International Airport to Kandy (a 3-hour drive). Or spend the first night in Negombo which is right by the airport if you are tired after a long flight. 3 nights in Kandy.
      26: Kandy (sightseeing around the city + Elephant Orphanage)
      27: Day trip to Dambulla Cave Temple and Sigiriya Rock (it is on the same road). Back to Kandy for the night.
      28: Train trip from Kandy to Ella (7-hour train ride). Book your train tickets here in advance as the train usually gets fully booked. 2 nights in Ella.
      29: Ella (Walk Little Adams Peak, visit the Nine Archers Bridge)
      30: Drive to Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park (a 3-4 hours drive to either of them). Go for an afternoon safari in the park, from around 14:00 – 17:00 (sunset). In the evening drive to a beach destination, for instance, Tangalle.
      31-7th of April: Beach-time!! Do a day trip to Galle one of these days.

      Since you have one week at the beach, you can, for instance, visit more than just one beach. The southwest coast of Sri Lanka is packed with beaches and they are close to each other so you can easily do day trips to other beaches or move to another hotel. We like Tangalle, Mirissa, and Bentota.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!! Enjoy the last two weeks of your long trip!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  101. Lol, I couldn’t help laughing at the tuk-tuks who keep following you around until you hire them! Probably in certain locations around the country I’m guessing. Inside the largest capital city: Colombo, and suburbs, it’s not exactly the case.

    Reply
    • Hehe, yeah the tuk-tuk drivers in Colombo are pretty intense and pushy. ? ? But we love tuk-tuks and it is the perfect way to go sightseeing around in Colombo or to get from one place to the other. The tuk-tuk drivers are also excellent guides and know the city inside out.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  102. Thank you! This is just great! We travel around the world with a toddler and will spend 2 weeks in Sri Lanka soon. I was planning for something similar, but with less time on the coast, and more time in the ancient cities area. It’s great that I found all this information in the same place!

    Reply
    • Hi Alina,

      Thank you so much! Happy to hear that you find our itinerary inspiring when planning your upcoming Sri Lanka trip! Wow, sounds awesome (and a bit challenging) to travel around the world with a baby!

      The Ancient Cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are great but extremely hot so bring and drink a lot of water and wear some hats/ caps. There are no cafes or kiosks inside these ancient cities.

      Have a fantastic time in Sri Lanka and enjoy the ancient cities!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  103. Just wanted to say I absolutely LOVE the interface of your website! What an amazing post! There is so much to do in Sri Lanka and we are in planning phase right now and this is so helpful…. Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Stacey,

      Thanks a million!! Your great comment made my day! 🙂

      Have an amazing trip to Sri Lanka and good luck with all the planning! You will love this stunning country and its welcoming people!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Glad to hear I made your day 🙂
        We are going travelling for a year next year and planning on flying by the seat of our pants for most of it.
        Is Sri Lanka the type of place we can book homestays / hostels once we are already there or do we need to do much in advance?

        Reply
        • Yes, you can easily book homestays/ hostels once you get to Sri Lanka. We mostly book accommodation once we get to Sri Lanka a couple of days in advance. We usually only have the first couple of nights booked before arriving in Sri Lanka.

          But it might get fully booked at the most popular homestays/ hostels during high season, December – March, on the west and south coast beaches and the Hill Country. But as long as you are not that picky about where to stay, you will always be able to find something. The shoulder seasons, April and September – November, is perfect for traveling around Sri Lanka without a set schedule of accommodation bookings. The prices are also lower at the shoulder seasons.

          -Maria-

          Reply
  104. Just returned from a 3 week trip to Sri Lanka, and had a fantastic time. Our itinerary was based on yours, although with a few tweaks and doing it in reverse. A huge thank you for all of your advice, tips and recommendations without which our holiday would not have been anywhere near as good.

    Highlights included:
    > the train journey between Kandy and Ella,
    > a day trip to Galle from Colombo (also by train),
    > a day trip to Sigiriya from Kandy,
    > the Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya (Kandy),
    > elephants and a leopard at Yala,
    > Bundala National Park, bird reserve (day trip from Tangalle)
    > some excellent food,
    > the most lovely, kind and friendly people everywhere we went.

    Our itinerary:

    2 nights in Negombo. Stayed at a lovely guesthouse, Villa Dominikku. Lords restaurant in town was some of the best food we had all holiday.

    3 nights in Colombo. Fairway Colombo. Excellent location.

    4 nights in Kandy. Stayed at the Officer’s Mess, about 5 miles outside Kandy, great location next to the river. Lovely food.

    5 nights at the Ravana Heights in Ella. Thank you so much for the recommendation. Great place, great views and such lovely people and food.

    2 nights in a chalet at Kele Yala for safari trips. Another good find, and excellent jeep safaris arranged by the property.

    6 nights in Tangalle. Stayed at Buckingham Place, a unique, intimate first class boutique resort. A fantastic place to end a great holiday. Even more lovely food.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks a million for your awesome comment and great experiences and tips from your trip to Sri Lanka! Your comment made my day!

      Wooooow, I can´t believe that you saw a leopard in Yala NP!!!! Lucky you! Leopards are extremely rare and shy, and we have unfortunately never seen one even though we have done many safari trips to different national parks in Sri Lanka. One day I hope we get to see one too, and hopefully take a picture of it.

      Great to hear that you had a nice stay at Fairway Hotel in Colombo and Ravana Heights Hotel in Ella. Thanks for the other hotel tips, we will definitely check them out on our next trip to Sri Lanka, hopefully in April/May next year. We will also visit Bundala National Park when we go to Tangalle as we have not been to this National Park yet. We will probably have to buy a better and bigger zoom lens for our cameras before heading there though to have any chance of taking photos of those beautiful birds. 😉

      Thanks again for your great tips and recommendations! Really appreciate it!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  105. Hi Maria,

    We loved your blog and we too are going to visit Sri Lanka in February and are following your itinerary. If we wanted to go to Adams Peek which place are we best suited to go from? Ella or Kandy?

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Thank you so much!

      Where to start the hike to Adam´s Peak
      Dalhousie is the best place to start the 7 km climb up to Adam´s Peak. Dalhousie is located 33 km southwest of Hatton, on the Colombo-Kandy-Nuwara Eliya railway and road. The closest railway station to Dalhousie is Hatton Station.

      It is easiest to get to Dalhousie from Kandy (about a 3-hour drive) or from Nuwara Eliya (about a 2,5-hour drive). It takes about 5 hours to drive to Dalhousie from Ella.

      During the pilgrim season (December – May), there are buses from Kandy (from the Goods Shed bus station) to Dalhousie, as well as from Nuwara Eliya and Colombo. Or you will have to go to Hatton first (by train, bus or car), and then take a tuk-tuk/ taxi to Dalhousie (about a 1-hour taxi ride from Hatton).

      All trains from Kandy Station to Nanu Oya Station (the closest station to Nuwara Eliya), or the other way around, stop in Hatton. From there you can take a taxi/ tuk-tuk to Dalhousie. The train from Kandy to Hatton takes about 2,5 hours, while the train from Nanu Oya to Hatton takes about 2 hours. You can check the train schedule here.

      The climb up to Adam´s Peak
      You can start the climb just after dark, but then you have to bring a sleeping bag and stay the night at the top. It is most common to start the climb around 02 a.m. in the night.

      You walk 7 km/ 5200 steps to the top, and it takes between 2,5 and 4 hours to reach the top depending on how many other people are doing the climb on the same day as you. You should avoid the weekends as the walking path is packed with locals during weekends, and January and February are the busiest months. If you start around 02:30 am. you will easily get to the top before dawn (around 06:30 am). There are teahouses all the way to the top where you can buy something to drink and eat.

      What to bring on the climb to Adam´s Peak
      The hardest part of the climb is going down, however, as it is pretty hard on the knees. So if you have bad knees, walking poles or a stick will make it the going down part better.

      Wear good and comfortable walking/ running shoes. It is cold at the top before sunrise, so bring warm clothes like a jacket or sweater, a hat/ beanie, and a scarf. And bring socks as you have to take off your shoes at the top and the stone floor is pretty cold. Last but not least, bring plenty of water! A headlamp/ torch might be a good idea as well.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lankan in February and enjoy your climb to Adam´s Peak! I`m sure it will be an adventure!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  106. Thanks again Maria for your Sri Lanka itinerary and for sharing your experiences via this website. It really is a huge help to those of us with travel bucket lists.

    In case any one is interested I have updated my website with some images from our trip to Sri Lanka (see post above from 17 December). The website is https://andrewwainwright.org.uk/

    Reply
    • Wow, L-O-V-E your photos!! Looks like you had an awesome trip to Sri Lanka! Excellent shot of the leopard at Yala NP by the way! Must have been amazing seeing a wild leopard, hope we get to see one too on our next trip to Sri Lanka this spring.

      Happy travels and keep up the good photography work! Looking forward to seeing your photos from your upcoming Japan trip!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  107. Hi Maria
    I have really enjoyed reading your blog and it has put some new ideas into my head.
    We have just booked 18 nights in Sri lanka leaving in February, the itinerary that our travel agent has put together is as follows:
    2 Nights Colombo
    2 nights Kandy
    3 nights Ella
    2 nights Yala safari
    1 night Undawalawa safari
    8 nights Mirissa
    It occurs to me that given the time we have available we could see more? What would your suggestions be? I think 3 days safari maybe too much and we really don`t need 8 days in Mirrissa. Can you help?!
    Best wishes
    Liza

    Reply
    • Hi Liza,

      Your itinerary looks great! But I agree, with 18 days you can see more of Sri Lanka if you want.

      Three days safari is more than the average visitor to Sri Lanka spend on safari. I think it is enough with Yala OR Udawalawa, not both. I like Yala over Udawalawe as it has a stunning location right by the sea with beautiful sea and beach views. So I recommend that you skip Udawalawe unless you are, of course, big safari fans and want to visit both.

      You can, for instance, add one more night in Kandy and do a day-trip from Kandy to Dambulla Cave Temple and Sigiriya Rock. I love Sigiriya! The climb up is great and the view from the top is awesome! If you want to see the ancient temples of Polonnaruwa, you can after you have climbed Sigiriya Rock, drive up to Polonnaruwa and stay a night or two there. We did that and we really enjoyed our bicycle ride through the old city of Polonnaruwa with the ancient ruins and temples.

      Our favorite beaches on the south/ south-west side of Sri Lanka are Tangalle, Bentota, and Mirissa. So if you think 8 nights in Mirissa is too much, you can, of course, have a couple of nights in Tangalle and Bentota as well.

      While you are in Mirissa, you should do a day trip to Galle, the beautiful old Portuguese city (a 50 min drive from Mirissa one way). And instead of a night in Yala, you can do a day-trip to Yala from Tangalle (a 2-hour drive one way).

      Bentota is also closer to the airport than Mirissa (2-hour drive), so you should end your trip there. But if you have a very early flight back home, you can stay the last night in Negombo which is only a 15-min drive from Colombo International Airport.

      So an alternative itinerary for you could be:

      – 2 nights Colombo
      – 3 nights Kandy (with a day-trip to Dambulla and Sigiriya)/ or 2 nights Kandy + 1 night Polonnaruwa
      – 3 nights Ella
      – 3 nights Tangalle (with a day-trip to Yala National Park and either a morning- or afternoon safari trip)
      – 3 nights Mirissa (with a day-trip to Galle)
      – 3 nights Bentota (or the last night in Negombo, close to the airport)

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in February!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  108. Hi Ella, I am a complete novice and have spent all day researching Shri Lanka and have found your post here very helpful. If you don’t mind I have two questions, do you have information on swimming with the whales? And I tried your link for train tickets from Kandy to Ella and reverse on a number of dates (Feb) and they keep saying train is not available. Do you know why? Thank you. Anita

    Reply
    • Hi Anita,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our recommended Sri Lanka itinerary could be of help to you!

      Whales

      The most popular place to go whale watching is in Mirissa on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Here you can see the planet’s biggest living mammal, blue whales, as well as sperm whales and different sorts of dolphins. You can see whales all year round, but December and April seem to be the peak months. The sea can be a bit rough during the rainy season (May – July) with lots of big waves which can be a bit unpleasant.

      There are many Mirissa-based boat operators that offer whale-watching tours. The tours usually depart from Mirissa around 06:30 am. in the morning, and last from two to seven hours depending on when and where they find whales.

      I don´t think you are allowed to swim with the wales, I have never heard of any tours where you go swimming with the whales. The whales are gigantic, especially the blue whales which are 30 m long and weighing 170 tonnes! So it is not safe to swim with them. And there are international conventions about approaching whales that you should respect. You should for instance never ever touch a whale or be in any physical contact with them. These are wild animals that should not be harassed. So look for tour operators that respect the international conventions and guidelines for approaching whales.

      Train from Kandy to Ella

      Hmm, strange that you could not search for trains from Kandy to Ella in February. It works for me.

      You search for trains at the official Sri Lanka Railways webpage: https://eservices.railway.gov.lk/schedule/homeAction.action?lang=en

      In the search fields, just add:
      – Start Station: Kandy
      – End Station: Elle
      You don´t have to add anything in the Start Time and End Time. But you can add a date in February in the Search Date field, or leave this blank.

      There are two express trains a day from Kandy to Ella on weekdays (also in February):
      – 08:47 from Kandy, arriving in Ella at 15:14
      – 11:10 from Kandy, arriving in Ella at 17:16

      The same trains are on Saturdays and Sundays as well, but on the weekends there is an extra local train as well:
      – 07:45 from Kandy, arriving in Ella at 13:28

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in February!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  109. Hi Maria,

    Love the itinerary. 🙂

    I would like to ask you if there’s any advice you could give for travellers who may visit Sri Lanka in September. Do you think we should change the south west cost for the east cost in the itinerary?

    Thank you,

    Filipa

    Reply
    • Hi Filipa,

      Thank you so much! 🙂

      The rainy/ monsoon season in Sri Lanka is usally between May and August which brings rain to the south and west coast, and also the Hill Country. September, however, is a shoulder season with the best odds for good weather all over the country. The accommodation prices are usually lower too so it is a great time to visit Sri Lanka. So you should be fine traveling on the southwest coast in September.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka in September!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  110. Oooh thank you so very much. Re the whales, it was my mistake, a couple of countries allow swimming with whales, like Tonga but I was mistaken about Sri Lanka. I will definitely book a whale watch boat trip instead. 🙂

    Thank you so much for the link for the train, I obviously had no idea how to use the site as your link works perfectly. I am very grateful because it is a key part of my journey and I was worried there would not be any seats left, so now I can book far in advance.

    Again, thank you.

    Reply
  111. Hi Maria

    Firstly congratulations and thank you for such a wonderful informative website

    We are two couples visiting Sri Lanka for the first time for 2 weeks at the beginning of August and are so glad that we came across your website and itinerary as it was so confusing working out where to go and what to do.

    I take on board what you say about visiting the East Coast beaches during August and wonder if you could please adjust your itinerary for us to include the eastern beaches though I do feel a little disappointed in not visiting the southern beaches that I have read so much about. If you were us would you risk doing the South Coast? Would you also include the 2.5 hour train ride to nuwara-eliya (7 hours too long for us on train)

    We intend on contacting your driver, Sudan for the 14 nights. Can you please advise if we need to book accommodation for him or how this works?

    Many thanks
    Deirdre

    Reply
    • Hi Deirdre,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that you find our recommended Sri Lanka itinerary useful when planning your Sri Lanka trip in August!

      May to August is the Yala monsoon season in Sri Lanka which brings rain to the south and west coast, as well as the Hill Country. But it varies from year to year, there is no exact start or end date, so it might not be that much rain in August. One option could be to only book the first couple of nights in Colombo or Kandy, and see how the weather situation is when you get to Sri Lanka.

      A Sri Lanka itinerary for you in August could be:

      1. Colombo (it might rain, however, so you can skip the capital and go straight to Kandy?) – 2 nights Colombo
      2. Kandy (if you plan on visiting Colombo, you should take the train from Colombo to Kandy. It is a beautiful 3-hour train ride.) – 2 nights Kandy
      3. Dambulla (see the cave temple), Sigiriya (climb Lion Rock), Polonnaruwa – 2 nights Polonnaruwa
      4. Safari in Minneriya National Park
      5. Trincomalee on the east coast with beautiful beaches – 4 nights Trincomalee
      6. Arugam Bay on the east coast (or other nice beaches on the east coast, your driver will probably have some suggestions) – 3 nights
      7. Airport

      No, you don´t need to book accommodation for your driver. Most hotels have dedicated rooms for drivers, or they sleep somewhere else nearby and pick you up in the morning. Sadun is a great driver and speaks excellent English! He knows everything there is to know about Sri Lanka and is a fantastic guide and safari guide as well. He will have plenty of suggestions for you on where to go during the rainy season in August. You can book Sadun through Tour HQ.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in August! Crossing my fingers that you will not get that much rain!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  112. Hi Maria. We love your website and in-depth experiences you have shared across Sri Lanka – Thank You! We are considering Sri Lanka during July and have adjusted the locations away from the southwest for the monsoon season. Would greatly appreciate any thoughts on the proposed itinerary below that you would share :). Greatly appreciated and Kind Regards – Brian

    Day 1 Colombo (Arriving afternoon/rest)
    Day 2 Colombo (Explore city)
    Day 3 Colombo – Nuwara Eliya (Leave morning; Is this a 3-1/2 hour car drive with your recommended taxi partner?; Will the same taxi service connect with us at these different locations?)
    Day 4 Nuwara Eliya (Lots of rain in Hill Country areas during July?)
    Day 5 Nuwara Eliya – Ella (2-1/2 hour train; better to stay in Nuwara Eliya or Ella longer?)
    Day 6 Ella – Passukudah (3-1/2 taxi drive or longer?)
    Day 7 Passukudah (Beach)
    Day 8 Passukudah (Beach, explore nearby beaches)
    Day 9 Passukudah – Minneriya Nature Park – Sigiriya (Leave morning for game drive and stay near Sigiriya – better stay in Sigiriya for a shorter ride back to Negombo the next day?)
    Day 10 Sigiriya – Negombo (Beach)
    Day 11 Negombo (PM flight home)

    Reply
    • Hi Brian,

      Thanks a million for your nice words about our blog! So happy to hear that our articles from Sri Lanka could be of help to you when planning your Sri Lanka trip! 🙂

      Your itinerary looks great! Good idea to skip the west and south coast since you will be visiting Sri Lanka in July. The Yala monsoon season is on during May-August and brings rain to the south and west coast as well as the Hill Country. The north and east part of Sri Lanka has the best weather in July.

      It depends a lot from year to year and day to day how much it will rain in the Hill Country (Nuwara Eliya and Ella) during July. It might rain a lot or you might get lucky and you will only get some rain in the early morning and evening.

      One option could be to not plan your entire trip in detail and not book all the accommodation. Or at least book some hotels in Nuwara Eliya and Ella that can be canceled/ changed for free. Booking.com usually has this option where you get to cancel your accommodation booking for free just a couple of days ahead of your planned stay. Very convenient! Then you can see how the weather is like when you arrive in Sri Lanka. If it is raining tons and tons in Nuwara Eliya and Ella, you might want to leave earlier and head to the east coast earlier than planned or skip the Hill Country in total. At least Ella is not that nice if it’s pouring down with rain as hiking is out of the question. There is not that much to see or things to do in the Ella village itself, then there are more to do in Nuwara Eliya, even if it is raining.

      We have unfortunately not been to Passikudah yet, but the beach looks amazing so it is an excellent option on the east coast!

      An alternative itinerary for you could be (with less driving where you skip Nuwara Eliya and Ella if it is raining a lot):

      Day 1-3: Colombo city (2 nights in Colombo)
      Day 4: Take the train Colombo – Kandy (3 hours train ride through the beautiful green and lush tea plantations landscape)
      Day 5: Kandy city (2 nights in Kandy), a day trip to Elephant Orphanage, visit the Botanical Garden, see the Tooth Temple and a Sri Lankan dance show
      Day 6: Hire a car and driver: Dambulla Cave Temple – Sigiriya (climb the Lion Rock) – Minneriya National Park (afternoon safari trip, the park closes at dawn around 18:30/6:30 PM) – Passikudah (about a 5-6 hours drive in total, not including the stops along the way)
      Day 7-9: Passikudah, relax at the beach (3 nights in Passikudah)
      Day 9: Drive from Passikudah to Polonnaruwa (a 2 hours drive) – see the Ancient city of Polonnaruwa (1 night in Polonnaruwa)
      Day 10: Drive from Polonnaruwa to Negombo (4-5 hours drive, 1 night in Negombo)
      Day 11: Negombo – Airport (10 min drive)

      Or you can, of course, skip Polonnaruwa and have more nights in Passikudah or Negombo instead.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka in July! Crossing my fingers that you will have no rain! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  113. Hi Maria,

    Thanks so much for the excellent advice and alternate itinerary if the monsoons are heavy during our visit.

    We’ll let you know how the journey goes and will certainly plan to recommend your blog to many others 🙂

    Best, Brian

    Reply
  114. Hi Maria, thank you for your blog and website and the excellent infomation. I am hoping to go on a somewhat familar trip as to your suggested one. Going in March for 2 weeks and very keen to experience Sri Lanka.
    THanks
    Peter

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you so much for your nice comment and words about our blog! Appreciate it! Sorry for my very late reply, have been sick and are traveling as well so are a bit behind on the comments.

      Hope you had an amazing 2 weeks in Sri Lanka!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  115. Hi Maria,

    I have been reading your stories about your Sri Lanka journeys – it sounds fantastic and would gratefully value any thoughts you may have for our forthcoming trip to Sri Lanka in early April. we have 14 nights in Sri Lanka and we want to go diving in Trincomalee as we think the dive season has moved over there from the West Coast.

    We’re going there to meet our son and his partner who have been travelling for 5 months – just finished Everest Base Camp.

    Currently our trip is fairly flexible as only the first few days are booked inc Kandy and some time in Trinco.

    Day 1 Colombo – All meet up. 1 night booked.
    Day 2/3 Colombo – Nuwara Eliya early morning train. 2 nights booked. Is this enough or would 1 night suffice?
    Day 4-6 Nuwara Eliya – Kandy. Best to hire a car & driver that day for 4 people? What should we see in Kandy or are 3 nights too many.
    Day 7 We would like to go to Sigiriya & perhaps Polonnarawu on the way to Trincomalee. Is it better to do these sites staying in Polonnarawu or as day trips from Trinco?
    Day 8 -12 Trincomalee – Diving and beach relaxation. Best to get here by car & driver?
    Day 13 Trincomalee – Negombo. Best to hire a car & driver for this journey? 1 night
    Day 14 Flight Home

    All thoughts and advice would be welcome.

    Kind Regards

    Matthew

    Reply
    • Hi Matthew,

      Sorry for my late reply. Wow, awesome that your son and his partner have been traveling for 5 months and have been to Everest Base Camp! Lucky them! Everest Base Camp is on our bucket list, hope to get there too one day. 🙂

      Your itinerary looks great! You are right, the southwest and south coast of Sri Lanka, as well as the Hill Country, have the monsoon season when you are visiting. Although April is kind of a shoulder season when usually the rain has not hit that hard yet (rainy season is officially from May until September).

      I will try to answer your questions the best I can:

      1) 2 nights in Nuwara Eliya, is this enough or would 1 night suffice?

      I recommend 2 nights in Nuwara Eliya. It is a nice little city with plenty of things to do actually. So I think 2 nights is best, especially if you plan on doing some hiking in the tea plantations or to Moons Plains or Hortons Plains (a very popular hike to World´s End). Do bring warm clothes to Nuwara Eliya as it is really cold here (below zero in the evening and nights).

      You can read our guide to Things To Do In Nuwara Eliya HERE

      2) From Nuwara Eliya to Kandy, is it best to hire a car & driver that day for 4 people?

      Train:
      You can take the train from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy. The closest train station to Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya (a 10 min taxi or tuk-tuk drive from Nuwara Eliya city). This train ride takes 3,5-4 hours, but the trains in Sri Lanka are usually delayed. There are three trains a day from Nanu Oya to Kandy:
      – Leaves Nanu Oya 05:33 – Arrives Kandy 09:51
      – Leaves Nanu Oya 09:22 – Arrives Kandy 12:38
      – Leaves Nanu Oya 12:02 – Arrives Kandy 15:52

      Saturdays and Sundays there are also two evening trains:
      – Leaves Nanu Oya 16:58 – Arrives Kandy 20:05
      – Leaves Nanu Oya 18:55 – Arrives Kandy 23:38

      The only way to buy online train tickets in Sri Lanka is at 12Go Asia, which I recommend as the trains might get fully booked.

      Hiring A Private Car & Driver
      Another option is, of course, to hire a private car and driver from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy. We did that (we traveled with my mom and day so we were four people). The drive takes about three hours depending on the traffic. You can book your private car and driver at 12Go Asia.

      I have written a post about How To Get Around Sri Lanka

      3) What should we see in Kandy or are 3 nights too many?

      Check out our recommended Things To Do In Kandy.

      Hmm, I think two nights in Kandy is enough. It depends on if you want to visit the Botanical Garden and the Elephant Orphanage, these are a bit out of town. It takes about 30 min to drive to Royal Botanical Garden one way, and 1,5-2 hours to drive to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage one way.

      4) We would like to go to Sigiriya & perhaps Polonnaruwa on the way to Trincomalee. Is it better to do these sites staying in Polonnaruwa or as day trips from Trinco?

      I suggest that you hire a private car & driver from Kandy to Polonnaruwa and that you visit Dambulla Cave Temple and climb Sigiriya Lion Rock on the way to Polonnaruwa (as a day-trip). Your driver will wait for you at the car park area while you visit these places. We did that and it worked perfectly.

      The drive from Kandy to Polonnaruwa takes 4-5 hours, but you should expect to use at least one hour at Dambulla Cave Temple and 2-3 hours climbing Sigiriya Lion Rock. So you will use the whole day on this drive/ trip.

      I recommend that you spend a night in Polonnaruwa. That way you can see the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa the next day (after breakfast in the morning, or in the afternoon).

      While you are staying in Polonnaruwa, you should also consider doing a safari trip (morning or afternoon) to one of the beautiful national parks that are surrounding Polonnaruwa. The Wasgamuwa National Park is a peaceful park with lots of wild elephants and other animals.

      If you do the safari trip to Wasgamuwa NP in the morning, you can see the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa after lunch in the afternoon, and drive to Trincomalee in the evening (3-hour drive).

      Another option is, as you say, to drive all the way to Trincomalee after climbing the Sigiriya Lion Rock. And instead, do a day-trip back to Polonnaruwa. But it takes about 3 hours one way to drive from Trincomalee to Polonnaruwa, so I will not recommend it. It is better to stay a night in Polonnaruwa, and you can drive to Trincomalee from Polonnaruwa in the evening after you have seen the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.

      5) Trincomalee – Diving and beach relaxation. Best to get here by car & driver?

      Yes, you should hire a private car & driver from Polonnaruwa to Trincomalee, there are no trains.

      6) Trincomalee – Negombo. Best to hire a car & driver for this journey?

      Yes, I recommend that you hire a private car & driver. It takes about 6 hours to drive from Trincomalee to Negombo. You can take the night train, but it will take forever and you will be pretty exhausted once you finally get to Negombo. I think you also have to take the train to Colombo first and then change for another train up to Negombo, just too complicated. 🙂

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  116. Hi Maria,

    I just sent you a long message and it deleted – so apologies if you get this (or similar!) twice!! I just wanted to say how great your blog was and how helpful it was to have a totally unbiased set of suggestions… it’s been our “go to” for making our plans.

    My best friend and I are going to Sri Lanka at the end of April for 15/16 days. I am there for 4.5 days on my own and was hoping to maybe do Sigiriya and Adam’s Peak before meeting my friend in Kandy – does that sound possible? We also then want to do the train from Kandy to Ella but stopping in Nuwara Eliya for a couple of nights to visit some tea plantations. Does that seem sensible!?

    Any tips you have would be really appreciated.

    Thanks

    Rachel

    Reply
    • Hi Rachel,

      Thank you so much! Soooo sorry for my late reply! I have been sick and we are island hopping on the west coast of Thailand.

      Awesome that you are going to Sri Lanka April/ May! The main southwest (“Yala”) monsoon brings rain to the west and southwest coasts and hill country from April/May to September (wettest from April to June). So you might get some rain, so bring a raincoat.

      One itinerary for you could be:

      Day 1: Negombo, 1 night
      I would suggest that when you land at Colombo International Airport, head to the beach town Negombo (only a 10 min drive from the airport) to sleep off some jetlag. 🙂

      Day 2: Adam´s Peak, 1 night in Hatton area
      Hire a car & driver and drive from Negombo to the area around Adam´s Peak (Hatton/ Dalhousie). This drive takes about 4 hours one way.
      You can book your car and driver at 12Go Asia.

      You can also take the train to Hatton, but there are no trains directly from Negombo. You must first take train/ bus/ taxi down to Colombo from Negombo. The train ride Colombo – Negombo takes 1,5 hour. There are four express trains from Colombo Fort Station to Hatton Station each day, the train ride takes about 5-6 hours.
      The only way to book online train tickets in Sri Lanka is at 12Go Asia, which I recommend as the trains can get fully booked.

      Get to bed early as you have to get up around 02/03 (3 am) in the night to start climbing Adam´s Peak. If you can, avoid the weekends as the stairs up to Adam´s Peak are super packed during weekends so you must be prepared to walk in a queue. Bring warm clothes as it is freezing at the mountain. And wear good shoes, your knees will thank you for it after. 🙂

      Day 3: Kandy, 4 nights in Kandy (2 solo and 2 with your friend)
      When you get down from Adam´s Peak, check out from your hotel in Hatton and take a private car & driver or the train to Kandy. The train ride Hatton – Kandy takes about 3 hours, while the drive will take slightly shorter (2-3 hours). The trains in Sri Lanka are usually delayed too, so you must add some extra time.

      There are five trains every day from Hatton to Kandy, plus two evening trains during the weekends:
      – Departs from Hatton 05:00, Arrives in Kandy 07:43 (you will not be able to catch this as you will still be climbing Adam`s Peak)
      – Departs from Hatton 07:10, Arrives in Kandy 09:51 (you will not be able to catch this as you will still be climbing Adam`s Peak)
      – Departs from Hatton 08:38, Arrives in Kandy 12:13 (you will not be able to catch this as you will still be climbing Adam`s Peak)
      – Departs from Hatton 10:39, Arrives in Kandy 12:38 (you might be able to catch this?)
      – Departs from Hatton 13:20, Arrives in Kandy 15:51 (you will be able to catch this)
      – Departs from Hatton 18:05, Arrives in Kandy 20:05 (only Saturdays & Sundays)
      – Departs from Hatton 20:34, Arrives in Kandy 23:38 (only Saturdays & Sundays)

      Day 4: Sigiriya (day-trip from Kandy)
      Do a day-trip to Sigiriya and climb Lion Rock (if your feet and knees are not hurting too much from the Adam´s Peak climb 🙂 ).

      Hire a car and driver to take you from Kandy to Sigiriya. He will wait for you in the car park while you climb the Lion Rock. If you have the time and want to, stop at Dambulla Cave Temple on the way to Sigiriya. It takes 3 hours to drive from Kandy to Sigiriya one way, and you should expect to use 2-3 hours on the climb both ways.
      Check out our Sigirya post

      Day 5: Kandy
      Depending on what time your friend will arrive in Kandy (maybe late in the afternoon/ evening since it takes 3-4 hours to drive from Colombo International Airport to Kandy?), check out Kandy or just relax at your hotel (maybe it has a swimming pool?) or just find a cozy restaurant and catch up.

      Day 6: Kandy
      Do some sightseeing with your friend. Visit the Royal Botanical Garden, and/ or Elephant Orphanage, see the Buddha Tooth Temple, and a traditional dance show.
      Check out our Things To Do In Kandy post

      Day 7: Nuwara Eliya, 2 nights
      Train trip Kandy – Nuwara Eliya: Book your train tickets Kandy – Nuwara Eliya at 12Go Asia. The closest train station to Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya (or Nanuoya) and is a 10 min taxi or tuk-tuk ride from Nuwara Eliya city.

      Day 8: Nuwara Eliya
      Check out our Things To Do In Nuwara Eliya post

      Day 9-10/11: Ella, 1-2 nights

      Day 10/11-16: Beachtime on the south and southwest coast
      Tangalle, Mirissa, and Bentota are our favorite beaches on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. You should also da day-trip to Galle, it is a lovely old town with lots of nice shopping, cafes, and restaurants. And I highly recommend that you do a safari trip, to either Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park. It is fantastic seeing so many wild elephants! 🙂

      In Case Of Bad Weather (Rainy Season in April/ May):
      If the weather is bad, however, due to the rainy season, you might want to head to the east coast instead of the southwest coast. The east coast has sunny and dry weather in April/ May.

      You can for instance, instead of going to the Hill Country (Nuwara Eliya and Ella) which also has a rainy season then, head north from Kandy to Polonnaruwa. Here you can spend a night or two and see the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, before heading to Trincomalee Beach on the east coast. There is also a nice National Park outside of Polonnaruwa, called Wasgamuwa National Park, where you can go on a safari trip and see wild elephants. Or you can head further south on the east coast to Arugam Bay which also has a very nice beach.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka in April/ May with your friend!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  117. Hi Maria,

    Many thanks for taking the time to put down your thoughts and ideas. We are really looking forward to our trip. Can’t wait to get going and to experience Sri Lanka.

    Kind Regards

    Matthew

    Reply
  118. Hi Maria!
    Thanks for all your lovely advice it has really helped me design my trip. I wanted to get your opinion and I have a few questions going through it. LOVE LOVE LOVE your interactive map by the way!
    We have 2 weeks and are going in JUNE so thought it would be best to hedge our bets and aim for the east coast for the weather. We actually have one extra day to play with as well, not sure where it would be best used – Either with a stop in Nuwara Eliya or add a day to a place we are already staying?

    Day 1. Arrive 2330, stay in Negombo
    Day 2. Travel to Kandy – Is a bus the easiest way to do this? It seems as though if we were to catch a train we would have to travel to Colombo first (in which case we may do as you have suggested and book a driver pickup from the airport and stay in Colombo after our flight)
    Day 3-4. Train to Ella, do some hikes.
    Day 5: Little Adams peak morning, then Yala safari in afternoon, then drive to Arugam bay in the evening (would it be a good idea to hire the driver you have recommended for this portion to take us on the Safari as well as for the transport between the two towns?)
    Day 6-7: Arugam bay
    Day 8-9: Travel to Pasikuka
    Day 10-11: Drive to Trincomallee
    Day 12: Spend to morning in trinco and late evening drive to Polonnaruwa
    Day 13: Explore Polonnaruwa ruins in the morning followed by a visit to Sigiriya then drive to Negombo for a night before our flight

    Flight at midday on Day 15 of trip!

    Thank you again for all your help!

    Reply
    • Hi Mel,

      Thank you so much for your nice words about our blog and our interactive map! Really appreciate it! 🙂

      I totally agree, in June it will most likely be pouring down on the west and southwest coast, so your best shot at getting sunny and dry weather is to head to the east coast of Sri Lanka.

      Your itinerary looks great! I would say that you should spend your “extra day” in a place you are already visiting as your itinerary is a bit hectic and busy and will require many hours in a car. You can, for instance, add some more beach time in Trincomalee. Besides, it will most likely be raining in Nuwara Eliya (Hill Country) in June.

      Negombo to Kandy
      The easiest and most convenient way to get from Negombo to Kandy is to hire a private car & driver (a 3-4 hour drive depending on the traffic).

      You can also take the train, first to Colombo Fort Station, and change train there to Kandy. There are plenty of trains from Negombo to Colombo every day. The train trip Negombo – Colombo takes about one hour. Or you can hire a car&driver to take you from Negombo to Colombo Fort Train Station (the drive also takes about one hour but you are more flexible and it is easier with luggage).

      The train trip from Colombo to Kandy takes about three hours. We did this train trip with my parents on their first visit to Sri Lanka, and we all loved it. You get to see mountains covered in tea plantations. But since you plan on doing the long train ride Kandy – Ella, you will see plenty of tea plantation covered mountains, so maybe just opt for the car & driver from Negombo to Kandy as it is more convenient and quicker.

      Getting from Ella – Yala NP – Arugam Bay
      You will have to hire a private car & driver for this leg as there are no trains in this area. Yes, you can book Sadun for this trip. He lives in Kandy, but can easily pick you up in Ella and drive you to Yala National Park and to Arugam Bay in the evening. He is an excellent driver and guide, and also an animal/ safari guide so he can take you on a safari trip in Yala National Park as well.

      You can book the driver/ guide Sadun here.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka in June!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  119. Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for the amazing blog and your dedication to reply to everyone’s query.
    I am planning my first ever trip to a foreign land. I am going with my mother for a week in September and wish to see and experience all the places you have mentioned. As I am limited with time and want to see the beautiful beaches , Anuradhapura and Kandy and Ella via the dreamy train ride that you guys have mentioned so beautifully. I am not able to sort out the itinerary, is it possible to visit all of these places. Can you suggest one itinerary.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Anjali,

      Thank you so much! My goal is to answer everybody´s comment the best I can. 🙂

      Awesome that you have picked Sri Lanka as your first ever trip to a foreign land! You will love it, it is a fantastic country!

      With only one week, you will have to cut something from this 2-week itinerary. One itinerary for you could be (with the places you mention that you want to visit):

      – Day 1: From Colombo International Airport, drive to Anuradhapura (3-4 hour drive). 2 nights in Anuradhapura.
      The ancient temples are scattered around a bigger area in Anuradhapura than in Polonnaruwa so I think you need two nights there. We had two nights in Polonnaruwa, and it was ok. We have not been to Anuradhapura yet.
      – Day 2: Sightseeing the ancient city of Anuradhapura
      – Day 3: Drive from Anuradhapura to Kandy (3-4 hour drive). 2 nights in Kandy.
      Stop in Sigiriya on the way to climb the Lion Rock which is fantastic!
      – Day 4: Kandy
      – Day 5: Train trip Kandy to Ella (7-8 hour train ride)
      – Day 6: Drive from Ella to a beach on the west coast (for instance Mirissa or Bentota, 3-5 hours drive).
      – Day 7: Relax on the beach
      – Day 8: Airport, back home

      This itinerary is a bit hectic, as you can see, so you might want to skip for instance Anuradhapura in order to get more beach time. You will also have very little time in Ella, which is a shame since you have taken the long train ride there.

      I recommend that you skip Anuradhapura so that you can have some more time in Ella and on the beach. Or you can take the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya instead of all the way to Ella (it is the same train, just a shorter ride, a 3-hour train ride instead of 7-8 hours) and that way save some time. Nuwara Eliya is also a great town to visit, with more things to do in the town itself than in Ella (Ella is great for hiking, but you will not have the time to do many hikes in Ella anyway). Bring warm clothes if you visit Nuwara Eliya as it is cold compared to the rest of Sri Lanka. The train station in Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya (a 10 min drive outside the city).

      With more time in the beach area on the west coast, you can add a day-trip to the beautiful and cozy town Galle.

      Since you are short on time, I recommend that you hire a private car and driver. Check out our article Getting Around Sri Lanka for some tips on how to hire a car and driver.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka with your mom!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  120. Hi Maria,

    What a fantastic blog and guide!
    My Fiancée and I are going on our honeymoon arriving in Sri Lanka on the 3rd of May and staying till the 19th of May. Wondering if you have any suggestions for a good itinerary. We strive for adventure and things off the beaten track. We have an interest in seeing Jaffna and the north, the beautiful eastern beaches, national parks and the tea country. Since Iran our honeymoon we are hoping for a mix of adventure and also some quality R&R. Any guidance would be huge. We want to get this right. Thank you in advance,
    Glen and Laura

    Reply
    • Hi Glen & Laura,

      Thank you so much, and congrats on your wedding! Awesome that you are going to Sri Lanka on your honeymoon at the beginning of May! Yay, good choice of honeymoon destination! 🙂

      Since you want to go on a real adventure and off-the-beaten-track places, an itinerary for your 17 days in Sri Lanka could be something like this:

      Day 1: Depending on how late in the evening you are arriving at Colombo International Airport, one option could be to spend the first night in Negombo (a beach town just 10-min drive from the airport). So that you can sleep off some jet-lag. 🙂
      Day 2: Train or hire a private car & driver to Kandy (3-4 hours)
      Day 3: Kandy
      Day 4: Take the train to Ella (7-8 hours train ride through beautiful mountain scenery and tea plantations)
      Day 5: Hiking in Ella through mountains covered by tea plantations
      Day 6: Hire a private car & driver and drive to Arugam Bay on the east coast (3-4 hours)
      Day 7-8: Beachtime in Arugam Bay, do some surfing
      Day 9: Hire a private car & driver and drive north to Trincomalee Beach (5-6 hours)
      Day 10-11: Beachtime in Trincomalee and Nilaveli. Do some snorkeling or diving in Nilaveli and Pigeon Island, near Trincomalee. The coral reefs are spectacular, the beaches beautiful, and the water so clear
      Day 12: Day-trip to Kaudulla National Park for safari. You can choose between morning or afternoon safari. The safari takes 4-5 hours. (1-2 hours drive one way from Trincomalee to Kaudulla NP)
      Day 13: Drive north to Jaffna (4-5 hours drive from Trincomalee)
      Day 14-15: Jaffna area
      Day 16: Drive to Negombo for your last night in Sri Lanka (7 hours drive)
      Day 17: Head home

      Another option is to do the safari in the more popular national park, Yala NP, which is close to Arugam Bay. Here you can also sleep inside the park in bungalows or in romantic luxurious “glamping” tents, like for instance the Wild Coast Tented Lodge. You can unfortunately not spend the night in Kaudulla NP close to Trincomalee. Yala is the only national park in Sri Lanka that you can sleep in.

      As you see, you will be spending some hours in a car and on the train if you want to see both the north, east coast, and the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. But it is totally doable.

      If you want a guide/ driver, you can contact the driver that we use when we visit Sri Lanka. His name is Sadun and he is both a driver, guide and nature/ animal guide. You can contact him HERE. Sadun can take you to off the beath path places and even on camping.

      Have a spectacular, romantic, and adventurous honeymoon to Sri Lanka in May! I`m sure you will love this stunning country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Hi Maria,

        We are incredibly grateful for your in-depth suggestions and for the itinerary. We are so saddened to hear the news about the attacks in Sri Lanka. I wish our world was one where these things didn’t happen.

        Laura and I have decided that despite the attacks and the advice from many governments we will continue with our plan to see Sri Lanka. Do you have any insight into what it might be like to travel there now?

        Thanks,

        Glen and Laura

        Reply
        • Hi again Glen & Laura,

          Like you, we are in total shock and so sad about the meaningless and devastating bombings recently in Sri Lanka! Simply can´t believe that this is happening to this stunning country with the most friendly, warmhearted and welcoming people that we have ever met on our travels.

          We would have done the same as you guys. If we had booked a trip to Sri Lanka now, we would have gone through with it.

          Actually, we went to Bali only one week after the bombings of Kuta city in October 2002 by a violent Islamist group. You should expect very high security everywhere in Sri Lanka, especially in and around the airport and the big cities, especially Colombo. There will be lots of police and military out in the streets. Many of the hotels have also stepped up their security with guards and so. There might also be roadblocks and checkpoints around the big cities and at train stations where they check your passports. So getting around Sri Lanka might take a bit more time than usual.

          Have a fantastic time in Sri Lanka and enjoy your honeymoon! I really hope that you have a great trip despite everything that has happened in Sri Lanka lately!

          -Maria-

          Reply
  121. Hi Maria,
    Fantastic blog and plenty of useful information. Can you inform if Poson festival takes place only in Northern part of
    Sri Lanka? Mihintale and the neighbouring towns. Kindly indicate the places where can be spotted the fishermen catching
    the fish from the ocean. They are mostly saddled on typical for Sri Lanka wooden platforms.

    Reply
    • Hi Lech,

      Thank you so much! Poson Festival is celebrated all over Sri Lanka, but the biggest and major ceremonies are held in Anuradhapura and Mihintale. Long lines of people dressed in white climb the many steps to the top of the Mihintale hill to the temple and the nearby dagobas.

      You can see the stilt fishermen (fishing from poles out in the sea) along the west coast of Sri Lanka, south of Unawatuna, in Koggala between Unawatuna and Weligama. They do this mainly for tourists as the fishermen in Sri Lanka no longer fish from poles anymore but from boats.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  122. Hi Maria,

    We a couple planing to visit srilanka from 26th of December 2019 to 7th of Jan 2020.would like to make sure to cover most of the places ( not too hectic ) and also request where we can spend our 31st New year ( near beach like mirissa / tangalle )

    Would also request your insights on the itinerary please if you can guide us:-

    Also if you can guide some good option to stay ( not too expensive but a good place )

    26th Dec will reach Colombo in evening ( Planing to staying in a hotel in Negombo )

    and 7th Jan we have the return flight at noon .

    Can you please help ..

    Reply
    • Hi Sriram,

      Awesome that you are visiting Sri Lanka in December/ January and will be celebrating New Year’s Eve there! You will love it! The weather is also great (dry and sunny) on the southwest and south coast of Sri Lanka in December and January, as well as the Hill Country, so you will have nice weather all the way.

      You have 11 full days to spend in Sri Lanka then, not counting your two travel days (26th of December and 7th of January). A great travel itinerary for Sri Lanka for you could be something like this:

      -26th December: Arriving at Colombo International Airport, take a taxi to Negombo (a 15 min drive). 2 nights in Negombo.
      -27th December: Negombo. I recommend staying at Tropical Villas in Negombo – a new budget place that is getting great reviews. Large, clean rooms, nice pool and a location within walking distance of the beach.
      -28th December: Hire a car/ driver and go to Bentota Beach (2,5-hour drive from Negombo) or Mirissa Beach (3-hour drive from Negombo). Bentota is more relaxed than Mirissa, it depends on what you prefer. 3 nights in Bentota or Mirissa. In Mirissa you can go on a whale safari.
      -29th December: Bentota or Mirissa Beach. In Bentota, we stayed at Waterside Bentota Hotel and loved it! Big rooms, fantastic staff, and a beautiful big garden and swimming pool.
      -30th December: Day-trip to Galle (50 min drive from Mirissa one way)
      -31st Dec/ New Year’s Eve: Tangalle Beach (1,5-hour drive from Mirissa). We love the Serein Beach Hotel in Tangalle. 2 nights in Tangalle.
      -1st January: Tangalle Beach
      -2nd January: Day-trip to Yala National Park – morning safari. In the afternoon drive to Nuwara Eliya (4,5-hour drive). 2 nights in Nuwara Eliya.
      -3rd January: Nuwara Eliya. We stayed at Grand Camellia Hotel, and it is good value for your money.
      -4th January: Take the train from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Railway Station) to Kandy – a 3-4-hour train trip. You can buy train tickets Nanu Oya – Kandy here. 2 nights in Kandy. I recommend Viyana Boutique Hotel which is located right by the Kandy lake. If you are looking for a budget option in Kandy, I recommend Sharon Inn (we stayed there). Great location, awesome and cheap dinner buffeet with Sri Lankan rice and curry (only US$7 per person).
      -5th January: Day-trip from Kandy to Sigiriya.
      -6th January: Drive from Kandy to Negombo. 1 night in Negombo.
      -7th January: Take the plane back home from Colombo International Airport

      Hope this helped a little. Of course, you can change the number of days at each place to your liking, and also cut or add a couple of places if you prefer.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka at the end of the year!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  123. Hi Maria,

    We are heading to Sri Lanka in November for 2 weeks and keep changing our minds on what to do.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated. We were thinking of starting in Dambulla for some culture then heading towards to beaches and national parks.

    Thanks Jill

    Reply
    • Hi Jill,

      Awesome that you are traveling to Sri Lanka for two weeks in November! November is a fantastic time to visit Sri Lanka, with great weather (dry and sunny) on the west coast and inland in the Hill Country, so you picked the right time.

      Our recommended 2-week Sri Lanka Itinerary is perfect to do in November. It is common that people do this itinerary the other way around, heading to the inland first for cultural things, and then to the beaches on the west coast to relax before going back home.

      Dambulla is outside of Kandy, so you should first head to Kandy, then Dambulla and Sigiriya. You can skip Colombo, it is not our favorite part of Sri Lanka and just another big city.

      One itinerary for you could be:

      1. 1 night in Negombo if you want to recover from your flight. Negombo is just a 15-min taxi ride from the airport. Or drive directly to Kandy (a 3-4-hour drive).
      2. Kandy (2-3 nights)
      2. Day-trip to Dambulla (see the cave temple) and Sigiriya (walk up Lion Rock) from Kandy. These two can be done on the same trip as they are located on the same road. Or stay one night in Sigiriya area
      4. Ella or Nuwara Eliya (2 nights). You can take the train from Kandy, a very nice train trip! It is the same train for these two places. The train trip Kandy – Nuwara Eliya takes 3-4 hours, while Kandy – Ella takes 8-9 hours)
      8. Udawalawe or Yala National Park (safari day-trip)
      9. Tangalle Beach
      10. Mirissa Beach
      11. Day-trip to Galle (or spend a night there)
      12. Bentota Beach
      13. Negombo Beach (last night here if you have an early flight home)

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka next month!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  124. Hi Maria,

    Your blog is fantastic and full of useful information. I have to admit that this is one of the best blogs I have come across to date.

    I wonder if you could give us some advice on our travel plans? Me and my husband are going to Sri Lanka for 14 days in December and we are planning to follow your itinerary in a diverse way. The first two nights/1 day we are planning to spend in Negombo to recover after flight from Nepal. And then we are thinking to head to Polonnaruwa as we like ancient cities. And I am not sure what to do after Polonnaruwa as after reading your blog and other reviews on the internet, we do not really want to visit Kandy as we have read that Kandy is not the most impressing place in Sri Lanka.

    Could you advise what we could visit instead? we should be arriving in Sri Lanka on 28Dec (late flight) so we have booked two nights in Negombo. Then on 30Dec the plan is to go to Polonnaruwa and then I am a bit lost as we do not want to go to Kandy.

    Could you guide us on the best next place after Polonnaruwa and how to get there?
    We also want to go Sigiriya , Ella, one of the national parks, Galle and beaches – Tangalle and Mirissa.

    Could you also advise how to get from Negombo to Polonnaruwa? I heard there is no train from Negombo?

    Thank you very much in advance 🙂

    Kasia

    Reply
    • Hi Kasia,

      Thank you so much for your nice words about our blog! Really appreciate it! ????❤️

      Kandy is not our favorite city in Sri Lanka either. 🙂 Sigiriya is on the way from Negombo to Polonnaruwa, so you can easily stop at Sigiriya and have a walk up Lion Rock on your way to Polonnaruwa.

      A 14-Days Sri Lanka Itinerary Without Kandy

      One possible itinerary for you could be something like this:

      – 28.-30. December: Negombo (2 nights)
      – 30. Dec – 1. January: Polonnaruwa (2 nights), a 5-6 hours drive from Negombo. On the way, stop at Sigiriya and hike the Lion Rock.
      – 1. – 3. January: Ella (2 nights), a 4-5 hours drive from Polonnaruwa
      – 3rd of January: Day-trip to Yala National Park (a 2-3-hour drive from Ella). Or stay a night in the park or in the closest town Tissamahara. Do a morning or afternoon safari in Yala, or both if you stay the night. This 2 days Yala Safari Tour looks awesome. If you don’t want to stay the night in Yala, drive to Tangalle in the evening after the safari.
      – 3.- 6. January: Tangalle Beach (3 nights), a 2-hour drive from Yala NP
      – 6.- 9. January: Mirissa Beach (3 nights), a 1,5-hour drive from Tangalle. Do a day-trip to Galle from Marissa (a 1-hour drive one way), or stay a night in Galle. We stayed at the beautiful colonial-style Galle Fort Hotel, and absolutely loved it!
      – 9.-11. January: Bentota/ Ventura Beach (2 nights), a 1,5-hour drive from Mirissa. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Bentota to the airport. Or you can stay your last night in Negombo if you have an early flight.

      Your itinerary will look like this in Google Maps.

      How To Get From Negombo To Polonnaruwa

      There are trains from Negombo, but not directly to Polonnaruwa. You will have to take a train from Negombo Station to Colombo Fort Station first, and then change for a train Colombo – Polonnaruwa. We did this train trip (Colombo – Polonnaruwa) and it was veeeeery long – almost 9 hours! Driving directly from Negombo to Polonnaruwa takes 5-6 hours. Also, you will not be able to stop at Sigiriya on the way if you take the train, so I recommend that you hire a private car and driver.

      You can easily book a car and driver at 12Go.

      You can also buy train tickets through 12Go (must be booked at least 37 days ahead of your train trip). You can search for trains on the official Sri Lanka Railway Webpage, but unfortunately not buy tickets.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in December/ January!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  125. Hi Maria Thx a lot for your inputs

    Basis have created my Itenary request your inputs please .

    27th Dec Kandy – “Kandy – Pinnawale – ambuluwawa tower”

    28th Dec Kandy – Dambulla caves -Sigriya- Kandy
    29th Dec Kandy – Polonuwara – Kandy OR Suggest any if it is not worth
    30th Dec Ella Train Booked from 12 go Kandy to Ella
    31st Dec Ella – Nuwara Eliya – Ella Or Ella only like nine Arc bridge ( Suggest if Any more places which can doen
    1st Jan Ella – Tangalle ( how to travel cab / Buss if any ? the best way to reach ? should it be mirrisa ot Tangelle ? if taking a cab then is it possibel to see a national park and reach by eveing tangalle ?
    2nd Jan Mirrisa Suggest ?what to go
    3rd Jan Mirrisa Suggest ?what to go Suggest ?what to go
    4th Jan Unwatauna Suggest ?what to go
    5th Jan Unwatauna Suggest ?what to go
    6th Jan Colombo Or NEgombo

    Also request your help in places to see in the Halt

    Hotels/ transportation inputs ( Bus / Train / Cab ) / Highlights of the places

    Request your help please ..

    Also if u have any additional then pls suggest

    Reply
    • Hi Sriram,

      Your itinerary looks great!

      It takes 4-5 hours to drive from Kandy to Polonnaruwa, so you should stay at least one night in Polonnaruwa or you will not have any time to see the beautiful ancient city. On 28th Dec, you should instead drive to Polonnaruwa after Sigiriya and not back to Kandy:

      – 28th Dec: Kandy – Dambulla Caves – Sigiriya – Polonnaruwa (stay 1 night in Polonnaruwa)
      – 29th Dec: See the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa in the morning, drive back to Kandy in the evening

      In Ella, you should see the Nine Arch Bridge, and also walk Little Adams Peak. You can read more about our walk to Little Adams Peak here.

      Yes, you can see a National Park (for instance Udawalawe National Park) on your way from Ella to Tangalle. We did that and it worked out fine. You should rent a car & driver (cab) as there are no trains from Ella to Tangalle.

      Mirissa is famous for its whale and dolphin safaris, like this excellent Morning Whale Watching Tour. Also, there are some turtle conservation centers near Mirissa. In Unawatuna, you should visit Galle, a beautiful old Portuguese town.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria

      Reply
  126. Hi Maria,
    I’m really glad a friend introduced us to your blog, so full of such valuable in formation and tips.
    Could I just run our proposed itinerary by you? only 2 weeks to go and lots of booking to do.
    Day 1 arrive Colombo airport morning, planning to get car directly to Sigiriya for 3 nights to see Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, climb Sigiriya and then Elephant safari in Minneriya or Kaudulla National parks.
    Day 4 Drive to Kandy take in the Dambulla Caves on the way 2 nights then
    Day 6 take the scenic train to Nuwara Eliya stay 1 night
    Day 7 continue on train to Ella stay 2 nights
    Day 9 either go to Yala National Park or straight to beach at say Tangalle 4 nights maybe 1 night Mirissa for Whale watching, worth it end of November?
    Day 12 Galle stay 1 night
    Day 14 up to Negombo for last night.
    I would be quite grateful to avoid so many stops, so if some sights can be easily done with a driver from one base that would help, also if in your opinion we are missing something or spending too long somewhere also good.
    Many thanks for your help
    Day

    Maybe visit Yala National Park? for Game Drive then rest of time in a beach resort say Tangalle(30/1/2/3/)

    Reply
    • Hi Jane,

      Thank you so much! Your itinerary looks great! You will see all the highlights of Sri Lanka with this itinerary.

      To save the number of stops/ hotels, you could as you say drive straight from Ella to Tangalle on day 9, and stay 3-4 nights in Tangalle. From Tangalle, you can easily do a day-trip to Yala National Park, either on a morning safari trip or afternoon safari.

      The whale watching season starts in Mirissa in November so the chances are good for spotting some whales. Although the best months are March and April.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Hi,
        Thanks so much for your comments.
        Have now booked an eco lodge in Habarana for the first few nights
        Think we will maybe drive from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya to have a look around and then get the train on to Ella without staying the night. Hope we can manage the trip with only 4 different overnight stops, and if we get it wrong we can always come back!
        Looking forward to our trip so much .
        Jane

        Reply
  127. Can you please help me decide which place to go to Ella or Nuwara Eliya , i want to see temples and waterfalls. please help.

    Reply
    • Hi Tanvi,

      Hmm, neither Ella nor Nuwara Eliya has temples. You mainly go to Nuwara Eliya and Ella to see tea plantations, mountains, do some hiking, drink tea, and enjoy the beautiful green and lush nature. Ella does, however, have a small waterfall called Rawana Falls.

      As for temples, Kandy and Colombo have the biggest temples in Sri Lanka. Colombo has, for instance, the Pettah Hindu Temples, the impressive Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, the Hindu temples Sri Ponnambalam Vanesar Kovil and Sri Muthumariamman Kovil, and the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara Buddhist Temple.

      Kandy has the big and beautiful Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and there are also other temples close to Kandy.

      As for ancient temples, you should head to Polonnaruwa and/or Anuradhapura which has the biggest collection of Buddhist sculptures, monastery ruins, and temples in Sri Lanka.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  128. My husband and I have completely depended on your blog to plan our trip, you have inspired us to travel 🙂
    thank you so much

    Reply
  129. Hi Maria,
    I am planning a trip in June and this blog has been super helpful, thank you very much! I also love the interactive map! I was wondering how expensive uber or private driver is for travelling between each place is where there are no trains available, for example from Tangaelle to Yala?

    Reply
  130. Firstly, happy New Year, may 2020 bring you more adventures than ever! I have just stumbled upon your fabulous blog while looking for Sri Lanka travel info. I wonder if you can give me some thoughts on my itinery. I will be in Tangalle for 3 weeks doing a yoga course from around 20th April and wanted to add an extra 5 – 6 days to see a bit of the country. I stayed in Bentota 25 years ago & visited Kandy, but haven’t seen much else. I haven’t booked flights yet as undecided how to split my time, I guess it will be a bit monsoony in May.
    I will arrive morning & spend the day/night in Colombo, taking train from Colombo Fort to Matara next day & tuk tuk onward. I will visit Yala during the 3 weeks I’m in Tangalle, then hope to join forces with some other yogis at the end for some sightseeing, so only want to loosely plan at this point. I like the idea of the Ella/Kandy train journey although no real wish to stay in Kandy, except to stop and see Dambulla Caves. I would like to see Sigiriya/Adam’s Peak, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and perhaps a safari in Minneriya or Kaudulla National parks.
    Then again, if all this is a bit too wet in May, do you have some better suggestions? As staying at a beach resort for 3 weeks I am more interested in wildlife and sights than more beaches.
    Many thanks for any suggestions/advice you can give. Elie

    Reply
    • Hi Elie,

      Happy New Year!!! So cool that you are doing a Yoga course in Tangalle for three weeks!! Sounds fantastic and something I really want to do someday too.

      Normally the weather is best and driest in the North and East of Sri Lanka from May to August. The Yala monsoon season brings rain to the south and west coast of Sri Lanka, as well as the Hill Country (Nuwara Eliya and Ella) from May to August. But of course, there is no exact date for when the monsoon season kicks in and when it stops.

      The area north of Kandy is usually pretty dry in May, so I think it is a good idea to spend your extra 5-6 days in the Dambulla/ Sigiriya/ Polonnaruwa area. The ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are excellent choices. We have not been to Anuradhapura yet, but I loved Polonnaruwa. It was great fun and interesting learning about the ancient history of Sri Lanka.

      Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park are located just north of Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa and is perfect to combine with a trip to Polonnaruwa.

      Adam´s Peak is however not located close to Dambulla, Sigirya or Polonnaruwa. Adam´s Peak is normally quite cloudy and rainy from May to October. So May is probably not the best time of the year to climb Adam´s Peak.

      I suggest this itinerary for your extra 5-6 days in Sri Lanka:

      – 20. April – 11. May: 3-week Yoga course in Tangalle (Yala National Park trip ++)
      – 11. – 12. May: Hire a private car and driver, drive up to Dambulla/ Sigiriya area (a 6-7 hour drive). Stay 1 night in Dambulla/ Sigiriya area. See the Dambulla Caves and climb Sigiriya Rock.
      – 12. – 15. May: Drive from Sigirya to Polonnaruwa (a 1-2 hour drive) in the evening after you have climbed Sigiriya Rock and seen Dambulla Caves. Stay 3 nights in Polonnaruwa. See the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Do a safari-trip to Minneriya/ Kaudualla NP.
      – 15. – 16. May: Drive from Polonnaruwa to Negombo for your last night in Sri Lanka (a 4-5 hours drive). Negombo is located just a 10-min drive from the airport so it is a convenient place to stay for your last night, especially if you have an early flight.
      – 16. May: Fly home

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka in April/ May and enjoy the Yoga course!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  131. Dear Maria
    Thank you so much for your quick reply. You are a star 🙂 I am so looking forward to the trip and trying to get things planned nice & early!
    I have got my dates slightly wrong, I finish yoga on 4 May but I don’t think that will make much difference to the overall monsoon/weather patterns. Do you any idea of the approximate costs of a driver? I imagine it will be a bit expensive on my own and so I am hoping to meet someone on the course to share with (this is uncertain). I wonder if you have any other recommendations, a plan B, of a cheaper way to do this or a similar itinerary? I am an experienced solo traveller although I haven’t done much in more recent years so I don’t mind local transport.
    Have a great day, and thank you again!
    Elie

    Reply
    • Hi again Elie,

      Hiring A Private Car & Driver

      I recommend the driver we had on our last Sri Lanka trip. His name is Sadun. He is an excellent driver who has been a guide in Sri Lanka for 25 years. He speaks good English and is very respectful and is a great safari guide too so he can drive and guide you in Minneriya NP.

      Sadun can drive you on a day-trip or your full route (over several days): Tangalle – Dambulla – Sigiriya – Polonnaruwa – Minneriya NP – Negombo/ Airport.

      The driver will then stay at the same hotel as you (most hotels in Sri Lanka have driver rooms), or at a hotel nearby.

      You can check Saduns prices and book him here (TourHQ).

      If you want to book a random and different driver for each ride, you can use one of these sites (just add where from and to, and you will see the fare):
      12Go Asia
      Uber Intercity Sri Lanka
      PickMe

      Bus & Train

      Although the public buses in Sri Lanka are dirt cheap, I do not recommend them. They are old and the bus drivers drive like crazy, so they don’t look safe.

      As for trains, they are cheap but take a long time. I’m afraid that Tangalle does not have trains. So from Tangalle, your only option is to take a taxi or tuk-tuk to the nearby Matara city which has a railway station. The drive from Tangalle to Matara takes about one hour.

      From Matara Railway Station you can take the train north along the coast (a beautiful and scenic train ride) to Colombo, a 3-4 hour train ride. There are several trains from Matara Railway Station to Colombo Fort Railway Station each day:
      – Matara 05:00 – Colombo 08:17
      – Matara 06:12 – Colombo 09:32 (not on Saturdays)
      – Matara 06:05 – Colombo 08:43
      – Matara 09:20 – Colombo 12:42
      – Matara 13:40 – Colombo 17:14
      – Matara 14:05 – Colombo 18:11

      From Colombo Fort Railway Station you can take the train to Polonnaruwa. We have done this train ride (Colombo – Polonnaruwa), and it is a loooooong one (7-8 hours). 🙂 There are only two trains per day from Colombo to Polonnaruwa:
      – Colombo 06:05 – Polonnaruwa 12:30
      – Colombo 15:05 – Polonnaruwa 19:47

      So you can catch the 15:05 train from Colombo if you take a morning train from Matara to Colombo. Otherwise, you will have to spend the night in Colombo and take the morning train to Polonnaruwa the next day.

      There are no railway stations in Sigiriya or Dambulla, so you will have to take a taxi from Polonnaruwa to see Dambulla Caves and Sigiriya Rock.

      The only place you can buy train tickets online in Sri Lanka is at 12Go Asia. The train tickets must, however, be bought at least 37 days before the date of the train ride. This is because 12Go has to manually buy your train tickets, and train tickets in Sri Lanka are put out for sale 30 days prior to the departure date of each train.

      You can find train timetables and train schedules for all trains in Sri Lanka at the official website of Sri Lanka Railway (unfortunately they don’t have an online ticket booking system yet).

      You can read more of my tips and tricks about getting around Sri Lanka here.

      Have a fantastic time in Sri Lanka! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  132. Hi Maria, As a local, I have been impressed with the detailed information provided in an easy to understand blog.

    Great suggestions and photos to support.

    Thank you for your experiences and support as an ambassador to help and guide other tourist to the lank of Sri Lanka!

    Ruween Dias

    Reply
    • Hi Ruween,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you who live in such a beautiful country with the most fantastic people and food. Sri Lanka is my favorite country and I can’t wait to revisit Sri Lanka later this year!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  133. Thank you so much Maria, much to think about. I really hope to get a small group together and hire Saduns, although on my own $50 per day plus accommodation is a bit too much. Fingers crossed!

    Reply

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