Sri Lanka isn’t usually a destination high on people’s bucket lists. But with it’s magnificent landscapes, elegant wildlife and heavenly food, it really should be! Discover what this enchanting country has to offer.
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Previously known as Ceylon, and situated just south of India, Sri Lanka is often overlooked as a holiday location. Spanning only 65,000 km² (compared to the United Kingdom’s 240,000 km²!), you’d be forgiven for thinking that you might be stuck for things to do on the island.
However, you can spend more than a week here and have a completely full Sri Lankan itinerary. Start in Colombo, and make your way round so that you can truly experience the diverse and captivating Sri Lankan culture!
We spent 10 days in Sri Lanka, and although we didn’t explore the whole country, we felt that we saw plenty!
We’ve included some recommendations for places to stay too, as well as the best companies to book your trips with.
Our trip began and ended in Colombo. We lived on a budget of around 12,000 Sri Lankan rupees per day between two of us (not including accommodation).
You only need to stay in Colombo for 1 night. There’s not much to do, but you’ll more than likely fly into Bandaranaike International Airport. Take a simple wander around Colombo or check in to your hotel and chill out before an early start tomorrow.
TIP: Colombo airport is actually closer to Negombo, but as the train to Kandy leaves before 9am, it’s best to stay closer to Colombo town centre.
Budget Accommodation – Port View City Hotel
Mid-range Accommodation – Ramada Colombo
Luxury Accommodation – Fairway Colombo
Day 2 – 3
Famous for historical Buddhist attractions, Kandy is the perfect place to learn about the local culture. It’s also home to the Ceylon Tea Museum, where you can be guided round. There’s a cafe at on the top floor – choose a tea and enjoy a free cup here.
Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake.
Budget Accommodation – Hipsters Hideout Lounge
Mid-range Accommodation – Villa Jumeriah Four Seasons
Luxury Accommodation – King’s Pavillion
Day 4 – 5
The journey from Kandy to Ella is meant to be one of the most gorgeous in the world! Depending on the time of year, you’ll encounter some unbelievable views.
Unfortunately, if your trip falls in the winter, the mist might ruin the scenery so think about that when you’re planning! It takes around 6 and a half hours, and prices start from £3 for a second class seat.
TIP: A second class seat is better than a third because you get given a seat number. It’s also better than first because you can open the windows and get great photos!
There are a few shops and restaurants in the centre, but be careful about travelling back to your hotel. Tuk-tuks don’t tend to run too late into the night – the restaurant owners had to give us a lift when we lost track of time!
Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock are the most popular hikes in Ella. Enjoy an authentic Sri Lankan breakfast and then spend a morning climbing.
Budget Accommodation – 7th Hill Guesthouse
Mid-range Accommodation – Lizzie Villa Ella
Luxury Accommodation – Morning Dew Hotel
Day 6 – 8
Have you ever seen a wild leopard? We definitely hadn’t before we went to Sri Lanka, but we were incredibly lucky and saw THREE! Yala National Park has one of the highest leopard densities in the world, but you still usually have to look really hard to spot one.
Book a private tour – our advice would be to take a 12 hour safari. It sounds very long but the time just flies when you’re seeking out new animals every minute!
TIP: Book with Shehan Safari – we had a brilliant time and the lunch was incredible too!
You’ll probably arrive in the evening so relax and prepare for the long day and early start the next morning. Catch a bus or get a private car – share it with other travellers if you can. Leave early on Day 8 as you’ll need to get another bus to Mirissa!
Budget Accommodation – Villa Champagne
Mid-range Accommodation – Yala B&B
Luxury Accommodation – Ekho Safari Hotel
Day 8 – 9
The bus from Tissa to Mirissa stops in Matara, so jump off at the station and ask for directions for the right bus. Once you’ve arrived, put your bags down and head on down to the beach.
Sri Lanka has some very pretty beaches all over. Mirissa is more of a resort area where you can grab a coconut cocktail, sunbathe on loungers and eat the famous Sri Lankan curry.
One of the best things to do in Sri Lanka is to go whale watching! It’s best to pick the early morning slot, as the whales are the most active then. You’re likely to see huge blue whales, sperm whales and maybe even some playful dolphins.
TIP: Raja and the Whales were a great company. Their website is currently down but you can contact them via Facebook, or email them.
Take a sea sickness pill an hour before your boat leaves – the sea does get quite rough! Be aware though – the tablets will make you very drowsy so you might need to return to your accommodation for a nap!
A cooking class is the perfect way to get involved with the local culture. Considering how tempting and delicious Sri Lankan food is, you’d be mad not to sign up!
We took a class at Dewmini Roti Shop, which is rated number 1 on Trip Advisor. We had some amazing food but it wasn’t the best class we’ve ever been to.
Do your research but be aware that everyone has a personal preference of how a class runs. Think about if you want a private class, or somewhere a bit more social.
Budget Accommodation – Village Star Resort
Mid-range Accommodation – Adana Beach Resort
Luxury Accommodation – Seaworld Resort
Take a train from Mirissa to Negombo, changing at Colombo. There are lots of taxis outside Colombo train station but they are priced incredibly highly and it’s not that much of a shorter journey.
TIP: Ask the station manager for a key if you need to use the toilets – they’re often for foreigners only so they’re locked up!
There isn’t much to do in Negombo but it’s a nice enough beach town to stay in before you fly home.
Rent a bicycle (usually for free) from your hotel and take a trip along the beach. Grab a few bottles from one of the many many beer shops around, and enjoy one the best sunsets you’ll ever experience on the sand.
There are a few sellers trying to make a living – they weren’t too pressing though and we actually bought a beautiful bowl from one guy!
Budget Accommodation – Tropical Garden
Mid-range Accommodation – Camelot Beach
Luxury Accommodation – Tranquil Negombo
Our Sri Lankan itinerary didn’t cover everything but we certainly had a wonderful time. Fantastic food, friendly people and gorgeous animals – Sri Lanka is the perfect destination for your next holiday!
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